A Palestinian man sits on the rubble of a destroyed house Nov. 25 in Gaza City. Witnesses said the building was targeted in an Israel airstrike the previous week. CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters

Pope appeals for peace in Mideast, greets pilgrims from four continents

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • November 26, 2012

VATICAN CITY - Greeting hundreds of Christians from Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged their presence in the Middle East and launched a fresh appeal for peace in the region.

"The church encourages every effort aimed at bringing peace to the world and the Middle East," he said, adding that real peace must be "based on an authentic respect for each other."

"I wish to encourage the life and presence of Christians in the Middle East where they should be able to live their faith freely and to launch once again an urgent appeal for peace in the region," he said.

The pope made his remarks during an audience with six new cardinals and their family and friends in the Vatican's Paul VI hall Nov. 26.

The informal gathering came after a weekend of ceremonies that saw the creation of six new members of the College of Cardinals: U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, former prefect of the papal household; Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai; Indian Cardinal Baselio Cleemis Thottunkal, head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church; Nigerian Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja; Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota; and Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila.
A large contingent of Lebanese pilgrims at the audience cheered loudly and often, and waved their nation's flag each time the pope greeted Patriarch Rai.

"My heart is flying in the sky," said Rola Rai, daughter of one of the patriarch's cousins.

She and her family, who wore large buttons displaying the patriarch's photograph, told Catholic News Service that they were thrilled about his elevation to cardinal, as well as the chance to visit Rome and see the pope.

The pope's call for Christians to remain in the Middle East was "very important," she said.

Among the several hundred pilgrims in the audience were members of Cardinal Harvey's family, including his 87-year-old mother.

Bill Harvey of Brookfield, Wis., told CNS that "it was wonderful" to see his brother be made a cardinal.

During his brother's long service as prefect of the papal household, organizing the non-liturgical side of papal events and audiences, "we got to meet Pope John Paul II, which was a great honor," he said.

Each cardinal was allowed to bring four people with him to greet the pope during the audience. Cardinal Harvey brought his mother, his nephew and two of his nieces, who were both pregnant and asked the pope to bless their unborn babies, Bill Harvey said.

Cardinal Onaiyekan brought Mercy Sister Agatha Chikelue, who wore a colorful cotton wrapper decorated with the cardinal's portrait and his episcopal motto, "Thy will be done."

All of the women in her pilgrimage group "had these made as a souvenir for the election," the sister said.

"I never thought something like this would happen to me," she said of her chance to meet the pope.

The Nigerian cardinal also introduced the former director general of his country's National Broadcasting Commission, Tom Adaba, to the pope.

Speaking to CNS, Adaba praised the new cardinal as a "good communicator who has worked for the cause of peace" and a "bridge between religions and the different areas" of Nigeria.

A novelty during the Nov. 26 audience was no longer seeing Cardinal Harvey flanking the right side of the pope.

Instead of assisting dignitaries and the pope, as he had done as prefect of the papal household since 1998, the cardinal was seated facing the stage in the VIP section. The pope named Cardinal Harvey archpriest of Rome's Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Nov. 23.

The pope has not named a new prefect, so the regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, Rogationist Father Leonardo Sapienza, fulfilled those duties at the audience. He accompanied the pope on the stage along with the pope's personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Ganswein.

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