By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Two days before his first visit as pope to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI described the trip as a "special missionary experience" and requested prayers for its success.
The pope made the remarks at his weekly noon blessing at the Vatican April 13, his last public appearance before his April 15-20 visit to Washington and New York.
When he appeared at his apartment window, a group of well-wishers in St. Peter's Square unfurled American flags. Others held up a huge sign that read "Buon Viaggio" ("Have a good trip").
Speaking in English, he looked forward to the visit, which includes a major address at the United Nations headquarters in New York and 14 other encounters. He summarized the message he will bring throughout his trip.
"With the various groups I shall meet, my intention is to share Our Lord's word of life. In Christ is our hope," he said.
"Christ is the foundation of our hope for peace, for justice and for the freedom that flows from God's law fulfilled in his commandment to love one another," he said.
"Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to pray for the success of my visit, so that it may be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans," he said.
In his Italian remarks, the pope said he was entrusting to Mary "the special missionary experience that I will have over the coming days."
The pope spoke on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, and the theme of his main talk was that vocation and mission are inseparable for every Christian, whether they are priests, men or women religious, or married couples.
He expressed appreciation for those who dedicate themselves to missionary work in a particular way and who are sometimes called to sacrifice their lives for the Gospel.
He noted the recent deaths of Brother Brian Thorp, 77, a British Mill Hill missionary slain in Kenya, and Brother Joseph Douet, 62, a French missionary working in the West African country of Guinea.
"To them go our grateful admiration and our prayers," the pope said.
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