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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Monday 8 December 2008 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which we are solemnly celebrating today, reminds us of two fundamental truths of our faith: original sin first of all, and then the victory over it through Christ's grace, a victory that shines in a sublime way in Mary Most Holy. The existence of what the Church calls "original sin" is unfortunately glaringly obvious, if we merely look around us and first of all within ourselves. The experience of evil is in fact so consistent that it imposes itself and raises in us the question: where does it come from? Especially for a believer, this question is even more profound: if God, who is absolute Goodness, created all things, where does evil come from? The first pages of the Bible (Gn 1-3) respond precisely to this fundamental question which challenges every human generation with the narrative of Creation and of the fall of our first parents: God created all things so that they might exist and in particular he created the human being in his own image; he did not make death but death entered the world through the envy of the devil (cf. Wis 1: 13-14; 2: 23-24) who, rebelling against God, deceived men and women and induced them to rebel as well. This is the drama of the freedom which God accepts to the very end for love, but promises that a woman's son will crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gn 3: 15).

From the very beginning, therefore the "Eternal Design" as Dante would say, has a "fixed goal" (Paradise, XXXIII, 3): the Woman predestined to become Mother of the Redeemer, Mother of the One who humbled himself unto death to restore us to our original dignity. In God's eyes, this woman has always had a face and a name: "full of grace" (Lk 1: 28), as the Angel addressed her when he visited her at Nazareth. She is the new Eve, the Bride of the new Adam, destined to be Mother of all the redeemed. This is what St Andrew of Crete wrote: "The Theotokos, Mary, the common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be liberated from the primitive fall of our first parents" (cf. Homily IV on the Nativity, PG 97, 880 A). And today's liturgy says that God "prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of his Son... and kept her sinless from the first moment of her being ... to let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death" (cf. Opening Prayer for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception).

Dear friends, in Mary Immaculate we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty that saves the world: the beauty of God resplendent on the Face of Christ. In Mary this beauty is totally pure, humble, free from all pride and presumption. Thus the Virgin showed herself to St Bernadette, 150 years ago, in Lourdes, and thus she is venerated at numerous shrines. This afternoon, in accordance with the tradition, I too will pay homage to her at the monument dedicated to her in the square near the Spanish Steps. Let us invoke the Immaculate Virgin confidently, repeating with the Angelus the words of the Gospel that today's liturgy proposes for our meditation."

After the Angelus:

"I am pleased to greet the Pontifical Academy of Mary Immaculate and its President, Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur. Dear friends, 20 years after the approval of the Academy's new Statutes, I invoke the Blessed Virgin so that she may always watch over you and your activities.

Je suis heureux de vous saluer chers francophones présents pour la prière de l’Angélus, ici à Rome ou par la radio et la télévision. En la fête de l’Immaculée Conception de la Vierge Marie, nous sommes en union avec les pèlerins rassemblés dans les sanctuaires mariaux, et tout spécialement à Lourdes pour la clôture de l’Année Jubilaire des Apparitions, mais également avec les fidèles réunis à Ars pour l’ouverture de l’Année Jubilaire du cent cinquantième anniversaire de la mort de saint Jean-Marie Vianney. Que Notre-Dame de l’Avent, nous aide à dire oui au Seigneur qui saura combler notre vie ! Nous pourrons, ainsi, vivre à son exemple dans la confiance. Avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are present today. The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an occasion for us all to rejoice in the radiant purity of the Mother of our Redeemer. She was chosen from among all women to be our pattern of holiness, a sign of favour to the Church at its beginning and the promise of its perfection as the spotless bride of Christ. May God bless you, your families and all those you love.

Herzlich grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Brüder und Schwestern am Hochfest der Unbefleckten Empfängnis Mariens. Das Vorrecht Marias, vor jeder Sünde bewahrt zu sein, ist ein Geschenk der unbedingten Güte Gottes. Zugleich sehen wir an Maria, daß Gott die Mitwirkung des Menschen erwartet. Je bereitwilliger wir zu Gottes Heilsplan ja sagen, desto mehr können wir unserer Berufung als getaufte Christen gerecht werden; denn wir alle sind in Christus dazu erwählt, heilig und untadelig vor Gott zu leben, zum Lob seiner herrlichen Gnade. Euch allen wünsche ich einen gesegneten Festtag!

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española en esta solemnidad de la Inmaculada Concepción, tan hondamente arraigada en España y en los países latinoamericanos. Confío a la Santísima Virgen María, la llena de gracia, los gozos y las preocupaciones de todos los discípulos de su divino Hijo, para que, acogiendo la Palabra de Dios con un corazón generoso y humilde, la pongan en práctica con constancia y sean fieles testigos y misioneros de Jesucristo en todos los ámbitos de la vida. Muchas gracias.

Serdecznie pozdrawiam Polaków. Dziś wielbimy Boga, który zachował Maryję od zmazy grzechu pierworodnego i uświęcił łaską, aby Ją przygotować na godną Matkę swego Syna (por. Prefacja). Ona pierwsza dostąpiła tego daru, który wszyscy otrzymaliśmy przez Chrzest. Niech nas wspomaga przykład i opieka Niepokalanej, abyśmy wolni od grzechu żyli w łasce świętości. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Rivolgo un saluto a tutti i soci dell’Azione Cattolica Italiana, che in questa ricorrenza rinnovano l’adesione all’associazione. Sostenuti dalla materna protezione di Maria Santissima, possano esprimere al meglio il loro servizio ecclesiale e specialmente l’impegno educativo, per il quale l’Azione Cattolica può contare su una lunga e consolidata tradizione. Saluto inoltre le famiglie del Movimento "Tra Noi". Buona festa a tutti!"

Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer to Mary Immaculate
Piazza di Spagna, 8th December 2008 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
About three months ago I had the joy of going on pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the historical apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette. The celebration of this unique anniversary ends precisely today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because in showing herself to Bernadette for the last time in the Grotto of Massabielle, the "beautiful Lady", as Bernadette called her, revealed her name, saying "I am the Immaculate Conception". She said this in the local dialect and the little visionary related the phrase, to her unknown and incomprehensible, to her parish priest.

"Immaculate Conception": we too repeat that mysterious name with feeling, here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and countless brothers and sisters of ours are doing the same in thousands of other places in the world, at shrines and in chapels as well as in Christian homes. Today, wherever a Catholic community exists, Our Lady is venerated in it with this stupendous and marvellous name: the Immaculate Conception. Of course, the conviction that Mary's conception was immaculate had already existed for centuries before the apparitions in Lourdes, but which came as a heavenly seal after my venerable Predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, defined the Dogma on 8 December 1854. On today's feast, so dear to Christian people, this expression rises from hearts and is pronounced by lips as our heavenly Mother's name. Just as a child raises his eyes to his mother's face and on seeing her smile forgets every fear and every pain, so do we, turning our eyes to Mary, recognize in her "God's smile", the immaculate reflection of divine light; in her we find new hope even in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.

It is a tradition that the Pope joins with the homage of the City, bringing Mary a basket of roses. These flowers express our love and devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome and of the inhabitants of this City, who feel they are spiritual children of the Virgin Mary. Roses, symbolically, can express everything beautiful and good that we have done during the year because at this traditional encounter we all desire to offer everything to our Mother, convinced that we could not have done anything without her protection and without the graces that daily she obtains for us from God. Yet, as the saying goes, there is no rose without a thorn, and on the stems of these magnificent white roses too there is no lack of thorns that represent for us difficulty and suffering, the troubles that have marked and still mark people's lives and the life of our community. Joys are presented to our Mother but anxieties are also entrusted to her, since the faithful are confident that they will find comfort and support in her to go forward, so as not to be disheartened.

O Immaculate Virgin, at this moment I would especially like to entrust to you the "little ones" of our City: the children, first of all, and above all those who are seriously ill, children who are disabled and those who are suffering the consequences of oppressive family situations. Watch over them and grant that they may feel the warmth of God's love in the affection and help of those who are beside them! To you, O Mary, I entrust the lonely elderly, the sick, immigrants who find it hard to adjust, families that find it difficult to make ends meet and people who cannot find employment or who have lost a job indispensable for their survival. Teach us, Mary, to show solidarity with those in difficulty, to fill the ever increasing social gaps. Help us to foster a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for public property, and spur us to view the city and more than ever our City of Rome as the patrimony of all, making each one of us do our part, to build a more just and supportive society with awareness and commitment.

O Immaculate Mother, who are a sign of certain hope and comfort to everyone, help us to let ourselves be attracted by your immaculate purity. Your beauty Tota Pulchra, as we sing today assures us that the victory of love is possible; indeed, that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and that redemption from any form of slavery is therefore possible. Yes, O Mary, help us to believe with greater trust in good, to wager on giving freely, on service, on non-violence, on the power of the truth. Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation of easy evasions, to face reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. This is what you did, a young woman called to stake everything on the Word of the Lord. May you be a loving mother for our young people, so that they may have the courage to be "watchmen of the dawn", and give this virtue to all Christians so that they may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history. Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!