Gabby Giffords meets pope

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy - Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, a U.S. astronaut, met briefly with Pope Benedict XVI at the end of the pope's weekly general audience Aug. 8.

Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded during a political appearance in Arizona in 2011, traveled to Rome with her husband after a visit to the European Center for Nuclear Research in Switzerland.

At the end of the audience in the courtyard of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, Kelly and Giffords, assisted by a papal aide, went up to greet the pope. Giffords kissed the pope's ring; after a brief chat with Kelly, the pope held Giffords' hand.

The personal encounter with Pope Benedict was the second for Kelly, who had joined other crew members from the International Space Station and the space shuttle Endeavour at the papal villa last September. The pope had spoken, via satellite, to the crew four months earlier when they were orbiting the Earth.

In his main audience talk, Pope Benedict focused on the lessons about prayer taught by St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, whose feast day is Aug. 8.

Pope Benedict said those who knew the Dominicans' founder reported that he was always either "speaking to God or about God."

Especially while on vacation with one's family, Christians need to set aside time to pray, the pope said. "This also will help those close to you enter into God's radiant presence, which brings the peace and love that we all need."

The pope said St. Dominic was convinced that one's physical posture during prayer was an important expression of one's total commitment to a relationship with God.

"St. Dominic prayed on his feet bowing to express humility, prostrate on the ground to ask forgiveness for his sins, on his knees to do penance in order to participate in the Lord's suffering, (and) with his arms open, gazing upon the crucifix to contemplate the supreme love" of God expressed through Christ's sacrifice, the pope said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970