Pope Presents Child of Bethlehem as Sign of Peace and Liberation

Celebrates Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2002 (ZENIT.org).- The Child in the manger is the sign of peace and liberation for those who suffer because of war, oppression, poverty or sin, John Paul II said during Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

«The Child laid in a lowly manger: This is God’s sign,» the Pope affirmed during his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica. «The centuries and the millennia pass, but the sign remains, and it remains valid for us too — the men and women of the third millennium.»

«It is a sign of hope for the whole human family; a sign of peace for those suffering from conflicts of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned,» he insisted.

The Mass, which was televised to 47 countries, began with a floral homage before the image of the Child Jesus, carried out by a dozen children from Ecuador, India, Poland, Italy, China, Burkina Faso, Congo, South Korea and Canada.

About 50 cardinals and bishops concelebrated. The readings were done in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Polish, Arabic and Indonesian.

In his homily the Pope insisted that «Jesus is born for a humanity searching for freedom and peace; he is born for everyone burdened by sin, in need of salvation, and yearning for hope.»

«On this night God answers the ceaseless cry of the peoples: Come, Lord, save us! His eternal Word of love has taken on our mortal flesh. ‘Your Word, O Lord, came down from his royal throne.’ The Word has entered into time: Emmanuel, God-with-us, is born,» he stressed.

In the Year of the Rosary, proclaimed in October, the Pope proposed to contemplate the mystery of Christmas with the eyes of Mary and «so recognize in this Child the human face of God.»

«We too — the men and women of the third millennium — are able to encounter Christ and to gaze upon him through the eyes of Mary. Christmas night thus becomes a school of faith and of life,» the Holy Father said.

Earlier, the Pope lit a candle for peace in the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square. He made no statement, but prayed for a few seconds.

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