Vatican City (AsiaNews) During mass on World Peace Dayalso Solemnity of Mary, Mother of GodPope Benedict XVI said that in a world dominated by terrorism, nihilism and fanatical fundamentalism, people need to "switch on their courage and have faith in God and mankind in order to choose the path of peace." Individuals as well as governments and international organisations must do so, the United Nations first and foremost.
Bishops and cardinals, among them Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace President Renato Raffaele Martino, took part in the celebration in St Peter's Basilica.
Speaking before thousands of the faithful as well as the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, the Pope reiterated some of the points he made in his message In Truth, Peace for World Peace Day.
Taking his starting point from today's liturgy, Benedict XVI noted that the "shepherds" in the Nativity Scene are "the image most easily accessible to those who let themselves be enlightened by truth. In doing so, they become capable of building a world of peace".
For the Pontiff, it is clear that "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace".
Yet, the Pope seemed saddened by the international community for the ongoing "situations of injustice and violence that continue to oppress different parts of the earth as well as the new and more insidious threats to peace such as terrorism, nihilism and fanatical fundamentalism".
For this reason, we must "switch on our courage and trust in God and man to choose the path of peace. Everyone must do so: individuals and peoples, international organisations and world powers."
"In today's message, I especially call on the United Nations Organisation to be conscious of its responsibility in promoting justice, solidarity and peace in a world increasingly marked by globalisation".
As peace and truth are connected so is peace rooted in faith in God. And as Benedict XVI points out, the Second Vatican Council and the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes assert that "mankind will not succeed in 'building a truly more humane world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace' (Nº 77)."
The connection of peace to faith in God opens the door to "people of good will" strongly working together. It also opens the door to a specific role for Christians for believers in Christ "have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the 'Gospel of Peace', and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace. May this awareness grow evermore so that every Christian community may become a 'ferment' of a humanity renewed by love."
Referring to the reading of the liturgy, the Pope said that "salvation is a Gift of God," that God's blessingquoted in the first readingis effective and takes shape "in His protection" (v. 24), in being favourable to us (v. 25), and in giving us peace, in other words in giving us great happiness".
For Christians Mary, Mother of God, is the model that inspires us in the beginning of the year as in every other day. "The first day of the year is under the sign of a woman, Mary . . .," the Pope said in concluding his message. "Her teachings tell us to be attentive and docile disciples of the Lord. With Her maternal help, we want to commit ourselves without delay to working for peace in the path of Christ, the Prince of Peace".
Many children from Pueri cantores (children's choirs) from around the world took part in the mass. The Pope thanked them for "they make this holy mass even more solemn, a mass in which we call on God to offer the gift of peace to the whole world".
During the invocations, a young man prayed in Chinese for governments and international organisations so that they may commit to peace and respect for human rights. Another young man prayed in Arabic for an end to the violence in the Middle East, especially in Bethlehem, "the land of Jesus".
At the end of the celebration, the Pope incensed the statue of the Mother of God at the left of the altar of confession as people sang the old antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater.