As we were ushered into the Consistorial Hall, the papal master of ceremonies asked us to take our places. Our excitement was suppressed by awe we were waiting for the Pope! and we focused our eyes on a curtained archway. The Pontiff walked into the silent audience chamber with a cane in hand and seated himself. We all broke into applause.
Most Holy Father, Cardinal Silvestrini said, introducing the Pontifical Mission and its staff, these promoters and witnesses of solidarity in the name of the Church have come to ask Your Holiness, who presides over universal charity, for a word of encouragement and guidance.
Even in changed circumstances, he said, the commitment of this papal agency must remain firm because the need to work for justice and charity in the countries of the Middle East is, unfortunately, still immense.
In the past 50 years, the Pope responded, the Middle East has not ceased to experience moments of great tension and conflict, often exploding in acts of violence and outright war. In these circumstances, the Pontifical Mission has increased its efforts aimed at helping the local populations to rebuild their lives.
In this way, the Holy Father continued, the Pontifical Mission is an eloquent expression of that new culture of international solidarity and cooperation (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 12) which is so necessary in the modern world, and which must be a hallmark of the new millennium.
I pray that you and all those associated with the work of the Mission will be renewed in faith and love as you seek ever better ways of helping those in need not only of material support but especially of opportunities for personal and social development, the Pope concluded. This is the surest path for establishing a true and lasting peace in the lives of the peoples of the Middle East.
After bestowing his Apostolic Blessing on the staff of the Pontifical Mission and its benefactors, the Holy Father greeted Msgr. Stern, who then introduced to the Pope each staff member present from our offices in Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem, Rome and New York.
Although slowed by his infirmities, the Popes face lit up when Msgr. Stern introduced three children of staff members. He embraced each child, kissing them on their foreheads. There was not a dry eye in the hall.
Holy Father, Msgr. Stern said after he introduced the last staff member of the Mission, you should know that they are all fiercely proud of working for you and overjoyed to be here with you.
Msgr. Stern later commented that this was the first time all members of the Pontifical Missions offices Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem and Vatican City and many from New York had gathered together. How appropriate, therefore, that we gathered in Rome to meet with the man under whose auspices our work is conducted.
For many of the Pontifical Mission, the path to Rome had been long, one filled with sacrifice, trying encounters and even danger.
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Tags: Msgr. Stern Pope John Paul II Holy See Rome