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from issue no. 03 - 2007

Five prayers for the Pope

by Cardinal Francis Arinze

A week after Easter, and more precisely on 16 April 2007, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, will celebrate his eightieth birthday. Three days afterwards he will begin the third year of his pontificate. The magazine 30Days has asked me to express my regards to our Holy Father for this twofold happy occasion of his. I will do so in the form of five expressions of appreciation and five prayers or wishes.
I admire Pope Benedict XVI because Jesus Christ is at the center of his ministry, of his proclamation, his speeches, his homilies. He reminds us continuously that our faith is an encounter not with an idea but with Jesus Christ. Our religion is a following of the Son of God who took human nature for love of us and for our salvation.
Pope Benedict XVI fulfills the Petrine ministry with depth, clarity and with extraordinary love. One thinks of the general audiences on Wednesday or of the Sunday Angelus. The people participate in ever increasing numbers. The meetings in Cologne (August 2005), Poland (May 2006), Valencia (July 2006) and Bavaria (September 2006) have been characterized by authentic crowds of faithful re-united around their Pastor. People when they participate in meetings with the Holy Father know that they receive the word of life: they listen, are happy and feel the need to return.
I admire our Holy Father also because he associates around himself the college of bishops. In his homily of 20 April 2005, the day after his election to the See of Peter, he said: «To you, Lord Cardinals, with grateful spirit for the confidence demonstrated in me, I ask to support me with prayer and constant, active and sage collaboration. I ask also all the brothers in the episcopate to be near me with prayer and advice, so that I can truly be the servus servorum Dei» (L’Osservatore Romano, Thursday 21 April 2005, p. 9). The bishops have seen this spirit operate especially during their ad limina visits. It has been for me an honor and a joy to deliver to the Holy Father the issues of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments that require his directives and decisions, to listen to him, to answer his questions, to present proposals and to receive his instructions.
Similar feelings arise when one participates in the meetings presided over by him.
A fourth reason of appreciation of our Pope is for his kind ways, for his willingness to listen and, at the same time, for his ability to express his ideas with clarity. In the homily at the solemn mass for the beginning of his ministry, 24 April 2005, he said: «My true program of government is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to set myself to listening, with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord and to allow myself to be guided by Him, so that it will be He Himself to guide the Church in this hour of our history» (L’Osservatore Romano, Monday 25 April 2005, p. 4).
A fifth reason of esteem that it pleases me to express to the Holy Father is for the beautiful way in which he presides the liturgical celebrations, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice, for his ars celebrandi, the spirit of prayer and the concentration that characterize his movements, for his profound homilies: all of which nurture the faith and help to build up the Church.
From the moment that the Holy Father celebrates his eightieth birthday and begins the third year of his pontificate, I intend to formulate five prayers for him or rather express five wishes.
Benedict XVI during the Holy Mass of Christmas, 24 December 2006

Benedict XVI during the Holy Mass of Christmas, 24 December 2006

May the Holy Father always have the joy of knowing that he prays and works in unity and communion with his brother bishops: «With all those who guard the Catholic faith transmitted from the Apostles» (Messale Romano, Eucharistic Prayer I). May evangelization, therefore, progress effectively.
May he see more and more holiness in the Church among the laity, consecrated persons and the clergy.
Ecumenism is dear to Pope Benedict XVI. In the months of November and December 2006 alone he received in the Vatican the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and of all of Greece, has visited in Istanbul the Ecumenic Patriarch and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Istanbul and Turkey and received in the Apostolic Nunciature in Turkey the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan. May the Lord grant that the day in which Christians will return to be united is not far away.
The interreligious and intercultural dialogue has received great attention on the part of the Holy Father. May he have the joy to observe always greater progress in these efforts and these initiatives.
Many people in the world suffer because of tensions, discords, injustices, violence and wars. The Holy Father is Vicar of Christ who is the “Prince of peace” (Is 9, 6) and he himself is «our peace» (Eph 2, 14): may Pope Benedict have the joy of seeing more justice, reconciliation and peace all over the world, above all in the Holy Land, sanctified by the earthly presence of the Word of God Incarnate.
On the occasion of the eightieth birthday of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and of the second anniversary as Successor of Saint Peter, I wish him joy and peace, and pray that the Lord bless him and continue to bless his Petrine ministry, to preserve him and protect him.

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