Rome (AsiaNews) - "Children . . . especially those who are seriously ill"; "young people in difficulty"; "the elderly who are alone"; "the sick"; "the immigrants struggling to situate themselves"; "nuclear families struggling to make ends meet"; "people unable to find work, or who have lost a job indispensable for continuing forward": Benedict XVI today spoke of these "thorns," when he went to offer a basket of white roses to the statue of the Immaculate in Piazza di Spagna, in the traditional act of homage celebrated every December 8. The pontiff arrived at Piazza di Spagna at about four o'clock in the afternoon, and began with a moment of prayer, surrounded by thousands of faithful, pilgrims, and tourists.
After offering the basket of roses, the pope commented: "Roses can express everything beautiful and good that has happened during the year, because in this traditional celebration we all want to honor our Mother, convinced that we can do nothing without her protection and without the grace that she obtains for us from God every day. But - as the saying goes - every rose has its thorns, and even on the stems of these stupendous white roses there are thorns, which represent for us the difficulties, sufferings, and evils that have marked and still mark the lives of persons and of our communities. We present our joys to our Mother, but we also entrust to her our concerns, certain that we will find in her the strength not to give up, and the support to move forward."
The list of "thorns" is an inducement to sharing and solidarity: "Teach us, Mary," the pope continued, "to have solidarity with those who are in difficulty, to bridge the increasingly vast social disparities; help us to cultivate a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for that which is public, prompt us to experience the city - and more than ever this our City of Rome - as the patrimony of all, so that each of us, with diligence and commitment, may do his part to build a more just and united society."
Today's feast concludes the jubilee of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions in Lourdes, where the Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, calling herself the "Immaculate Conception," contained in the dogma established in 1854. Benedict XVI went to Lourdes last September.
"Immaculate Conception: we, too, repeat with emotion this mysterious name. We repeat it here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and countless brothers and sisters do so in thousands of other places in the world, shrines and chapels, and also in the homes of Christian families. Wherever there is a Catholic community, today Mary is venerated by this stupendous and marvelous name: Immaculate Conception."
"In today's feast," the pope continued, "so dear to the Christian people, this expression rises from the heart and passes through the lips as the name of our heavenly Mother. Just as a child raises his eyes to the face of his mother, and, seeing her smile, forgets all of his fears and pains, so also we, looking at the face of Mary, recognize in her the 'smile of God', the immaculate reflection of the divine light, we find in her new hope even in the midst of the problems and dramas of the world."
"Your Beauty - Tota Pulchra, as we sing today - assures us that the victory of love is possible; even more, it is certain; it assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and therefore it is possible to be redeemed from any form of slavery."
"Yes, O Mary," he concluded, "you help us to believe with greater trust in goodness, to rely on openness, service, nonviolence, the power of the truth; you encourage us to remain vigilant, and not to give in to the temptation of easy escapes, to face reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. This is what you did, young woman called to risk everything on the Word of the Lord. Be a loving mother for our young people, so that they may have the courage to be 'sentinels of the morning', and give this virtue to all Christians, so that they may be the soul of the world in this difficult time in history. Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!"