Pope on Orthodox Christmas, Gaza violence and children without childhood
Before greeting thousands of pilgrims in various languages, Benedict XVI sent his greetings to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches (especially that of Russia) who, “following the Julian calendar will celebrate Holy Christmas tomorrow. May the memory of the birth of the Saviour rekindle in their hearts more and more the joy of being loved by God.”
The Pontiff then talked again about the grievous situation in the Holy Land which he has been following “with great concern.”
“Whilst I reiterate that hatred and rejection of dialogue can only lead to war, I would like today to encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who, with peace in their heart, are trying to help Israelis and Palestinians to sit down to talk. May God help the action of these courageous ‘builders of peace’!”
The Pontiff then gave a “special thought” to children, who are “wealth and blessing of the world’ but who are often denied an untroubled childhood.
The Holy Father especially focused on the “tens of children and kids who, over the last few months Christmastide included, have been abducted by armed gangs in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have attacked villages, causing many casualties and wounded.”
“I appeal to the authors of such inhuman brutalities to return the boys to their families and to a future of safety and development to which they and their communities are entitled,” said the Pope. “At the same time I express my spiritual closeness to the local Churches, whose staff and activities have also been affected, as I urge pastors and faithful to hold on to strong and steadfast hope.”
In mentioning that 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, Benedict XVI prayed for “those,” and they are many, “who work everyday serving the new generations, helping them become active players in their own future.”
Missionary Childhood Day, which is celebrated today Feast of the Epiphany, “is an appropriate occasion to stress how children and kids can play an important role in spreading the Gospels and in carrying out works of solidarity towards their needier peers. May the Lord reward them,” the Pontiff added.
Before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI turned to today’s Gospel, focusing especially on the attitude of the Magi, who came to worship the King of the Jews, and that of Herod and the people of Jerusalem, who were “alarmed” by the announcement.
“We touch here one of the most crucial points of the story’s theology, the drama of God’s faithful love in the person of Jesus, who ‘came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him’ (Jn, 1:11),” said the Pope.
In light of the Bible as a whole, this attitude of hostility or ambiguity or superficiality represents that of every man and that of the world, in a spiritual sense, when he shuts himself off from the mystery of the true God, who comes towards us in the disarming meekness of love. Jesus, the ‘King of the Jews’ (cf Jn, 18:37), is the God of mercy and faithfulness. He wants to reign in love and truth and call on us to convert, abandon evil things and follow resolutely that path of goodness.”