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Pope Benedict On Day of Prayer for Peace in Middle East

"I Raise to God a Sorrowful Prayer"

LES COMBES, Italy, JULY 24, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before praying the midday Angelus with thousands gathered in this Alpine village. The Pope named today a day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East.

Before the Holy Father's address, Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta expressed to him the greetings of all those present.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

First of all, Your Excellency, thank you very much for this most cordial greeting, and thanks to all of you for this very warm and cordial reception. Thank you!

Your Excellency, you mentioned that last Thursday, given the worsening situation in the Middle East, I convoked a day of prayer and penance for this Sunday, inviting pastors, faithful and all believers to implore from God the gift of peace.

I strongly renew the appeal to the parties in conflict to adopt a cease-fire immediately and allow the sending of humanitarian aid, so that, with the support of the international community, ways will be found to begin negotiations.

I take advantage of the opportunity to reaffirm the right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their country, the right of Israelis to live in peace in their state, and the right of Palestinians to a free and sovereign homeland.

I feel, moreover, especially close to defenseless civilian populations, unjustly stricken in a conflict in which they are no more than victims: both those of Galilee, obliged to live in shelters, as well as the great multitude of Lebanese, who once more, see their country destroyed, and have to leave everything behind to try to save themselves in another place.

I raise to God a sorrowful prayer so that the aspiration to peace of the great majority of peoples may soon be realized, thanks to the common commitment of those responsible. I also renew my appeal to all charitable organizations to manifest in a practical manner common solidarity with those populations.

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, disciple of the Lord, who plays a principal role in the Gospel. St. Luke presents her among the women who followed Jesus, after having "been healed of evil spirits and infirmities," specifying that from her "seven demons had gone out" (Luke 8:2).

Magdalene would be present under the cross, together with the mother of Jesus and other women. She would discover, on the morning of the first day after the Sabbath, the empty sepulcher, next to which she remained weeping until the risen Jesus appeared to her (cf. John 20:11).

The story of Mary Magdalene reminds everyone of a fundamental truth: She is a disciple of Christ who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him, and has followed him closely, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love, which is stronger than sin and death.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bridget, one of the patronesses of Europe, native of Sweden, who lived in Rome and went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In this way, she invites us to help humanity to find a great area of peace precisely also in the Holy Land.

I entrust the whole of humanity to the power of divine love, while I invite all to pray so that the beloved peoples of the Middle East are able to abandon the path of armed confrontation and build, with the boldness of dialogue, a just and lasting peace. May Mary, queen of peace, pray for us!

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

To the English-speaking people here today, especially the group of Missionary Sisters of Mary from India, I extend cordial greetings.

In this beautiful region we are able to admire the splendor of God's creation and to give thanks for his many gifts to us. Let us remember in our prayers those less fortunate, especially those who are suffering at this time as a result of the tragic conflicts in the Middle East.

I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]

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