Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Vocations, service to life, the 150 year anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes, but also the violence in Kenya, Iraq, Colombia are "various intentions" for which Benedict XVI asked for prayers from the tens of thousands of faithful present in Saint Peter's Square.
The pontiff also recalled and extended his greeting for the upcoming holiday of the lunar new year (February 7), which is celebrated in China, Vietnam, and other countries of the far east.
The pope wanted to recalled above all the Day of Consecrated Life, celebrated yesterday, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Benedict XVI met yesterday evening with representatives of religious men and women. "To these, our brothers and sisters", he said before the Angelus, "who dedicate themselves to the total service of God and of the Church through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, goes our gratitude. May the Holy Virgin obtain many holy vocations for consecrated life, which constitutes an inestimable richness for the Church and for the world".
Another "intention" is connected to the Day for Life, which is celebrated in Italy on the first Sunday in February each year. Commenting on the theme chosen by the Italian bishops this year, "To serve life", the pope said: "Everyone, according to his own opportunities, professionalism, and competencies, should feel himself increasingly prompted to love and serve life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is in fact the common task of all to welcome human life as a gift to be respected, protected, and promoted, and all the more so when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, both before and birth and in its terminal phase. I unite myself with the Italian bishops in encouraging those who, with difficulty but also with joy, without complaint and with great dedication, assist elderly or disabled family members, and those who regularly consecrate part of their own time to helping these persons of every age group, whose lives are tested by so many forms of poverty".
Finally, after announcing his visit to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, this February 6th, Benedict XVI recalled the 150 year anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes. For the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11th), the pope established that from February 2-11 "it is possible to receive a plenary indulgence, which can be applied to the deceased, under the usual conditions - confession, communion, and prayer for the pope's intentions - and by praying before a blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes exposed for public veneration. The elderly and the sick [may unite themselves with public veneration] through the desire of their hearts".
After the praying of the Angelus, the pontiff asked all to pray for "reconciliation, justice, and peace" in Kenya, where following the contested elections a violent war has been taking place for weeks among ethnic groups in the country. "Assuring all of my closeness", he said, "I hope that the efforts for mediation now underway may succeed and may lead, thanks to the goodwill and collaboration of all, to a rapid solution of the conflict, which has already claimed too many victims".
The pope also asked for prayers for Iraq, where "malice and its burden of suffering seem to know no limits". Last February 1st, 100 civilians were killed in a market in Baghdad, where two girls with Down's syndrome were used as suicide bombers. "I again raise my voice", Benedict XVI said, "in favour of that population, so harshly tested, and on their behalf I invoke the peace of God".
Speaking in Spanish, the pontiff also recalled Colombia and "the sons and daughters" who suffer "extortion, kidnapping, and the violent loss of their loved ones".
But Benedict XVI did not want to forget to extend greetings for the lunar new year, which begins on February 7th and is celebrated by many peoples in the far east, including China and Vietnam, but also Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Thailand. The lunar new year holiday in these countries is an occasion for families, whose members are often scattered for reasons of work, to reunite. Citing his message for the World Day of Peace 2008, the pope recalled the value of the family, in which "one learns the vocabulary of civil coexistence and discovers human values". And he added: "the festivities of the lunar new year will see the families of the various Asian countries reunite in joy over the next few days. I extend to all my wishes for their well-being and prosperity, and I hope that they will be able to preserve and appreciate those beautiful and fruitful traditions of family life, to the benefit of their respective nations and of those countries in which they currently live".