Pope rejoices with Iraqis as they celebrate their victory in the Asian Cup

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “Just as so many times I have cried with the Iraqi people, on this occasion I rejoiced with them”: the Iraqi football team’s victory in the Asian Cup was unusually evoked today by Benedict XVI before he turned his attention once again to expressing his closeness to the war wracked nation. The Pope’s congratulations for a football event came at the end of his general audience, when Benedict XVI spoke of “the popular explosion of joy” across the country “in the face of this historic success for Iraq, for the first time football champions of Asia”. It was an “enthusiasm that spilled over onto Iraq’s streets”, and “This experience of joyful sharing reveals the desire of a people to have a normal and serene life”. “It is my hope that this event, with everyone’s support, may contribute to a future in Iraq of real peace in liberty and mutual respect. Congratulations!”

The Pope’s unusual reference to a football victory marked the recommencement, this morning, of the Wednesday general audiences, after his three week period of rest in Lorernzago di Cadore. The Pope arrived at the Paul VI audience hall by helicopter from Castelgandolfo, where he resides during the summer. There he was greeted by over 6 thousand faithful, among them 200 scouts who today celebrate the 100th anniversary of the International Scout Movement.

The Pope himself commented on the resumption of the traditional appointment: “I will take up my catechesis – he began – from where I left off, that is the figure of Basil, saint and bishop, a great fourth-century Doctor of the social doctrine of Church who frequently exhorted the people of his day to give to the poor. Indeed, he said, if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, we ought not to own any more than our neighbour owns. We must not offend Christ with inhumanity towards others”.

In the footsteps of Saint Basil, Benedict XVI then affirmed that “only virtue is an inalienable good which remains both during life and after death”” and that “only by being open to God, our common Father, can we create a just and fraternal world”. Finally Saint Basil also handed us down the criteria on how to interpret classical writers: “we must take on what is useful, with discernment. Bees do not alight on every flower indistinctly, if we are wise, we will take on board all that represents truth and that serves to help in our spiritual growth”.

Concluding the Pope had a special greeting for the “Scouts from Europe who are here today to reaffirm their ecclesial participation after having renewed their scout’s promise”. “My thoughts go to all of the scouts and guides across the world – he continued – who today will renew this promise”. Benedict XVI expressed the hope that “the educational movement of the scouts, born of the profound intuition of Lord Robert Baden Powell, will continue to bear fruit in human, spiritual and civil education world over”.