On Gaudete Sunday

«Christmas Is Approaching»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today, before praying the midday Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Many were youngsters who came with their parents to have the Pope bless the images of the Baby Jesus that they will place in the cribs of their Nativity scenes at home.

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1. The feast of Christmas is approaching and in many places cribs are already being set up, as here in St. Peter’s Square. Small or large, simple or elaborate, the crib constitutes a familiar and particularly expressive representation of Christmas. It is an element of our culture and art, but above all a sign of faith in God, who came to Bethlehem «to dwell among us» (John 1:14).

2. As every year, in a short while I will bless the images of the Baby Jesus, which in the Holy Night will be placed in the cribs, where St. Joseph and the Virgin already are, silent witnesses of a sublime mystery. With their look of love, they invite us to watch and pray to welcome the divine Savior, who comes to bring the joy of Christmas to the world.

3. Today’s Third Sunday of Advent, called Gaudete Sunday, exhorts us to foretaste this same joy. Let us ask the awaiting Virgin that all Christians and all men of good will may have a lively desire to encounter the Lord, now approaching.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted the faithful as follows:]

Today the Diocese of Rome is celebrating the Day for the Construction of New Churches on the outskirts of the city. In these last years a good 54 communities have been able to have a new church, but at least another 20 are still waiting. Therefore, I encourage you to be generous, so that all will be able to find a place in which to grow in faith and in Christian life.

I remind you, moreover, that next Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 5:30 p.m., I will preside over holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the university students of the Roman athenaeums. I invite you all to join this celebration.

Finally, I greet pilgrims here present, in particular, the children of Rome with their images of the Baby Jesus, the Monteverdi Chorale of Val di Non, the diocesan youth choir of Alessandria, and the faithful of Fiano Romano.

I wish all a happy Sunday.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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