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Friday, December 9, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 8, 2005 (VIS) - Today at 4 p.m. Benedict XVI travelled by car to Rome's Piazza di Spagna to place the traditional floral wreath at the foot of the statue of Mary in celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

  Before arriving in the square, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity to greet the Dominican Friars and the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, in the presence of thousands of faithful, he blessed a basket of roses which was placed at the foot of the column bearing Mary's statue.

  "On this day," said the Holy Father, "I have, for the first time as Peter's Successor, come here to the foot of the statue Mary Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, spiritually following the pilgrimage so often undertaken by my predecessors. ... I bring with me the fears and hopes of humanity of our time and I place them here at the feet of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer."

  The Pope again recalled the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, and the Eucharistic celebration held in St. Peter's Square on that occasion when "Paul VI turned his thoughts to the Virgin 'the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother, ... the creature in which God's image is reflected with absolute clarity'."

  "Remembering the many events that marked the last 40 years, how can we not recall today the various moments that characterized the Church's journey over this period? Over those four decades, the Virgin has given her support to pastors and, in the first place, to Peter's Successors. ... She has guided the Church towards a faithful understanding and application of the conciliar documents. For this reason, speaking for the entire ecclesial community, I would like to thank the most Holy Virgin ... with the same sentiments that animated the Conciliar Fathers who dedicated to her the last chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen gentium,' highlighting the unbreakable bond that unites the Virgin to the Church."

  "Virgin Mother of God, and Mother of ours," the Pope cried, "teach us to keep the mysteries of Christ's life in our hearts, and to meditate in silence as you did. You who proceeded to Calvary, ... let us also feel you near in all moments of life, especially moments of darkness and trial. You who at the Pentecost, together with the Apostles in prayer, implored the gift of the Holy Spirit for the nascent Church, help us to follow Christ faithfully. To you we trustingly turn our gaze 'as a sign of sure hope and solace ... until the day of the Lord shall come'."


VATICAN CITY, DEC 8, 2005 (VIS) - Following Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study in order to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in the square below. In remarks to them, he referred to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception as "a day of intense spiritual joy."

  The Pope recalled the image of Mary as she appears in the thirty-third canto of Paradise in Dante's Divine Comedy - "humbler and higher than all other creatures, fixed aim and goal of the eternal plan" - saying: "In contemplating the Virgin, how can we not reawaken in ourselves, her children, the aspiration to beauty, goodness and purity of heart? Her celestial candor attracts us towards God, helping us to overcome the temptation to a mediocre life - one made up of compromises with evil - and orienting us decisively towards authentic goodness, which is a source of joy."

  The Pope then recalled once more the 40th anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II, "the greatest ecclesial event of the twentieth century," when Pope Paul VI "amid the jubilation of many faithful in St. Peter's Square, entrusted the implementation of the conciliar documents to the Virgin Mary, calling her with the title of Mother of the Church. ... In a special way, Mary watched with maternal concern over the pontificates of my venerated predecessors, each of whom, with great pastoral wisdom, guided the ship of Peter on the route of authentic conciliar renewal, working ceaselessly for the faithful interpretation and implementation of Vatican Council II."

  After praying the Angelus, the Pope blessed the Olympic torch which was carried across Rome yesterday and which will eventually be borne to the northern Italian city of Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. The torch was brought into St. Peter's Square by a Swiss Guard and a member of the Vatican Gendarmerie. "May this flame," said the Holy Father, "serve to recall those values of peace and universal fraternity that are the foundation of the Olympic Games."


VATICAN CITY, DEC 8, 2005 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic concelebration to mark the fortieth anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II. Forty cardinals and 80 bishops concelebrated with the Holy Father.

  At the start of his homily, the Pope recalled how Blessed John XXIII inaugurated the Council on October 11, 1962, which at the time was the Feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and how Paul VI closed in on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1965.

  The moment in which Paul VI proclaimed Mary as the Mother of the Church "remains etched in my memory" said Pope Benedict. "The Council Fathers rose spontaneously from their chairs and applauded, paying homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church."

  The Holy Father affirmed that Mary "not only has a special relationship with Christ, the Son of God Who, as man, chose to become her Son; but being totally united to Christ, she also belongs completely to us."

  With reference to the designation "Immaculate," Benedict XVI pointed out how "today's liturgy clarifies the meaning of this word using two great images:" the announcement to Mary of the coming of the Messiah, and the struggle between man and the serpent, in other words, "between man and the powers of evil and death. It is, however, foretold that the 'descendant' of woman will one day triumph crushing the serpent's head, underfoot."

  It emerges however that "man does not trust God," the Pope continued. "He harbors the suspicion that, in the end, God takes something from his life; that God is a competitor limiting our freedom, and that we will only be fully human when we have definitively put Him aside; that only in this way can we fully realize our freedom."

  Man, he went on, "wants to draw from the tree of knowledge the power to create the world, to make himself a god at the same level as Him, and to triumph over darkness and death. He does not want to rely on love, which he sees as undependable, and so he relies solely on his own knowledge as giving him power. Rather than on love, he counts on power with which he seeks to control his own life autonomously," but in doing so "he trusts lies more than truth."

  After highlighting the fact that love "is not dependency, but a gift that allows us to live," the Pope said: "Only if we live with one another and for one another can freedom develop. ... If we live contrary to love and contrary to truth - contrary to God - we destroy one another and we destroy the world."

  Benedict XVI pointed out that "within each of us is a drop of poison," which we call original sin. "It is precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that the suspicion arises in us that a person who does not sin at all is, in the end, a little boring, that something is lacking in his or her life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous."

  Yet, he went on, "evil always poisons, it does not raise man but lowers and humiliates him, it does not make him greater, purer and richer, but damages him and makes him smaller. This, rather, is what we should learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: that the man who abandons himself completely in the hands of God, does not become a puppet of God, ... he does not lose his freedom," but finds it.

  "The closer man is to God, the closer he is to rest of mankind," said the Holy Father. "We see this in Mary. The fact that she is completely with God is the reason she is also so close to human beings. It is for this reason that she is able to be the mother of all consolation and all help."

  The Virgin, he concluded, addresses us all saying "do not be afraid of Him! ... Commit yourself to God, and you will see that precisely because of this your life will become more extensive and illuminated, not boring, but full of infinite surprises, because God's infinite goodness never runs dry!"
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 9, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Aleksander Kwasniewski, president of Poland, accompanied by an entourage.

- Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, accompanied by an entourage.

  This evening, he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accompanied by Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the same congregation.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 9, 2005 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 13, the presentation will take place of the Holy Father's Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, the theme of which is "In Truth is Peace." Participating in the press conference will be Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi and Msgr. Frank J. Dewane, respectively president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 9, 2005 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, for the death of the German Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk, who passed away yesterday in Munich at the age of 85. In his telegram, the Pope recalls the priestly commitment and scholarly erudition of the deceased prelate, as well as his tireless dedication to theological research and to the preaching of gospel truth.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 9, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received a number of representatives from the World Methodist Council (WMC), led by their president, Bishop Sunday Mbang of the Methodist Church of Nigeria. The Pope thanked them for "the prayerful presence and support of Methodist representatives at the funeral of Pope John Paul II and at the celebration marking the inauguration of my pontificate."

  After recalling how 40 years ago this week, Paul VI had "expressed the hope that differences between Christians could be resolved, 'slowly, gradually, loyally, generously.' Now we have to reflect upon the friendly relations between Catholics and Methodists, and upon the patient and persevering dialogue in which we have engaged. Indeed, there is much for which we can today give thanks.

  "Since 1967, our dialogue has treated major theological themes such as: revelation and faith, tradition and teaching authority in the Church. These efforts have been candid in addressing areas of difference. ... Our dialogue and the many ways in which Catholics and Methodists have become better acquainted have allowed us to recognize together some of those 'Christian treasures of great value.' On occasion, this recognition has enabled us to speak with a common voice in addressing social and ethical questions in an increasingly secularized world."

  Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for "the initiative which would bring the member churches of the World Methodist Council into association with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999." This, he said, will "assist in contributing to the healing and reconciliation we ardently desire, and would be a significant step towards the stated goal of full visible unity in faith."

  The Methodist communions affiliated to the WMC have individually approved the text of the Declaration, which will be officially voted and approved in Seoul, South Korea, in July 2006, during the WMC general assembly.
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