12/25/2009, 00.00
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Pope: Christmas, the light that calls men to conversion and the world to peace

In his Urbi et Orbi message, Benedict XVI recalls the violence and violations of human rights that occur even in the Holy Land, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the Korean peninsula. The urgent "business" often relegates God to " the last place." Last night, a woman tripped the Pope, who recovered immediately to celebrate mass.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Birth of God "for us" is a strong exhortation to overcome selfishness, "that of groups and of individuals" which "keeps us prisoners of our interests and desires, conflicting with the Truth and dividing us from one another" and above all to help make us aware of God’s “place” in our lives.  A call to peace in the Middle East, respect for human rights in Sri Lanka and in Congo, the pursuit of harmony in Iraq and Latin America. An invitation to welcome the poor and immigrants.  


"The light of the first Christmas was like a fire in the night." The true meaning of Christmas, was at the heart of the message that Benedict XVI today addressed to Rome and the world and that he repeated in his Christmas greetings, delivered in 65 languages, including: Russian, Kazakh, Georgian, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Armenian , Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Burmese, Urdu, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Sinhalese, Thai, Indonesian, Cambodian, Filipino,  

That "fire" was at the heart of yesterdays celebration of the Christmas vigil mass, celebrated in St. Peter’s basilica. A rite that was marked at the beginning by a moment of confusion and fear when a  Swiss woman, during the opening procession, jumped over the barricades and launched herself at the Pope, causing him to fall. Benedict XVI immediately recovered and continued towards the altar to celebrate the mass. Unfortunately the elderly Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, came out the worst for ware, suffering a fractured femur in the altercation.  The woman, who apparently suffers from mental health problems, has claimed she just wanted to embrace the Pope


Benedict XVI, who made no mention of the incident, then placed the "light" at the centre of his reflections. "God - in his words today - 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".  



"Today too, - continued the Pope - 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 saving 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".  

“The “us” of the Church – he continued -  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 them.  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 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”.



But Christ’s birth not only this.  It is first of an event that calls us all to task, it is an exhortation to be like the shepherds in the night, who "rushed" to see the child. Why, said the Pope during the Christmas Eve Mass "what had been announced to them was so important that they had to go immediately. In fact, what had been said to them was utterly out of the ordinary.  It changed the world. The Saviour is born ". "They made haste – they went at once.  In our daily life, it is not like that.  For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly.  And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them.  First we do what seems urgent here and now.  In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end.  We can always deal with that later, we tend to think.  The Gospel tells us:  God is the highest priority.  If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone".  

"We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger.”, warned the Pope.  “In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him.  But a path exists for all of us.  The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals.  He calls each one of us, so that we too can say:  “Come on, ‘let us go over’ to Bethlehem – to the God who has come to meet us.  Yes indeed, God has set out towards us.  Left to ourselves we could not reach him.  The path is too much for our strength.  But God has come down.  He comes towards us.  He has travelled the longer part of the journey.  Now he invites us:  come and see how much I love you.  Come and see that I am here".

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