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 CNS Story:

POPE-AUDIENCE Aug-13-2008 (450 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope says his most important task is to pray for church, world

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said praying for the church and the world is his most important task as pope.

"By praying I place in the hands of the Lord the ministry he himself has entrusted me with and the fate of the entire church and civil community," the pope said Aug. 13 as he held an abbreviated general audience at his summer residence south of Rome.

Several thousand people crowded into the courtyard of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo for the 20-minute meeting with the pope.

The audience was held two days after the pope returned from a vacation in the mountains of northern Italy.

Throughout the two-week vacation, he said, he prayed for those who had asked for his prayers.

"Truly, many people write asking me to pray for them. They share their joys, but also their worries; the plans for their lives, but also the problems of their families and their work; the expectations and hopes that they carry in their hearts together with the distress connected with the uncertainties which humanity is experiencing at this moment," the pope said.

Pope Benedict said that especially during his daily Mass and recitation of the rosary, he prays for each person who writes to him.

"I know well that the first service I can render to the church and to humanity is precisely that of prayer," he said.

Pope Benedict said the Bible and the example of the saints demonstrate that "one who prays never loses hope, even when he finds himself in difficult or even humanly desperate situations."

As evidence, the pope pointed to two 20th-century martyrs whose feast days are celebrated in August: St. Edith Stein and St. Maximilian Kolbe.

"Both ended their earthly lives with martyrdom in the Auschwitz camp" in Poland, killed by the Nazis, he said. At first glance, it may appear they were defeated, "but precisely in their martyrdom there shines forth the splendor of the love that vanquishes the darkness of selfishness and hatred," he said.

Pope Benedict said, "prayer was the secret" of St. Edith Stein, who knew she was headed toward death, but radiated peace and concern for others.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's last words were reported to be the beginning of the Hail Mary, he said.

"It is moving to note that the humble and trusting recourse to the Blessed Mother is always a source of courage and serenity," he said.

As the church prepared to celebrate the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the pope told his visitors, "Let us renew our trust in the one who, from heaven, watches over us with maternal love at every moment."

END


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