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Cardinal Sean O'Malley tells the faithful that Pope Benedict comes to feed those who are hungry for God.

BOSTON (Zenit) - The archbishop of Boston is preparing his Church for the arrival of Benedict XVI on Tuesday, with a letter explaining the role of the Pope in the history of the Church.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley addressed a message to the people of his diocese on the eve of the Pontiff's April 15-20, two-city visit to the United States.

"Throughout the history of salvation, God has raised up individuals to lead his people," the cardinal said. "Christ assigned a special role of leadership to St. Peter. After Christ's name, it is Peter's name that appears with the greatest frequency in the New Testament.

"The testimony of early Christian writers and the witness of the martyrs demonstrate that the Pope's role has always been a crucial part of God's plan for the Church."

Generations

Cardinal O'Malley recalled his own spiritual experience: "To me one of the most moving experiences of my life has been to visit the tomb of St. Peter under the Basilica of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill. St. Jerome says that Peter was Bishop of Rome for 25 years until his martyrdom by Nero.

"The New Testament does not hide Peter's human weakness, but the Acts of the Apostles describes Peter as he boldly proclaims Christ's resurrection, announces the Gospel message and leads the young Church in face of so many challenges.

"That mission has continued in the apostolic succession handed on from generation to generation by the laying on of hands and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ has not left us orphans. The Holy Spirit still guides the Church, and makes the ministry of Peter present in every generation."

The cardinal called the ministry of the Pope a "gift from Christ that promotes the unity and the catholicity of our Church with over 1 billion members in every part of the world."

Listen attentively

Recalling how St. Luke describes the way early Christians laid the sick by the side of the road so that Peter's shadow might touch them, the cardinal said: "Catholics throng to where the Pope is for the same reason, to be near the Vicar of Christ.

"It is the way we express our love for the Lord Jesus, who has given to his Church this ministry of Peter to guide us and to confirm us in the faith."

Cardinal O'Malley concluded asking for prayers for "the spiritual success of the Holy Father's visit. At the same time, I urge all my fellow Catholics to listen attentively to the message that the Pope will address to us."

He concluded: "The Holy Father is not a celebrity or a rock star. He is a shepherd and represents Christ, the Good Shepherd, who commanded Peter: 'Feed my sheep.' Pope Benedict is coming to feed us in our hunger for God and for truth.

"Let us receive our Holy Father with loyalty and affection. May his presence among us help us to grow in our love for Christ and for one another. May his words renew us in our commitment to be faithful disciples in Christ's Church."

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