The Holy Father entrusted the Synod for the Middle East to Mary's intercession so that the region grows in communion and bears witness to the Gospel message. He welcomed the first day of the two-week Special Assembly for the Middle East, asking also for prayers that it be accompanied by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Pope prayed the Angelus from his apartment window high above St. Peter's Square after having celebrated the opening Mass of the much-awaited Synod of Middle Eastern bishops.
Ushering in the beginning of the "extraordinary" event, he said that the Church "is called to be a sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation" in the region, which is "unfortunately marked by profound divisions and lacerated by age-old conflicts."
It is not a simple task, Benedict XVI explained, as Christians in the area are often subject to very difficult conditions on personal, family and community levels. But, he said, "this should not discourage. It is in that context that the perennial message of Christ resounds most necessarily and urgently: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."
He invited all people to pray for an "abundant effusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit" over synod activities.
Noting the importance of the Rosary during the Marian month of October, which is also called the "Month of the Rosary," the Pope said that "we are called to allow ourselves to be guided by Mary in this ancient and always new prayer, which is especially dear to her because it guides us directly to Jesus."
Reminded of John Paul II's words that the Rosary is a "biblical prayer," Pope Benedict added that it is a "prayer of the heart, in which the repetition of the 'Hail Mary' orients thoughts and affection to Christ.”
"It is a prayer that helps one to meditate on the Word of God and to assimilate Eucharistic communion, on the model of Mary who held in her heart all that Jesus did and said, and his very presence," he explained.
"Dear friends," Benedict XVI concluded, "we know how much the Virgin Mary is loved and venerated by our brothers and sisters of the Middle East. All look to her as a thoughtful mother, close to every suffering, and as a star of hope.
"To her intercession we entrust the Synodal Assembly that opens today, so that Christians of the region are reinforced in communion and might bear witness to the entire Gospel of love and peace."