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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2006

New Year 2006 - 39th World Day of Peace
Theme: In Truth, Peace

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of a year which has been particularly eventful for the Church and for the world, mindful of the Apostle's order, "walk... established in the faith... abounding in thanksgiving" (cf. Col 2: 6-7), we are gathered together this evening to raise a hymn of thanksgiving to God, Lord of time and of history. I am thinking with a profound and spiritual sentiment of 12 months ago, when for the last time beloved Pope John Paul II made himself the voice of the People of God to give thanks to the Lord, like this evening, for the numerous benefits granted to the Church and to humanity. In the same evocative setting of the Vatican Basilica, it is now my turn to ideally gather from every corner of the earth the praise and thanksgiving raised to God at the end of 2005 and on the eve of 2006. Yes, it is our duty, as well as a need of our hearts, to praise and thank the eternal One who accompanies us through time, never abandoning us, and who always watches over humanity with the fidelity of his merciful love.

We may well say that the Church lives to praise and thank God. She herself has been an "action of grace" down the ages, a faithful witness of a love that does not die, of a love that embraces people of every race and culture, fruitfully disseminating principles of true life. As the Second Vatican Council recalls, "the Church prays and likewise labours so that into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, may pass the fullness of the whole world, and that in Christ, the head of all things, all honour and glory may be rendered to the Creator, the Father of the universe" (Lumen Gentium, n. 17). Sustained by the Holy Spirit, she "presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God" (St Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVIII, 51, 2), drawing strength from the Lord's help. Thus, in patience and in love, she overcomes "her sorrows and her difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without", and reveals "in the world, faithfully, however darkly, the mystery of her Lord until, in the consummation, it shall be manifested in full light" (Lumen Gentium, n. 8). The Church lives from Christ and with Christ. He offers her his spousal love, guiding her through the centuries; and she, with the abundance of her gifts, accompanies men and women on their journey so that those who accept Christ may have life and have it abundantly.

This evening I make myself first of all the voice of the Church of Rome to raise to Heaven our common hymn of praise and thanksgiving. In the past 12 months, our Church of Rome has been visited by many other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to deepen the dialogue of truth in charity that unites all the baptized, and together to experience more keenly the desire for full communion. Many believers of other religions, however, also wanted to testify to their cordial and brotherly esteem for this Church and her Bishop, aware that the serene and respectful encounter conceals the heart of a harmonious action in favour of all humanity. And what can be said of the many people of good will who have turned their gaze to this See in order to build up a fruitful dialogue on the great values concerning the truth about man and life to be defended and promoted? The Church always desires to be welcoming, in truth and in charity.

As regards the journey of the Diocese of Rome, I wish to reflect briefly on the diocesan pastoral programme, which this year has focused attention on the family, choosing as a theme: "Family and Christian community:  formation of the person and transmission of the faith". My venerable Predecessors always made the family the centre of their attention, especially John Paul II, who dedicated numerous Interventions to it. He was convinced, and said so on many occasions, that the crisis of the family is a serious threat to our civilization itself. Precisely to underline the importance of the family based on marriage in the life of the Church and of society, I also wished to make my contribution by speaking at the Diocesan Congress in St John Lateran last 6 June. I am delighted because the diocesan programme is going smoothly with a far-reaching apostolic action which is carried out in the parishes, at the prefectures and in the various ecclesial associations. May the Lord grant that the common effort lead to an authentic renewal of Christian families. I take this opportunity to greet the representatives of the religious and civil Communities of Rome present at this end-of-year celebration. I greet in the first place the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, priests, Religious and lay faithful from various parishes who have gathered here; I also greet the City Mayor and the other Authorities. I extend my thoughts to the entire Roman community whose Pastor the Lord called me to be, and I renew to everyone the expression of my spiritual closeness.

At the beginning of this celebration, enlightened by the Word of God, we sang the "Te Deum" with faith. There are so many reasons that render our thanksgiving intense, making it a unanimous prayer. While we consider the many events that have marked the succession of months in this year that is coming to its end, I would like to remember especially those who are in difficulty:  the poorest and the most abandoned people, those who have lost hope in a well-grounded sense of their own existence, or who involuntarily become the victims of selfish interests without being asked for their support or their opinion.Making their sufferings our own, let us entrust them all to God, who knows how to bring everything to a good end; to him let us entrust our aspiration that every person's dignity as a child of God be respected. Let us ask the Lord of life to soothe with his grace the sufferings caused by evil, and to continue to fortify our earthy existence by giving us the Bread and Wine of salvation to sustain us on our way towards the Heavenly Homeland.

While we take our leave of the year that is drawing to a close and set out for the new one, the liturgy of this First Vespers ushers us into the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos. Eight days after the birth of Jesus, we will be celebrating the one whom God chose in advance to be the Mother of the Saviour "when the fullness of time had come" (Gal 4: 4). The mother is the one who gives life but also who helps and teaches how to live. Mary is a Mother, the Mother of Jesus, to whom she gave her blood and her body. And it is she who presents to us the eternal Word of the Father, who came to dwell among us. Let us ask Mary to intercede for us. May her motherly protection accompany us today and for ever, so that Christ will one day welcome us into his glory, into the assembly of the Saints:  Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.  Amen!"

Benedetto's Homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday 1 January 2006 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's liturgy our gaze continues to be turned to the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, while with particular emphasis we contemplate the Motherhood of the Virgin Mary. In the Pauline passage we have heard, the Apostle very discreetly points to the One through whom the Son of God enters the world: Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God, Theotokos. At the beginning of a new year, we are invited, as it were, to attend her school, the school of the faithful disciple of the Lord, in order to learn from her to accept in faith and prayer the salvation God desires to pour out upon those who trust in his merciful love.

Salvation is a gift of God; in the first reading, it was presented as a blessing: "The Lord bless you and keep you!... The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!" (Nm 6: 24, 26). This is the blessing that priests used to invoke upon the people at the end of the great liturgical feasts, particularly the feast of the New Year. We are in the presence of a text packed with meaning, punctuated by the Name of the Lord which is repeated at the beginning of every verse. This text is not limited to the mere enunciation of principles but strives to realize what it says. Indeed, as is widely known, in Semitic thought the blessing of the Lord produces well-being and salvation through its own power, just as cursing procures disgrace and ruin. The effectiveness of blessing is later more specifically brought about by God, who protects us, favours us and gives us peace, which is to say in other words, he offers us an abundance of happiness.

By having us listen once again to this ancient blessing at the beginning of a new solar year, the liturgy, as it were, encourages us in turn to invoke the Lord's blessing upon the New Year that is just beginning, so that it may be a year of prosperity and peace for us all. It is precisely this wish that I would like to address to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who are taking part in today's liturgical celebration...

By choosing the theme "In truth, peace" as the Message for the World Day of Peace, I wanted to express the conviction that "whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace." How can we not see in this an effective and appropriate realization of the Gospel just proclaimed, in which we contemplated the scene of the shepherds on their way to Bethlehem to adore the Child? Are not those shepherds, whom the Evangelist Luke describes to us in their poverty and simplicity, obedient to the angel's order and docile to God's will, perhaps the image most easily accessible to each one of us of the person who allows himself to be enlightened by the truth and is thereby enabled to build a world of peace?

Peace! This great, heartfelt aspiration of every man and every woman is built day after day by the contribution of all and by treasuring the wonderful heritage passed down to us by the Second Vatican Council with the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, which says, among other things, that humanity will not succeed in "the establishment of a truly human world for all men over the entire earth, unless everyone devotes himself to the cause of true peace with renewed vigour." The time in history when the Constitution Gaudium et Spes was promulgated, 7 December 1965, was not very different from our time. Then, as unfortunately also in our day and age, tensions of various kinds were looming on the world horizon. In the face of the lasting situations of injustice and violence that continue to oppress various parts of the earth, in the face of those that are emerging as new and more insidious threats to peace - terrorism, nihilism and fanatical fundamentalism - it is becoming more necessary than ever to work together for peace!

A "start" of courage and trust in God and man is necessary if we are to choose the path of peace. And it must be on the part of all: individuals and peoples, international organizations and world powers. In the Message for today's event, I wanted in particular to call the United Nations Organization to a renewed awareness of its responsibilities in encouraging the values of justice, solidarity and peace in a world that is ever more marked by the vast phenomenon of globalization. If peace is the aspiration of every person of good will, for Christ's disciples it is a permanent mandate that involves all; it is a demanding mission that impels them to announce and witness to "the Gospel of Peace", proclaiming that recognition of God's full truth is an indispensable pre-condition for the consolidation of the truth of peace. May this awareness continue to grow so that every Christian community becomes the "leaven" of a humanity renewed by love.

"And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19). The first day of the year is placed under the sign of a woman, Mary. The Evangelist Luke describes her as the silent Virgin who listens constantly to the eternal Word, who lives in the Word of God. Mary treasures in her heart the words that come from God and, piecing them together as in a mosaic, learns to understand them. Let us too, at her school, learn to become attentive and docile disciples of the Lord. With her motherly help, let us commit ourselves to working enthusiastically in the "workshop" of peace, following Christ, the Prince of Peace. After the example of the Blessed Virgin, may we let ourselves be guided always and only by Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever! (Heb 13: 8). Amen."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 39th World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2006 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this first day of the year, the Church fixes her gaze on the heavenly Mother of God, who embraces the Child Jesus, source of every blessing. "Hail, Holy Mother", the liturgy sings, "the Child to whom you gave birth is the King of Heaven and Earth for ever". The Angels' proclamation at Bethlehem resounds in Mary's motherly heart, filling it with wonder: "Glory to God in high heaven, peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests" (Lk 2: 14). And the Gospel adds that Mary "treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart" (Lk 2: 19). Like Mary, the Church also treasures and reflects upon the Word of God, comparing it to the various changing situations she encounters on her way.

Looking at Christ, who came to earth to give us his peace, we celebrate on New Year's Day the "World Day of Peace", begun by Pope Paul VI 38 years ago. In my first Message for this occasion, I wanted to take up once more this year a recurring theme in the Magisterium of my venerable Predecessors, beginning with the memorable Encyclical Pacem in Terris of Bl. John XXIII:  the theme of truth as the foundation of authentic peace. "In truth, peace":  this is the motto that I propose for the reflection of every person of good will. When man allows himself to be enlightened by the splendour of truth, he inwardly becomes a courageous peacemaker. We learn a great lesson from this liturgical season that we are living:  to welcome the gift of peace, we must open ourselves to the truth that is revealed in the person of Jesus, who taught us the "content" and "method" of peace, that is, love. Indeed, God, who is perfect and subsisting Love, has revealed himself in Jesus, embracing our human condition. In this way he has also pointed out to us the way of peace:  dialogue, forgiveness, solidarity. This is the only path that leads to true peace.

Let us turn our gaze to Mary Most Holy, who today blesses the entire world, pointing out her divine Son, the "Prince of Peace" (Is 9: 5). Let us trustfully invoke her powerful intercession so that the human family, opening itself to the evangelical message, may fraternally and peacefully pass the year which begins today. With these sentiments, I address my most heartfelt best wishes of peace and goodness to everyone present here in St Peter's Square, and to those who are joined by way of radio and television."

After the Angelus:

"Esprimo viva riconoscenza al Signor Presidente della Repubblica Italiana, per gli auguri che ha voluto indirizzarmi durante il suo consueto messaggio di fine anno. Li ricambio cordialmente, assicurando per lui e per il popolo italiano il ricordo nella preghiera.

Rivolgo poi uno speciale pensiero a quanti, nelle Diocesi del mondo intero, hanno dato vita a momenti di preghiera e di impegno per la pace. Voglio ricordare, in particolare, la marcia organizzata dalla Conferenza Episcopale Italiana e da Pax Christi, che si è svolta ieri a Trento; come pure quella promossa dalla qui presente Comunità di sant'Egidio in Roma e in numerose città del mondo per l'odierna giornata; ne saluto i partecipanti qui convenuti. Grazie per questo gesto.

Chers pèlerins francophones, je vous adresse mes vœux cordiaux en ce premier jour de l’année. Qu’en ce dimanche, vous puissiez, avec l’aide de Marie, contempler le mystère du Christ, qui s’est fait homme pour notre salut, nous découvrant ainsi le sens de toute notre existence. Je confie toutes les familles, en particulier les enfants, à la tendresse de Notre-Dame.

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus, and in particular the many Pueri Cantores, whom I thank for their beautiful singing at this morning’s Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. I wish all of you a New Year full of the joy and consolation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Through the intercession of his Blessed Mother, Mary, may Christians everywhere have the courage to be promoters of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace!

Einen frohen Neujahrsgruß richte ich an alle Brüder und Schwestern deutscher Sprache. Besonders grüße ich die Pueri Cantores, die heute morgen die Eucharistiefeier im Petersdom mit ihrem Gesang verschönert haben. Am ersten Tag des Jahres blicken wir in gläubiger Hoffnung auf die Gottesmutter Maria. Ihrer Fürsprache wollen wir uns stets anvertrauen. - Von ganzem Herzen erbitte ich euch den Segen Gottes und seinen Frieden für das Neue Jahr.

Saludo cordialmente a los fieles de lengua española que participan en la oración del Ángelus, en este domingo en que se celebra la solemnidad de Santa María Madre de Dios y también la Jornada Mundial de la Paz. Que el amor a la Virgen María nos ayude a seguir mejor a Jesús que, con su Encarnación, ha traído la paz para todo el mundo. Con gran afecto deseo a todos un feliz Año Nuevo.

Aos peregrinos de língua portuguesa faço votos de Boas Festas, e um Ano Novo sereno e feliz na Paz do Senhor e de Maria Santíssima. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Wszystkich Polaków polecam opiece Maryi, Królowej Pokoju i życzę szczęśliwego nowego roku. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in modo particolare i giovani dell'Opera Don Orione, gli aderenti al Movimento dell'Amore Familiare, gli Amici della Fraterna Domus e il corteo dei Magi diretto a Giulianello di Cori per venerare l'antico Bambinello.

Infine, so che siamo collegati con Rovereto, nel Trentino, dove si trova una grande Campana realizzata ottant'anni or sono in onore dei caduti di tutte le guerre, e che porta il nome di "Maria Dolens", "Maria Addolorata". Tra poco sentiremo risuonare, anche qui, i rintocchi di quella campana. Possano essere auspicio di pace e di fraternità tra i popoli! Buon anno a tutti! Molte grazie!"


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