Vatican City (AsiaNews) - There must be an end to the violence, "certainly contrary to the will of God", that afflicts the Holy Land and Iraq, and Israeli and Palestinian political authorities must have the courage to move forward along the path of dialogue, to establish peace. The Middle East appeared once again today in the words of Benedict XVI, who to the 40,000 faithful present in Saint Peter's square for the recitation of the Angelus expressed his sorrow and concern for the hatred that continues to strike this area, and also nearby Iraq. For the third time, in fact, the pope turned his thoughts to the kidnapped Chaldean bishop of Mosul, whose present condition is unknown.
"In recent days", he said, after the recitation of the Marian prayer, "violence and horror have again bloodied the Holy Land, fostering a spiral of destruction and death that seems to have no end. As I call upon you to ask the All-powerful Lord insistently for the gift of peace for this region, I desire to entrust to His mercy the many innocent victims, and to express solidarity to the families and the wounded". "I encourage, moreover", he continued, "the Israeli and Palestinian authorities in their intention of continuing to build, through negotiation, a peaceful and just future for their peoples, and I ask all, in the name of God, to leave the tortuous paths of hatred and vengeance and to travel responsibly the paths of dialogue and trust".
"This is my hope", he concluded, "for Iraq, while I continue to fear for the fate of His Excellency Archbishop Rahho, and for so many Iraqis who continue to suffer from a blind and absurd form of violence, certainly contrary to the will of God".
The pope's Sunday schedule, today, had begun with a Mass celebrated in the church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, a few metres from the Vatican, celebrated on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the international youth centre of San Lorenzo, inaugurated by John Paul II on March 13, 1983, and to which, as he himself had recalled, then-cardinal Ratzinger had gone "not a few times".
To the young people present, as again later to those who were present in Saint Peter's square, the pope, remarking on today's Gospel reading, spoke of the "dimension of hope. In particular, the evangelist John narrates the resurrection of Lazarus (cf. 11:1-45), which constitutes the last 'sign' performed by Jesus before entering into his passion and death. This was, in fact, his last visit to Judea, his last journey up to Jerusalem, which would conclude on Golgotha. At this point, we could ask ourselves: Why did Jesus, who healed so many sick people, not run rapidly to the sick bed of his dying friend Lazarus? In truth, He himself explains this to his disciples: that sickness was to manifest the glory of God (cf. John 11:4) and to foster faith (cf. John 11:15). Jesus does not perform miracles so that people will talk about him, but rather so that people will believe in Him. The 'signs' are always an appeal to conversion, an invitation to align ourselves with Him".
"Faith", he then said, "does not mean believing in something, but in Someone; it is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment to Christ; it means choosing the light instead of the darkness, life instead of death; it is a total trust in God who is capable of moving mountains (cf. Mt 21:21-22). Now, let us ask ourselves: are we truly convinced that nothing is impossible for God? Who gives us the certainty? The power of Him who triumphed over death, making us share his victory, is manifested according to our faith".
To the young people, finally, Benedict XVI addressed the invitation to "carry forward joyfully the mission that the Centro San Lorenzo fulfils in the heart of the ecclesial community of Rome: a mission of faith, love, and hope. How many of your peers live in ignorance of God, how many allow themselves to be drawn by the false promises of success, of material well-being, how many are in search of the truth! There is a need for true friends, able to accompany them and help them in this search; for spiritual guides to warn them of the dangers and show them the way of life; for faithful witnesses to Christ who draw them to the challenging but liberating path that He proposes in the Gospel".