VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed his spiritual closeness to Mexicans today, assuring them that Our Lady of Guadalupe will assist them.
After praying the Regina Caeli with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope gave a special greeting in Spanish to Mexicans. The nation has been at the center of the H1N1 flu epidemic; reports today confirmed that 19 have died there of the new flu strain.
“I wish to express my closeness and assure my prayers for the victims of the influenza that is affecting Mexico and other countries,” he said. “Dear Mexican brothers and sisters, stay firm in the Lord. He will help you to overcome this difficulty.”
The Holy Father invited them to unite in their families to pray: “Our Lady of Guadalupe will assist and protect you always.”
Last week, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, assured Mexicans that Benedict XVI was following with concern and sadness all that was occurring in the country and that he was praying for the victims of the epidemic and their families.
The Pontiff was kept informed of the progress of the flu and supported the decision made by some bishops, including the archbishop primate of Mexico City, to cancel Sunday Masses and relieve the faithful of their Sunday obligation, Father Lombardi said.
The prelates’ decision was made in the context of a nationwide shutdown, including the cancellation of classes and the closing of restaurants, in an attempt to keep the epidemic from spreading.