|The 'us' of the Church a leaven of peace
On Christmas Day, Friday, 25 December 2009, the Holy Father,
delivered the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" Message to the many faithful
who had gathered in St Peter's Square. From the central loggia he
expressed his greetings in 65 different languages before imparting his
Blessing to the city and to the world. The following is a translation of
the Pope's Message, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the
and all men and women,
whom the Lord loves!
"Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,
quia natus est nobis Dominus.
A light will shine on us this day,
the Lord is born for us"
(Roman Missal, Christmas,
Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)
The Liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the
night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave
of Bethlehem shines upon us.
The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us
about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow
directed to and focused upon "us", the same "us" for whom the Child of
Bethlehem "is born". This "us" is the Church, the great universal family
of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth
of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial
significance of this event.
At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that "us" was
almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of St Luke recounts,
it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who
came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of
that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about
there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light "that
enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9).
And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness,
in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to
light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and
Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed;
they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts
and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its
splendour, themselves become sources of light.
Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey
in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a
People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who
encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world,
calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the "sign" of
his saying and liberating presence and to extend the "us" of those who
believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.
Wherever there is an "us" which welcomes God's love,
there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult
situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus,
the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to
set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not
fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for
herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart,
to the earth's lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to
all who yearn for peace.
Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly
affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis,
and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful
solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: "Let us go to
Bethlehem" (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.
The "us" of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus
was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic
of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and
generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The "us"
of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How
can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the "little flock" of
Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence
and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to
the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the
rejection of one's neighbour. The "us" of the Church is active in Sri
Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the
other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace.
On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift
her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic
Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to
respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those
of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually
accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to
hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict
In Europe and North America, the "us" of the Church
urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to
advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most
defenceless, starting with the unborn.
In Honduras she is assisting in the process of
rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the "us" of the
Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which
no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights
of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of
justice and fraternity, a source of unity.
In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church
shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even
within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who
migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance
or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to
an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere
proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations,
attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to
share the lot of her Master and Lord.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be
part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the
communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus,
"God with us", came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let
us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love
and light! Happy Christmas to all!
In English the Holy Father said:
May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world
where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope
and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us.