Pope Prays for Victims of Philippine Ferry Disaster


22 June 08 - The victims of a tragic ferry disaster in the Philippines as well as those hit by the passage of Cyclone Fengshen were in Pope Benedict XVI's prayers this Sunday.

Speaking to visitors and pilgrims in St Peter's Square after the midday Angelus, the Pope expressed his deep sorrow on learning of the fate of over 700 people, passengers and crew aboard the MV Princess of Stars, which capsized on high sea's this weekend. So far only 4 people have reached shore, while rescue boats battle to reach the vessel. Many of the dead are young children noted Pope Benedict. Relief workers report that the storm has left hundreds of dead, submerging entire communities and setting off landslides throughout the archipelago.

And it was in his reflections on this Sunday's Gospel that Pope Benedict urged people to take comfort in knowing that God is a father full of mercy and goodness, that those who love him do not fear:

"Today's Gospel reminds us that we are personally loved by our heavenly Father,
whose providence watches over us and frees us from all fear. May these consoling words
strengthen us in our witness to the joy and hope proclaimed by the Gospel!"

The "beloved and tormented nation of Lebanon" was also in the Pope's thoughts this Sunday as he renewed his appeal for lasting peace while marking the beatification of a Maronite Catholic monk.

Father Jacob Haddad was beatified Sunday in a ceremony attended by more than 10,000 people. Top officials such as the president, prime minister and parliament speaker were also present to witness Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, lead the open-air mass in Beirut. The Capuchin monk founded the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon.
In expressing his congratulations to the sisters, the Pope said, he hoped "the intercession of the blessed Abuna Yaaqub, with that of Lebanese saints, may give this beloved and tormented country, which has suffered too much, a chance to finally move towards a stable peace."

Last month Lebanon ended its 18-month political crisis with the Western-backed coalition and the Hezbollah-led opposition reaching a Qatari-mediated accord.

But delays in the formation of a national unity government as stipulated in the accord have raised fears of a further deterioration in the security situation. Furthering these fears, at least two people were killed and 25 wounded on Sunday in sectarian clashes in Lebanon's second largest city Tripoli, underlining that a lasting peace is still a distant goal.