On Mary's Presence in Rome

«Let Us Hear Her Silent but Pressing Appeal»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today, 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!
In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. With her discreet style she gives everyone peace and hope in happy and sad moments of life. In the churches, in the chapels, on the walls of palaces: a painting, a mosaic, a statue recalls the presence of the Mother who constantly watches over her children. Also here, in Piazza di Spagna, Mary is placed on high, almost to watch over Rome.
What does Mary say to the city? Of what does she remind everyone with her presence? She reminds that «where sin increased, grace abounded all the more» (Romans 5:20) — as the Apostle Paul writes. She is the Immaculate Mother who repeats also to the men of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus has conquered evil; he has conquered it at the root, freeing us from its dominion.
How much we have need of this beautiful news! Every day, in fact, through newspapers, the television and the radio, evil is recounted, repeated, amplified, accustoming us to the most horrible things, making us become insensitive and, in some way, intoxicating us, because the negative is not fully disposed of and accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become dark. Because of this, the city has need of Mary, who with her presence speaks to us of God, reminds us of the victory of grace over sin, and induces us to hope even in humanly more difficult situations.
In the city live — or survive — invisible persons, who every now and then leap onto the front page or on television screens, and are exploited to the end, so that the news and the image attract attention. It is a perverse mechanism, to which unfortunately one finds it hard to resist. The city first hides and then exhibits to the public, without pity, or with false pity. There is instead in every man the desire to be received as a person and considered a sacred reality, because every human history is a sacred history, and requires the greatest respect.
The city, dear brothers and sisters, is all of us! Each one contributes to its life and its moral climate, for good or evil. In the heart of every one of us passes the boundary between good and evil, and not one of us should feel the right to judge others, but rather each one must feel the duty to improve himself!

The mass media tends to make us feel always as «spectators,» as if evil refers only to others, and certain things could never happen to us. Instead we are all «actors» and, in evil as in good, our behavior has an influence on others.
We often lament the pollution of the air, which in certain places of the city is unbreathable. It is true: We need everyone’s commitment to make the city cleaner.

And yet, there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is that which renders our faces less smiling, more gloomy, which leads us not to greet one another, to not look at one another in the face. The city is made up of faces, but unfortunately the collective dynamics can make the perception of their depth disappear. We see everything on the surface. Persons become bodies, and these bodies lose the soul, become things, objects without a face, to be exchanged and consumed.
Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of persons, because in her there is perfect transparency of the soul in the body. She is purity personified, in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are in her, fully consistent between themselves and with the will of God. The Madonna teaches us to open ourselves to God’s action, to look at others as he looks at them — from the heart. And to look at them with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, most looked down upon, most exploited. «Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.»
I wish to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, not with words, but with deeds, make an effort to practice this evangelical law of love, which sends the world forward. They are so many, also here in Rome, and rarely do they make news. Men and women of every age, who have understood that it is no use to condemn, to lament, to recriminate, but it is better to respond to evil with good. This changes things, it changes persons and, in consequence, improves society.
Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city! While we are busy in daily activities, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She says to each one of us: Where sin increased, grace can overflow, beginning precisely from your heart and your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian, more human.
Thank you, Holy Mother, for this your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, «Salus Populi Romani,» pray for us!
 [Translation by ZENIT]

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