2010-11-17 16:13:59

In general audience, Holy Father appeals for release of Asia Bibi of Pakistan

(November 17, 2010) Every week on Wednesday, the Pope holds a public meeting, called the general audience, during which pilgrims and tourists who come to Rome have a chance of seeing and hearing him speak in several languages. The general audience of November 17 was held in the open in St. Peter’s Square. A scripture passage was read in several languages. An aide greeted the Pope on behalf of the English-speaking pilgrims, and presented the various groups present at the audience. Pope Benedict then delivered a discourse in English.

Dear Brothers and Sisters Our catechesis today deals with Saint Juliana of Cornillon, better known as Saint Juliana of Liège. Born at the end of the twelfth century, Juliana was orphaned young and became an Augustinian nun. Intelligent and cultured, she was drawn to contemplative prayer and devotion to the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the result of a recurring vision, Juliana worked to promote a liturgical feast in honour of the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi was first celebrated in the Diocese of Liège, and began to spread from there. Pope Urban IV, who had known Juliana in Liège, instituted the solemnity of Corpus Christi for the universal Church and charged Saint Thomas Aquinas with composing the texts of the liturgical office. The Pope himself celebrated the solemnity in Orvieto, then the seat of the papal court, where the relic of a celebrated Eucharistic miracle, which had occurred the previous year, was kept. As we recall Saint Juliana of Cornillon, let us renew our faith in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and pray that the “springtime of the Eucharist” which we are witnessing in the Church today may bear fruit in an ever greater devotion to the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
I extend a warm welcome to the delegation from the International Catholic Migration Commission. I offer prayerful good wishes to the Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld meeting in General Chapter. I also greet the priests from England and Wales celebrating their anniversaries of ordination. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the pilgrim groups from Israel, Nigeria, England and the United States of America, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Later during the general audience, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for Christians in Pakistan who he said are “often victims of violence or discrimination.” Speaking in Italian, he particularly expressed his closeness with Asia Bibi and her family and urged that her full freedom be restored as soon as possible. A court in Pakistan on Nov.7 sentenced the Catholic woman to death, on accusation that that she had blasphemed Prophet Mohammed. She says she was forced to defend her religion after Muslim women on June 19, 2009 called her an “infidel” and Christianity a “religion of infidels” and pressurized her to embrace Islam. Asia Bibi and her children were allegedly beaten after the incident and the woman has been in jail for the past year. Pope Benedict said he was praying for those in similar situations so that their human dignity and fundamental rights be fully respected. Wednesday’s general audience ended with the Pope’s blessing.

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