Genoa (AsiaNews) - Today the pope recited a truly special Angelus: in Italian (not in Latin), together with the young people of Genoa, where the pontiff arrived yesterday for his pastoral visit to the Church directed by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian bishops' conference.
Earlier, Benedict XVI had met with the thousands of young people, who listened to him beneath an unseasonable rain. The pope, expressing his solidarity with them, recalled that rain is a gift from God "for the fecundity of the earth", and a symbol of the fecundity of the Spirit for "the desert places of the soul".
The pope had begun the day with a visit to the shrine of the Virgin of the Guard, located in the mountains overlooking Genoa. He recalled that his predecessor Benedict XV, who was from Genoa, was so devoted to the Virgin of the Guard that he had a statue of the Virgin placed in the Vatican gardens (see photo). "I myself", the pope said, "pray every day in front of that statue".
Benedict XVI recalled the words of Mary in her apparition to a farmer, Benedetto Pareto, urging him to build the shrine without fearing the difficulties: "Trust in me! You will not be without the means to do so. With my help, everything will be easy for you. Only keep your will firm".
The pope continued: "'Trust in me!' Mary repeats these words to us today. An ancient prayer, deeply rooted in the popular tradition, has us address to Her these trustful words, which today we make our own: 'Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided'. It is with this certainty that we invoke the maternal assistance of the Virgin of the Guard over your diocesan community, over your pastors, consecrated persons, lay faithful: the young, the families, the elderly. We asked her to watch, in a special way, over the sick and all the suffering, and to make fruitful the missionary initiatives that are in preparation to bring to all the proclamation of the Gospel. Together we entrust to Mary the entire city, with its varied population, its cultural, social, and economic activities; the problems and challenges of our times, and the efforts of those who are working for the common good".
Benedict XVI emphasised the universal vocation of the city: "Liguria, and in particular Genoa, has always been a land open to the Mediterranean and to the entire world: how many missionaries have gone out from this port for the Americas, and for other faraway lands! How many people have emigrated from here for other countries, perhaps poor in material resources, but rich in faith and human and spiritual values, which they then transplanted in the places of their arrival!".
Before the Marian prayer, he invoked the protection of Mary "Star of the Sea" over the city and above all over the young people, "that they may follow, with her help, the correct route through the often stormy sea of life".
After the Angelus, Benedict XVI wanted to recall the diplomatic conference on cluster bombs, which begins tomorrow in Dublin (Ireland), and should lead to the ban of their use. Cluster bombs have been used since the second world war, and even in the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. They are used not to strike precise targets, but entire areas, and for this reason they can also claim many civilian victims. "I hope", the pontiff concluded, "that thanks to the responsibility of all the participants, a strong and credible international agreement may be reached: it is necessary, in fact, to remedy the errors of the past and avoid repeating them in the future. I accompany with my prayer the victims of cluster bombs and their families, as well as those taking part in the conference, expressing my best wishes for success".