02/12/2012, 00.00
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Pope appeals to Damascus and all to "end violence" and "favour the path of dialogue"

Benedict XVI remembers and prays for the victims of these days, many of them children. The request to the Syrian government to listen to the just demands of the population, and the auspices of the international community. An "existential comment" on the gospel, from the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In honor of the apparitions in Lourdes, the call to prayer and penance, to "allow ourselves be touched and purified by Him" showing "mercy to our brothers and sisters."
 Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A new "urgent appeal" to "end the violence and bloodshed" in Syria, along with an invitation to "give priority to the path of dialogue, reconciliation and commitment to peace "was launched today by Benedict XVI after the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square.

Speaking from his study window, the pope made it clear that his call for dialogue and reconciliation is for "all - and above all the political authorities in Syria." Since the beginning of the riots, 11 months ago, the Assad government had promised some reforms (electoral and political), but they have stalled, leaving room for violence and attacks, to which the regime responded with brutal force. Such violence has been claimed and / or attributed to Free Syrian Army (the army of military deserters), to al-Qaeda or other radical Islamic groups, once kept in check by the Assad regime. Two days ago, in Aleppo, two car bombs killed at least 28 people and left hundreds of wounded soldiers and civilians.

"I follow with great apprehension - the pope said - the dramatic and growing incidents of violence in Syria. In recent days they have caused numerous deaths. I remember in prayer the victims, among which there are children, the wounded and those suffering the consequences of an increasingly worrying conflict. "

In some sections of the international community the idea of military intervention similar to a "Libyan model" for the expulsion of Qaddafi is growing, but the results of the Arab League mission of reconciliation are still unknown.

In his appeal, the pope seems to give priority to dialogue and engagement particularly within the nation itself, pushing the Syrian authorities to act: "There is an urgent need to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the various components of the nation, as well as the wishes of the international community, concerned the common good of the whole society and the Region ".

Previously Benedict XVI reflected on the Sunday Gospel (Mk 1.40 to 45) in which Jesus heals a leper who begs him. "Jesus - says the pontiff - is not immune to contact with this man, indeed, driven by intimate participation in his condition, he stretches out his hand and touches it - overcoming the legal ban - and says: I do will it. Be made clean!' .In that gesture and the words of Christ is the whole history of salvation, there is embodied the will of God to heal, to cleanse us from evil that disfigures and destroys our relationship with Him. In that contact between the hand of Jesus and the leper all barriers between God and human impurities were knocked down, between the sacred and its opposite, not to deny the evil and its negative force, but to show that the love of God is stronger than any evil, even of the most contagious and horrible. Jesus took upon himself our infirmities; he became 'leper' that we may be purified“.

The pope then added a "existential comment ", taken from the life of St. Francis of Assisi as told in his Testament: " The Lord gave to me, Brother Francis, thus to begin to do penance; for when I was in sin it seemed to me very bitter to see lepers, and the Lord Himself led me amongst them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, that which had seemed to me bitter was changed for me into sweetness of body and soul. And afterwards I remained a little and I left the world. ".

He added: "In those lepers who met Francis when he was still 'in sin', Jesus was present, and when Francis approached one of them, and, overcoming his revulsion, embraced him, Jesus healed him of his leprosy, that is, his pride, and converted him to the love of God is the victory of Christ, which is our deep healing and our resurrection to new life. "

The Pope concluded with an invitation to remember the appearances of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes (yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes). "Dear friends, let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday by the memory of her apparitions at Lourdes. Our Lady gave a timeless message to St. Bernadette: the call to prayer and penance. Through his mother it is always Jesus who comes to us, to deliver us from all sickness of body and soul. Let us allow ourselves to be touched and purified by Him and we show mercy to our brothers and sisters. "
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