Vatican City (AsiaNews) - At the traditional Sunday appointment in St. Peter's Square, the pope asked the faithful to pray for Alexy II, the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow who just died. After the recitation of the Angelus, to the thousands of people gathered there, Benedict XVI said: "Dear brothers and sisters, in recent days the patriarch of Moscow and of all Russia died, His Holiness Alexy II. Let us unite ourselves in prayer with our Orthodox brethren, in order to commend his soul to the goodness of the Lord, so that he may welcome him into his kingdom of light and peace."
Before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI reflected on the season of Advent, "a time of openness to the future of God" and of "preparation for the Holy Nativity." Quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah, taken from the liturgy of the second Sunday of Advent, the pope recalled the liberation of the Israelite people from the Babylonian exile: "Comfort, comfort my people . . . Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and tell her that her tribulation has ended" (Is. 40:1-2).
And he added: "This is what the Lord wants to do in Advent: to speak to the heart of his people, and through them, to all of humanity, in order to announce salvation. Today as well, the voice of the Church is raised: 'In the desert prepare the way of the Lord' (Is. 40:3). For the populations exhausted by misery and hunger, for the ranks of refugees, for those who suffer grave and systematic violations of their rights, the Church stands as a sentinel on the high mountain of faith, and proclaims: 'Behold your God! Behold, the Lord God comes with power'"(Is. 40:11).
"Christian hope," Benedict XVI continued, "goes beyond the legitimate expectation for social and political liberation, because what Jesus began was a new humanity, which comes from God." "This means entering fully into the logic of the faith, believing in God and in his plan of salvation, and at the same time working for the openness of the world to the Kingdom of God. Justice and peace are, in fact, a gift from God, but they require men and women to be good soil, ready to welcome the good seed of his word."
The pope then talked about Mary. "She, the Virgin mother," he said, "is the way that God himself prepared to come into the world. With all of her humility, Mary walks at the head of the new Israel in the exodus from all exile, from all oppression, from all moral and material slavery, toward the light of the new earth yearning for justice. To her maternal intercession we entrust the expectation of peace and salvation of the men of our time."
Before greeting the pilgrims present in the square, the pope then announced the traditional pre-Christmas meeting with the students of the Roman universities, scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday, December 11. At the end of the Mass in St. Peter's, presided over by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope's vicar for the diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI will present the young people with the Letter to the Romans by the apostle Paul, for the occasion of the Pauline Year.