01/01/2007, 00.00
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Gift and commitment to peace also for Bethlehem and the Holy Land, says Pope

Benedict XVI calls on the international community to make a real commitment to solving the Mideast conflict, which has lasted for “far too long”. He also demands greater truth in defending human rights, seen not as the outcome of positivistic “human agreements” but which are rather tied to the “inalienable dignity” of the person created by God. Mothers and children bear gifts during mass.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI stressed several issues in the homily he delivered today on the occasion of the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, but also the 40th World Peace Day. During the 10 am mass, he spoke about peace as God’s gift that one can invoke through Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace, but also as a commitment that human beings can make together, tirelessly and with courage. He made a painful appeal and offered an insistent prayer for Bethlehem and the land where Jesus was born so that “in this region the day of peace may finally arrive, the day in which the ongoing conflict that has lasted far too long may be finally resolved”. Above all he called for conversion in the way we look at the bases of human rights, which should not be seen as the outcome of human agreements but are rather vested in man’s own nature and “his inalienable dignity as a person created by God”.


The Pope greeted the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See present at the celebration as well as the representatives of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, whom the Pontiff thanked “for their commitment to promoting every day these values so fundamental to the life of our society”.


First of all Benedict XVI remembered that today is the liturgical festivity of Mary’s maternity, “Mother of Christ”, “Mother of the Church”, and “Spiritual Mother of the whole of humanity since Jesus gave his blood on the Cross for everyone and from the Cross he entrusted everyone in Her maternal care. [. . .] In looking upon Mary, let us therefore begin this new year which we receive from the hands of God as a precious talent, a talent to develop, building peace as a gift and a task, a gift to invoke with prayer, and a task to fulfill tirelessly and with courage,” he said.


With the ‘human person, the centre of peace’ as the theme of this year’s message, the Pope said: “I am deeply convinced that by respecting the person we promote peace and that building peace we set the bases for a real and complete humanism (Message N. 1).


It is a commitment that falls especially on Christians who are called to “be tireless workers for peace and defenders of the dignity of the human person and its inalienable rights (Message 16). Because he is created in God’s image (cf John 1, 27), each individual human being, irrespective of race, culture and religion, has the same dignity. For this reason he or she must be respected. There is no reason to use him or her as an object, at one’s pleasure. It is now more than ever necessary to work together for peace given the ever-present threats it is under, the situations of injustice and violence that persist in various regions of the world, the ongoing armed conflicts that are often forgotten by the wider public opinion, and the danger of terrorism that troubles the peacefulness of nations”.


Peace in the Holy Land was also another major issue the Pope dealt with almost as a suggestion for this year’s commitment, an issue that sees the international community awkward, uninterested and divided in the ways it deals with it.


“How can one not look at the dramatic situation in the land where Jesus was born? How can one not pray insistently, hoping that the day of peace in this region might soon arrive, the day when the conflict that has lasted far too long is solved? If it is to last, a peace agreement must be based on respect for the dignity and the rights of every person. The hope I express before the representatives of the nations here present is that the international community join its efforts to build a world in the name of God in which man’s basic rights are respected by all”.


“It is necessary,” the Pontiff said as he quoted the Message and referred to the root causes of the international community’s awkwardness, “that the foundations of such rights be recognised not as simple human agreements but rather be found in ‘man’s own nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God’ (Message N. 13). Should the constitutive elements of human dignity be in fact based on a changing human opinion, even his rights, however solemnly proclaimed, will end up weaker and interpreted in various ways. ‘It is therefore important that international organisation not lose sight of the natural foundations of the rights of man. This will protect them against the risk, sadly ever present, of an interpretation that is solely positivistic’ (ibid.)”.


Finally, the Pope spoke about the religious basis of peace, which the Old Testament links to the Lord’s blessing. “The biblical term Shalom, which we translate as ‘peace’, refers to the elements that make up the ‘Salvation’ brought by Christ, the Messiah announced by the prophets,” he said. “For this reason, we Christians see in Him the Prince of Peace. He became a man and was born in a manger in Bethlehem to bring peace to men of good will, to those who welcome Him with faith and love. Peace is truly the gift and commitment of Christmas: the gift that must be welcomed with humble docility and constantly invoked with praying trust and the commitment that makes every person of good will an ‘instrument of peace’.”


The Pontiff ended the homily with an invocation to the Holy Mary.  “We call on Mary, Mother of God, to help us welcome her Son and, in Him, true peace. Let us ask Her to brighten our eyes so that we may see the Face of Christ in the face of every human person, heart of peace!”


During the mass, prayers were read by a Chinese, an African and an Arab so as to stress even more the need for peace and respect for the human person.


Some families and their children took part in the procession that saw gifts brought before the altar as Benedict XVI dedicated this year’s Message of Peace to children “whose innocence enriches humanity with goodness and hope; and whose sorrow rouses us to be workers of justice and peace” (Message N. 1).

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