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Monday, January 3, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 1 JAN 2011 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. today, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic celebration for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and the forty-fourth World Day of Peace.

  In his homily the Pope explained how the Church today asks the Lord "to bless this new year in the awareness that, in the face of the tragic events of history, in the face of the logic of war which unfortunately has not yet been completely overcome, only God can profoundly touch the human soul and ensure hope and peace for humankind".

  And he continued: "It is in fact a consolidated tradition on the first day of the year for the Church throughout the world to raise a choral prayer for peace. It is a good idea to begin a new stage of the journey by decisively following the path of peace. Today we wish to echo the cry of so many men and women, children and elderly people, who are victims of war, which is the most horrific and violent face of history. Today we pray that the peace which the angels announced to the shepherds on Christmas night may reach everywhere. For this reason, particularly through our prayers, we wish to help all individuals and peoples, especially those in positions of power, to follow the path of peace with ever greater commitment".

  "The title of 'Mother of God', as emphasised in today's liturgy, underlines the Holy Virgin's unique mission in the history of salvation; the mission which lies at the basis of the veneration and devotion Christian people show towards her. Mary, in fact, did not receive God's gift for herself but to bring it into the world. ... And it is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of mankind, that, since 1 January 1968, the World Day of Peace has been celebrated throughout the world".

  Having then recalled the theme of his Message for the 2011 World Day of Peace - "Religious Freedom. The Path to Peace" - the Holy Father highlighted how "peace is a gift of God. ... It is also a human value to be achieved at a social and political level, but it has its roots in the mystery of Christ".

  "'The world needs God", he said quoting his Message. "It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels'. For this reason I also emphasised how religious freedom 'is an essential element of a constitutional State; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone'".

  Benedict XVI continued his homily: "Humankind must not resign itself to the negative power of selfishness and violence; it must not become accustomed to conflicts which cause victims and put the future of peoples at risk. Faced with the ominous tensions of the present time, and especially with religious abuses and intolerance which today particularly strike Christians, once again I make a pressing appeal not to succumb to discouragement and resignation.

  "I encourage everyone", he added in conclusion, "to pray that the efforts being made on many sides to promote and construct peace in the world may reach a fruitful conclusion. In this difficult task words are not enough, we need concrete and constant commitment from the leaders of nations. But above all it is vital that everyone be animated by an authentic spirit of peace, which must be implored ever and anew in prayer and put into practice in daily life in all times and places".
HML/                                    VIS 20110103 (630)

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