June 9, 2010 // Uncategorized

Pope, at audience, asks prayers for Middle East

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At his first general audience since his trip to Cyprus, Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics around the world to pray for peace in the Middle East and for the special Synod of Bishops on the Middle East, scheduled for October.

The synod, he said June 9, will be a chance for Catholics of different rites living in countries from Egypt to Iran to share their experiences and hopes, as well as their commitment to dialogue with other Christians, with Jews and with Muslims.

The pope said the synod should be accompanied by the prayers of all Catholics “for whom the Middle East occupies a special place in their hearts, because it was there that God made himself known to our fathers in faith.”

Political leaders around the world, he said, need to work with greater effort “so that that region can overcome the situations of suffering and conflict that still afflict it and so that, finally, peace and justice will return.”

In addition to distributing the synod’s working document to regional church leaders at the end of his visit to Cyprus June 4-6, the pope said he had an opportunity to strengthen his relationship with Archbishop Chrysostomos II, head of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, and to visit the tiny Catholic communities on the island.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided between the Greek Cypriots in the South and Turkish Cypriots in the North. Many Maronite Catholics who lived in the northern part of the island fled south and can no longer returned to their villages, some of which are occupied by troops from Turkey.

Pope Benedict said a presentation of music and dance June 5 at a Maronite school in Nicosia allowed him to see the rich spirituality, but also the suffering of the Maronites from the northern villages.

The villagers, he said, “are a people who suffer and who hope.”

“May the Cypriot people and the people of the other countries of the Middle East — with their governments and the representatives of different religions — build together a future of peace, friendship and fraternal cooperation,” the pope said.

On a hot, sunny day, with the pope wearing his wide-brimmed red hat, the crowd in St. Peter’s Square was unusually colorful. Representatives of the 16 teams who played in the Clericus Cup soccer tournament for seminarians in Rome were there, as were hundreds of Italian children who had participated in a nationwide soccer tournament.

Alongside a shiny, new helicopter, there were several ambulances, not in anticipation of the sun being too hot for some of the estimated 10,000 people in the square, but so the pope could bless them. More than 300 drivers, pilots, emergency medical technicians, nurses and doctors who work for the Italian air ambulance service also were at the audience.

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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English can be found online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100609_en.html.

The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish can be found online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100609_sp.html.

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