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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - God's "benevolent plan" for mankind, which begins St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis at today's general audience. The great hymn that the apostle Paul raised to God "introduces us to living in the time of Advent, in the context of the Year of Faith. The theme of this hymn of praise is God's plan for mankind, defined in terms of joy, stupefaction and thankfulness, ... of mercy and love", said the Pope.

The Apostle elevated this blessing to God because he "looked upon his actions throughout the history of salvation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, and contemplated how the celestial Father chose us, even before the foundation of the world, to become His adoptive children, in his only Son, Jesus Christ. ... God's 'benevolent plan', which the Apostle also describes as a 'plan of love', is defined as 'the mystery' of divine will, hidden and then disclosed in the Person and work of Christ. The initiative precedes any human response; it is the freely given gift of his love, which envelops and transforms us.

"What is the ultimate aim of this mysterious plan? It is to recapitulate all things in Christ; "this means that in the great design of creation and history, Christ is placed at the centre of the world's entire path, as the axis upon which everything turns, drawing all of reality to Him, in order to overcome dispersion and limits, and to lead all to fullness in God".

However, "this benevolent plan", explained Benedict XVI, "did not remain concealed in God's silence, in the heights of His Heaven; instead, He brought it to our knowledge by entering into a relationship with man, to whom He revealed His very being. He did not simply communicate a series of truths, but instead He communicated Himself to us, He showed Himself as one of us, to the extent of taking on human flesh. ... This communion in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, offered by God to all mankind in the light of His self- revelation, does not merely correspond to our humanity, but is instead the fulfilment of its deepest aspirations, and introduces it to a joy which is neither temporal nor limited, but  eternal".

"In view of this, what is, then, the act of faith? It is man's response to God's self-revelation, by which He shows His 'benevolent plan' for humanity. ... it is allowing oneself to be seized by God's Truth, a Truth that is Love. ... All this leads to a ... true 'conversion', a 'change of mentality', because the God Who has revealed Himself to us in Christ and has shown us His plan captures us and draws us to Him, becoming the meaning that sustains our life and the rock on which it finds stability".

The Holy Father concluded by recalling that Advent "places us before the luminous mystery of the coming of the Son of God and the great 'benevolent plan'  by which He sought to draw us to Him, to allow us to live in full communion of joy and peace with Him. Advent invites us, in spite of the many difficulties we encounter, to renew our certainty of the presence of God: He came into the world, in human flesh like ours, to fully realise his plan of love. And God asks that we too become signs of His action in the world. Through our faith, hope and charity, He wishes us to make His light shine anew in our night".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Following this morning's catechesis the Holy Father launched an appeal to the international community for an end to the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Troubling news continues to arrive regarding the grave humanitarian crisis in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which for months now has been the scene of armed conflict and violence", said the Pope. "A large part of the population lacks even the most basic means of support and thousands have been forced to abandon their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. I therefore renew my appeal for dialogue and reconciliation, and invite the international community to take all action necessary to attend to the pressing needs of the population".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The traditional nativity scene mounted every Christmas in St. Peter's Square will this year be offered to the Holy Father by the Italian region of Basilicata.

The nativity scene, which includes one hundred terracotta figures, is the work of  Francesco Artese, one of the most famous exponents of the southern school of traditional nativity sculpture. The most striking characteristic of Artese's work is his recreation of landscapes of the Stones of Matera and his reproduction of scenes of rural life. Indeed, the nativity of St. Peter's Square is reminiscent of locations in the Holy Land.

According to an informative note published today, "The Lucanian landscape has been enriched by the work of religious people who have chosen to live there, transforming these places into a human settlement rich in holiness, building 154 rupestrian churches, monasteries and sanctuaries which, from the high Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, have shaped the identity of a vast area which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"The scenery of the nativity, therefore, while inspired by a traditional iconographic genre, is rendered unique by elements reproducing locations and architecture typical of the Lucanian landscape. The rupestrian churches of San Nicola dei Greci and Convicinio di Sant'Antonio are recognisable, and above, the bell tower of San Pietro Barisano stands tall amid the myriad rooftops. The human environment is that of ancient Lucanian rural civilisation ... and the statuettes, made entirely of terracotta, are dressed in clothing made of starched cloth and based on the typical Lucanian peasant costumes of the past. Artese has chosen to dress the Holy Family with costumes in the classic tradition".

"As in previous years, the installation of the nativity scene is entrusted to the Technical Services of the Governorate of Vatican City State".

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