The Pope’s prayer defined a Sunday in which the Holy father stressed the start of the liturgical time of Advent, remembered Pius XII and sent Orthodox believers belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate his best wishes, moments that marked his Sunday as he visited Rome’s Basilica of San Lorenzo (pictured) and then recited the Angelus in St Peter’s Square before a crowd of 15,000 people.
“The liturgical time of Advent,” said the Pope during the Angelus, “celebrates the coming of God in his two moments—first it invites us to reawaken the wait for the glorious return of Christ; then, as Christmas approaches, calls upon us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation. The Lord however comes into our lives all the time. Jesus’ appeal therefore comes very much at the right time and in this first Sunday it is again proposed with force: “Be watchful!” (Mk, 13: 33, 35 and 37). Jesus directed these words to his disciples, but also to ‘everybody else’ because each one will be called to answer for his existence at a time known only to God. This entails the right detachment from earthly things, sincere repentance for one’s own errors, active charity towards one’s fellow man and especially a humble and trusting faith in the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father.”
After the Marian prayer the Pope urged the faithful to pray “for the many victims of the brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and the clashes that broke out in Jos, Nigeria, as well as for the wounded and all those who were affected in any way. There are many causes and circumstances behind these events but we must all feel the horror for and deplore the explosion of so much cruel and senseless violence. Let us ask the Lord to touch the heart of those who are under the illusion that this is the path to solve local or international problems. Let us all be stirred to give an example of meekness and love so that we can build a society worthy of God and man.”
Today is also the “Feast Day of St Andrew Apostle, Simon Peter’s brother.”
“Saint Andrew,” said the Pope, “is the patron saint of the Patriarchate of Constantinople; for this reason the Church of Rome feels closely connected to that of Constantinople by a tie of special fraternity. According to tradition, on this happy occasion a delegation of the Holy See, led by Card Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, visited the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. To him and the faithful of the Patriarchate I send my heartfelt greetings and best wishes, calling upon all of them an abundance of celestial blessings.”
Benedict XVI also spoke about Advent this morning when he visited the ancient Roman Basilica of San Lorenzo for the end of the Lauretan Year which commemorates the 1750th anniversary of the death of the saint.
The visit gave Benedict XVI an opportunity to evoke some of the most recent events in the history of the church, which was built at the time when Constantine was emperor.
“This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII. This is a reminder of a particularly dramatic event in your basilica’s many centuries of history, an event which occurred during the Second World War, exactly on 19 July 1943, when a heavy air raid inflicted severe damage to the building and the neighbourhood, sowing death and destruction. The generous gesture made by my venerated predecessor on that occasion can never be erased from the memory of history. In the middle of the still smouldering rubble he immediately came to help and console the hard hit population,” the Pope said.
“Also I cannot forget that in this same basilica lay the urns of two important figures. In the basilica’s underground vault we find the mortal remains of the Blessed Pius IX (the last Pope buried outside the Vatican). In the atrium we can see the tomb of Alcide De Gasperi, who was Italy’s wise and balanced leader in the difficult years of post-war reconstruction but also an eminent statesman capable of looking at Europe with a broad Christian vision.”