The Holy Father´s Week: January 7, 2009

A report on Benedict XVI´s messages and activities.
by Maribel de Torres, editor | Source:

Solution to poverty is evangelical poverty. During his homily at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day, Benedict XVI invited the world to combat poverty that offends human dignity with sobriety and solidarity, fruit of the evangelical poverty chosen by Jesus. 

The Pope explained the difference between poverty that offends God and the poverty chosen by God.  "The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem reveals to us that God chose poverty for himself in his coming to be among us. Love for us has moved Jesus not only to become man, but to become poor." He affirmed: "The poverty of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, besides an object of adoration for Christians, is also a school of life for man. It teaches us that to combat misery, both material and spiritual, the path to take is that of solidarity, which has moved Jesus to share our human condition."

Nevertheless, he continued, there is “poverty, an indigence, that God does not want and that must be fought."  This, the Bishop of Rome said, is "a poverty that impedes people and families from living according to their dignity, a poverty that offends justice and equality, and as such, threatens peaceful coexistence." He affirmed that such poverty is not just material, but also includes the forms of poverty found in rich and developed nations: phenomena such as marginalization and relational, moral and spiritual misery.

He thus made a call for a "virtuous circle" between the poverty "to be chosen" and the poverty "to be fought," such that "to combat iniquitous poverty, which oppresses so many man and women and threatens everyone's peace, it is necessary to rediscover sobriety and solidarity, as evangelical values that are at the same time universal."

"Misery cannot be efficaciously fought, if there is no attempt to 'make equality,' reducing the unevenness between those who waste the superfluous, and those who don't even have the necessary," the Pontiff said.
Christ brings a "peaceful revolution," Benedict XVI affirmed, "not ideological, but spiritual, not utopian, but real, and because of this, requiring infinite patience, perhaps a very long time, avoiding every break and taking the most difficult path: the path of consciences maturing in responsibility." VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009

Hope anchored by Christian faith. On the first day of the year, Benedict XVI offered his most fervent best wishes for peace and every good thing. “They are wishes that, we could say, the Christian faith makes "reliable," anchoring them in the events that we are celebrating during these days: the incarnation of the Word of God, born of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, with the grace of the Lord -- and only with it -- we can always hope anew that the future will be better than the past.” He affirmed. 

He further explained that this hope is not based on good luck or the "secrets of the markets," but instead in "we ourselves making the effort to be a little better and more responsible, so as to be able to count on the Lord's benevolence." "And this is always possible because 'God has spoken to us through a son' and he continually speaks to us, through the preaching of the Gospel and through the voice of our conscience," the Pontiff continued. "In Jesus Christ, he has shown to all people the path of salvation, which is above all a spiritual redemption, but which takes in everything human, also including the social and historical dimension."

As Jan. 1 is World Peace Day, Benedict XVI referred to his message for the celebration: "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace."  "At the beginning of a new year, my first objective is precisely that of inviting everyone -- political leaders and simple citizens -- to not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and failures, but to renew their commitments," the Pope said.

Finally, referring to the global financial crisis, the Holy Father encouraged that it be "interpreted in its depths, as a grave symptom that requires intervention at the level of the causes."

"It is not enough -- as Jesus would say -- to put a new patch on an old cloak," the Bishop of Rome affirmed. "To put the poor in first place means to decidedly move to this global solidarity that John Paul II had already indicated as a necessity, harmonizing the potential of the market with that of civil society, in constant respect for legality and always taking into account the common good." VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009

Benedict XVI invited Christians “not to be afraid” . "This year closes with the awareness of a growing economic and social crisis that already concerns the entire world," he said during his homily at a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica that included first vespers for today's feast of Mary, Mother of God. "Though not a few shadows are appearing on the horizon of our future, we should not be afraid.”

The Holy Father assured that both the year that was ending and the one on the horizon are both under the gaze of the Virgin Mother of God: "The maternal presence of Mary assures us tonight that God will never abandon us, if we entrust ourselves to him and follow his teachings. To Mary, then, with filial affection and trust, let us present our hopes and desires, as well as the fears and the difficulties we carry in our hearts, as we bid farewell to 2008 and prepare ourselves to welcome 2009." VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009

Vilolence and hatred are forms of poverty. The Holy Father deplored the "intense violence unleashed in the Gaza Strip, in answer to more violence," and he affirmed that "also violence, also hatred and a lack of trust are forms of poverty -- perhaps more dreadful forms -- that must be fought." Benedict XVI made special mention of the pastors of the local Churches, and particularly "those of the small but fervent parish of Gaza." With these faithful, the Pope "placed at the feet of Mary the concerns of the present and the fears for the future," and he asked her intercession to "obtain from God the gift of peace for the Holy Land and for all of humanity."VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009

Pope on John´s synthesis of Christian faith. Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. He read the same Gospel proclaimed on Christmas day, that is, St. John's Prologue. He said this is an admirable text that offers a staggering synthesis of the entire Christian faith.

It begins on high: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1); [and] here is the unprecedented and humanly inconceivable novelty: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14a).

”This is not a rhetorical image, but a lived experience!” he explained,  “John, an eyewitness, relates it: "and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14b). It is not the erudite word of a rabbi or a doctor of the law, but the passionate testimony of a humble fisherman who, attracted when he was young by Jesus of Nazareth, in the three years of common life with him and the other apostles, experienced love -- to the point of defining himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He saw him die on the cross and appear resurrected, and he received together with the others his Spirit. From this whole experience, meditated upon in his heart, John arrived to a certainty: Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnated, in his eternal Word, who became a mortal man.”

The Holy Father affirmed that this is the fulfillment of the whole of the Old Covenant. “In Jesus Christ, the mystery of a God who speaks to man as friends, who reveals himself to Moses in the Law, to the wise and the prophets, arrives to its fullness. In knowing Jesus, being with him, hearing his preaching and seeing the signs he performed, the disciples recognized that in him, all the Scriptures were fulfilled.” 

The Pope said that every man and  woman needs to find a deep meaning for their own existence. “And for this, books are not enough, not even sacred Scripture.” Only Jesus.

“The Child of Bethlehem reveals and communicates to us the true "face" of the good and faithful God, who loves us and who does not abandon us even in death: "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him" (John 1:18).”

”The first one who opened her heart and contemplated "the Word made flesh" was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. A humble girl from Galilee thus became the "seat of wisdom." Like the Apostle John, each one of us is invited to "take her into our homes" (cf. John 19:27), to deeply know Jesus and experience faithful and unfailing love. This is my hope for each of you, dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this new year.”

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]
”Today, in all the churches of the Holy Land, the patriarchs and leaders of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem are inviting the faithful to pray for the end of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and implore justice and peace for their land. I unite myself to them and I also ask you to do the same, remembering, as they say, "the victims, the wounded who have their hearts broken, those who live in anguish and fear, so that God blesses them with the consolation, patience and peace that come from him."

Hate and war are not the solution to problems. Recent history confirms it as well. Let us pray, therefore, so that "the Child of the manger … inspires in the authorities and leaders of both fronts, Israeli and Palestinian, an immediate action to finish with the current tragic situation."

The Pontiff greeted  the participants in the international conference on the "Preventive System of Don Bosco and Human Rights," organized by the Salesians and the numerous seminarians who came from various countries to participate in the formation encounter of the Focolare Movement. Vatican City, Jan. 4, 2009.

"Jesus Came to the World With Great Humility and in Secret".  During the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about the need of opening our heart to the Gospel of salvation.  

 “The Gospel recounts how Jesus came to the world with great humility and in secret. St. Matthew, nonetheless, refers to the arrival of the Magi, who came from the East, guided by a star, to render homage to the recently born king of the Jews.” Each time I listen to this narrative, Affirmed the Holy Father, “I am impressed by the clear contrast between the attitude of the Magi, on one hand, and that of Herod and the Jews.”

The Gospel says that, upon listening to the worlds of the Magi, "King Herod [...] was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2:3). “Here we touch upon one of the crucial points of the theology of history” Benedict XVI affirmed, “the drama of the faithful love of God in the person of Jesus, who "came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him" (John 1:11).” 

 The Pope explained that this contrast “highlights the fact that knowledge of Scripture and the messianic prophecies don't lead all to open themselves to him and his word. Christ recalls this, before the passion, when he cries over Jerusalem because it had not recognized the time of its visitation (cf. Luke 19:44).”

 “In light of the entire Bible, this attitude of hostility, ambiguity or superficiality represents that of every man and of the "world" -- in the spiritual sense -- when it closes itself to the mystery of the true God, who comes to meet us with the disarming meekness of love. Jesus, the "King of the Jews" (cf. John 18:37), is the God of mercy and fidelity; he wants to reign with in love and truth, and asks us to convert, to abandon evil works and that we take up with decision the path of the good.”

May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed Jesus with faith, help us to not close our heart to his Gospel of salvation. Let us allow ourselves to be conquered and transformed by him -- the "Emmanuel" (God with us) -- to give us peace and love. VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009

Children have a right to a future of security and development. Benedict XVI appealed for the protection of children, especially those "denied a serene childhood," on a feast day that in many countries is a celebration the youngest members of society.

The Pope made his appeal today after praying the Angelus together with thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square. The Pontiff made a special request to armed groups in Congo to release children captured as soldiers.
"I call out to the authors of these inhuman brutalities to return these young people to their families and to a future of security and development, which is their right," the Pontiff said. VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009

Benedict XVI is praying for the Families this month. The Apostleship of Prayer announced the general intention chosen by the Pope for this month: "That the family may become more and more a place of training in charity, personal growth and transmission of the faith." 

The Holy Father also chooses an apostolic intention for each month. In January, he will pray "that the various Christian confessions, aware of the need for a new evangelization in this period of profound transformations, may be committed to announcing the Good News and moving toward the full unity of all Christians in order to offer a more credible testimony of the Gospel."VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009 

Benedict XVI will present two video messages. Thousands of families will gather Jan. 13-18 in Mexico City for the VI World Meeting of Families. The theme of the meeting is "The Family as Educator in Human and Christian Values." Although Benedict XVI will not attend the VI World Meeting of Families this month in Mexico City, he will present two video messages, and has sent his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, as his legate to the encounter. MEXICO CITY, JAN. 6, 2008

A prayer for the Holy Father 
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.

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