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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2001

XXXIV World Day of Peace
Theme: Dialogue between cultures for a civilzation of love and peace

Pope St John Paul II's Urbi et Orbi Apostolic Blessing for the end of the year 2000 & the beginning of the year 2001
31st December 2000 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters, Dearest Young People,
1. At this moment we are crossing the threshold of the year 2001 and advancing into the third Christian millennium. On the stroke of midnight, which marks this historical passage, we pause, our hearts full of gratitude, to consider the alternation of events in the past century and millennium. Tragedies and hopes, joys and sufferings, victories and defeats; everything is dominated by the awareness that God guides human events. He walks with men and does not cease to do great things. How can we not thank him on this night? How can we fail to repeat to him: "In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum"? Yes, "In you Lord, have we put our trust: we shall not be put to shame!"

2. At the end of the customary prayer meeting which marks every day of the Jubilee Year and which today takes place on the last night of the year 2000, our gaze is fixed on Christ, Saviour of man. Without him life does not attain its final destiny. It is He, with his wisdom and with the power of his Spirit, who helps us face the challenges of the new millennium; it is He who makes us capable of spending our lives for the glory of God and the good of humanity. We must start again from Him and be his witnesses in the future that awaits us.

Let us be attracted by his love and and our journey through life will know the joy that flows from serving him faithfully every day. This is my cordial wish, which I express for all believers and for every man and woman of good will. At this moment I extend a special thought, accompanied by prayer, to those who are suffering, to those in difficulty and to those who are living moments of sorrow. For each one I invoke the provident help of the Lord.

My gaze now broadens to take in the whole world. I hope that the new millennium will bring peace, justice, brotherhood and prosperity to all the nations! In particular, I am thinking of young people, the hope of the future: may the light of Christ our Saviour give meaning to their lives, guide them on the path of life and strengthen them in the witness of the truth and the service of good.

I entrust these wishes to the intercession of Our Lady.

Virgin Most Holy, Dawn of the new times,
help us to look with faith
at past history and at the year that is beginning.
Star of the third millennium,
guide our steps towards Christ,
The Living One "yesterday, today and for ever",
and make our humanity,
advancing with trepidation into the new millennium,
ever more fraternal and united.

A Happy New Year to you all!"

Papa Juan Pablo II's homily at Mass on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Wednesday 1 January 2002 - also in French, GermanItalian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "The shepherds went with haste and found Mary, Joseph and the Baby, lying in a manger" (Lk 2: 16).

Today, the Octave of Christmas, the liturgy urges us, with these words, to walk with new and conscious fervour to Bethlehem to adore the divine Child, who is born for us. It invites us to follow in the footsteps of the shepherds who, on entering the grotto, recognize in that tiny human being, "born of woman, born under the law" (Gal 4, 4), the Almighty, who made himself one of us. Beside him, Joseph and Mary are silent witnesses of the miracle of Christmas. This is the mystery which we too contemplate with amazement today: the Lord is born for us. Mary "gave birth to the King who governs heaven and earth forever" (cf Sedulius).

We remain in ecstasy before the scene which the Evangelist describes to us. Let us pause, in a special way, to contemplate the shepherds. Simple and joyful models of the human search, they place in evidence, especially in the context of the Great Jubilee, what the interior conditions must be to meet Jesus.

The disarming tenderness of the Baby, the surprising poverty in which He is found, the humble simplicity of Mary and Joseph, transform the life of the shepherds: they become thus messengers of salvation, evangelists ante litteram. St Luke writes: "The shepherds then returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them" (Lk 2, 20). They left happy and enriched by an event which had changed their existence. There is, in their words, the echo of an interior joy which becomes singing: "They returned, glorifying and praising God".

2. We too, in this Jubilee year, have set out on the pathway so as to meet Christ, the Redeemer of man. In passing through the Holy Door, we have experienced his mysterious presence, thanks to which man is given the possibility of passing from sin to grace, from death to life. The Son of God, who became flesh for us, has made us feel the mighty call to conversion and love.

How many gifts, how many extraordinary occasions the Great Jubilee has offered to believers! In the experience of forgiveness received and given, in the commemoration of the martyrs, in listening to the cry of the poor of the world and in the testimonies full of faith handed down by our fellow believers of all epochs, we too have glimpsed the salvific presence of God in history. We have, as it were, touched by hand his love which renews the face of the earth. In a few days this special time of grace will end. Just as he asked the shepherds who hastened to adore him, Christ asks of believers, to whom he has offered the joy of meeting him, a courageous readiness to set out once again to announce his Gospel, old and ever new. He sends them to enliven the history and cultures of men with his salvific message.

3. "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God" (Lk 2, 20). We too,
encouraged and enriched by the Jubilee grace, begin this new year which the Lord gives us. May we find comfort in the words of the first reading, which renew the blessing of the Creator: "The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you! The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace" (Nm 6, 24-25). May the Lord give us his peace, peace which is not the fruit of human compromises, but the surprising effect of his benevolent gaze upon us. This is the peace that we invoke this day, celebrating the 34th World Day of Peace.

With great affection I greet the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who are present at this solemn liturgy. I greet in particular dear Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and with him the personnel of the dicastery whose specific task is to show the concern of the Pope and of the Apostolic See for the promotion of a more just and peaceful world. I greet the authorities and all those who have wished to speak at this prayer meeting for peace. Ideally I would like once again to propose to you all this year's Message for the World Day of Peace, in which I treated a particularly timely topic, "Dialogue between cultures for a civilization of love and peace".

4. Today, in this evocative liturgical setting, I renew my heartfelt invitation to every person of good will to follow the privileged way of dialogue with confidence and tenacity. Only thus will the specific riches which characterize the history and lives of men and peoples not be dispersed but, on the contrary, will be able to contribute to building a new era of fraternal solidarity. May everyone's effort be to promote an authentic culture of solidarity and justice, closely "connected with the value of peace, the primary objective of every society and of national and international cohabitation" (Message for World Day of Peace, 18).

This is even more necessary in the current world context, made complex by widespread human mobility, global communications and the not always easy encounters between different cultures. At the same time, the urgent need to defend life, the fundamental good of humanity, should be vigorously reaffirmed, since "one cannot invoke peace and despise life" (ibid, 19).

We address our prayer to the Lord so that respect for these basic values, the heritage of every culture, will contribute to building the hoped for civilization of love and peace. May Christ, Prince of Peace, whom we contemplate in the poverty of the crib, obtain this for us.

5. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19).

Today the Church is celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. After presenting her as the One who offers the Child to the shepherds who sought him anxiously, Luke the Evangelist gives us an image of Mary, at the same time simple and majestic. Mary is the woman of faith, who made room for God in her heart, in her plans, in her body, in her experience as a wife and mother.  She is the believer who is capable of understanding the unusual event of the Son as the coming of that "fullness of time" (Gal 4: 4), in which God, choosing the simple ways of human life, decided to involve himself personally in the work of salvation.

Faith leads the Most Holy Virgin to take unknown and unforeseeable paths, while she continues to keep everything in her heart, that is, in the depths of her spirit, to respond with renewed adherence to God and to his plan of love.

6. Let us address our prayer to her at the beginning of this new year.

Help us too, O Mary, always to rethink our lives with a spirit of faith. Help us to safeguard places for silence and contemplation in the frenzy of our daily lives. Orient us constantly to the needs of true peace, a gift of the Nativity of Christ.

On this first day of 2001, we entrust to you the expectations and hopes of all humanity: "We fly to your patronage, O holy Mother of God. Despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin!" (From the Liturgy of the Hours).

Virgin Mother of God, intercede for us with your Son, so that his face will shine on the path of the new millennium and every person can live in justice and peace! Amen!"