Vatican City (AsiaNews) - At the end of the Angelus prayer in St Peter's Square today, Benedict XVI expressed his "deep sadness at the tragic news about the killings of Christians in Mosul (Iraq) in recent days and a "vibrant concern" for "other episodes of violence perpetrated in the martyred land of Iraq against defenceless people of different religious affiliation. " He also recalled the people affected by the earthquake in Chile that has caused numerous losses of human lives and extensive damage".
In recent weeks, and in particular last week, there have been daily targeted killings in Mosul against Orthodox Christians and Catholics. Local have sources told AsiaNews that the murders aim to remove the Christian presence from the country or force Christians to flee to a ghetto area in the Nineveh Plain (see: 25/02/2010 Bishop of Mosul: humanitarian emergency. Hundreds of Christian families fleeing violence).
Although the pope and the Curia were engaged in spiritual exercises, the Secretary of State had issued a statement expressing the closeness of the Pope to victims and to the pastors of the Churches of Iraq (25/02/2010 During Lenten retreat, Pope prays for Iraqi Christians and peace in the country). After concluding his Lenten spiritual exercises, now in his first public address, Benedict XVI recalled that "in these days of intense meditation, I often prayed for all victims of those attacks, and today I wish to join in spirit to the pray for peace and the restoration of security, promoted by the Council of Bishops of Nineveh. I am affectionately close to the Christian communities of the entire country. Do not tire of being a leaven for good in the country to which, you have fully belonged for centuries".
Today Christians in Mosul have organized a silent march, tomorrow in Kirkuk a day of prayer and fasting in solidarity with the victims of Mosul has been launched.
Citing "the difficult political phase that Iraq is going through," just days before the parliamentary elections, the pope appealed "to the civil authorities, to make every effort to restore security to the population and in particular the most vulnerable religious minorities. I hope the temptation is not given into temporary and partisan interests allowing them to prevail over the safety and fundamental rights of every citizen".
Waving to Iraqi groups present in St Peter's Square, he urged "the international community to strive to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, as I invoke Almighty God with confidence for the precious gift of peace."
The appeal for Iraq was followed by one for the victims of the earthquake in Chile that has so far caused at least 300 deaths and affected over 2 million people. "We pray for the victims - said the pope - and I am spiritually close to people so affected by this major disaster, for them I implore relief from God in their suffering and the courage to overcome adversity. I am sure that the solidarity of many, especially church organizations, will not fail. "
Previously Benedict XVI focused his reflection before the Angelus on the Gospel of the Transfiguration (Luke 9, 28-36), proclaimed in today's Mass, the second Sunday of Lent. "This extraordinary event - said the pope - is an encouragement in following Jesus."
The pontiff touched on the different attitudes taken by the disciples of before the transfigured Jesus, "the three disciples who witnessed the scene were heavy with sleep: this is the attitude of one who, while being a spectator to the wonders of God, does not understand. Only the fight against the torpor that assails them allows Peter, James and John to "see" the glory of Jesus. "
Then, "when Moses and Elijah leave the Master, Peter speaks and, while talking, a cloud covers him and the other disciples with its shadow; it is a cloud, that while it covers, reveals the glory of God, as was for the pilgrim people in the desert. The eyes can not see, but the ears can hear the voice that comes from the cloud: 'This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to him'. "
So when the story speaks of "Jesus alone," the pope said: " 'Jesus alone' is all that is given to the disciples and the Church of all times: it must be sufficient for the journey. His the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow, he who in going towards Jerusalem gifts life and one day 'will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body' (Philippians 3:21). "
And again, commenting on the words of Peter, "Master, it is good for us to be here" (Luke 9, 33), Benedict XVI added, "the ecstatic expression of Peter, often it looks like ... our desire when faced with the consolations of the Lord. But the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys planted by God in our lives are not points of arrival, but lights that He gives us on our earthly pilgrimage, for "Jesus alone" is our law and his word is the criteria that guides our existence ".
The pope ended his reflection with an invitation: "In this Lenten season I invite everyone to meditate assiduously on the Gospel. I also hope that in this Year for Priests, pastors "are truly imbued with the Word of God, really knowing and loving it, to the point that it really gives them life and shapes their thinking."