Earthquake victims in Chile and the sanctity of life were among the matters Pope Benedict touched on in the individual language greetings after the catechesis at Wednesday's General Audience.
Greeting the Spanish pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on a mostly overcast morning in Rome, Pope Benedict welcomed Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic the president of the Chilean Bishops' Conference, and a delegation from the same country that had brought an image of the "Virgen del Carmen" for a blessing.
The Pope acknowledged the group and blessed the image "as a sign of affection to the children of that
country, that celebrates its bicentenary."
Benedict XVI added that he will continue to accompany them "in these moments of difficulty following the recently suffered earthquake."
The blessed image of the Virgin of Carmen will be taken to those places hardest hit by the earthquake, until it visits every diocese in Chile. The statue is being donated to the local Church by Pope Benedict and will be taken to the South American country on April 5 by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, according to L'Osservatore Romano.
Greeting pilgrims from Poland in their native tongue, Pope Benedict remembered the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to be celebrated on Thursday, which in the northern European nation is also observed as the Day for the Sanctity of Life.
"The mystery of the Incarnation," he said, "reveals the particular value and dignity of human life.”
"God gave us this gift and sanctified it, when the Son was made man and born of Mary. We need to safeguard this gift from conception to natural death."
He concluded his message to the Polish pilgrims, saying, "With all my heart I unite myself to those who take on different initiatives in favor of the respect for life and for the promotion of the new social sensibility."
The Italian Bishops' Conference's SIR news agency reported on Tuesday that a "massive mobilization of pro-life movements" has been taking place in the week leading up to the celebration of Sanctity of Life Day. Included among the demonstrations and prayer meetings this week was the 30th annual pro-life pilgrimage to Jasna Gora, a Marian shrine in south-central Poland.