.- Pope Benedict XVI arrived 25 minutes early to a rainy Sao Paulo to open his visit to Brazil with a call to Christians to defend the life of the unborn and promote solidarity towards the poorest. The Pontiff reaffirmed the Christian values of Latin America "which will never be eradicated." "I am certain that at Aparecida, during the bishops' general conference, this identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature," he added.
The Holy Father was received at the International airport of Guarulhos by President Luiz Ignacio âLulaâ da Silva, who welcomed the Pope at a ceremony that had to be moved to an interior location because of the light but persistent rain.
In his response to Lulaâs greetings words, Pope Benedict said that âBrazil has a very special place in the Popeâs heart, not only because it was born Christian and has today the largest number of Catholics, but above all because it is a nation endowed with a rich potential ans an ecclesial presence that gives joy and hope to the whole Church.â
The Pope recaled that he has come âto preside the opening sessions of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at Aparecida,â Brazilâs national Marian shrine.
âThis country âhe continued-, in the providence and goodness of the Creator, will become the cradle of the ecclesial proposal that, with Godâs help, will give renewed vigour and missionary impetus to this Continent.â
Benedict XVI recalled that âin this geographical area, Catholics are in the majority. This means that they must make a particular contribution to the common good of the nation. The word âsolidarityâ will acquire its full meaning when the living forces of society, each in its own sphere, commit themselves seriously to building a future of peace and hope for all.â
Regarding the Fifth general Conference of Latin American Bishops, that will start in the Marian Shrine of Aparecida on May 13 and will last until the May 31st , Pope Benedict said that âthe decision to undertake an essentially missionary Conference reflects clearly the concern of the Bishops, as it does mine, to seek suitable ways by which in Jesus Christ âour peoples may have life,â as the theme of the Conference reminds us.â
âI am well aware that the soul of this people, as of all Latin America, safeguards values that are radicaly Christian, which will never be eradicated. I am certain that at Aparecida, during the Bishopsâ General Conference, this identity will be reinforced through the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature. It will also make the promotion of the human reason the axis of solidarity, especially towards the poor and abandoned,â the Pope added.
âThe Church âthe Pope continued- seeks to stress the moral values present in each situation and to form the conscience of the citizens so that they may make informed and free decisions. She will not fail to insist on the need to take action to ensure that the family, the basic cell of society, is stenghtened, and likewise young people, whose formation is a decisive factor for the future of any nation.â
âLast but not least, she will defend and promote the values present at every level of society, especially among indigenous people,â he concluded.
After the opening ceremony, Pope Benedict rode the âPopemovileâ through the crowded streets of Sao Paulo, Bazilâs largest city, to the Monastery of St. Benedict, in the city centre, where he will reside until he travels to Aparecida on Satuday.