Pope speaks on leprosy, Holy Land, unemployment

A colourful tapestry of umbrellas, and banners carpeted St Peter’s Square as thousands of pilgrims gathered in the cold and rain to hear Pope Benedict’s Angelus reflections on Sunday. Speaking from the window of his apartments, Pope Benedict reflected particularly St Paul’s 'Hymn of Charity' in his first letter to the Corinthians.

Charity, Pope Benedict told the crowds, is what distinguishes a Christian. "Love is the "style" of God and of believers, it is the behaviour of those who respond to the love of God, by laying down their lives as a gift of self to God and neighbour”.

Pope Benedict then related the theme of genuine love in charity, to three subjects: leprosy, the Holy Land and unemployment, in his comments after the Angelus Prayer.

Firstly he pointed out that  it was World Leprosy Day. Pope Benedict thanked the Italian Association Amici di Raoul Follereau who work with people with leprosy. According to the association, each year about 700,000 cases of leprosy are diagnosed throughout the world, spread across the continents of Asia, Africa and South America. Of these about 100,000 were recorded in India, where about 70% of global cases live. The other most affected countries are: Angola, Brazil, Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Tanzania, where the disease affects one person every 10,000 inhabitants. This despite the fact that if diagnosed in its early stages, the disease is curable.

Pope Benedict entrusted “all the people who are still suffering from this disease, as well as health workers and volunteers who devote themselves because there might be a world without leprosy " to the protection of St Damien de Veuster, who gave his life to caring for people with the disease and who was canonized last October.

The second of the Popes’ intentions was for the Holy Land. Remembering the second day of intercession for peace in the Holy Land, Pope Benedict said he was spiritually united in prayer with the many Christians from all over the world.

A message of peace was also brought to St Peter’s Square by the boys and girls of Catholic Action Rome. Traditionally, they conclude the month of January with the 'Peace Caravan'.  At the end of the audience two children were invited to the Papal apartments where they delivered a message on behalf of the association. One  explained that  they were raising funds for the reconstruction of a multimedia centre at the Catholic Action Institute of Bethlehem. They said they were also praying for the children of Haiti and collecting funds for them.

The Pope and the children then released a pair of white doves. Pope Benedict said this was "giving everyone a sign of hope."

Finally, Pope Benedict addressed businesses leaders and politicians, saying: "The economic crisis is causing the loss of many jobs and this calls for a huge sense of responsibility by everyone: entrepreneurs, workers, governing officials”.

Referring to two difficult situations in Italy, Termini Imerese in Sicily where Fiat has announced plans to close its plant, and Portovesme where US aluminium producer Alcoa Inc has said it will shut down production, the Pope appealed that “everything possible” be done “to protect and spur job growth, assuring dignified and adequate work to sustain families."

As the Pope invited prayers for all those suffering in these difficult times, Alcoa workers from the Portovesme plant held up a banner in thanks and there was loud applause from the people in St Peter's Square.

Source: Vatican Radio/Fides

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