The Pope's General Audience on Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal this Wednesday for aid to those suffering in the Horn or Africa, where millions of people are daily facing death by starvation, drought, exposure and violence. Speaking during his Weekly General Audience, the Holy Father renewed what he called his, “heartfelt invitation to the international community to continue its commitment," to the suffering people, and he invited everyone, “to offer prayers and practical help for so many brothers and sisters so harshly tested, particularly for the children in the region,” who every day succumb in appalling numbers to disease and lack of food and water.

Present at the Audience were the Cardinal-President of the Holy Father’s personal charitable organ, the Pontifical Council Cor unum, and the Apostolic Administrator for Mogadishu, Bishop Giorgio Bertin, as well as representatives of various Catholic charities, who are meeting to design and implement a response to the situation, which the Holy Father, along with several countries and international organizations, recognizes as a full-blown, “humanitarian emergency.”

Pope Benedict also recalled the appeal made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on behalf of the affected populations, and informed the faithful that a representative of Dr. Williams would be taking part in the emergency meetings.

The Holy Father’s catechetical focus during the Wednesday audience was the radical trust in God’s loving care, which is an essential aspect of prayer. The Holy Father approached the matter through the text of Psalm 23: “The LORD is my Shepherd: I shall not want.”: The Psalmist begins by presenting God as a good shepherd who guides him to green pastures, standing at his side and protecting him from every danger. “He leads me beside still waters; he refreshes my soul” (vv. 2-3). The scene then passes to the shepherd’s tent, where the Lord welcomes him as a guest, gracing him with the gifts of food, oil and wine. “You prepare a table before me … you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (v. 5). God’s protection continues to accompany the Psalmist with goodness and mercy along his way, a way which leads to length of days in the Lord’s Temple (v. 6).

The Pope went on to say the powerful image of God as the Shepherd of Israel accompanied the whole religious history of the Chosen People, from the Exodus to the return to the Promised Land.

It finds its ultimate expression and fulfilment in the coming of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep, preparing for us the table of his Body and Blood as a foretaste of the definitive messianic banquet which awaits us in heaven.

The Holy Father also had greetings for different groups, including several groups of English-speaking pilgrims: "I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Nigeria, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States. My special greeting goes to the alumni and friends celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Pontifical Filipino College. I also greet the new students from the Pontifical Beda College, and I offer prayerful good wishes to the deacon class of the Pontifical North American College and their families. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace."

"In a special way, I would like to greet the Delegation of the Theology Faculty of the University of Thessaloniki, who have wished to confer upon me the Apostle Jason of Thessaloniki Gold Medal. I am deeply honoured by this gracious gesture, which is an eloquent sign of the growing understanding and dialogue between Catholic and Orthodox Christians. I pray that it will be a harbinger of ever greater progress in our efforts to respond in fidelity, truth and charity to the Lord’s summons to unity. I thank the Delegation most cordially, and I offer my prayerful good wishes for their teaching and research. God bless you all!"

As published by the Vatican.

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