Denver, Colo., Apr 21, 2011 (CNA) - A new Hallmark TV movie premiering on April 24 chronicles the true story of renowned Utah educator Stacey Bess and her work in teaching homeless children who had been nearly abandoned by the local educational system.
“I hope that all people, including teachers, will realize that it does not take any special skill or training to make an impact on the life of a child,” she told CNA on April 19. “All we really need to do is care.”
Based on Bess's 1994 book, “Nobody Don't Love Nobody,” Hallmark Hall of Fame’s “Beyond the Blackboard” TV movie will air on CBS this Sunday, April 24 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
The film depicts a 24 year-old Bess in 1987 – at the time, a pregnant mother of two – who seeks a teaching job in the Salt Lake City school district shortly after earning her teacher’s certification.
The school year already underway, Bess is offered a job teaching first through sixth grades at a homeless facility. Her makeshift “school” has no desks, no books, no supplies, and no name.
What follows is Bess's remarkable effort to transform what was considered a mere holding tank for eventual delinquents into a thriving, educational community for the children and their families.
“Having a movie based on your book is hard enough, then add that it is a portrayal of your real life,” Bess said. “I trusted Hallmark completely because I knew that they believed in what I believe in. Together we desire to inspire the audience to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in the life of a child.”
Bess noted the differences in the film as compared to her book and life story. Even though she taught at “The School with No Name” for 11 years, the events in the movie were compressed “into my first year of teaching, so I had to adjust to the timing in the movie being different than the timing in the book,” she said.
In the long run, Bess said she learned that “all of that did not matter as long as the truth of the story was told.”
Bess's character is portrayed in the film by 24 year-old actress Emily VanCamp, known for her roles in “Everwood” and the hit series “Brothers & Sisters.”
“I think the main reason that I was really drawn to this role was the idea that I could help to shed more light on Stacey's incredible story,” VanCamp told CNA in an April 20 interview.
“She is such a huge inspiration and reminds us that one person truly can make a difference. No child should ever be left behind regardless of their circumstances,” she said. “As an actress it is always wonderful to be able to combine story telling with a great cause, so taking this role was a no brainer for me.”
VanCamp said that the “experience of filming this project was amazing. The kids were so lovely and talented and we had such a great crew of people who were equally as touched by the story as I was.”
“We all wanted to do the story justice and make Stacey proud. I hope that we did.”
VanCamp added that she “loved meeting Stacey. I love her energy and she has such a great sense of humor. It was an honor to meet her and to be able to play her.”
Bess echoed the enthusiasm, saying that “Emily Van Camp was the perfect match for me. She understood me completely.”
Bess, a Latter Day Saints member and mother of six, said that her education by nuns in England when she was a child helped instill a love for learning, and reinforced the importance of faith in her life.
“When I was 4 years old I lived in Leeds, England,” she recalled. “The American children, whose parents worked for the government, were driven to a private Catholic school. I was fortunate to be there for a few years until we came back to the states.
“My favorite memories were of the nuns leading us into one of my favorite songs, 'Go tell it on the Mountain,'” she said. “Later In life I remember younger siblings who did not go to the private Catholic school heard me singing this beloved song and asked, 'Where in the world did you learn that song?' I told them that I have fond memories of the nuns leading us into each day with The Lords Prayer and 'Go tell it on the Mountain.”
“I can't imagine a better way to start a day than to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our savior,” Bess said.
On her tireless work in service to homeless children, Bess said “I have always felt like there was a plan for me. My experiences both difficult and amazing prepared me to rub shoulders with these people.”
“I knew what fear was. I knew what humiliation felt like, and I also knew that I was a child of God,” she said.
“It was that knowledge that helped me plow through the difficult and use the lessons learned to bless the lives of others. I guess you could say that all of my story both the good and bad are blessings that I was able to draw on when faced with whether I should step out of my comfort zone and serve or stand back,” Bess added.
“I chose to step up in behalf of a child.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Apr 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Patriarchs and other heads of churches in Jerusalem have published a joint Easter message announcing their “joy” over the holy day. At the same time, they remembered those suffering from violence in the Holy Land and called for prayers for peace.
“We urge all Christians to pray for reconciliation among people in the Holy Land, where the deteriorating situation makes peace and justice seem further away than ever before,” they said. “We find sadness competes with the joy of Easter as we witness the violence which has erupted in the face of peaceful demonstrations by people throughout the Arab world these past months.”
Violence reminds Christians that the cross of Christ is “ever present for the faithful followers of the Prince of Peace.” The crucifixion is “an ongoing reality” for many Christians who “continue to seek to live with mutual understanding and co-operation with their neighbors.”
“Christians find their joy is secure in the hope of the promise of eternal life which our Lord has won for all who believe,” the churchmen explained. “However, when we in Jerusalem, the city of redemption, see the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere in our region our joy becomes more solemn.”
Anti-Christian violence and a lack of government protection in Iraq have driven hundreds of thousands of Christians to leave the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In Egypt, the Christian community has also faced attacks.
A month-long uprising in Syria has challenged the rule of President Bashar Assad and recent demonstrations by tens of thousands of protesters in Damascus resulted in clashes with police. At least 200 people have been killed.
“We Christians are watching in prayer the developments in the Middle East,” the church leaders said. They prayed that reforms lead to a “modern civil society” that respects freedom of expression, freedom of religion and human rights.
“Our Lord died for the sins of the whole world that all people will see in his example how violence only leads to death and destruction. In his resurrection we experience his victory over violence and death and we embrace a vision of the future in which all people live together in harmony.”
The church leaders also emphasized the hope of Easter.
“The cross is ever before us day by day and the cross is empty,” they commented. “New life has come. Christ is risen. We are risen. Alleluia. Thanks be to God.”
Signatories to the statement included Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarch Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Maronite Patriarchal Exarch Archbishop Paul Sayyah, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Bishop Pierre Malki, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarch Fr. Rafael Minassian and Holy Land Custodian Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM.
Patriarchs and archbishops from the Orthodox Churches and Episcopal and Lutheran bishops also signed the statement.
Raleigh, N.C., Apr 21, 2011 (CNA) - Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh has asked the faithful to pray this Holy Week for the victims and survivors of the deadly April 16 tornadoes which struck parts of his diocese.
In a video message to the faithful of the Diocese of Raleigh, he said the storms left “death, injury and destruction.”
“The pictures of the devastation are dramatic, but much more significant are the people who have been so traumatically affected,” the bishop said. “In just a few seconds many lost all their possessions. Some were badly injured and, sadly, several lost their lives.”
“If you know of a need for immediate assistance in your community, please contact your local Catholic Charities office,” he added.
He also announced a special collection and asked Catholics to participate.
Some 60 tornadoes killed at least 21 people and left hundreds homeless in the worst storm in the state since 1984.
Survivors of the storms had dramatic stories of the events.
Twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Robinson saw the tornado moving towards his mobile home in the town of Dunn and grabbed his cousin’s three-month-old son. He ran towards a closet in his bedroom but the tornado tore his home into pieces around him and swept the baby into the sky.
“As soon as I jumped in the closet, it came down and that little baby flew out of my hand,” he told the Associated Press. “I seen him leave my arms. That's how strong the wind was.”
After a search through the rubble of the Cedar Creek Mobile Home Park, family members found the baby unconscious but with only minor injuries.
John Lucas, a 73-year-old resident of the same mobile home park, was buried under his home’s walls.
“I wasn't hurt. I was just pinned down on the floor and couldn't get out,” Lucas said. “According to what those people tell me, I'm a lucky man.”
Rev. Darren Whitehurst of Greater Wynns Gove Baptist Church saw his church damaged by the storm. Its steeple was swept away in the wind and hasn’t been found.
He helped dig church members out of the rubble of their homes before Palm Sunday services, whose message was about helping others in need.
“It's been a trying night. It's been a bloody night,” Whitehurst told the Associated Press. “But God is still good.”
The Catholic community is working with government officials to provide for victims in Bertie County, one of the hardest-hit areas where 11 lost their lives. They are helping assess damage and provide services such as trauma counseling.
In Wake County, the Catholic Charities agency Catholic Parish Outreach has been providing assistance to residents of a mobile home community which sustained major damage.
Three young children, members of St. Raphael Parish in Raleigh, died in the storm there.
“In this holiest of weeks, I ask that you include a special intention in your prayers every day for those who have died, those who are injured, and those who have suffered property loss or damage,” said Bishop Burbidge, who also asked for prayers for first responders and those tending to victims.
“May Our Lord be especially close to each of these most in need,” Bishop Burbidge prayed, “and may God also bless you and your family during these sacred days and always.”
Individuals may donate to the tornado relief effort through the web page of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, marking their donation for “Disaster Relief.”
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - At the Vatican's Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, Pope Benedict said that despite the many scandals in the Church, there are still “radiant examples of faith,” such as John Paul II.
The former Pope will be beatified May 1.
Pope Benedict's full homily follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the heart of this morning’s liturgy is the blessing of the holy oils – the oil for anointing catechumens, the oil for anointing the sick, and the chrism for the great sacraments that confer the Holy Spirit:confirmation, priestly ordination, episcopal ordination. In the sacraments the Lord touches us through the elements of creation. The unity between creation and redemption is made visible. The sacraments are an expression of the physicality of our faith, which embraces the whole person, body and soul. Bread and wine are fruits of the earth and work of human hands. The Lord chose them to be bearers of his presence. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and at the same time it points us towards Christ: the word "Christ" (Messiah)means "the anointed one". The humanity of Jesus, by virtue of the Son's union with the Father, is brought into communion with the Holy Spirit and is thus "anointed" in a unique way, penetrated by the Holy Spirit. What happened symbolically to the kings and priests of the Old Testament when they were instituted into their ministry by the anointing with oil, takes place in Jesus in all its reality: his humanity is penetrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. He opens our humanity for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The more we are united to Christ, the more we are filled with his Spirit, with the Holy Spirit. We are called "Christians": "anointed ones" –people who belong to Christ and hence have a share in his anointing, being touched by his Spirit. I wish not merely to be called Christian, but also to be Christian, said Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Let us allow these holy oils, which are consecrated at this time, to remind us of the task that is implicit in the word "Christian", let us pray that, increasingly, we may not only be called Christian but may actually be such.
In today’s liturgy, three oils are blessed, as I mentioned earlier. They express three essential dimensions of the Christian life on which we may now reflect. First, there is the oil of catechumens. This oil indicates a first way of being touched by Christ and by his Spirit – an inner touch, by which the Lord draws people close to himself. Through this first anointing,which takes place even prior to baptism, our gaze is turned towards people who are journeying towards Christ – people who are searching for faith, searching for God. The oil of catechumens tells us that it is not only we who seek God:God himself is searching for us. The fact that he himself was made man and came down into the depths of human existence, even into the darkness of death, shows us how much God loves his creature, man. Driven by love, God has set out towards us. "Seeking me, you sat down weary ... let such labour not be in vain!", we pray in the Dies Irae. God is searching for me. Do I want to recognize him? Do I want to be known by him, found by him? God loves us. He comes to meet the unrest of our hearts, the unrest of our questioning and seeking, with the unrest of his own heart, which leads him to accomplish the ultimate for us. That restlessness for God, that journeying towards him, so as to know and love him better, must not be extinguished in us. In this sense we should always remain catechumens. "Constantly seek his face", says one of the Psalms (105:4). Saint Augustine comments as follows: God is so great as to surpass infinitely all our knowing and all our being. Knowledge of God is never exhausted. For all eternity, with ever increasing joy, we can always continue to seek him, so as to know him and love him more and more. "Our heart is restless until it rests in you", said Saint Augustine at the beginning of his Confessions. Yes, man is restless, because whatever is finite is too little. But are we truly restless for him? Have we perhaps become resigned to his absence, do we not seek to be self-sufficient? Let us not allow our humanity to be diminished in this way! Let us remain constantly on a journey towards him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and love!
Then there is the oil for anointing the sick. Arrayed before us is a host of suffering people: those who hunger and thirst, victims of violence in every continent, the sick with all their sufferings, their hopes and their moments without hope, the persecuted, the downtrodden, the broken-hearted. Regarding the first mission on which Jesus sent the disciples, Saint Luke tells us: "he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal"(9:2). Healing is one of the fundamental tasks entrusted by Jesus to the Church, following the example that he gave as he traveled throughout the land healing the sick. To be sure, the Church’s principal task is to proclaim the Kingdom of God. But this very proclamation must be a process of healing:"bind up the broken-hearted", we heard in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah (61:1). The proclamation of God’s Kingdom, of God's unlimited goodness, must first of all bring healing to broken hearts. By nature, man is a being in relation. But if the fundamental relationship, the relationship with God, is disturbed, then all the rest is disturbed as well. If our relationship with God is disturbed, if the fundamental orientation of our being is awry, we cannot truly be healed in body and soul. For this reason, the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts. But over and above this central task, the Church’s essential mission also includes the specific healing of sickness and suffering. The oil for anointing the sick is the visible sacramental expression of this mission. Since apostolic times, the healing vocation has matured in the Church, and so too has loving solicitude for those who are distressed in body and soul. This is also the occasion to say thank you to those sisters and brothers throughout the world who bring healing and love to the sick, irrespective of their status or religious affiliation. From Elizabeth of Hungary, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Camillus of Lellisto Mother Teresa – to recall but a few names – we see, lighting up the world, a radiant procession of helpers streaming forth from God’s love for the suffering and the sick. For this we thank the Lord at this moment. For this we thank all those who, by virtue of their faith and love, place themselves alongside the suffering, thereby bearing definitive witness to the goodness of God himself. The oil for anointing the sick is a sign of this oil of the goodness of heart that these people bring – together with their professional competence – to the suffering. Even without speaking of Christ, they make him manifest.
In third place, finally, is the most noble of the ecclesial oils, the chrism, a mixture of olive oil and aromatic vegetable oils. It is the oil used for anointing priests and kings, in continuity with the great Old Testament traditions of anointing. In the Church this oil serves chiefly for the anointing of confirmation and ordination. Today’s liturgy links this oil with the promise of the prophet Isaiah: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord, men shall speak of you as the ministers of our God" (61:6).The prophet makes reference here to the momentous words of commission and promise that God had addressed to Israel on Sinai: "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6). In and for the vast world, which was largely ignorant of God, Israel had to be as it were a shrine of God for all peoples, exercising a priestly function vis-à-vis the world. It had to bring the world to God, to open it up to him. In his great baptismal catechesis, Saint Peter applied this privilege and this commission of Israel to the entire community of the baptized, proclaiming: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people" (1 Pet 2:9f.)Baptism and confirmation are an initiation into this people of God that spans the world; the anointing that takes place in baptism and confirmation is an anointing that confers this priestly ministry towards mankind. Christians are a priestly people for the world. Christians should make the living God visible to the world, they should bear witness to him and lead people towards him. When we speak of this task in which we share by virtue of our baptism, it is no reason to boast. It poses a question to us that makes us both joyful and anxious: are we truly God’s shrine in and for the world? Do we open up the pathway to God for others or do we rather conceal it? Have not we – the people of God – become to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God? Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith,bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ? We have reason to cry out at this time to God: "Do not allow us to become a ‘non-people’! Make us recognize you again! Truly, you have anointed us with your love, you have poured out your Holy Spirit upon us. Grant that the power of your Spirit may become newly effective in us, so that we may bear joyful witness to your message!
For all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith, people who give hope to the world through their faith and love. When Pope John Paul II is beatified on 1 May, we shall think of him, with hearts full of thankfulness, as a great witness to God and to Jesus Christ in our day, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. Alongside him, we think of the many people he beatified and canonized, who give us the certainty that even today God’s promise and commission do not fall on deaf ears.
I turn finally to you, dear brothers in the priestly ministry. Holy Thursday is in a special way our day. At the hour of the last Supper, the Lord instituted the new Testament priesthood. "Sanctify them in the truth" (Jn 17:17), he prayed to the Father, for the Apostles and for priests of all times. With great gratitude for the vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our "yes" to the Lord’s call: yes, I want to be intimately united to the Lord Jesus, in self-denial, driven on by the love of Christ. Amen.
Vatican City, Apr 21, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict recalled that Jesus chose to limit himself to the Catholic Church, adding that “all of us need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be."
"We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers," the Pope said during the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper.
Pope Benedict's full homily follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15). With these words Jesus began the celebration of his final meal and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus approached that hour with eager desire. In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine. He awaited that moment which would in some sense be the true messianic wedding feast: when he would transform the gifts of this world and become one with his own, so as to transform them and thus inaugurate the transformation of the world. In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfill the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. For us, the empty places at the table of the Lord’s wedding feast, whether excusable or not, are no longer a parable but a reality, in those very countries to which he had revealed his closeness in a special way. Jesus also knew about guests who come to the banquet without being robed in the wedding garment – they come not to rejoice in his presence but merely out of habit, since their hearts are elsewhere. In one of his homilies Saint Gregory the Great asks: Who are these people who enter without the wedding garment? What is this garment and how does one acquire it? He replies that those who are invited and enter do in some way have faith. It is faith which opens the door to them. But they lack the wedding garment of love. Those who do not live their faith as love are not ready for the banquet and are cast out. Eucharistic communion requires faith, but faith requires love; otherwise, even as faith, it is dead.
From all four Gospels we know that Jesus’ final meal before his passion was also a teaching moment. Once again, Jesus urgently set forth the heart of his message. Word and sacrament, message and gift are inseparably linked. Yet at his final meal, more than anything else, Jesus prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke use two words in describing Jesus’ prayer at the culmination of the meal: “eucharístesas” and “eulógesas” – the verbs “to give thanks” and “to bless”. The upward movement of thanking and the downward movement of blessing go together. The words of transubstantiation are part of this prayer of Jesus. They are themselves words of prayer. Jesus turns his suffering into prayer, into an offering to the Father for the sake of mankind. This transformation of his suffering into love has the power to transform the gifts in which he now gives himself. He gives those gifts to us, so that we, and our world, may be transformed. The ultimate purpose of Eucharistic transformation is our own transformation in communion with Christ. The Eucharist is directed to the new man, the new world, which can only come about from God, through the ministry of God’s Servant.
From Luke, and especially from John, we know that Jesus, during the Last Supper, also prayed to the Father – prayers which also contain a plea to his disciples of that time and of all times. Here I would simply like to take one of these which, as John tells us, Jesus repeated four times in his Priestly Prayer. How deeply it must have concerned him! It remains his constant prayer to the Father on our behalf: the prayer for unity. Jesus explicitly states that this prayer is not meant simply for the disciples then present, but for all who would believe in him (cf. Jn 17:20). He prays that all may be one “as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to him, to Jesus. Faith and love for Jesus, faith in his being one with the Father and openness to becoming one with him, are essential. This unity, then, is not something purely interior or mystical. It must become visible, so visible as to prove before the world that Jesus was sent by the Father. Consequently, Jesus’ prayer has an underlying Eucharistic meaning which Paul clearly brings out in the First Letter to the Corinthians: “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16ff.). With the Eucharist, the Church is born. All of us eat the one bread and receive the one body of the Lord; this means that he opens each of us up to something above and beyond us. He makes all of us one. The Eucharist is the mystery of the profound closeness and communion of each individual with the Lord and, at the same time, of visible union between all. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity. Let me say it again: it is an extremely personal encounter with the Lord and yet never simply an act of individual piety. Of necessity, we celebrate it together. In each community the Lord is totally present. Yet in all the communities he is but one. Hence the words “una cum Papa nostro et cum episcopo nostro” are a requisite part of the Church’s Eucharistic Prayer. These words are not an addendum of sorts, but a necessary expression of what the Eucharist really is. Furthermore, we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.
Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors. We know that Peter, who walks towards the Lord upon the stormy waters of history and is in danger of sinking, is sustained ever anew by the Lord’s hand and guided over the waves. But Jesus continues with a prediction and a mandate. “When you have turned again…”. Every human being, save Mary, has constant need of conversion. Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion. But what did Peter need to be converted from? When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things. We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.
After Peter was converted, he was called to strengthen his brethren. It is not irrelevant that this task was entrusted to him in the Upper Room. The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfill his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father.
“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you”. Lord, you desire us, you desire me. You eagerly desire to share yourself with us in the Holy Eucharist, to be one with us. Lord, awaken in us the desire for you. Strengthen us in unity with you and with one another. Grant unity to your Church, so that the world may believe. Amen.