Vatican City (AsiaNews) - On the international day dedicated to women, Benedict XVI has pledged that he is praying "for all women, that they may be increasingly respected in their dignity and valued in their positive capabilities." He also asked for prayers for his upcoming trips to Cameroon and Angola (March 17-23) and to the Holy Land (May 8-15).
Speaking to about 20,000 faithful gathered today in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus, the pontiff recalled that today's date, March 8, "invites us to reflect on the condition of women and to renew our commitment so that always and everywhere women may live and manifest to the full their capabilities, obtaining full respect for their dignity." The pope cited pontifical documents, especially the masterful Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem by John Paul II (August 15, 1988), but added that, more than documents, what is important is the testimony of female saints: "Our age has seen that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: a humble daughter of Albania who became, by the grace of God, an example to the entire world in the exercise of charity and of service to human advancement." "How many other women," he added, "work every day, in obscurity, for the good of humanity and for the Kingdom of God! Today I pledge my prayers for all women, that they may always be increasingly respected in their dignity and valued in their positive capabilities."
The pontiff then asked for the "spiritual support of all" for his upcoming apostolic voyages. "Next week," the pope said, "from March 17 to 23, I will go to Africa, first to Cameroon and then to Angola, to demonstrate the concrete closeness of myself and of the Church to the Christians and populations of that continent which is particularly dear to me. Then, from May 8 to 15 I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, in visiting the places sanctified by his earthly passage, for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all humanity."
Before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI had recalled the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent, about the Transfiguration of Jesus, relating it to his experience of prayer during spiritual exercises with the Roman Curia, which concluded yesterday.
"The Transfiguration of Jesus," the pope said, "was substantially an experience of prayer (cf. Luke 9:28-29). Prayer, in fact, reaches its peak, and thus becomes a source of interior light, when the spirit of man clings to that of God, and their wills blend almost to the point of forming a single whole. When Jesus went up onto the mountain, he immersed himself in the contemplation of the loving plan of the Father, who had sent him into the world to save humanity."
"Dear brothers and sisters," he concluded, "I urge you to find prolonged moments of silence, and of retreat if possible, during this season of Lent, in order to review your lives in the light of the heavenly Father's plan of love. Let yourselves be guided in this more intense listening to God by the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer. Even in the deep darkness of the passion of Christ, she did not lose, but instead preserved in her heart the light of her divine Son. For this reason, let us invoke her as Mother of trust and of hope!"