03/24/2008, 00.00
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Pope: missionary martyrs, an encouragement for the whole Church

From Castel Gandolfo, where he has gone for a week's rest, the pope recalls the world day of prayer and fasting for missionary martyrs, which is observed today, and invites Christians to bear witness in an increasingly courageous way to faith and hope in Him who on the Cross defeated forever the power of hatred and violence, with the omnipotence of his love.

Rome (AsiaNews) - In the light of the Resurrection of Christ, "special value is accorded to commemoration and prayer for the missionary martyrs who died in 2007, while they were carrying out their missionary service. This is a duty of gratitude for the entire Church, and an encouragement for each of us". These were some of Benedict XVI's words following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, on the occasion of the annual day of prayer and fasting for missionary martyrs.  This commemoration is observed today, on the occasion of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, archbishop of San Salvador. 

This day, which is usually dedicated to prayer and fasting, falls on the first day after Easter.  The pope cheerfully suggested, given the festive atmosphere, not to fast, but to pray: "To remember and pray, but perhaps not to fast, for these our brothers and sisters - bishops, priests, religious men and women, laity - who died in 2007, while carrying out their missionary service, is a duty of gratitude for the entire Church, and an encouragement for each of us to bear witness in an increasingly courageous way to our faith and hope in Him who on the Cross conquered forever the power of hatred and violence with the omnipotence of his love". 

Before the prayer, which replaces the Angelus during the Easter season, the pope recalled that "at the solemn Easter vigil, after the days of Lent, there returned the singing of the Alleluia, a universally familiar word that means 'praise the Lord'. During the Easter season, this invitation to praise leaps from mouth to mouth, from heart to heart.  It resonates beginning from an absolutely new event: the death and resurrection of Christ.  The Alleluia sprang from the hearts of the first disciples of Jesus that Easter morning, in Jerusalem". 

From that same experience, Benedict XVI continues, "is derived also the prayer that we recite today and every day during the Easter season in the place of the Angelus: the Marian antiphon Regina Caeli.  The text is short, and has the direct form of a proclamation: it is like a new 'annunciation' to Mary, not made by an angel this time, but by Christians who invite the Mother to rejoice because her Son, whom she bore her womb, has risen as He had promised". 

It is to be hoped, the pope continues, "that the Easter Alleluia may be profoundly impressed upon us as well, so that it becomes not only a word, but the expression of our life itself: the existence of persons who invite all to praise the Lord, and do this through their behaviour as 'risen' persons. 'Pray to the Lord for us', we say to Mary, so that He who, in the resurrection of his Son, has restored joy to the entire world, may grant us to taste this joy now, and in the life without end".  In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled the world day for the fight against tuberculosis, and said that he is "particularly close to the sick and to their families.  I hope that the effort to overcome this scourge may increase on a worldwide level.  My appeal is addressed above all to the Catholic institutions, so that those who suffer may recognise, through their work, the Risen Lord who gives them healing, comfort, and peace".

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