06/25/2006, 00.00
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Pope: families consecrated to Sacred Heart, praying for priests

Praying for victims of a construction site accident in Sicily, the pope called for occupational safety. Benedict XVI also recalled the liturgical feasts marked in these days: the Sacred Heart, the birth of the Baptist, and the feast of St Peter and St Paul. He also thanked the Italian community for donations to the "Pope's Charity".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI today appealed for heightened awareness of human dignity, prompting society to ensure increased occupational safety. His plea came at the end of the Angelus prayer, as he prayed for victims of an accident yesterday on the construction site of the Catania-Syracuse highway, in which one person was killed and 14 others wounded. The pope gave assurance of his prayers for the victims and their families.

But first, taking his cue from the liturgical calendar, Benedict XVI, catechist and theologian pope, used the time of reflection before the Angelus to explain the feasts of the Sacred Heart, John the Baptist, Mary's Immaculate Heart, and Saints Peter and Paul. In doing so, he wrested them away from sentimentalism and revealed their relevance for Christians and the world.

Recalling the feast celebrated on Friday 23 June, Benedict XVI said: "The consecration of the Sacred Heart was – and still is in some countries – a tradition in some families, which kept an image of the same in their homes. The roots of this devotion are embedded in the mystery of the Incarnation; it is precisely through the Heart of Jesus that the Love of God for mankind is revealed in a sublime way." Genuine worship of the Sacred Heart, which became widespread in the seventeenth century, "preserves all its validity", continued the pope. It "attracts above all souls thirsty for God's mercy, as they find there an infinite font from which to draw the water of Life, capable of irrigating the desert of the soul and of making hope blossom again."

Benedict XVI also recalled that the solemn feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. He said: "I take the opportunity to invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for priests always, that they may be valid witnesses to the love of Christ.

Turning to the feast of the birth of John the Baptist – marked yesterday – the pope highlighted the expression "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). This expression, he said, "is programmed for each and every Christian". The pope said: "Our life is always 'relative' to Christ and it is realized by welcoming Him, Word, Light and Spouse, of whom we are the voice, lamp and friends (cfr Jn1:1,23; 1:7-8; 3:29)".

Dwelling on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the pontiff said: "Allowing the 'I' of Christ to replace our 'I' was, in exemplary manner, the ardent desire of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who the Church will venerate in a solemn feast on 29 June. St Paul wrote of himself: "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. (Gal 2:20)."

Before the prayer of the Angelus, the pope also recalled the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, "Heart of a Mother, who continues to keep watch with tender concern over us all. May her intercession grant that we will always remain faithful to our Christian vocation."

Benedict XVI also greeted students "who are finishing their exams in these days; I assure them that I remember them in my prayers."

The pontiff also thanked Italy's ecclesial community for donations made during the "Pope's Charity Day". On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul – which is also the feast of the Vatican basilica – collections of donations are made in all churches of Italy, which are given to the Holy See and administered by the pontiff for needy missionaries of the Church around the world.

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