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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2006

Pope Benedict XVI's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Friday 8 December 2006 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we celebrate one of the most beautiful and popular feasts of the Blessed Virgin: the Immaculate Conception. Not only did Mary commit no sin, but she was also preserved from original sin, the common legacy of the human race. This is due to the mission for which God had destined her from eternity: to be the Mother of the Redeemer. All this is contained in the truth of faith of the "Immaculate Conception".

The biblical foundation of this Dogma is found in the words the Angel addressed to the young girl of Nazareth: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!" (Lk 1: 28). "Full of grace" - in the original Greek, kecharitoméne - is Mary's most beautiful name, the name God himself gave to her to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus: "the incarnate love of God" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 12). We might ask: why exactly did God choose from among all women Mary of Nazareth? The answer is hidden in the unfathomable mystery of the divine will.

There is one reason, however, which is highlighted in the Gospel: her humility. Dante Alighieri clearly emphasizes this in the last Hymn of Paradise: "Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, lowly and exalted more than any creature, the fixed goal of eternal counsel..." (Paradise, XXXIII, 1-3). In the Magnificat, her canticle of praise, the Virgin herself says: "My soul magnifies the Lord... because he looked upon his servant in her lowliness" (Lk 1: 46, 48).

Yes, God was attracted by the humility of Mary, who found favour in his eyes (cf. Lk 1: 30). She thus became the Mother of God, the image and model of the Church, chosen among the peoples to receive the Lord's blessing and communicate it to the entire human family.

This "blessing" is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the Source of the grace which filled Mary from the very first moment of her existence. She welcomed Jesus with faith and gave him to the world with love. This is also our vocation and our mission, the vocation and mission of the Church: to welcome Christ into our lives and give him to the world, so "that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3: 17).

Dear brothers and sisters, may today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception illuminate like a beacon the Advent Season, which is a time of vigilant and confident waiting for the Saviour. While we advance towards God who comes, let us look at Mary, who "shines forth..., a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen Gentium, n. 68).

With this awareness, I invite you to join me in Piazza di Spagna this afternoon, when I will renew the traditional act of homage to this sweet Mother by grace and of grace. Let us now turn to her, addressing her with the prayer that recalls the Angel's announcement."

After the Angelus:

"I am pleased to greet the members of the Pontifical Academy of Mary Immaculate, led by their President, Cardinal Andrea Maria Deskur. I assure them of my prayers and express my best wishes for the Academy's activities and for its praiseworthy service.

In questa festa, tradizionalmente dedicata dall’Azione Cattolica Italiana al rinnovo dell’adesione, rivolgo un cordiale saluto alla Presidenza Nazionale e agli educatori dell’Azione Cattolica Ragazzi, riuniti a Roma per il convegno annuale, e lo estendo a tutte le associazioni diocesane e parrocchiali d’Italia. Incoraggio l’Azione Cattolica a sviluppare sempre più l’impegno formativo, affinché i suoi soci crescano in santità di vita e comunione ecclesiale e siano testimoni credibili di Gesù risorto, speranza dell’umanità. La Vergine Immacolata benedica l’Azione Cattolica e la sostenga nel generoso proposito di servire la Chiesa e la sua missione evangelizzatrice.

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française présents pour la prière de l’Angelus. Puissiez-vous, en ce jour où l’Église célèbre l’Immaculée Conception de la Vierge Marie, accueillir comme elle la grâce de Dieu, dans la docilité à la Parole du Seigneur, pour grandir en sainteté et pour annoncer par toute votre vie les merveilles de Dieu. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique!

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. Today the Church celebrates the Immaculate Conception of our Lord’s Mother, Mary. She who was conceived without sin is a constant reminder of God’s covenant with his chosen people, a promise that is fulfilled in our Saviour Jesus Christ. May Christians everywhere, following the example of Mary, allow the gift of grace to bear fruit in a life of holiness. I wish you a happy feast day and a pleasant stay in Rome.

Sehr herzlich grüße ich alle Pilger deutscher Sprache. „Ganz schön bist du, Jungfrau Maria", singt und betet die Kirche am heutigen Festtag. In Maria erstrahlt uns die Schönheit der Schöpfung. Denn Gott hat sie zur Mutter seines Sohnes erwählt und im Hinblick auf dessen Erlösungsopfer vor jeder Sünde bewahrt. Auf ihre Fürsprache hin schenke der Herr auch uns die Gnade, Ihm mit einem reinen Herzen zu dienen. Gerne begleite ich euch alle mit meinem Segen.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana. En la solemnidad de la Inmaculada Concepción contemplamos a la Madre de Dios, llena de gracia y hermosura, y le pedimos que nos ayude a vivir cada día completamente entregados al servicio de nuestros hermanos. ¡Feliz fiesta de la Inmaculada!

Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. W adwentowym czasie towarzyszy nam Maryja niepokalanie poczęta, oczekująca narodzin Bożego Syna. Jej opiece zawierzam cały Kościół i proszę, aby budziła w nas tęsknotę za przychodzącym Zbawicielem. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

I wish you a happy feast day and a pleasant stay in Rome!"

Papa Benedetto's Prayer to Mary Immaculate
Piazza di Spagna, 8th December 2006 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"O Mary, Immaculate Virgin,
Again this year, with filial love, we meet at the foot of your image to renew to you the homage of the Christian community and of the city of Rome. Let us pause in prayer here, following the tradition inaugurated by previous Popes, on the solemn day in which the liturgy celebrates your Immaculate Conception, a mystery that is a source of joy and hope for all the redeemed.

We greet you and call upon you with the Angel's words: "full of grace" (Lk 1: 28), the most beautiful name that God himself has called you from eternity.

"Full of grace" are you, Mary, full of divine love from the very first moment of your existence, providentially predestined to be Mother of the Redeemer and intimately connected to him in the mystery of salvation.

In your Immaculate Conception shines forth the vocation of Christ's disciples, called to become, with his grace, saints and immaculate through love (cf. Eph 1: 4). In you shines the dignity of every human being who is always precious in the Creator's eyes.

Those who look to you, All Holy Mother, never lose their serenity, no matter what the hardships of life.

Although the experience of sin is a sad one since it disfigures the dignity of God's children, anyone who turns to you discovers the beauty of truth and love and finds the path that leads to the Father's house.

"Full of grace", are you, Mary, which, welcoming with your "yes" to the Creator's plan, opened to us the path of salvation. Teach us also at your school to say our "yes" to the Lord's will. Let it be a "yes" that joins with your own "yes", without reservations or shadows, a "yes" that the Heavenly Father willed to have need of in order to beget the new Man, Christ, the one Saviour of the world and of history.

Give us the courage to say "no" to the deceptions of power, money, pleasure; to dishonest earnings, corruption and hypocrisy, to selfishness and violence; "no" to the Evil One, the deceitful prince of this world; to say "yes" to Christ, who destroys the power of evil with the omnipotence of love. We know that only hearts converted to Love, which is God, can build a better future for all.

"Full of grace", are you, Mary! For all generations your name is a pledge of sure hope. Yes! Because as the great poet, Dante, wrote, for us mortals you are "a source of living hope" (Paradise, XXXIII, 12). Let us come once again as trusting pilgrims to draw faith and comfort, joy and love, safety and peace from this source, the wellspring of your Immaculate Heart.

Virgin "full of grace", show yourself to be a tender and caring Mother to those who live in this city of yours, so that the true Gospel spirit may enliven and guide their conduct; show yourself as Mother and watchful keeper of Italy and Europe, so that people may draw from their ancient Christian roots fresh vigour to build their present and their future; show yourself as a provident and merciful Mother to the whole world so that, by respecting human dignity and rejecting every form of violence and exploitation, sound foundations may be laid for the civilization of love.

Show yourself as Mother, especially to those most in need: the defenceless, the marginalized and outcasts, to the victims of a society that all too often sacrifices the human person for other ends and interests.

Show yourself, O Mary, as Mother of all, and give us Christ, the Hope of the world! "Monstra Te esse Matrem", O Virgin Immaculate, full of grace! Amen!"