02/29/2004, 00.00
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Pope prays for children, Haiti

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – As Lent gets underway John Paul II places emphasis once again on the special effort people make for children, "especially those in most serious danger and difficulty." In his Message for Lent, released a month ago, the pontiff asks all Christians to work to protect the lives of children during times of war, sickness, hunger, poverty, slavery and sexual exploitation.  

The pope asked faithful to prayer for him and the Roman Curia who, starting this evening, began their annual Lenten spiritual retreat. Leading the spiritual exercises will be Msgr. Bruno Forte, who will help retreatants reflect on the theme "Following You, the light of our life". The retreat will end Saturday, March 6.

After reciting the Angelus, the pope launched an appeal for Haiti, a country undergoing civil war to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is accused of corruption and dictatorship. John Paul II urged "all Haitians to be courageous and humble when making decisions for the good of the country" and then added: "While I encourage the work of the international community and ask the generous commitment of humanitarian organizations, I send my special blessing to the much loved Haitian people."

Below we report the pope's words spoken before the Angelus (translation by AsiaNews):


In today's Gospel, on this first Sunday of Lent, we hear that Christ , after being baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan and inspired by the Holy Spirit, retreated into the desert for 40 days. The Gospel recounts the period in which Jesus was tempted three times, a reminder of Satan's ancient fooling of Adam and Eve which led to the fall of our first parents. Yet Christ, the new Adam, overcomes them and confidently rejects his tempter, saying: "It was said that you shall not tempt the Lord your God."    

Christ's victory over evil assures us we will not succumb to temptation if we remain close to God. It is in this way that Lent urges us on along a special commitment to the Lord during time of spiritual preparation.  

During this period of Lent I sent my Message to the whole Church in which I particularly wanted to remember children who are often innocent victims of human wickedness. The Church aims to take special care of them, since Christ himself told us :"He who accepts only one of these children accepts me too." (Matthew, 18, 5). May this liturgical season of Lent become a generous call of solidarity with these little ones, especially those in most serous danger and difficulty."  

My dear brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to pray for this special intention. I ask you, in addition, to accompany me spiritually during my annual Spiritual Exercises, which begin this evening together with members of the Roman Curia.  May Mary the Virgin who listens to God make these days of silence, meditation and intense communion with Christ fruitful.
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