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Monday, December 17, 2012


Vatican City, 16 December 2012 (VIS) - At midday, following his pastoral visit to the parish of San Patrizio al Colle Prenestino, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to recite the Angelus with the faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

Today's Gospel again presented the figure of John the Baptist; the Pope commented on the words of the Baptist when he spoke to the people gathered by the River Jordan to be baptised, who asked "What should we do?", while awaiting the Messiah, a question that proves to be "of current relevance".

"The first response is addressed to the crowds in general. The Baptist says, 'Whoever has two cloaks should give one to he who has none, and whoever has food should do likewise'. Here we can see a criterion of justice, inspired by charity", explained the Pope.  "Justice requires that we overcome the imbalance between those who have more than they need and those who lack basic necessities; charity impels us to care for one another, to reach out to others and meet their needs, instead of seeking excuses to defend our own interests. Justice and charity are not opposed, but both are necessary and complement each other".

"The second answer was addressed to some 'public officials', whose role was to collect taxes on behalf of the Romans. Tax collectors were disliked, largely because they often took advantage of their position in order to steal. The Baptist advises them neither to change jobs, nor to exact more than what was required. The prophet, in God's name, does not ask for exceptional gestures, but rather the honest fulfilment of one's duty. A first step toward eternal life is always keeping the commandments, in this case the seventh: 'Thou shalt not steal.'"

The third response concerns soldiers, "another category with a certain power, and therefore tempted to abuse it. John says to the soldiers, 'Do not oppress and extort anything from anyone; be content with your wages'. Again, conversion begins with honesty and respect for others, an indication that applies to everyone, especially those who bear greater responsibility."

After the Marian prayer, in his greetings in several languages, the Pope recalled that the European meeting of the Taize community will take place from 28 December to 2 January and, since the demand for accommodation will exceed availability, renewed the appeal already made in the parishes to families in Rome to extend their hospitality to the young people who will gather in the capital, "so that other families, with great simplicity, can enjoy this beautiful experience of Christian fellowship".

He went on to express his spiritual closeness to those who in Poland participate in  "Christmas Aid to Children". He said, "I hope this charitable and ecumenical initiative, a gesture of tangible assistance offered to those in need, will bring joy to the hearts of many children. May the flame of the candles lit by families during the Christmas Eve dinner be a symbol of this initiative, and may God reward the generosity of hearts and bestow His blessing to all".

Finally, the Pope greeted the children of Rome, gathered in St Peter's Square for the traditional blessing of the figures of Baby Jesus which will be placed in nativity displays on Christmas Eve.

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