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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, in the Year of Faith 2013

New Year 2013 & 46th World Day of Peace
Theme: Blessed are the Peacemakers

Pope Benedict XVI's homily
at the first Vespers of the Solemnity & Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year
31 December 2012 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Distinguished Authorities, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank all of you who have wished to take part in this liturgy of the last hour of the year of the Lord 2012. This “hour” has a special intensity and in a certain way sums up all the hours of the year that is about to end. I cordially greet the cardinals, bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, especially those who represent the ecclesial community of Rome. In a special way I greet all the authorities present, starting with the mayor of the city, and I thank them for having come to share with us this moment of prayer and thanksgiving to God.

The Te Deum we are raising to the Lord this evening, at the end of a solar year, is a hymn of thanksgiving that opens with praise: “We praise you, O God: We acclaim you as Lord”, and ends with a profession of trust: “in you, Lord, we put our trust; we shall not be put to shame”. However the year went, whether it was easy or difficult, barren or fruitful, let us give thanks to God. Indeed the Te Deum contains deep wisdom, that wisdom which makes us say that, in spite of all, good exists in the world and that this good is bound to win thanks be to God, the God of Jesus Christ, who was born, died and rose again. At times of course it is hard to understand this profound reality, because evil is noisier than goodness; an atrocious murder, widespread violence, grave forms of injustice hit the headlines; whereas acts of love and service, the daily effort sustained with fidelity and patience are often left in the dark, they pass unnoticed. For this reason too, we cannot stop at reading the news if we wish to understand the world and life; we must be able to pause in silence, in meditation, in calm, prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, it can penetrate the events that occur in our life and in the world and can attain that wisdom which makes it possible to see things with new eyes. It is above all in the recollection of the conscience that God speaks to us, so that we can learn to evaluate truthfully our own actions and also the evil present within us and around us. In this way we are able to start out afresh on a journey of conversion that makes us wiser and better people, more capable of generating solidarity and communion and of overcoming evil with good. Christians are people of hope, even and above all when they face the darkness that often exists in the world and has nothing to do with God’s plan but is the result of the erroneous choices of human beings, for Christians know that the power of faith can move mountains (cf Mt 17, 20): The Lord can illuminate even the thickest darkness.

The Year of Faith, which the Church is living, aims to inspire in every believer’s heart a greater awareness that the encounter with Christ is the fount of true life and of sound hope. Faith in Jesus makes possible a constant renewal in goodness, as well as the ability to extricate ourselves from the quicksands of sin and to start out afresh. In the Word made flesh it is possible, ever anew, to find the true identity of man who realizes that he is the recipient of God’s infinite love and is called to personal communion with him. The truth that Jesus Christ came to reveal is the certainty that urges us to look with trust to the year we are about to begin.

The Church, which received the mission to evangelize from her Lord, knows well that the Gospel is destined for all men, in particular for the new generations, to quench that thirst for truth which each person carries in their heart and which is all too often obscured by the many things that fill life. This apostolic commitment is all the more necessary when faith risks being clouded over in cultural contexts that prevent it from taking root in individuals and from being present in society. Rome too is a city where the Christian faith must be proclaimed ever anew and demands a credible witness. On the one hand, the growing number of believers of other religions, the difficulty of parish communities in approaching youth and the spread of lifestyles impressed with individualism and ethical relativism; and, on the other, the search of so many people for meaning in their life and for a hope that does not disappoint cannot leave us indifferent. Like the Apostle Paul (cf Rom 1, 14-15), each and every member of the faithful in this city must feel that they owe it to the other inhabitants to spread the Gospel!

For this very reason, our Diocese has been committed for several years now to highlighting the missionary dimension of ordinary pastoral care, so that believers, sustained especially by the Sunday Eucharist, may become consistent disciples and witnesses of Jesus Christ. Christian parents, who are the first to inculcate the faith in their children, are called in a very special way to this consistency of life. The complexity of life in a large city like Rome and in a culture that frequently seems indifferent to God, makes it obligatory not to leave fathers and mothers alone in this most crucial task; on the contrary, it obliges us to sustain them and to accompany them in their spiritual life. With this in mind I encourage all those who work in family ministry to implement the pastoral guidelines that resulted from the last Diocesan Convention dedicated to baptismal and post-baptismal pastoral care. To keep the flame of faith alive we need a generous commitment to developing programmes of spiritual formation to accompany parents after the Baptism of their children and to offer them practical suggestions so that, from the most tender age, the Gospel of Jesus may be proclaimed. The creation of family groups in which people listen to the word of God and share their experiences of Christian life helps to reinforce their feeling of belonging to the ecclesial community and helps them to develop in friendship with the Lord. It is likewise important also to build a relationship of cordial friendship with those members of the faithful who, having had their child baptized, distracted by the pressing needs of daily life, do not show much interest in following up this experience: thus they will be able to feel the affection of the Church which, like a caring mother, sets herself beside them to encourage them in their spiritual life.

In order to proclaim the Gospel and to enable all who do not yet know Jesus, or who have abandoned him, to cross the threshold of the door of faith once again and to live communion with God, it is indispensable to know in depth the meaning of the truths contained in the Profession of Faith.  Therefore the commitment to provide pastoral workers with a systematic formation that has existed in the various Prefectures of the Diocese of Rome is a precious means that must be pursued with commitment in the future too, to form lay people who can readily echo the Gospel in every home and in every walk of life. This may also be done through “listening centres” which proved so effective at the time of the City Mission. In this regard the “Dialogues in the Cathedral” which have been held for years in the Basilica of St John Lateran are an especially appropriate experience for meeting the city and for having a dialogue with all those in search of God and of the truth, who are wondering about the great questions of human life.

As in past centuries, so today too the Church of Rome is called to proclaim and to witness tirelessly to the riches of Christ’s Gospel. Moreover she is called to do this by supporting those who live in situations of poverty and marginalization, as well as families in difficulty, especially when they have to help sick and disabled people. I feel confident that the institutions, at their various levels, will not fail in their action to ensure that all citizens have access to what they need to live a dignified life.

Dear friends, on the last evening of the year which is coming to its end and on the threshold of the new one, let us praise the Lord! Let us express to “the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1, 8), repentance and the request for forgiveness for our shortcomings, as well as sincere gratitude for the innumerable benefits granted to us by the divine Good. In particular, let us thank Him for the grace and truth that have come to us through Jesus Christ. In Him lies the fullness of all human time. In Him lies the future of every man. In Him will be brought about the fulfilment of the hopes of the Church and of the world. Amen."

Papa Benedetto's Homily at Mass on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Tuesday 1 January 2013 - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1, 14) as “the true light that enlightens every man” (1, 9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf Lk 2, 21).

It is in this name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.

Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5, 9)”. This beatitude “tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation” (Message, 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2, 7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was “Jesus” (cf Mt 1, 21; Lk 1, 31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes “the mother of Jesus”, that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title 'Theotokos', that is 'Mother of God'.

The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the people of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the holy name of God, an unpronounceable name, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face.

For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: “You gladden him with the joy of your face” (Ps 21, 7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4, 4-7), St Paul says as much when he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: “Abba! Father!” It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, “I have manifested thy name to men” (Jn 17, 6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, He has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, He has led us to understand that, in Him, we too are children of God, as St Paul says in the passage we have just heard: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4, 6).

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – “peace with God” – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as St Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf Rom 5, 2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5, 5).

May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!"

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 46th World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2013 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A happy New Year to you all! On the first day of 2013 I would like the blessing of God to reach every man and woman of the world. I bless you with the ancient formula contained in Sacred Scripture: “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6, 24-26).

Just as the light and the warmth of the sun are a blessing for the earth, so the light of God is for humanity, when he causes his countenance to shine upon it: and this came about with the birth of Jesus Christ! God has caused his face to shine upon us: in the beginning in a very humble, hidden manner — at Bethlehem only Mary and Joseph and some shepherds were witnesses of this revelation; but little by little, just as the early morning sun reaches midday, the light of Christ has increased and spread everywhere. Already during the short time of his earthly life, Jesus of Nazareth caused God's countenance to shine upon the Holy Land; and then, through the Church enlivened by his Spirit, he bestowed the Gospel of peace on all the nations. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2, 14). This is the song of angels at Christmas, and it is the song of the Christians under every sky; a song which flows from hearts and lips into practical actions and gestures of love that build dialogue, understanding and reconciliation.

For this reason, eight days after the Nativity, when the Church, like the Virgin Mother Mary, shows the newborn Jesus, Prince of Peace, to the world we celebrate the World Day of Peace. Yes, that Child, who is the Word of God made flesh, came to bring a peace to men that the world cannot give (cf Jn 14, 27). His mission is to break down the “dividing wall of hostility” (cf Eph 2, 14); and when, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he proclaims his “Beatitudes”, among them is also “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5, 9). Who are the peacemakers? They are all those who, day after day, seek to conquer evil with good, with the strength of the truth, with the arms of prayer and of forgiveness, with honest work well-done, with scientific research that is at the service of life, with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The peacemakers are many, but they make not a sound. Like the yeast in dough, they cause humanity to rise according to God’s plan.

In this first Angelus of the new year, let us ask Mary Most Holy, the Mother of God, to bless us, just as the mother blesses her children who must leave on a journey. A new year is like a journey: with the light and grace of God, may it be a path of peace for every person and for every family, for every country and for the entire world."

After the Angelus:

"Cari fratelli e sorelle!
Rivolgo a tutti l’augurio più cordiale per il nuovo anno: possa essere veramente un buon anno, e lo sarà se accoglieremo in noi e tra di noi l’amore che Cristo ci ha donato. Con gratitudine formulo i migliori auspici al Presidente della Repubblica Italiana e all’intera Nazione, come pure alle altre Autorità che mi hanno fatto pervenire messaggi augurali.

Rinnovo il mio affettuoso saluto ai giovani venuti a Roma per l’Incontro europeo della Comunità di Taizé. Esprimo la mia spirituale vicinanza alle iniziative ecclesiali in occasione dell’odierna Giornata Mondiale della Pace: penso, in particolare, alla Marcia nazionale che ha avuto luogo ieri sera a Lecce, come pure a quella di stamani qui a Roma, animata dalla Comunità di Sant’Egidio. Saluto gli aderenti al Movimento dell’Amore Familiare che stanotte hanno vegliato in preghiera in Piazza San Pietro, a anche a Milano e L’Aquila. A tutti ripeto la parola di Gesù: «Beati gli operatori di pace»!

Je suis heureux de saluer les francophones en ce premier jour de l’année civile où nous célébrons la Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu. Nous louons sa foi profonde et son « oui » sans réserve à la volonté divine. Par elle, Dieu s’est rendu visible en Jésus, et nous pouvons voir son visage ! Marie a donné au monde le Sauveur, le Prince de la Paix. Qu’elle intercède auprès de son Fils pour que nous trouvions les chemins de la réalisation de la paix ! Tout au long de cette année, puissions-nous devenir des artisans de paix, et des témoins de l’amour de Dieu pour tous les hommes d’aujourd’hui. Bonne et Sainte année à tous !

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today for this prayer. Today, New Year’s Day, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. With affectionate trust, Our Lady believed the message revealed to her by the angel’s word and bore Jesus Christ, true God and true man. May her powerful intercession bring you a happy and prosperous New Year!

Mit einem frohen Neujahrsgruß heiße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache willkommen. Die Kirche feiert am ersten Tag des Jahres das Hochfest der Gottesmutter Maria und empfiehlt sich selbst dem mütterlichen Schutz Marias an. Das Evangelium berichtet uns, daß Maria alles, was geschehen war, in ihrem Herzen behielt. In ihrem Herzen ist Platz für alles, was die Menschen bewegt. So wollen wir ihr unsere Anliegen und Hoffnungen für das neue Jahr anvertrauen, damit sie bei Gott unsere Fürsprecherin sei. Euch und euren Familien wünsche ich ein gutes und friedvolles neues Jahr.

Saludo a los fieles de lengua española aquí presentes y a cuantos participan en el rezo del Ángelus a través de los medios de comunicación social. En esta solemnidad de Santa María, Madre de Dios, deseo hacer llegar mi cercanía espiritual y mi sincero afecto a todos los que, inspirados en la Palabra de Jesucristo, Luz de los pueblos, se esfuerzan por construir un mundo más justo y fraterno, cada vez más digno del hombre, y en el que no haya espacio para la guerra, las enemistades y las discordias. Encomiendo esta noble causa a las manos amorosas de la Virgen Santísima, Reina de la Paz. ¡Feliz año nuevo!

A todos os povos e nações de língua portuguesa, aos seus lares e comunidades, aos seus governantes e instituições, desejo a paz do Céu que hoje vemos reclinada nos braços da Virgem Mãe. Feliz Ano Novo!

Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków i życzę, aby rozpoczynający się rok był pełen pokoju i Bożego błogosławieństwa. Niech ten czas, przeżywany w duchu wzajemnej miłości, przyniesie wam wszelką pomyślność. Do siego roku!

Infine, saluto tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana: i gruppi parrocchiali, le famiglie, i giovani; in particolare i ragazzi di Gioventù Studentesca della Liguria. A tutti auguro abbondanza di pace e di bene per ogni giorno del nuovo anno!"