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Monday, June 25, 2012


Vatican City, 24 June 2012 (VIS) - This morning, Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, Benedict XVI made his customary Sunday appearance at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

"With the exception of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist is the only saint for whom the liturgy celebrates the day of birth", said the Pope. "This is because his birth is closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. From the womb, in fact, John was the precursor of Jesus. His prodigious conception was announced by the Angel to Mary as a sign that 'nothing will be impossible with God'. ... The four Gospels give great importance to the figure of John the Baptist as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament, then opened the New by indicating Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. And indeed Jesus would speak of John in these terms: 'This is the one about whom it is written: See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you'".

"John's father Zechariah", the Holy Father went on, "was a priest of the Old Testament order. He did not immediately believe in such unexpected paternity and was therefore made mute until the day of the child's circumcision". On that day, "moved by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah spoke thus of his son's mission: 'And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins'.

"All this happened thirty years later", Pope Benedict added, "when John began performing baptisms in the River Jordan, calling people to prepare themselves, by that act of penance, to the imminent coming of the Messiah, which God had revealed to him during the period he spent in the wilderness of Judea. For this reason he is called 'Baptist'; in other words 'Baptiser'. When one day Jesus Himself came from Nazareth to be baptised, John at first refused, then consented; he saw the Holy Spirit come to rest upon Jesus, and heard the voice of the heavenly Father proclaiming His Son".

Yet the Baptist's mission was not yet complete. "Shortly afterwards he was asked to precede Jesus also in violent death. John was decapitated in the prisons of King Herod, thus bearing compete witness to the Lamb of God Whom he had been the first to recognise and announce".

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