(AsiaNews) - A call for solidarity with the Filipino, Chinese and Iranian people,
the first two struggling from devastating floods, the last a violent
earthquake, was launched by Benedict XVI after praying the Angelus today in
Castel Gandolfo. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims gathered in the courtyard,
the pontiff said: " Dear brothers and sisters, my thoughts go at this time
to the people of Asia, especially to the Philippines, the People's Republic of
China, hardest hit by violent rains, as well as those of the North-west Iran,
hit by a violent earthquake. These events have caused numerous deaths and
injuries, thousands of displaced people and extensive damage. I invite you to
join me in prayer for those who have lost their lives and for all the people
tried by such a devastating disaster. May our solidarity and our support not be
lacking to these our brothers and sisters".
In the Philippines, merciless rains have left more than 90 municipalities flooded and displaced nearly 1.5 million people. Of these about 700 thousand are sheltered in evacuation centres and other makeshift shelters organized by rescue teams and local communities.
In China, rains brought by typhoons Damrey and Saola, have affected 10 provinces (especially Jiangsu and Shandong). The death toll is at least 40 victims, with 867 thousand displaced.
In Iran, two strong earthquakes struck the north-west of the country, around the city of Tabriz. So far reports speak of at least 250 dead and more than 2 thousand wounded. Over 60 villages have been destroyed and more than 60% of homes levelled.
Previously Benedict XVI continued his reflection on the Gospel of John chapter 6, which accompanies us in the Sunday liturgy this month. In today's passage (John 6, 41-51), the pope said, "Jesus speaks of himself as the true bread which came down from heaven, able to keep alive, not for a moment or part of the journey, but forever. He is the food that gives eternal life, because he is the only begotten Son of God, who is in the bosom of the Father, who came to give man life to the full, to introduce man into the life of God".
"In Jewish thought - he continued - it was clear that the true bread from heaven, that nourished Israel was the Law, the word of God. The people of Israel clearly recognized that the Torah was the fundamental and lasting gift of Moses and that the fundamental element that distinguished them from other people lay in their knowing God's will and therefore the right path of life. Now Jesus, in revealing himself as the bread of heaven, testifies that He is the Word of God in person, the Word incarnate, through which man can make God's will his food (cf. Jn 4:34), which guides and supports our existence. Thus doubting the divinity of Jesus, as do the Jews of today's Gospel passage, means opposing God's work. They in fact say: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother! (John 6.42). They do not go beyond his earthly origins, and therefore refuse to welcome Him as the Word of God made flesh. St. Augustine in his homily on the Gospel of John thus comments, "they were far off from the bread of heaven, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid... This bread, indeed, requires the hunger of the inner man "(Homilies on the Gospel of John 26.1). And we too must ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, hunger for the word of God, hunger to know the real meaning of life. Only those who are attracted by God the Father, who listen and allow themselves to be instructed by Him can believe in Jesus, encounter Him and nourish themselves of Him and this find true life, the path of life, justice, truth and love. St. Augustine adds: "... the Lord said He was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe on Him. For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food "(ibid.).
The Pope concluded: " Invoking the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, we ask her to guide us to the encounter with Jesus so that our friendship with Him be always more intense; we ask her to introduce us into the full communion of love with her Son, the living bread which came down from heaven, so as to be renewed by Him in our innermost selves".