.- On a warm spring day, Pope Benedict XVI met with tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sunday to pray the Regina Coeli and to reflect on his recent visit to the Holy Land.
The Pope began by thanking the Lord, the civil and religious authorities in the Holy Land and all those “who accompanied and supported me in their prayer” for his recently concluded pilgrimage to the region. He said, “This land, symbol of God’s love for his people and for the whole of humanity, is also a symbol of freedom and peace as God wills it for every one of his children.”
“However, yesterday’s and today’s history show that this land has become a symbol of the opposite, of divisions and never-ending conflicts among brothers,” he continued. “The Holy Land has itself become almost a metaphor of revelation a “Fifth Gospel”, as some have called it, which by virtue of its history can be considered a microcosm that sums up humanity’s tiring journey towards the Kingdom of justice, love and peace.”
In the last part of his reflection the Holy Father focused on praying for the civilians caught up in fighting in Sri Lanka. For the past several weeks he military has been on the offensive against Tamil rebels in the northern part of the country. Thousands of people have been caught in the crossfire.
Today the Sri Lankan government announced that all the displaced people had reached safe areas and that the 25-year war against the Tamil Tigers has ended in victory.
“We cannot end this Marian prayer without turning our thoughts to Sri Lanka, to express our affection and spiritual closeness to the civilians caught in the combat zone, in the north of the country; thousands of children, women and elderly who lost years of life and hope to the war,” the Pontiff said. “And so I call on the combatants to facilitate their evacuation, joining my voice to that of the United Nations Security Council which just a few days ago demanded guarantees for their safety and security.”
“I call on humanitarian organizations, including Catholic organizations, to leave no stone unturned in their effort to bring urgent food and medical aid to the refugees.”
“I entrust this dear country to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Madhu, beloved and venerated by all Sri Lankans,” Pope Benedict concluded. “I raise my prayers to the Lord that he may bring closer the day of reconciliation and peace.”
After the Marian prayer, the Pope addressed a few words to English-speaking pilgrims:
“I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Regina Coeli prayer. In today’s Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to remain in his love by their love for one another. These words of the Risen Lord have a special resonance for me as I reflect on my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I ask all of you to join me in praying that the Christians of the Middle East will be strengthened in their witness to Christ’s victory and to the reconciling power of his love. Through the prayers of Mary, Queen of Peace, may the Christians of the Holy Land, in cooperation with their Jewish and Muslim neighbors, and all people of good will, work in harmony to build a future of justice and peace in those lands. Upon them, and upon all of you, I invoke an abundance of Easter joy in Christ our Savior.