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Pope On Victims of Religious Freedom

"Persevere in the Patience and Charity of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The consistory held recently to name 15 new cardinals was an intense ecclesial experience, which enabled us to relish the spiritual richness of collegiality, on finding ourselves together among brothers of different provenances, all united by the one love of Christ and his Church.

In a certain sense, we relived the reality of the first Christian community, gathered around Mary, Mother of Jesus, and Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit and be committed to spread the Gospel in the whole world. Fidelity to this mission unto the sacrifice of one's life is the distinctive character of cardinals, as attested by their oath and as symbolized by scarlet, the color of blood.

By a providential coincidence, the consistory was held on March 24, the day in which missionaries were commemorated who fell last year on the frontiers of evangelization and of service to man in different parts of the earth. Thus, the consistory was an occasion to feel closer than ever to all those Christians who suffer persecutions because of the faith. Their witness, of which we receive news daily, and above all the sacrifice of those who have been killed, is for us a reason for edification and motivates us to an ever more sincere and generous evangelical commitment.

My thoughts go especially to those communities that live in countries where religious freedom is lacking or that, in fact, suffer many restrictions, despite its being affirmed on paper. To all of them I send my affectionate encouragement, so that they will persevere in the patience and charity of Christ, seed of the Kingdom of God that is coming, more than that, which is already in the world. To all those working at the service of the Gospel in those difficult situations, I wish to express my most profound solidarity in the name of the whole Church, and at the same time assure them of my daily remembrance in prayer.

The Church advances in history and spreads on earth accompanied by Mary, Queen of the Apostles. As in the cenacle, the Holy Virgin is always for Christians the living memory of Jesus. She animates their prayer and sustains their hope. We ask her to guide us in our daily journey and to protect with special predilection those Christian communities that are going through conditions of particular difficulty and suffering.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors gathered here today.

On this "Laetare" Sunday, we are filled with joyful hope as we look forward to our celebration of the Lord's resurrection, and we deepen our commitment to live these final weeks of Lent following closely in the footsteps of Christ our Savior. I welcome especially those who have come to Rome in order to be present at the recent consistory, in which I had the joy of creating fifteen new cardinals. I ask you to remember them in your prayers. Upon all of you and upon your families and loved ones I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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