Vatican City (AsiaNews) - At today's Angelus, which took place at the end of the Mass in St. Peter's Square for Palm Sunday, Benedict XVI shifted his greeting to the representatives for World Youth Day to second place, in order to emphasize two grave problems afflicting the international community: the use of anti-personnel mines and the drama of the African refugees drowned in recent days in the Mediterranean Sea.
The pope recalled that April 4 was the observance of the fourth UN Day for Mine Awareness. Recently, the UN has also begun signings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. "I wish to encourage all the countries that have not yet done so," the pontiff said, "to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law, to which the Holy See has always given its support. I likewise express my support for any measure aimed at guaranteeing the necessary assistance for the victims of these devastating weapons."
The other appeal is prompted by the "great sadness for our African brothers and sisters, who a few days ago met their death in the Mediterranean Sea, while they were trying to reach Europe." On March 3, boats from Libya full of hundreds of refugees sank, likely drowning at least 300 persons. "We cannot resign ourselves to such tragedies," the pope said, "which unfortunately have been repeated for some time! The dimensions of the phenomenon make it increasingly urgent to implement coordinated strategies between the European Union and African countries, as well as the adoption of adequate humanitarian measures, to prevent these migrants from resorting to unscrupulous traffickers. While I pray for the victims, that the Lord may welcome them into his peace, I would like to observe that this problem, further aggravated by the global crisis, will find a solution only when the African populations, with the help of the international community, are able to free themselves from misery and wars."
After greeting the delegates of World Youth Day, connected to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Benedict XVI commented on the symbol of the passing of the Cross from the from the hands of the Australian young people to those of the Spanish young people: "This 'passing of witness' takes on a highly symbolic value, with which we express immense gratitude to God for the gifts we have received in the great encounter of Sydney, and those he shall wish to grant us at the encounter in Madrid. Tomorrow the Cross, accompanied by the icon of the Virgin Mary, will leave for the Spanish capital, and there it will be present in the great procession on Good Friday. After this, it will begin a long pilgrimage that, through the dioceses of Spain, will bring it back to Madrid in the summer of 2011. May this Cross and this icon of Mary be for all a sign of the invincible love of Christ and of his and our Mother!"
The "passing" of the Cross, applauded by thousands of young people, took place on the portico in the square, in the presence of Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, and of Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela of Madrid.
The worldwide gathering of young people, which will take place in August of 2011 in Madrid, will have the theme "Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith (cf. Col. 2:7)."