.- Pope Benedict XVI, making his Angelus address from the mountain retreat in the Italian Alps where he is vacationing, led Catholics in a worldwide day of prayer and penance for peace in the Middle East. The Pope reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and his insistence on the rights Lebanese, Israelis, and Palestinians.
Pope Benedict reminded the thousands of pilgrims and local residents at Les Combes in the Italian region of Valle d'Aosta that, following the worsening of the situation in the Middle East, he had proclaimed this Sunday as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting pastors, faithful and all believers to implore from God the gift of peace. The Holy Father said: "I forcibly renew my appeal to the conflicting parties to begin an immediate cease-fire, to allow the passage of humanitarian aid and, with the support of the international community, to seek ways to begin negotiations.
Catholics all over the world responded to the Holy Father's request for a world day of prayer and penance for peace. Several parishes held special prayer services in addition to their regular Sunday Masses. In Washington, D.C. Bishop Donald Wuerl reminded the faithful of the power of prayer to change hearts during a Mass at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Washington Post reports.