Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI today recalled the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the pogrom carried out against Jewish citizens, synagogues, offices, neighborhoods, from November 9-10, 1938, which "began the violent persecution that concluded with the Holocaust." The pope expressed this commemoration at the end of the prayer of the Angelus, with more than 30,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Benedict XVI, a German pope, said that he is "still pained today over what happened in those tragic circumstances." He called upon all to join him to express "solidarity with the Jewish world," and that, above all through the education of young people, "the horror of anti-Semitism and discrimination may never be repeated again." Calling for "prayers for the victims of that time," the pope also said that the memory of these "terrible events" "must serve to keep such horrors from ever happening again."
The pontiff then issued a new appeal for the population of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where "bloody armed confrontations and systematic atrocities have caused and are causing numerous victims among innocent civilians; destruction, pillaging, and violence of every kind have again forced tens of thousands of people to abandon the little that they had to survive. It is estimated that there are more than one and a half million refugees."
"To all and to each of them," the pope said, "I wish to express my particular closeness, while I encourage and bless all of those who are working to alleviate their sufferings, among whom I mention in particular the pastoral workers of the local Church. To the families deprived of their loved ones, I send my condolences and assurances of my prayers on their behalf. Finally, I renew my fervent appeal that all may work to restore peace to that long-tormented land, in respect for legality and above all for the dignity of each person."
Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the Day of Thanksgiving being celebrated in Italy, under the theme "I was hungry and you gave me to eat," to highlight the problem of hunger and the fair distribution of the fruits of the earth, at a time when food price inflation is causing a nutritional crisis for many families in the world.
"I unite my voice," the pope said, "with that of the Italian bishops who, on the basis of the words of Jesus, are drawing attention to the serious and complex problem of hunger, made more dramatic by the increase in the prices of certain staple foods. The Church, while it upholds the fundamental ethical principle of the universal destination of goods, puts it into practice following the example of the Lord Jesus, with various initiatives of sharing. I pray for the rural world, especially for the small farmers in developing countries. I encourage and bless those who work so that no one may lack healthy and adequate food: those who help the poor help Christ himself."
Before the Angelus, Benedict XVI commented on today's feast, that of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, called "mother and head of all the churches of the City and of the World." "This basilica," the pontiff explained, "was the first to be built after the edict of the Emperor Constantine, who, in 313, granted Christians the freedom to practice their religion. The emperor also gave Pope Miltiades the ancient property of the Lateran family, and had the basilica built there, the baptistry and the residence of the bishop of Rome, where the popes lived until the Avignon period. The dedication of the basilica was celebrated by Pope Sylvester at around 324, and the church was named after the Most Holy Savior; it was only after the sixth century that the titles of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist were added, the names by which it became commonly known. At first, this feast day was celebrated only in the city of Rome; then, beginning in 1565, it was extended to all the churches of the Roman rite. In this way, by honoring the sacred edifice, love and veneration are expressed for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirms, "presides in love" over the entire catholic communion (To the Romans 1,1)."
But "the temple of stone," the pope continued, "is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which the apostles Peter and Paul, in their letters, call a 'spiritual edifice' . . . The beauty and harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, also invite us, limited and sinful human beings, to convert and form a 'cosmos', a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of the Saints."
"Dear friends," he concluded, "today's feast celebrates a mystery that is always fresh: God wants to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that will adore him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this commemoration also reminds us of the importance of the physical buildings in which the communities gather to praise God. Every community, therefore, has the duty of caring for its sacred buildings, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony. Let us therefore call for the intercession of Mary Most Moly, that she may help us to become, like her, 'the house of God', a living temple of his love."