.- On Sunday Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal to include moments of prayer and silence during the season of Lent. Marking International Women's Day, he also pledged his prayers “for all women, that they may always be increasingly respected in their dignity and valued in their positive capabilities.”
The Holy Father also asked for prayers for his trips to Africa and the Holy Land.
Speaking to about 20,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus, the Pontiff recalled the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent, about the Transfiguration of Jesus, relating it to his experience of prayer during spiritual exercises with the Roman Curia, which concluded yesterday.
“The Transfiguration of Jesus,” the Pope said, “was substantially an experience of prayer.”
“Prayer, in fact, reaches its peak, and thus becomes a source of interior light, when the spirit of man clings to that of God, and their wills blend almost to the point of forming a single whole,” he explained.
“When Jesus went up onto the mountain, he immersed himself in the contemplation of the loving plan of the Father, who had sent him into the world to save humanity,” the Holy Father continued.
Pope Benedict urged the faithful “to find prolonged moments of silence, and of retreat if possible, during this season of Lent, in order to review (their) lives in the light of the heavenly Father's plan of love.”
“Let yourselves be guided in this more intense listening to God by the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer,” Benedict XVI added. “Even in the deep darkness of the Passion of Christ, (Mary) did not lose, but instead preserved in her heart the light of her divine Son. For this reason, let us invoke her as Mother of trust and of hope.”
After the Marian prayer, the Pope prayed for all women and for their dignity and value. Citing pontifical documents, especially John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, the Holy Father pointed out the importance of the testimony of female saints: “Our age has seen that [witness] of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: a humble daughter of Albania who became, by the grace of God, an example to the entire world in the exercise of charity and of service to human advancement.”
“How many other women,” he added, “work every day, in obscurity, for the good of humanity and for the Kingdom of God?”
Pope Benedict also asked for the “spiritual support of all” for his upcoming apostolic voyages.
“Next week,” he said, “from March 17 to 23, I will go to Africa, first to Cameroon and then to Angola, to demonstrate the concrete closeness of myself and of the Church to the Christians and populations of that continent which is particularly dear to me. Then, from May 8 to 15 I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to ask the Lord, in visiting the places sanctified by his earthly passage, for the precious gift of unity and of peace for the Middle East and for all humanity."