VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent the World Youth Day cross to the Italian Abruzzo region that was devastated by the April 6 earthquake, and is expressing solidarity and compassion for the people.
The Pope stated this today in St. Peter's Square, as he addressed the thousands of pilgrims gathered there to pray the midday Regina Caeli.
He reported that the Abruzzo youth "are gathering many people" around the cross, which was carried there by 12 volunteers from the youth center of San Lorenzo.
"In communion with that region, hard hit by the earthquake," the Pontiff said, "we ask Christ dead and risen to pour put his Spirit of consolation and hope upon them."
On Saturday the cross was brought to a student house where eight youth died in L'Aquila, a town near the epicenter of the earthquake that claimed some 300 lives.
The cross was received by the town's youth, and after a moment of prayer it was carried to the fields of tents where survivors have made temporary homes.
Today the cross was brought to the training school of the Guardia de Financia where the bishop of the region, Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari, celebrated a Mass with confirmations. During the rest of the day it traveled to different areas where fields of tents have been raised.
It will be brought back to Rome on Tuesday, and will go to different cities of Spain before the World Youth Day in Madrid, planned for August 2011.
The Holy Father urged the young people, "With the power of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses of the risen Lord!"
In his address to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI affirmed, "The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church."
He continued: "Without him to what would it be reduced? It would certainly be a great historical movement, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a kind of humanitarian agency.
"And in truth this is how it is considered by those who look upon it from outside the perspective of faith.
"In reality, however, in its true nature and also in its most authentic historical presence, the Church is unceasingly formed and guided by the Spirit of the Lord. It is a living body, whose vitality is precisely the invisible divine Spirit."
The Pope concluded, "We invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that the Church in our time may be powerfully strengthened by the Holy Spirit."
"The comforting presence of the Holy Spirit is felt in a special way by the ecclesial communities that suffer persecution for Christ's name, because, participating in his sufferings, they receive the Holy Spirit in the abundance of glory," he affirmed.
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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-26045?l=english