Pope Prays for World Without Leprosy, Support for Jobless


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(31 Jan 10 - RV) A colourful tapestry of umbrellas, raincoats and banners carpeted St Peter's Square this Sunday as thousands of pilgrims, most of them young Romans, gathered in the cold and rain to hear Pope Benedict's Angelus reflections at midday.

The Pope, speaking from the window of his apartments, reflected on the Sunday Liturgy, in particular St Paul's "Hymn of Charity" in his first letter to the Corinthians.

Charity,Pope Benedict told the crowds, is what distinguishes a Christian. "Love is the "style" of God and of believers, it is the behaviour of those who respond to the love of God, by laying down their lives as a gift of self to God and neighbour".

This theme of genuine love in charity, tied in perfectly with the first of three intentions mentioned by Pope Benedict in comments after the Angelus Prayer.

On January 31st , the world remembers those who still today in the third millennium suffer the terrible plague of leprosy. The global event is promoted by the Italian Association Amici di Raoul Follereau - whom the Pope thanked this Sunday for their tireless work. According to the association, each year about 700 thousand cases of leprosy are diagnosed throughout the world, spread across the continents of Asia, Africa and South America. Of these about 100 thousand were recorded in India, where about 70% of global cases live. Along with India the most affected countries are: Angola, Brazil, Congo, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Tanzania, where the disease affects one person every 10 thousand inhabitants. This despite the fact that if diagnosed in its early stages, the disease is curable.

On Sunday Pope Benedict entrusted the World Day of Leprosy Suffers, "all the people who are still suffering from this disease, as well as health workers and volunteers who devote themselves because there might be a world without leprosy " to the protection of Father Damien de Veuster, who gave his life to caring for people with the disease and who was canonized last October.

The second of the Popes' intentions was for the Holy Land. Remembering the second day of intercession for peace in the Holy Land, Pope Benedict said he was spiritually united in prayer with the many Christians from all over the world.

A message of peace was also brought to St Peter's Square by the boys and girls of Catholic Action Rome. Traditionally, they conclude the month of January with the "Peace Caravan" and the end of the audience two of them were invited to the Papal apartments from where, together with the Pope, they released two doves from the window, a symbol of peace in the world.

Finally, Pope Benedict, called on businesses leaders and governing officials to do everything possible to counter job losses in the current economic crisis.

He said "The economic crisis is causing the loss of many jobs and this calls for a huge sense of responsibility by everyone: entrepreneurs, workers, governing officials".

Referring specifically to two difficult situations in Italy, Termini Imerese in Sicily where Fiat has announced plans to close its plant, and Portovesme where U.S. aluminium producer Alcoa Inc. has said it will shut down production, the Pope appealed that "everything possible" be done "to protect and spur job growth, assuring dignified and adequate work to sustain families."

As the Pope invited prayers for all those suffering in these difficult times, Alcoa workers from the Portovesme plant held up a banner in thanks to the applause of the people in St. Peter's square.