09/26/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - CZECH REPUBLIC
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Pope: In Prague, now free, Christians make themselves heard to face the Millennium challenges

During his visit to Prague, Benedict XVI recalls the persecution of Christians during the 40 years of communist regime, that wanted to eliminate the Church, but "without God man does not know where to go and does not even understand who he is." Love and respect that is due to all children.

Prague (AsiaNews) - "Without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is", the phrase from the Caritas in Veritate was repeated today by Benedict XVI on his arrival in Prague, recalling the 40 years of "ruthless attempt" by the  communist regime to "silence the voice of the Church." " Now that religious freedom has been restored, I call upon all the citizens of this Republic to rediscover the Christian traditions which have shaped their culture, and I invite the Christian community to continue to make its voice heard as the nation addresses the challenges of the new millennium.”

The thirteenth international journey of Benedict XVI - who will be in the  Czech Republic until Monday -  began with this speech, defining that nation as "the crossroad between north and south, east and west, meeting place of peoples, traditions and cultures." "From here derives the significant role that the Czech  have played in the intellectual, cultural and religious history of Europe, sometimes as a battleground, more often as a bridge."President Václav Klaus welcomed  te Pope at the  Stará Ruzyně airport in Prague. The Pontiff, during the welcome ceremony, recalled the "indomitable Christian testimony in the face of persecution" given by Cardinal Josef Beran and František Tomášek. He then underlined that the presidential flag standing on the castle of Prague has the motto "Pravda Vít.zí - The Truth wins":”It is my earnest hope – he said - that the light of truth will continue to guide this nation, so blessed throughout its history by the witness of great saints and martyrs." " The authentic progress of humanity is best served by just such a combination of the wisdom of faith and the insights of reason. May the Czech people always enjoy the benefits of that happy synthesis.”

From the airport, Benedict XVI who was  joyfully greeted, traveled by car to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Prague where the Statue of Infant Jesus of Prague is worshipped and which refers to the age old tradition of worshiping Christ’s childhood.

 “The figure of the Child Jesus, the tender infant, brings home to us God’s closeness and his love. We come to understand how precious we are in his eyes, because it is through him that we in our turn have become children of God. Every human being is a child of God and therefore our brother or sister, to be welcomed and respected. May our society grasp this truth! Every human person would then be appreciated not for what he has, but for who he is, since in the face of every human being, without distinction of race or culture, God’s image shines forth.”

“This – he continued- is especially true of children. In the Holy Infant of Prague we contemplate the beauty of childhood and the fondness that Jesus Christ has always shown for little ones, as we read in the Gospel (cf. Mk 10:13-16). Yet how many children are neither loved, nor welcomed nor respected! How many of them suffer violence and every kind of exploitation by the unscrupulous! May children always be accorded the respect and attention that are due to them: they are the future and the hope of humanity!”

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