Pope Benedict XVI asked pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square yesterday, to pray for the success of his trip to the United States. The Holy Father said: "Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to pray for the success of my visit, so that it may be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans. Upon each of you present, I invoke the protection and guidance of Jesus the Good Shepherd." Benedict's visit to the US, which starts tomorrow, includes talks with President Bush in Washington and an address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on April 18. Meetings are also planned between the pontiff and leaders of other religious faiths - Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism - and with leaders of several other Christian denominations. "With the various groups I shall meet, my intention is to share our Lord's word of life. In Christ is our hope! Christ is the foundation of our hope for peace, for justice, and for the freedom that flows from God's law fulfilled in his commandment to love one another," Benedict said Sunday of the five-day trip. In a video message addressed to the American people last Thursday, Pope Benedict said: "In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will." After expressing his gratitude towards the many people who are working to make his visit a success, the Holy Father offered particular words of gratitude towards all those who are preparing with their prayer, since "prayer is the most important element of all" and he said, "without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavours would achieve very little." In the message, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the theme chosen for his apostolic trip: 'Christ our hope./ He said: "Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father." The Holy Father later stated that he will "also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world. Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfilment in the commandment to love one another." Lastly, Benedict XVI, speaking in Spanish, offered a special greeting to the Spanish-speaking Catholics, showing his spiritual closeness, "especially towards the youth, the sick, the elderly, and all those who are experiencing difficulties or who are most in need." Source: VIS/Fides
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