Fifty thousand filled St. Peter's Square to pray the Regina Coeli with Pope Benedict XVI at noon on Sunday, following Holy Mass in St Peter’s Basilica where he ordained 19 new priests for the Rome diocese. The Pontiff asked the faithful to pray for vocations and for his imminent journey to the Holy Land.
“Both on a personal and communal level we must pray often for vocations, so that the greatness and beauty of God’s love may attract many to follow Christ to priesthood and consecrated life,” Benedict XVI said. “We also need to pray," he added, "for saintly spouses, capable of showing their children, above all by example, the high horizons for which to strive in freedom.”
This appeal for vocations was made on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” when traditionally the Holy Father ordains new priests, and the world marks a day of prayer for vocations.
Benedict XVI also invited the faithful to pray for his upcoming journey to the Holy Land.
“With my visit," explained the Pope Benedict, "I aim to confirm and encourage Christians in the Holy Land, who are faced with no small number of difficulties each and every day. As successor to the Apostle Peter, I bring them the support and closeness of the entire Church."
"Moreover," he continued, "I am a pilgrim of peace, in the name of the one God, the Father of all. I will be a witness of the Catholic Church's commitment in favor of all who struggle to practice dialogue and reconciliation, to reach a stable and lasting peace in justice and shared respect."
He also noted that his trip would be of great importance for “ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Jerusalem is, from this point of view, the symbolic city par excellence: there Christ died to unite all of God's lost children."
Following the Regina Coeli the Pontiff, in Spanish, assured victims of the swine flu epidemic of his prayers and urged them to remain firm in the Lord’s faith. He wished that their month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, to be “spent in the spiritual company of Holy Mary."