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For Vocations, Life, Lent

“A People’s Civilization Is Measured by Its Capacity to Serve”

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2008 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today I would like to entrust various intentions to your prayers. Firstly, recalling that yesterday, the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we celebrated the Day for Consecrated Life, I invite you to pray for those whom Christ calls to follow him more closely with a special consecration. Our gratitude goes out to these brothers and sisters of ours who dedicate themselves to the total service of God and the Church with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. May the Holy Virgin obtain many and holy vocations to the consecrated life, which constitutes inestimable riches for the Church and for the world.

Another prayer intention is offered by the Day for Life, which is celebrated today in Italy, and has “Serving Life” as its theme. I greet and salute those who have come here to St. Peter’s Square to bear witness to their commitment to the defense and promotion of life and to reaffirm that “a people’s civilization is measured by its capacity to serve life” [Message of the Italian Bishops’ Conference for the 30th National Day for Life].

Everyone, according to their own possibilities, profession and competence, always feels compelled to love and serve life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is, in fact, the duty of all to welcome human life as a gift to be respected, safeguarded and promoted, especially when it is fragile and in need of care, whether prior to birth or at its end. I join with the Italian bishops to encourage those who, with toil but with joy, without clamoring and with great dedication, help elderly or disabled family members, and those who regularly give part of their own time to help those persons of every age whose life is tried by many and different forms of poverty.

Let us pray also that the season of Lent, which will begin Wednesday with the Rite of the Ashes — which I celebrate, as every year, at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine — will be a time of authentic conversion for all Christians, called to an ever more authentic and courageous witness of their faith. We entrust these prayer intentions to the Madonna.

Beginning yesterday and continuing through Feb. 11, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes and the 150th anniversary of the apparitions, it is possible to receive a plenary indulgence, applicable to the dead, with the usual conditions — confession, Communion and prayer for the Pope’s intentions — by praying before a blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes exposed for public veneration. For the elderly and the sick this is possible through the desire of the heart. Mary, Mother and Star of Hope, illuminate our path and make us always more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following in Italian:]

I invite you to unite yourselves with the brothers and sisters of Kenya — some of whom are here present in St. Peter’s Square — in prayer for reconciliation, justice and peace in their country. Assuring my nearness to all, I hope that the efforts at mediation presently being undertaken might have success and lead, through the goodwill and the cooperation of all, to a rapid solution to the conflict, which has already claimed too many victims.

Malevolence, with its burden of suffering, does not seem to know any limits in Iraq, as the very sad news of these days tells us. Again I raise up my voice on behalf of that sorely tried population and I ask the peace of God for them.

In my message for the recent World Day of Peace, I emphasized the fact that it is in the family that one learns the lexicon of civil common life and discovers human values. The festivities of the Lunar New Year will see the families of the various Asian countries gathered together in joy. I wish them every good and prosperity and I hope that they will know how to preserve and value these beautiful and fruitful traditions of family life, to the benefit of their respective nations and in those countries in which they presently find themselves living.

Today in the Diocese of Rome, the “Diocesan Week of Life and the Family” begins. It will culminate next Sunday, at the shrine of the Madonna of Divine Love, with the celebration of the “Diocesan Feast of the Family.” I encourage all parents to rediscover the grandeur and beauty of the educative mission. Indeed, education is very demanding but exciting! Make your children feel, from the most tender age, that nearness that testifies to love. Give yourselves, so that they in turn will open to others and to the world with serenity and generosity. The soul of education is always trust in God, who “gives hope to our future!”

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In Spanish, he said:]

I also raise ceaseless and fervent prayers to God for Colombia, where for some time, many sons and daughters of that beloved country are suffering the effects of extortion, kidnapping and the violent loss of their loved ones.

May such inhuman suffering come to a definitive end, and ways be found for reconciliation, mutual respect and genuine harmony, thus recreating fraternity and solidarity which are the solid foundations upon which to construct just progress and stable peace.

[In English, said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In a few days we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our annual Lenten journey towards Easter. May this season of spiritual renewal be for all Christians an occasion to draw nearer to the Lord in prayer, penance and the pursuit of holiness. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2008 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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