Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in Paul VI Hall on Wednesday for Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly General Audience, during which the Holy Father continued his catechesis on Christian prayer, with a reflection on the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood. “Jesus’ gift of himself anticipates his sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious Resurrection,” said Pope Benedict.

The Eucharist is the supreme prayer of Jesus and of his Church. At the Last Supper, with its overtones of the Passover and the commemoration of Israel’s liberation, Jesus’ prayer echoes the Hebrew berakah, which includes both thanksgiving and the gift of a blessing. His act of breaking the bread and offering the cup on the night before he died becomes the sign of his redemptive self-oblation in obedience to the Father’s will: he thus appears as the true paschal lamb who brings the ancient worship to fulfilment. The Holy Father noted that Jesus’ prayer also invokes strength for his disciples, especially Peter.

"May our celebration of the Eucharist, in obedience to Christ’s command, unite us more deeply to his prayer at the Last Supper and enable us, in union with him, to offer our lives ever more fully in sacrifice to the Father" said Benedict XVI.

After the main catechesis, the Holy Father had greetings for pilgrims in many languages, including English: "I greet the many school groups from the United States present at today’s Audience, including the deacons from Saint Paul’s Seminary in Minnesota. My greeting also goes to the students of Carmel College in New Zealand. I welcome the participants in the Interfaith Journey from Canada. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and their families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings!"

Among the Holy Father’s special guests at Wednesday’s audience were representatives from the zoological garden of the city of Rome, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary. With the zoo representatives was an unusual visitor at the pope's general audience: a three year old Cuban crocodile, about 40 centimeters long which came face to face with Benedict XVI. It is an example of an extremely rare and critically endangered species of Cuban crocodile: cocodrylus rhombifer, which survives only in a tiny portion of protected wetland on the island. The animal had been in the care of experts at the Roman BioPark, and, having returned to robust health, will return to his native country – in a singular coincidence, as a press release from the BioPark and the Press Office of the Holy See calls it – when the Holy Father travels to Cuba later this year.

Around 120 circus performers participated in the pope's general audience. For a few minutes, the Vatican's Paul VI Hall was transformed into a circus ring. The artists performed acrobatic stunts and a show of juggling for Benedict XVI, who seemed to watch the show with amusement.

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