The Visit that the Pope will make on Tuesday, 26 June, to the region of Emilia struck by earthquakes signifies “a sign of the whole Church’s solidarity” for the earthquake victims. Benedict XVI stressed this point after the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, 24 June, in St Peter's Square. Recalling that this Sunday was the Day for the Pope's Charities in Italy, the Pontiff thanked community parishes, families and the faithful for their “their constant and generous support” which “benefits many brothers and sisters in difficulty”.
Before that Benedict XVI spoke about St John the Baptist – whose birth we celebrate the solemnity of - underlining his mission as “the precursor of Jesus” and highlighted that “the four Gospels “place great emphasis” on the figure of “the prophet who closes the Old Testament and opens the New by identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord”.
Of this vocation the horizon had already been delineated by the father of John, Zechariah – husband of Elizabeth, cousin of the Virgin Mary – speaking of his son as “prophet of the Most High” destined to go “before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins”.
All this – the Pope recalled - “came to pass 30 years later when John began baptizing people in the River Jordan, calling them to prepare themselves with this act of penance for the imminent coming of the Messiah, which God had revealed to them during their wanderings in the desert of Judaea”.
When one day Jesus himself came from Nazareth to be baptized, the Pope continued, “John at first refused but then consented; he saw the Holy Spirit settle on Jesus and heard the voice of the heavenly Father proclaiming him his Son”. But the mission of the Baptist was not yet completed: “Shortly afterwards he was also asked to precede Jesus in a violent death: John was decapitated in King Herod’s prison and thus bore a full witness to the Lamb of God who had recognized him and publicly pointed him out beforehand”.
In conclusion, Benedict XVI called upon the Virgin Mary – who “helped her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth when she was expecting John to bring her pregnancy to completion” - to help “everyone to follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, whom the Baptist proclaimed with deep humility and prophetic fervour”.