01/06/2007, 00.00
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Pope: Epiphany of Christ and universal mission of Church

Benedict XVI invited Christians to live “as children of the light and to lead men to Christ, true light of the world”. Thanking the “Holy Childhood”, he prayed that “passionate missionaries” may emerge from among children. He greeted the Churches of the east that celebrate Christmas tomorrow.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI once again underlined the missionary value of the feast of the Epiphany when he addressed a huge crowd of at least 40,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer. He described the feast of the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles, non-Christian peoples, as the start of the “universal vocation and mission” of the Church. Recalling the value of the Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood, he exhorted Christian educators to cultivate in children “the missionary spirit so that passionate missionaries will emerge among them, witnesses of the tenderness of God and announcers of his love”. And he did not fall short of greeting the eastern orthodox churches that celebrate Christmas tomorrow.


Shortly after solemn mass ended in the Vatican basilica, Benedict XVI turned again to the mystery of the Epiphany, of the “manifestation of Christ to the Magi”, who probably were Persian religious leaders who “reached Jerusalem guided by a ‘star’, a celestial luminous phenomenon interpreted by them as a sign of the birth of a new king of the Jews”.


And while Herod, “shaken by the news”, conceived “the tragic plan of the ‘massacre of the innocents’ to wipe out his just born rival”, the Magi entrusted themselves to the sacred Scriptures and set off in the direction of Bethlehem, “they saw the star again, and full of joy, they followed it until it stopped over a shed. They entered and found the Baby with Mary; they prostrated themselves before Him and, in homage of his royal dignity, they offered Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.


The importance of this event lies in the fact that “the adherence of pagan peoples to faith in Christ” started to be realized then. The Magi, explained Benedict XVI, were the “first of the gentiles, also called to form part of the Church, the new people of God, based no longer on ethnic, linguistic or cultural homogeny but only on shared faith in Christ, Son of God. The Epiphany of Christ, thus, is at the same time the epiphany of the Church, that is, the manifestation of its vocation and universal mission.”


And the pope delivered Christmas greetings “to our beloved brothers and sisters of the eastern churches” who follow the Julian calendar (like the Russian one): “With affection, I wish them abundance of peace and Christian prosperity”.


The pontiff then recalled that “the World Missionary Childhood Day is marked on the Epiphany. It is the feast of Christian children who live with joy the gift of faith and pray that the light of Jesus may reach all the children of the world. I thank the children of the ‘Holy Childhood’ [organization linked to the Pontifical Works], present in 110 countries, because they are precious collaborators of the Gospel and apostles of Christian solidarity towards those most in need. I encourage educators to cultivate the missionary spirit in the young that passionate missionaries may emerge among them, witnesses of the tenderness of God and announcers of his love.”


Benedict XVI ended his reflection before the Angelus by invoking  “the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization: through her intercession may Christians from all over the world live as children of the light and lead men to Christ, the true light of the world.”


After the Marian prayer, the pope greeted pilgrims present in different languages and invited them to the Angelus tomorrow, the feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

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