ROME — Pope Benedict XVI joined members of the Rome-based Sant’Egidio Community for an afternoon prayer service today. Although the visit marked the 40th anniversary of the community — committed to serving the poor, to dialogue and to peacemaking — it also focused on the example of Christians who gave their lives for the Gospel in the 20th century. The service was held in Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew, where the Sant’Egidio Community has set up little chapels dedicated to the “new martyrs.”
In the prayers of the faithful, Marco Impagliazzo, president of the community, turned the focus away from the martyrs and away from Sant’Egidio.
“Lord,” he prayed, “accompany with your love the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, at the beginning of a new year of Petrine service (his anniversary of his election is April 19) and bless his apostolic trip to the United States and United Nations. Sustain him with your Holy Spirit while, with frankness and generosity, he proclaims the joy of faith to the world.”
People in the United States will get a bit of that proclamation even before Pope Benedict lands in Washington next Tuesday afternoon; the Vatican announced today that he had prepared a video message for the people of the country.
Unlike video messages released by the Vatican for Pope Benedict’s trips to Brazil and to Austria, this one is custom-made. The others were clips pulled from remarks the pope made at a general audience in the days before the trips.
However, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi — head of the Vatican press office, Vatican Radio and the Vatican television center — said it’s not a totally new invention. On several occasions Pope John Paul II recorded video messages for broadcast before his arrival in a country.