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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2010

New Year 2010 & 43rd World Day of Peace
Theme: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
31 December 2009 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of a year full of events for both the Church and the world we are meeting this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and to raise a hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord of time and history.

It is first of all the words of the Apostle Paul that we have just heard which shed a special light on the conclusion of the year: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman... so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4, 4-5).

The concentrated Pauline passage speaks to us of "time... fully come", and enlightens us as to the content of these words. In the history of the human family, God wanted to introduce his eternal Word, making him take on a humanity like our own. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was opened to absolute fulfilment in God. Time was, so to speak, "touched" by Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, and received from him new and surprising significance: it became a time of salvation and grace. In this same perspective, we must consider the time of the year that is ending and of that which is beginning so that we may put the most different events of our life, important or small, simple or undecipherable, joyful or sad, under the sign of salvation and hear the call God is addressing to us in order to lead us toward a goal that lies beyond time itself: eternity.

The Pauline text also means to underline the mystery of God's closeness to all humanity. It is the closeness proper to the mystery of Christmas: God makes himself man and man is given the unheard-of possibility to be a son of God. All this fills us with great joy and leads us to offer praise to God. We are called to say with our voices, our hearts and our lives "thank you" to God for the gift of the Son, the source and fulfilment of all the other gifts with which divine love fills the existence of each one of us, of families, of communities, of the Church and of the world. The hymn of the Te Deum which today rings out in churches in every corner of the earth is intended as a sign of the joyful gratitude with which we address God for all that He has offered us in Christ. Truly "from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace" (Jn 1, 16).

In keeping with a happy custom, this evening I would like to thank the Lord with you in particular for the superabundance of graces he has lavished upon our diocesan community of Rome in the course of the year that is coming to a close. I would like first of all to address a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the auxiliary bishops, to the priests, to the consecrated people, as well as to the many lay faithful who are gathered here. I likewise greet the Mayor and authorities present with respectful cordiality. I then extend my thoughts to all who live in our city, particularly those who are in situations of difficulty and hardship: I assure to each and every one my spiritual closeness, strengthened by constant remembrance in prayer.

As regards the progress of the Diocese of Rome, I renew my appreciation of the pastoral decision to dedicate time to review the ground covered in order to increase the sense of belonging to the Church and to foster pastoral co-responsibility. To emphasize the importance of this reappraisal, I too wished to make my own contribution by addressing the Diocesan Convention at St John Lateran, in the afternoon of last 26 May. I rejoice because the diocesan programme is proceeding positively, with a far-reaching apostolic action. It is being carried out in the parishes, the prefectures and the various ecclesial associations in two essential contexts for the life and mission of the Church: the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and the witness of charity. I would like to encourage the faithful to participate in large numbers in the assemblies that will be held in the various parishes so as to make an effective contribution to building up the Church. Today too, the Lord wants to make his love for humanity known to the inhabitants of Rome and entrusts to each one, in the diversity of ministries and responsibilities, the mission of proclaiming his word of truth and of witnessing to charity and solidarity.

Only by contemplating the mystery of the Incarnate Word can man find the answer to the great questions of human existence and thus discover the truth of his own identity. For this reason the Church, throughout the world and also here in the City, is working to promote the integral development of the human person. I was therefore pleased to learn that a series of "cultural meetings in the Cathedral" have been planned, whose theme will be my recent Encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

For some years many families, numerous teachers and parish communities have been dedicated to helping young people build their future on firm foundations, especially on the rock that is Jesus Christ. I hope that this renewed educational commitment may increasingly achieve a fertile synergy between the ecclesial community and the City so as to help young people plan their own lives. I likewise express the wish that a precious contribution in this important area may come from the Convention promoted by the Vicariate that will be held next March.

So as to be authoritative witnesses of the truth of man prayerful listening to the word of God is necessary. In this regard, I would like above all to recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina. The parishes and the various ecclesial realities, also thanks to the booklet prepared by the Vicariate, will be able to promote this ancient practice and put it to good use so that it becomes an essential part of ordinary pastoral care.

The word, believed, proclaimed and lived, impels us to acts of solidarity and sharing. In praising the Lord for the help that the Christian communities have been able to offer generously to all who have knocked at their door, I would like to encourage all to persevere in their commitment to alleviating the difficulties besetting many families, sorely tried by the economic crisis and unemployment. May the Nativity of the Lord which reminds us of how God came to save us of his own free will, taking on our humanity and giving us his divine life, help every person of good will to understand that it is only by opening oneself to God's love that human action is changed and transformed, becoming the leaven of a better future for all.

Dear brothers and sisters, Rome needs priests who are courageous heralds of the Gospel and, at the same time, reveal the merciful face of the Father. I invite young people not to be afraid to respond with the complete gift of their lives to the call that the Lord addresses to them to follow him on the path of priesthood or of consecrated life.

I hope, from this moment, that the meeting next 25 March, the 25th anniversary of the institution of the World Youth Day and the 10th anniversary of the unforgettable Day at Tor Vergata, may be for all the parish and religious communities, and for the movements and associations, a strong moment of reflection and invocation, to obtain from the Lord the gift of numerous vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

As we take our leave of the year that is ending and set out towards the new one, today's Liturgy ushers us into the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. The Blessed Virgin is Mother of the Church and Mother of each one of her members, that is, Mother of each of us, in Christ. Let us ask her to accompany us with her caring protection, today and for ever, so that Christ may one day welcome us into his glory, into the assembly of the Saints: Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari. Alleluia! Amen!"

Benedetto XVI's Homily at Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Friday 1 January 2010 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Venerable Brothers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the first day of the New Year we have the joy and the grace of celebrating the Most Holy Mother of God and, at the same time, the World Day of Peace. In both these events we are celebrating Christ, Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and our true peace! To all of you who are gathered here: representatives of the world's peoples, of the Roman and universal Church, priests and faithful; and to all who are connected via radio and television, I repeat the words of the ancient Blessing: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nm 6, 26). It is
precisely the theme of the Face and of faces that I would like to develop today, in the light of the Word of God - the Face of God and human faces - a theme that also gives us a key to the interpretation of the problem of peace in the world.

We heard in both the first reading from the Book of Numbers and in the responsorial psalm, several expressions with reference to God that contain the metaphor of the face: "The Lord make his face to shine upon you, / and be gracious to you" (Nm 6, 25). "May God be gracious to us and bless us /and make his face to shine upon us / that your way may be known upon earth, / your saving power among all nations" (Ps 67[66], 1-3). The face is the expression of the person par excellence, it is what makes her recognizable and from it transpire sentiments, thoughts and heartfelt intentions. God by his nature is invisible, yet the Bible applies this image to Him as well. Showing his face is an expression of his benevolence, whereas hiding it indicates his anger and indignation. The Book of Exodus says that "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex 33, 11), and again it was to Moses that the Lord promised his closeness with a very unusual formula: "my presence [face] will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Ex 33, 14). The Psalms show believers to us as those who seek God's Face, and who, in worship, long to see him (Ps 42[41], 3) and tell us that "the upright" shall "behold his face" (Ps 11[10], 7).

One may interpret the whole biblical narrative as the gradual revelation of the Face of God, until it reaches his full manifestation in Jesus Christ. "When the fullnes of time came", the Apostle Paul has reminded us today too, "God sent forth his Son", (Gal 4, 4), immediately adding, "born of woman, born under the law". God's Face took on a human face, letting itself be seen and recognized in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who for this reason we venerate with the loftiest title of "Mother of God". She, who had preserved in her heart the secret of the divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb. The Mother had a very special, unique and, in a certain way, exclusive relationship with the newborn Son. The first face a child sees is that of his mother and this gaze is crucial for his relationship with life, with himself, with others and with God; it is also crucial if he is to become a "son of peace" (Lk 10, 6). Among the many typologies of icons of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition is the one called "of tenderness" that portrays the Child Jesus with his face resting, cheek to cheek, against his Mother's. The Child gazes at the Mother and she is looking at us, almost as if to mirror for those who are observing and praying the tenderness of God who came down to her from Heaven and was incarnate in the Son of man, whom she holds in her arms. We can contemplate in this Marian image something of God himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled him "to give his Only Son". But that same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects Christ's light upon us and upon the whole world, the Church through which the Good News reaches every person: "You are no longer a slave but a son" (Gal 4, 7), as once again we read in St Paul.

Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood, Mr Ambassadors, dear friends, meditating on the mystery of the Face of God and on the human face is a privileged path that leads to peace. It starts, in fact, with a respectful look that recognizes a person in the face of the other, whatever the colour of his skin, whatever his nationality, language or religion. But who, other than God, can guarantee, so to speak, the "depth" of the human face? In fact, only if we have God in our hearts are we able to perceive in the face of the other a brother in humanity, not a means but an end, not a rival or enemy but another self, another facet of the infinite mystery of the human being. Our perception of the world and, in particular, of our fellows depends essentially on the presence within us of God's Spirit. It is a sort of "resonance": those whose hearts are empty only perceive flat images lacking in depth. On the other hand, the more we are inhabited by God the more we are sensitive to his presence in our surroundings: in all creatures and especially in other human beings, although the human face, in turn marked by the trials of life and by evil, may be difficult to appreciate and accept as an epiphany of God. With all the more reason then to recognize and respect each other as we really are, in other words as brothers and sisters, we need to refer to the Face of a common Father who loves us all despite our limitations and failings.

It is important to be taught respect for others, even when they are different to us, from an early age. Increasingly today classes in schools consist of children of various nationalities but even when this is not the case their faces are a prophecy of the humanity we are called to form: a family of families and peoples. The smaller these children are, the more they awaken in us tenderness and joy at an innocence and brotherhood that seem obvious to us despite their differences, they cry and laugh in the same way, they have the same needs, they communicate spontaneously, they play together... Children's faces are like a reflection of God's gaze on the world. So why extinguish their smiles? Why poison their hearts? Unfortunately the icon of the Mother of the God of Tenderness finds its tragic opposite in the sorrowful images of so many children and their mothers at the mercy of war and violence, refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants. Faces hollowed by hunger and disease, faces disfigured by suffering and desperation and the faces of little innocents are a silent appeal to our responsibility: before their helpless plight, all the false justifications of war and violence fall away. We must simply convert to projects of peace, lay down every kind of weapon and strive all together to build a world more worthy of man.

My Message for today's 43rd World Day of Peace, "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation", fits within the perspective of God's Face and of human faces. Indeed, we can say that man is capable of respecting creatures insofar as he bears in his mind a full sense of life, otherwise he will be inclined to despise himself and all that surrounds him, to have no respect for the environment in which he lives and no respect for Creation. Those who can recognize in the cosmos the reflections of the Creator's invisible face, tend to have greater love for creatures and greater sensitivity to their symbolic value. The Book of Psalms is especially rich in testimonies of this truly human way of relating to nature: to the sky, the sea, mountains, hills, rivers, animals.... "O Lord, how manifold are your works!", the Psalmist explains: "In wisdom have you made them all; / the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps 104[103], 24).

The perspective of the "face" in particular invites us to reflect on what, also in this Message, I have called "human ecology". In fact there is a very close connection between respect for man and the safeguard of creation. "Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others" (n 12). If the person becomes degenerate the environment in which he lives deteriorates; if culture is inclined to nihilism if not theoretical, practical, nature cannot but pay the consequences. In fact, it is possible to note a reciprocal influence between the human face and the "face" of the environment: "when "human ecology' is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits" (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, n 51). I therefore renew my appeal to invest in education, proposing as an objective, in addition to the necessary transmission of technical and scientific notions, a broader and deeper "ecological responsibility", based on respect for human beings and their fundamental rights and duties. Only in this way can the commitment to the environment truly become an education in peace and in building peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, a Psalm recurs in the Christmas season that contains, amongst other things, a wonderful example of how God's coming will transfigure the creation and give rise to a sort of cosmic celebration. This hymn begins with an invitation to all peoples to praise: "Sing to the Lord a new song; / sing to the Lord, all the earth! / Sing to the Lord, bless his Name" (Ps 96[95]: 1). Yet at a certain point this appeal for exultation is extended to the whole of creation: "Let the Heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; / let the sea roar, and all that fills it; / let the field exalt, and everything in it! / Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy." The celebration of faith becomes a celebration of man and of creation: that celebration which is also expressed at Christmas in decorations on trees, in streets and in houses. Everything flourishes anew because God has appeared in our midst. The Virgin Mother shows the Infant Jesus to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who rejoice and praise the Lord. The Church renews the mystery for people of every generation, she shows them God's Face so that, with his blessing, they may walk on the path of peace."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus on 43rd World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2010 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Lord grants us to begin a new year in his Name and under the gaze of Mary Most Holy, the Solemnity of whose Divine Motherhood we celebrate today. I am glad to meet you for this first Angelus of 2010. I address those of you who have gathered in large numbers in St Peter's Square and also those who have joined us in our prayer via radio and television. I wish for you all that the year which has just begun may be a time in which, with the Lord's help, we may satisfy Christ and God's will, and thus also improve this world of ours.

One objective that may be shared by everyone, an indispensable condition for peace, is the administration of the earth's natural resources fairly and wisely. "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation", is the timely theme to which I have dedicated my Message for today's 43rd World Day of Peace. When the Message was published, the Heads of State and Government were meeting in Copenhagen for the Summit on the climate at which, once again, the urgent need for concerted approaches at the global level became apparent. At this moment, however, I would like to stress the importance that the decisions of individuals, families and local administrations also have in the preservation of the environment. "We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles" (cf Message, n 11). In fact we are all responsible for the protection and care of creation. Therefore in this field too education is fundamental; to learn to respect nature, to be increasingly disposed; to begin building peace "with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states" (ibid).

If we must care for the creatures that surround us, what consideration we should have for people, our brothers and sisters! What respect for human life! On the first day of the year I would like to address an appeal to the consciences of all who belong to armed groups of any kind. I say to each and every one: stop, think and abandon the path of violence! At the moment this step might seem impossible to you; but if you have the courage to take it, God will assist you and you will feel returning to your hearts the joy of peace which perhaps you have forgotten for some time. I entrust this appeal to the intercession of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God. The Liturgy today reminds us that eight days after the birth of the Child, together with Joseph her husband, she had him circumcised in accordance with Mosaic law and called him Jesus, the name given to him by the Angel (cf Lk 2, 21). This name, which means "God saves", is the fulfilment of God's revelation. Jesus is the Face of God, He is the blessing for every man and for all peoples, He is peace for the world. Thank you, Blessed Mother, who gave birth to the Saviour, the Prince of Peace!"

After the Angelus:

"In questi giorni ho ricevuto numerosi messaggi augurali: ringrazio tutti con affetto, soprattutto per il dono della preghiera. Uno speciale augurio desidero indirizzare al Signor Presidente della Repubblica Italiana. A lui, alle altre Autorità dello Stato e all’intero popolo italiano formulo ogni miglior auspicio per l’anno appena iniziato.

Nell’odierna Giornata Mondiale della Pace, rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai partecipanti alla marcia intitolata “Pace in tutte le terre”, promossa dalla Comunità di Sant’Egidio a Roma e in molti altri Paesi del mondo. Estendo l’espressione della mia spirituale vicinanza alle molteplici iniziative per la pace organizzate dalle Chiese particolari, dalle associazioni e dai movimenti ecclesiali; penso, in modo speciale, a quella a carattere nazionale svoltasi ieri a Terni e a L’Aquila.

En ce premier jour de l’an nouveau, je suis heureux de saluer les francophones présents ici sur la place Saint-Pierre ou qui nous rejoignent par la radio ou la télévision. Aujourd’hui, nous célébrons la Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu. Femme bénie entre toutes les femmes, en accueillant en elle le Fils unique, elle nous a permis de découvrir le visage d’amour de notre Dieu. En cette Journée mondiale de prière pour la Paix, que Marie, Mère de Dieu, soit aussi pour tous les hommes la Mère qui les guide sur les chemins de la réconciliation et de la fraternité! Bonne et sainte année à tous!

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus prayer and I wish you all a blessed New Year filled with abundant joy and consolation in Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! On this World Day of Peace I pray that Christians everywhere, through the intercession of Mary the Mother of God, may be careful stewards of nature and diligent promoters of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace!

Mit Freude heiße ich an diesem Neujahrstag alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache willkommen. Besonders grüße ich die Sternsinger aus dem Erzbistum Köln, die in diesen Tagen die Botschaft der Geburt Christi von Haus zu Haus tragen. Die Sternsinger zeigen uns mit ihrem Tun etwas ganz Wichtiges: Der Glaube will nämlich ausgesprochen und weitergesagt werden. Nur so bleibt er lebendig! Wir wollen unseren Glauben überall verkünden und bezeugen, das wollen wir uns in diesem neuen Jahr als Vorsatz zu Herzen nehmen. Euch und euren Familien wünsche ich ein friedvolles und glückliches Neues Jahr!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española presentes en esta oración mariana, en el día en que la Iglesia celebra la solemnidad de Santa María, Madre de Dios, y a quienes se unen a ella a través de la radio y la televisión. Al inicio del año, os invito a todos a poner con total confianza todos vuestros proyectos e intenciones en las manos providentes de Dios, para que sea Él el que guíe nuestros pasos cada día y acreciente en nosotros la fe, esperanza y caridad. Feliz Año Nuevo.

A todos os povos e nações de língua portuguesa - nominalmente aos peregrinos vindos de Angola - 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!

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

Saluto infine con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare gli aderenti al Movimento dell’Amore Familiare e i giovani amici dell’Opera Don Orione, che stanotte hanno vegliato in Piazza San Pietro pregando per l’unità e la pace nelle famiglie e tra le nazioni. Un saluto va anche agli amici e volontari della Fraterna Domus. A tutti auguro di custodire nel cuore, ogni giorno del nuovo anno, la pace che Cristo ci ha donato. Buon anno!"