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First blessing for peace and unity

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI delivered his first Sunday noon blessing and launched appeals for peace, for the defence of workers’ rights and for unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.

“I address you for the first time from this window, which my beloved predecessor rendered so familiar to innumerable people around the world,” Pope Benedict said on May 1.

A crowd of nearly 100,000 gathered in the square to see the new pontiff and started to applaud even before he appeared at the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict used his Sunday noon appearance to express concerns over current world events and to launch an appeal.

“In these days I find myself thinking often of all peoples who suffer because of war, illness and poverty,” the German Pope said.

“In particular, today, I am close to the dear populations of Togo, ravaged by painful internal conflicts. For all these nations I implore the gift of harmony and peace.”

The crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square included thousands of representatives of Italy’s major labour unions who were in Rome to mark May Day labour celebrations and the feast day of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers.

May 1 was also Orthodox Easter this year. Pope Benedict’s first words after remembering Pope John Paul were for Orthodox Christians.

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