Pontiff Sends Easter Greetings to Eastern Churches

Offers Prayers for UN Conference on Racism and Intolerance

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is acknowledging the familial aspect of the Church, based on Divine mercy, and is greeting the Eastern Churches on their celebration of Easter.

The Pope affirmed this today, the fourth anniversary of his election to the pontificate, before praying the Regina Caeli with the people gathered at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo.

He expressed gratitude for the «many» people who sent signs of «affection and spiritual nearness» for the Easter festivities, for his April 16 birthday, or for the anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter.

The Pontiff said: «I thank the Lord for this symphony of so much affection. As I was able to affirm recently, I never feel alone.»

He added, «I experienced the communion that surrounds and sustains me: a spiritual solidarity, essentially nourished by prayer, which is manifested in thousands of ways.»

The Holy Father affirmed that all Catholics, from the «Roman Curia to the parishes that are geographically most distant,» form «one family, animated by the same sentiments of the first Christian community,» believers who were «of one heart and one soul.»

This communion of the first Christians, he noted, was centered and based on the Risen Christ, because he brought them together after they dispersed during his passion and death.

Divine mercy

Benedict XVI stated: «Resurrected, Jesus grants a new unity to his followers, stronger than before, invincible, because it is based not on human resources, but on divine mercy, which makes them all feel loved and forgiven by him.

«Therefore it is the merciful love of God that solidly unites the Church, today as yesterday, and that makes humanity a single family, divine love, which through Jesus crucified and risen forgives our sins and renews us interiorly.»

He acknowledged that this deep conviction motivated Pope John Paul II to name the second Sunday of Easter as «Divine Mercy Sunday.»

In this way, said the Pontiff, his predecessor «pointed to the risen Christ as the font of confidence and hope, welcoming the spiritual message given by the Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, synthesized in the invocation: ‘Jesus, I trust in you.'»

The Pope affirmed that Mary, the Queen of Heaven, accompanies us as she did the first Christians, with a royalty «like that of her Son: all love, and merciful love.»

He added, «I ask you again to entrust to her my service to the Church.»

After reciting the Marian prayer, the Holy Father extended a greeting to the «brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches» who, «following the Julian calendar, celebrate Holy Easter today.»

He continued, «May the risen Lord renew the light of faith in all and give abundance of joy and peace.»

Intercultural respect

Benedict XVI dedicated some words to recognize the U.N. conference beginning tomorrow in Geneva, following on the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, on the issues of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

«This is an important initiative,» he said, «because still today, despite the lessons of history, these deplorable phenomena continue.»

He recalled that «the Durban Declaration recognizes that all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity,» and that «the preservation and promotion of tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity can produce more inclusive societies.»

The Pope acknowledged: «These affirmations lead to the demand for firm and concrete action, at the national and international levels, to prevent and eliminate every form of discrimination and intolerance.

«There must be a vast educational undertaking that exalts the dignity of the person and teaches fundamental rights.

«The Church, for her part, repeats that only the recognition of the dignity of man, created in the image and likeness of God, can constitute a secure reference for such a task.»

He offered his prayers for the delegates to the conference in Geneva, expressing hope that they will «be able to work together, in the spirit of dialogue and reciprocal acceptance, to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, marking in this way a fundamental step toward the affirmation of the universal value of the dignity of man and his rights, in a horizon of respect and justice for every person and people.»

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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-25654?l=english

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