WASHINGTON, DC
Tuesday, April 15 - Wednesday, April 16 - Thursday, April 17
NEW YORK CITY
Friday, April 18 - Saturday, April 19 - Sunday, April 20

"It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life."

VATICAN CITY (Zenit) - Benedict XVI says he is going to the United States to bring the message that Jesus Christ is the hope for all mankind.

The Pope affirmed this in a video message released today and directed to the American people, leading up to his April 15-20 trip. The message assures Americans of the Holy Father's eagerness to visit them, and includes a special message given in Spanish for the country's Hispanic population.

"Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer," the Pontiff said. "As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York.

"The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture toward every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will."

Benedict XVI said he is aware of the work that many people have been doing to prepare for the trip and offered his gratitude for their efforts.

"I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all," he said.

"Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life."

A theme

The Pope noted the theme that he, together with the U.S. bishops, chose for the journey: "Christ our hope."

"Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition," he said. "Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us.

"Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father.

"I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world."

Speaking in Spanish, Benedict XVI expressed his "spiritual closeness, in particular to the youth, the ill, the elderly and those who are in moments of difficulty or feel themselves in need."

"I express my heartfelt desire to be with you soon in this beloved nation," he added. "In the meantime, I encourage you to pray intensely for the pastoral fruits of my imminent apostolic trip and to keep high the flame of hope in the resurrected Christ."

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