Pope stresses peace, workers’ rights, unity in first Sunday blessing
By Eleni E. Dimmler
Catholic News Service
Pope Benedict XVI blesses a child as he leaves a prayer service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(CNS photo from Catholic Press Photo)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI delivered his first Sunday noon blessing and launched appeals for peace, for the defense of workers' rights and for unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
"I address you for the first time from this window, which my beloved predecessor rendered so familiar to innumerable people around the world," Pope Benedict said May 1.
A crowd of nearly 100,000 gathered in the square to see the new pontiff and started to applaud even before he appeared at the window of the Apostolic Palace. The first wave of applause started as soon as his aides unfurled the red and gold cloth that hangs from the window whenever the pope speaks.
Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict used his Sunday noon appearance to express concerns over current world events and to launch an appeal.
"In these days I find myself thinking often of all peoples who suffer because of war, illness and poverty," the German pope said. "In particular, today, I am close to the dear populations of Togo, ravaged by painful internal conflicts. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace."
In Togo, political violence has claimed more than 20 lives since disputed national elections April 24. The clashes have sent thousands of people fleeing their homes, according to U.N. authorities. On April 29 masked gunmen torched the German cultural Goethe Institute in Lome. Togo was under German dominion for a period ending with Germany's defeat in World War I.
The crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square included thousands of representatives of Italy's major labor unions who were in Rome to mark May Day labor celebrations and the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, all workers' patron saint.
Speaking to the crowd, which included thousands of members of Italy's Association of Christian Workers, Pope Benedict said believers must promote "Christian fraternity ... in the workplace and in social life so that solidarity, justice and peace may be pillars on which to build the unity of the Christian family."
Pope Benedict recalled that Pope Pius XII had created the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker in order "to stress the importance of work and of the presence of Christ and the Church in the labor world."
"It is necessary to pay witness also in today's society to the 'Gospel of work,' which John Paul II spoke of in his encyclical 'Laborem Exercens,'" Pope Benedict said.
"I hope that work will not be lacking, especially for young people, and that working conditions will respect always the dignity of the human person," the pope said.
May 1 was also Orthodox Easter this year. Pope Benedict's first words on Sunday after remembering Pope John Paul were for Orthodox Christians.
"I would like to greet with special affection the Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches which this very Sunday celebrate the resurrection of Christ," the pope said.
"To these dear brothers, I address the traditional announcement of joy, 'Christos Anesti,'" he said, using the Greek words for "Christ is risen."
"Yes, Christ is risen, he is truly risen," Pope Benedict said. "I wish from my heart that the celebration of Easter will be for them a choral prayer of faith and praise for him who is our common lord and who calls us to move with decisiveness on the road toward full communion."
Christian unity has emerged as a priority in Pope Benedict's homilies and discourses since his election April 19.
Pope Benedict moved into the papal apartments April 30. His first Angelus message came exactly four weeks after Pope John Paul last appeared at the same window and blessed the crowd but was unable to speak.

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