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VATICAN CITY (AFP)
Sunday May 01, 2005

In his first Sunday Angelus blessing, Pope Benedict XVI issued a clarion call for workers' rights to be respected, saying solidarity, justice and peace were the pillars of the human family.

"I hope that the young, especially, will not want for work, and that working conditions will be ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person," the 78-year-old pope told more than 50,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square in an address on May Day.

Greeting workers' groups from across Italy, Pope Benedict said he hoped they would continue their "Christian fraternity" because "solidarity, justice and peace are the pillars on which the unity of the human family is built."

Pope Benedict XVI arrives at the window of his apartment to address a Regina Coeli prayer
Pope Benedict XVI arrives at the window of his apartment to address a Regina Coeli prayer
AFP

Labor day celebrations mixed with faith in the sun-drenched square, as nuns waved flags of a Catholic worker's group and thousands wore the yellow scarf of Italy's Catholic trade union CISL, the third largest trade union in the country.

"The pope meets the world of labour," read the scarf.

The crowd repeatedly interrupted the pope's speech with enthusiatic applause and many in the square said they found hope in the pope's reference to youth employment.

"It really spoke to me," said Rita Lodari, a 23-year-old economics student from southern Italy. "The situation is so bad, that he gave me a little hope."

The new pontiff, who last week said he would use his pontificate to work for Christian unity, also sent greetings "with particular affection" to the Orthodox Churches, which Sunday were marking Easter celebrations.

"It is my heartfelt hope that the celebration of Easter is for them a harmonious prayer of faith and praise in our common Lord, who calls us to decisively follow the path towards full communion."

The pope also used the occasion to call for peace in strife-torn Togo  and other countries hit "by war, disease and poverty."

"In recent days I often think of all the people who suffer because of war, sickness and poverty. Today in particular, I am close to the dear population of Togo , devastated by an internal struggle. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace."

Pope Benedict, appearing more at ease in his new role of leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, was still clearly moved when he sang the Regina Coeli prayer in Latin.

It was Benedict XVI's first Sunday Angelus address from his apartment window, a tradition made popular by his predecessor Pope John Paul II.

John Paul II, unable to speak, made his last appearance at the window three days before he died on April 2.

The late pontiff was still very much on people's minds.

Clara Pedorella of the Italian Catholic Worker's Association said she was moved when the pope made a special greeting for her group, but said she still missed John Paul II, who led the Church for 26 years.

"It's a pity it wasn't John Paul II," said Pedorella. "But we have to get used to it."

Others were just as moved to see Benedict XVI.

Herbert Sapper from Guatemala City could not hold back his joy as the pope appeared at his window.

"Viva el papa! Viva el Guatemala!" bellowed Sapper, tears rolling down his cheeks.

"I feel blessed, special," said the insurance worker.

Many in the crowd chanted "Benedict! Benedict!" and waved the yellow and white flags of the Vatican after the pope ended his 15-minute appearance with the traditional "Buona Domenica" (Have a Good Sunday).

 

Pope, in May Day blessing, calls for workers' rights to be respected

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