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 CNS Story:

POPE-LUNCHEON Dec-26-2010 (280 words) xxxi

Pope hosts hundreds of poor at Vatican luncheon

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI hosted more than 350 poor people at a post-Christmas luncheon at the Vatican, an event that marked this year's 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The pope passed among the guests in the crowded atrium of the Vatican audience hall Dec 26, then sat down at a table with 14 others for a three-course meal that featured lasagna, roast veal with potatoes and the classic Italian "pandoro" Christmas cake -- this one with melted chocolate and Chantilly cream.

When the pope arrived, the guests placed a garland of white and yellow flowers around his neck, a tradition of India that was adopted by Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity.

Most of the guests were poor people served at soup kitchens run by the Missionaries of Charity in Rome and the surrounding area. Also in attendance were more than 100 sisters and brothers of the religious order, who sang Christmas carols and handed out small gifts.

In a talk after the meal, the pope told the guests that he loved them and prayed for them. He said Mother Teresa's life was an example of charity in action, with a preference for the poorest and those abandoned by the rest of society.

"To so many men and women living in situations of poverty and suffering, she offered the consolation and the certainty that God does not abandon anyone, ever!" he said.

The pope thanked the Missionaries of Charity for carrying on her work, and said their actions demonstrated that true joy is found in sharing, giving and loving in a way that "breaks the logic of human selfishness."

END


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