Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pilgrims with multicolour hats carried peace banners and released colourful balloons in St Peter’s Square as they welcomed Benedict XVI for the Angelus prayer, entirely dedicated today to New Year greetings and World Peace Day 2007 whose theme is ‘the human person, heart of peace”.
First of all the Pope greeted the faithful present and “those following us via radio and TV”. He said: “May the light of Christ, the sun that appeared on the horizon of humanity, brighten your journey and accompany you for the whole of 2007!”
Benedict XVI mentioned that it was Paul VI who made January 1 the feast day of Mary, Mother of God. “By happy intuition, my venerated predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI, decided that the year should begin under the protection of the Most Holy Mary, venerated as Mother of God. The Christian community, who has been in praying adoration these days before the Nativity Scene, looks upon the Virgin Mother with special love. It identifies with Her as it contemplates the newly born Child wrapped in cloth in the manger. Like Mary the Church remains in silence to seize and keep the inner resonance of the Word made flesh and not disperse the divine-human warmth that Her presence releases. He is God’s blessing! Like the Virgin the Church only shows Jesus, the Saviour, to all; and on everyone reflects the light of His face, splendour of goodness and truth”.
Paul VI also made January 1 World Peace Day. “Today,” Benedict XVI said, “we contemplate Jesus born of the Virgin Mary in his prerogative as true ‘Principe of Peace’ (Is 9, 5). He is “our peace” who came to break down the “wall of separation”, the enmity that divides men and peoples (Eph 2, 14). For this reason, Paul VI, of blessed memory, wanted January 1 to be World Peace Day so that each New Year may begin in the light of Christ, the great peacemaker of humanity”.
In repeating his best wishes for peace “to rulers, national leaders and officials of international organisations; and to all men and women of good will”, the Pope stressed the theme of this year’s Peace Message which is the ‘human person, heart of peace’.
“This touches upon an essential point—the value of the human person—which is the backbone of the entire edifice of peace. Today a lot is said about human rights, but it is often forgotten that they requires a stable, not a relative and questionable basis. And this cannot but be the dignity of the person. Respect for this dignity begins by recognising and protecting a person’s right to life and to freely profess one’s religion”.
The Pope ended his reflection before the Angelus with an invocation to the Holy Mother. “With confidence we turn our prayer to the Holy Mother of God that the sacred respect for every human person and the rejection of war and violence may develop in the conscience of people. Mary—You who gave birth to Jesus!—help us welcome the gift of peace from Him; help us be sincere and courageous peacemakers!”
Following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI greeted the crowds in various languages. He named various parishes, associations and movements for the initiatives they undertook on World Peace Day and thanked them for it. Among them he singled out the Italian Bishops’ Conference for what it organised yesterday in Norcia as well as the march titled “Pace in tutte le terre” [Peace in all the lands] organised by the sant’Egidio community in Rome and other cities around the world.