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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2009

Pope Benedict XVI's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Tuesday 8 December 2009 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On 8 December we celebrate one of the most beautiful Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. But what does Mary being "Immaculate" mean? And what does this title tell us? First of all let us refer to the biblical texts of today's Liturgy, especially the great "fresco" of the third chapter of the Book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel according to Luke. After the original sin, God addresses the serpent, which represents Satan, curses it and adds a promise: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gn 3: 15). It is the announcement of revenge: at the dawn of the Creation, Satan seems to have the upper hand, but the son of a woman is to crush his head. Thus, through the descendence of a woman, God himself will triumph. Goodness will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary of whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice, defeated the ancient tempter once and for all. This is why in so many paintings and statues of the Virgin Immaculate she is portrayed in the act of crushing a serpent with her foot.

Luke the Evangelist, on the other hand, shows the Virgin Mary receiving the Annunciation of the heavenly Messenger (cf. Lk 1: 26-38). She appears us the humble, authentic daughter of Israel, the true Zion in which God wishes to take up his abode. She is the shoot from which the Messiah, the just and merciful King, is to spring. In the simplicity of the house of Nazareth dwells the pure "remnant" of Israel from which God wants his People to be reborn, like a new tree that will spread its branches throughout the world, offering to all humanity the good fruit of salvation. Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary stays obedient to the Lord's will, with her whole being she speaks her "yes" and makes herself entirely available to the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true "mother of all the living", namely, those who, because of their faith in Christ, receive eternal life.

Dear friends, what an immense joy to have Mary Immaculate as our Mother! Every time we experience our frailty and the promptings of evil, we may turn to her and our hearts receive light and comfort. Even in the trials of life, in the storms that cause faith and hope to vacillate, let us recall that we are her children and that our existence is deeply rooted in the infinite grace of God. Although the Church is exposed to the negative influences of the world, she always finds in Mary the star to guide her so that she may follow the route pointed out to her by Christ. Indeed, Mary is the Mother of the Church, as Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council solemnly proclaimed. Therefore, while we thank God for this marvellous sign of his goodness, let us entrust to the Virgin Immaculate each one of us, our families and communities, the entire Church and the whole world. This afternoon I shall do so too, in accordance with tradition, at the foot of the monument dedicated to her in Piazza di Spagna."

After the Angelus:

"This year too, on today's Feast, I have the joy of greeting the Pontifical Academy of Mary Immaculate, led by Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur. Dear Cardinal, dear friends, I entrust with affection each one of you and your activities to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary. Thank you for your work.

I then address a special thought to the Italian Catholic Action which today, in so many parishes, is renewing its commitment to the Church. I encourage in particular the educators of the Children's Catholic Action, present here in the Square at the end of their annual congress, to be generous and tireless in teaching children the faith and to bear witness to it.

En ce jour de la fête de l’Immaculée Conception de la Vierge Marie, je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins francophones. En contemplant le visage lumineux de la Vierge Marie nous sommes invités à accueillir son divin Fils dans le quotidien de notre vie. Demandons à la Vierge Immaculée, reflet de la beauté divine, de nous accompagner sur notre chemin de conversion et dans notre recherche de sainteté. Avec une confiance filiale prions Marie, notre Mère et notre Reine, afin que tous les hommes puissent accueillir en eux l’amour miséricordieux de Dieu notre Père !

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus prayer. Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As we venerate her life of holiness, full of grace from the beginning of her existence, we praise God and acclaim the power of his gifts. May all Christians, filled with joyful hope and following the example of Mary, be faithful to God’s grace and seek a life of holiness. I wish you all a happy feast day and a pleasant stay in Rome!

Mit Freude grüße ich alle Brüder und Schwestern deutscher Sprache. Das heutige Hochfest führt uns vor Augen, daß Gott die Jungfrau Maria vom ersten Augenblick ihres Daseins an vor jedem Schaden der Erbsünde unversehrt bewahrt hat. An der Mutter Jesu sehen wir die Schönheit des Menschen, wie Gott ihn gewollt hat und zu der auch wir gerufen sind. Ihre Fürsprache erhalte uns in der Gnade Gottes und stärke uns in unserem täglichen Streben, damit wir mit reinem Herzen zu ihm gelangen. Die Gottesmutter breite ihren schützenden Mantel über euch und eure Familien. Gesegneten Festtag!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española presentes en esta oración mariana y a quienes se unen a ella a través de la radio y la televisión. La Iglesia celebra hoy la solemnidad de la Inmaculada Concepción de María Santísima, tan arraigada en España y en los países latinoamericanos. La Purísima, como es denominada la Virgen en la liturgia de este día, fue preservada de toda mancha de pecado para ser digna morada del Cordero Inocente, abogada de gracia y ejemplo de santidad. Que el Señor nos conceda el don, por intercesión de la “llena de gracia”, de purificarnos interiormente en este tiempo de Adviento para acoger con prontitud la venida de Cristo a nuestras vidas. Muchas gracias.

W Uroczystość Niepokalanego Poczęcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny serdecznie pozdrawiam obecnych w Rzymie Polaków. Oczekując w Adwencie na przyjście Zbawiciela, uczmy się od Maryi Niepokalanej, jak być „świętymi i nieskalanymi przed obliczem Boga” (por. Ef 1, 4). Niech Najświętsza Dziewica prowadzi nas przez życie drogą czystości, pokory i zawierzenia Bogu wszelkich spraw. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Saluto infine i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i ragazzi di Imola, con il Parroco e i catechisti che li hanno preparati alla Cresima, come pure i fedeli e i cresimandi di Calcinate, e il gruppo di “Radio Zeta” di Caravaggio. A tutti auguro una buona festa di Maria Immacolata."

Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer to Mary Immaculate      
Piazza di Spagna, 8th December 2009 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the heart of Christian cities, Mary is a sweet and reassuring presence. In her discreet style, she gives everyone peace and hope, both in the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or on the walls of buildings there is a painting, mosaic or a statue as a reminder of the presence of the Mother, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary is placed high up as though on guard over Rome.

What does Mary tell the city? Of what does her presence remind us? It reminds us that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom 5: 20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people in our day too: Do not be afraid, Jesus has defeated evil, he has uprooted it, delivering us from its rule.

How great is our need of this good news! Every day, in fact, in the newspapers, on television and on the radio bad news is broadcast, repeated, amplified, so that we become used to the most terrible things and inured to them, and in a certain way poisoned, since the negative effect is never completely eliminated but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts grow gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of the victory of Grace over sin and leads us to hope, even in the most difficult human situations.

In the city invisible people live or survive who every now and then hit the front page headlines or television news and are exploited to the very last, as long as the news and images are newsworthy. This is a perverse mechanism which unfortunately few are able to resist. The city first hides them and then exposes them to public scrutiny, pitilessly or with false pity. Instead, there is in every person the desire to be accepted as a person and considered a sacred reality, for every human history is a sacred history and demands the utmost respect.

The city, dear brothers and sisters, is all of us! Each one of us contributes with his life to its moral atmosphere, for better or for worse. The border between good and evil runs through every heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Rather, each one must feel duty bound to improve him or herself. The mass media always tends to make us feel like "spectators", as if evil concerned only others and certain things could never happen to us. Instead, we are all "actors" and, for better or for worse, our behaviour has an influence on others.

We often complain of the pollution of the atmosphere that in some parts of the city is unbreathable. It is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. Yet, there is another kind of contamination, less perceptible to the senses, but equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it makes us smile less, makes our faces gloomier, less likely to greet each other or look each other in the eye.... The city has many faces but unfortunately collective dynamics can make us lose our in-depth perception of them. We perceive everything superficially. People become bodies and these bodies lose their soul, they become things, faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend what lies within people, for in her is a perfect transparency of the soul in the body. She is purity in person, in the sense that spirit, soul and body are fully consistent with one another and with God's will. Our Lady teaches us to be open to God's action and to see others as he sees them: starting with the heart. And to look at them with compassion, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, despised, or exploited. "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more".

I want to pay homage publicly to all those who in silence, not with words but with deeds, strive to practice this evangelical law of love that propels the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome and they rarely hit the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who have realized that it is not worth condemning, complaining or accusing; that it is better to respond to evil by doing good. This changes things; or rather it changes people, and hence improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city! While we are busy in our daily routine, let us listen to Mary's voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, grace may abound all the more, starting in your our own heart and in your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian and more human.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!"