Pope: prayer for missionary vocations, and for his visit to the United States
On the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, Benedict XVI asks for prayers so that vocations dedicated to life and mission may increase. In all the languages of his greetings, he entrusts himself to the prayers of the Church for his "apostolic pilgrimage" to the United States from April 15-20.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A prayer for vocations, especially missionary vocations, and one for his visit to the United States: these are the two concerns expressed by Benedict XVI in the reflection before the Regina Caeli, in front of tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St Peter's Square.  

The first concern arises from the fact that the fourth Sunday of Easter is called "of the Good Shepherd".  The world day of prayer for vocations is also celebrated on this Sunday.  

Recalling that the Pauline year will begin on June 28, to celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the apostle Paul, "the missionary par excellence", among the vocations the pope first of all cited "missionaries ad vitam, meaning those men and women who dedicate themselves completely to proclaiming Christ to those who still do not know him: this vocation still maintains its full validity".  Benedict XVI emphasised that there is above all a need for missionary priests, who dispense "the Word of God and the Sacraments, manifesting to all with their pastoral charity, above all to the sick, to the least, to the poor, the healing presence of Jesus Christ".  

In the donation of their lives to their brothers, they often encounter martyrdom.  The pontiff recalled that  two religious died yesterday, in Kenya and in Guinea.  

"Let us pray also", the pope added, "that the ranks may grow continually of those who decide to live the Gospel radically through the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience: these are men and women who have a primary role in evangelisation.  Of them, some dedicate themselves to contemplation and to prayer, others to various forms of educational and charitable action, but all are united by the same goal: that of bearing witness to the primacy of God over all, and of spreading his Kingdom in every realm of society".  

Mission is the heart not only of consecrated vocations, but also of the vocation to matrimony: "Spouses, in fact, are called to live the Gospel in their families, in their places of work, in their parish and civil communities.  In certain cases, moreover, they offer their precious collaboration in the mission ad gentes".  

The other concern of the pope is that of a request for prayer for his upcoming visit to the United States, from April 15-20.  

Invoking "the maternal protection of Mary over the many vocations existing in the Church, that they may develop with a strong missionary imprint", Benedict XVI also entrusted to Mary "the special missionary experience" that he will have in the coming days "with the apostolic voyage to the United States of America, and the visit to the UN".  "I ask all of you", he concluded "to accompany me with your prayer".  

After the Marian prayer, in the greetings in various languages, he exhorted the young people to "listen to the call of the Good Shepherd", and to follow him in a radical way, in order to be "truly happy".  He asked all to pray for his "apostolic pilgrimage" to the United States.

Photo: CPP