Pontiff's Piazza di Spagna Address

Mary Immaculate: «Sign of Sure Hope and Consolation»

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ROME, DEC. 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday afternoon, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, during his visit to the image of the Immaculate Conception in Rome’s Piazza de Spagna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Almost three months ago, I had the joy to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150 years of the historic apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette. The celebration of this singular anniversary concludes precisely today, solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because the «beautiful lady» — as Bernadette called her, when appearing to her for the last time in the grotto of Massabielle, revealed her name, saying: «I am the Immaculate Conception.» She said it in the local language, and the little seer referred that expression, which to her was unknown and incomprehensible, to her parish priest.

«Immaculate Conception»: Today we also repeat with emotion that mysterious name. We repeat it here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and innumerable brothers and sisters of ours do the same in other places of the world, in shrines and chapels, as well as in the homes of Christian families. Wherever there is a Catholic community, the Virgin is venerated with this wonderful and marvelous name: Immaculate Conception. Of course, the conviction of Mary’s immaculate conception already existed many centuries before the apparitions of Lourdes, but the latter came as a heavenly seal after my venerated predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, defined the dogma on Dec. 8, 1854. In today’s feast, so loved by the Christian people, this expression arises from the heart and flowers on the lips as the name of our heavenly Mother. As a child raises its eyes to his mother’s face and, seeing him smiling, forgets all fear and pain, so we, turning our gaze to Mary, recognize in her «God’s smile,» immaculate reflection of divine light, we find in her our hope, also in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.

It is a tradition for the Pope to join the city’s acknowledgement by bringing a basket of flowers to Mary. These flowers indicate our love and devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome and of the inhabitants of this City, who feel themselves spiritually children of the Virgin Mary. Symbolically, the roses can express all the beautiful and good we have carried out during the year, because in this now traditional meeting we would like to offer it to our Mother, convinced that we could have done nothing without her protection and without the grace that she obtains continually from God. However — as is usually said –there are no roses without thorns, and also on the stems of these wonderful white roses there is no lack of thorns, which represent for us the difficulties, sufferings, and evils that mark the lives of persons and of our communities. We present our joys to our Mother, but also entrust to her our preoccupations, confident of finding in her the comfort not to be discouraged, and the support to go forward.

O Immaculate Virgin, in this moment I would like to entrust to you especially the «little ones» of this, our city: the children above all, especially those who are seriously ill, children who are deprived and those who suffer the consequences of harsh family situations. Watch over them and make them feel, in the affection and help of those around them, the warmth of the love of God. I entrust to you, O Mary, the lonely elderly, the sick, immigrants who find difficulty in integrating, family nucleuses that struggle to cover their bills and persons who do not find work or who have lost an indispensable job to get ahead. Teach us, Mary, to be sympathetic with those who are going through difficulties, to level the ever larger social differences; help us to cultivate a lively sense of the common good, of respect for what is public, encourage us to regard — more than ever this, our city of Rome — as patrimony of all, and may each one of us do, with awareness and determination, our part in constructing a more just and sympathetic society.

O Immaculate Mary, who are for all a sign of sure hope and consolation, let us be attracted by your immaculate candor. Your beauty — «Tota Pulchra,» we sing today — assures us that the victory of love is possible; what is more, that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin and, therefore, that rescue from any slavery is possible. Yes, O Mary, you help us to believe with greater confidence in the good and to put our faith in gratitude, service, nonviolence, the force of truth. You encourage us to stay awake, not to yield to the temptation of easy evasions, to confront reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. So you did, young woman, called to risk all for the Word of the Lord. Be a loving mother for our young people, so that they will have the courage to be «morning watchmen,» and give this virtue to all Christians so that they will be the soul of the world in this not easy period of our history. Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, «Salus Populi Romani,» pray for us!

[Translation by ZENIT]
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