Appearing in the window of his study shortly after a Mass in which he ordained 29 deacons to the priesthood, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that the mission of the Church is to "sow in the world the joy of the Gospel."
Delivering his Regina Coeli address, the Holy Father noted the hopefulness he experienced during his visit to the United States, he greeted the Eastern churches who celebrated Easter on Sunday, and he exhorted the faithful to pray for troubled countries in Africa.
The Holy Father said the annual ordination Mass he had just completed is a moment of special grace when "renewed sap is infused into the fabric of the Church Community." He also examined the duties of priests to bring joy to the world.
"If the presence of priests is indispensable for the life of the Church, it is nevertheless valuable for everyone," he said. "In the Acts of the Apostles, [St. Luke] states that the deacon Philip brought the Gospel to a city of Samaria; people received enthusiastically his preaching, even seeing signs of the prodigious nature of the gospel in the healing of the sick, 'and there was great joy in that city'." (cf. Acts 1, 8).
The Holy Father exhorted the people gathered in the square below:
"As I reminded the new priests during the celebration of the Eucharist, this is the sense of mission of the Church and in particular of priests: sow in the world the joy of the Gospel! Where Christ is preached by the power of the Holy Spirit and is welcomed with open mind, society, although full of so many problems, becomes a "city of joy" – as the title of a famous book on the work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta reads."
Pope Benedict said that this was also the theme of his apostolic visit to the United States, whose motto was "Christ Our Hope".
He said, "I thank God who greatly blessed this unique mission and allowed me to be an instrument of the hope of Christ, for the Church and for that country. I also thank Him because I myself was confirmed in the hope of American Catholics: I indeed found a great vitality and determination to live and bear witness to faith in Jesus."
The Holy Father recalled that today many Eastern churches who, following the Julian Calendar, celebrate the “great feast” of Easter. To them he expressed his warm greetings and spiritual closeness.
"I pray the triune God to confirm them in the faith, to fill them with the shining light that emanates from the resurrection of the Lord, and to comfort them in difficult situations in which they often must live and bear witness to the Gospel. I invite everyone to join me in invoking the Mother of God, so that the path of dialogue and cooperation leads soon to a more complete communion among all the disciples of Christ, because they are an ever more radiant sign of hope for all humanity."
At the end of the Regina Caeli, the pope urged the faithful to show a greater solidarity to those suffering in different parts of the African continent.
In particular, he mentioned the impoverished and strife-torn countries of Madagascar, Burundi, and Darfur, which he said seems to be an "unending tragedy."
"I ask you not to forget these tragic situations and your brothers and sisters who are living in the midst of them! I ask you to pray for them and make their voices heard!”
At the end of his address, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages and invoked his apostolic blessing upon all.