.- Following his weekly audience, given today at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI personally greeted many of his 8,000 listeners, encouraging Christian unity, strengthening of families and comfort for victims of terror and the marginalized.
He first expressed "heartfelt greetings" to visiting students and teachers from the ecumenical institute of Bossey in Switzerland.
He told them: "I hope that your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with your meetings, will be a stimulus to strengthen your commitment to the vital task of promotion of unity among Christians."
The Pope also addressed some words to the Italian Federation of Therapeutic Communities, whom he encouraged "to continue in the work of providing support and shelter for victims of drugs and marginalization", and to a group of Russian children from North Ossetia, who were victims of a 2004 terror attack on their school.
Finally, Benedict expressed his encouragement specifically for those in the crowd who were young, sick, or newly married.
He said, "May the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which brought the Christmas period to a close, stimulate you so that, in recalling your own Baptism, you are ready to bear joyful witness to faith in Christ in all situations: in health and in sickness, in the family, in the work place and everywhere else."