VATICAN CITY –– Pope Benedict XVI called on Chinese Catholics to be faithful to the pope, asked that mass media worldwide promote mutual respect and dialogue, and prayed for those hit by a deadly earthquake near Bologna and a school bombing in Brindisi.
After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square May 20, the pope denounced a May 19 bombing of a high school in southern Italy, calling it “a vile attack.”
A bomb was detonated outside the Brindisi school gates early in the morning as teenagers were arriving for classes. One girl was killed and 10 others injured –– one seriously. Police said they suspected the attack was the work of a lone individual unrelated to the Mafia and the city’s organized crime ring.
The pope prayed for the victims and lamented the death of the girl, saying she was an “innocent victim of brutal violence.”
The pope also prayed for those hit by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck near Bologna in the pre-dawn hours of May 20. At least four people were killed as a result of the quake and its aftershocks.
“I am spiritually close to those hit by this calamity,” the pope said.
Pope Benedict also recalled the church’s May 24 celebration of the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, which he established as a world day of prayer for the church in China.
Mentioning Chinese Catholics’ devotion to Mary at the Sheshan Marian shrine in Shanghai, he asked that all Catholics in China proclaim Christ “with humility and joy, be faithful to their church and to the successor of Peter, and live their lives in accordance with the faith they profess.”
He prayed for Mary to help China’s Catholics and to help members of the universal church grow in their love and concern for the church in China.
The pope also highlighted “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization,” the theme of World Communications Day, marked in most dioceses May 20.
“Silence is an integral part of communication; it is a privileged place for encountering the Word of God and our brothers and sisters,” the pope said.
The pope asked that all forms of communication work to establish between people authentic dialogue, “founded on mutual respect, listening and sharing.”
The pope also greeted thousands of members of Italy’s Pro-Life Movement. He encouraged them to continue to defend human life, noted their work in protecting the dignity and rights of every person starting from the moment of conception and asked them to give witness to and build a culture of life.