Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Work obligations should not harm a person’s family relationships but should provide support, giving couples the resources to have and raise children and spend time together, Pope Benedict XVI said.

At the end of his weekly general audience May 16, Pope Benedict noted how the United Nations chose “family and work” as the focus of the 2012 International Day of Families, which was celebrated May 15.

Work should not be an obstacle to the family, he said, “but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life” and interact with society and the church.

Pope Benedict also expressed his hope that Sundays would be respected by employers as “a day of rest and an occasion to reinforce family ties.”

In his main audience talk, the pope looked at prayer in the biblical letters of St. Paul. The New Testament letters, he said, include prayers of thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession, demonstrating how prayer is appropriate for every occasion in life.

“Prayer should not be seen simply as a good work we do for God — something we do — but as a gift, the fruit of the living spirit of the Father and of Jesus Christ within us,” the pope said.

Pope Benedict said often “we do not know how to pray in the right way,” but simply opening oneself up and setting aside a bit of time for God, the Holy Spirit will take over. “The absence of words, but the desire to enter into dialogue with God, is a prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but carries to and interprets for God.”

Through regular prayer, he said, a believer’s relationship with God grows so deep that “nothing can destroy it.”

Of course, having a strong relationship with God does not mean nothing bad or painful will ever happen, the pope said. But it does mean that a believer will never feel abandoned by God.

“There is no human cry that is not heard by God,” he said.

At the end of the audience, the pope personally greeted dozens of people and received gifts from many of them. Among the gift-bearing visitors was Avner Moriah, an Israeli artist, who gave the pope his illuminated Book of Genesis.

The pope also met briefly with members of the executive board and council of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella group for national Catholic charities. He thanked the Caritas representatives for their acceptance of new Caritas rules and norms, which gave the Vatican Secretariat of State and other offices greater authority over Caritas’ work and operations.

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service