On the New Year

«Religious Liberty Is the Privileged Way to Build Peace»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God and the 44th World Day of Peace, before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this first Angelus of 2011, I address to all my good wishes for peace and goodness entrusting them to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who today we celebrate as Mother of God. At the beginning of a new year, the Christian People gather spiritually before the cave of Bethlehem, where the Virgin Mary has given birth to Jesus. Let us ask the Mother for a blessing, and she blesses us showing us the Son: in fact, he is the Blessing in person.

Giving us Jesus, God has given us everything: his love, his life, the light of truth, the forgiveness of sins; he has given us peace. Yes, Jesus Christ is our peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14). He brought to the world the seed of love and of peace, stronger than the seed of hatred and violence; stronger because the Name of Jesus is superior to any other name, it contains all the lordship of God, as the prophet Micah announced: «But you, O Bethlehem, … from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler …. He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God … He himself will be peace!» (5:1-4).

Because of this, before the icon of the Virgin Mother, the Church on this day invokes from God, through Jesus Christ, the gift of peace: it is the World Day of Peace, propitious occasion to reflect together on the great challenges that our era poses to humanity. One of these, dramatically urgent in our days, is that of religious liberty; because of this, this year I have wished to dedicate my Message to this topic: «Religious Liberty, Way for Peace.»

We are witnessing today two opposed tendencies, two extremes both negative: on one hand laicism that, in an often deceitful way, marginalizes religion to confine it to the private sphere; on the other fundamentalism, which instead would like to impose itself on all with force. In reality, «God calls humanity to himself with a plan of love that, while it involves the whole person in his natural and spiritual dimension, requires that he correspond in terms of liberty and responsibility, with his whole heart and with his whole being, individual and communal» (Message, 8). Wherever religious liberty is recognized effectively, the dignity of the human person is respected at its roots and, through a sincere search for the true and the good, the moral conscience is consolidated and the institutions themselves and civil coexistence are reinforced (cf. Ibid., 5). Because of this, religious liberty is the privileged way to build peace.

Dear friends, let us turn our gaze again to Jesus, in the arms of Mary, his Mother. Looking at Him, who is the «Prince of peace» (Isaiah 9:5), we understand that peace is not attained with arms, or with economic, political, cultural or media power. Peace is the work of consciences that open to truth and to love. May God help us to progress on this way in the new year that He gives us to live.

[Translation by ZENIT] [After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Message for today’s Day of Peace I was able to underline how the great religions can constitute an important factor of unity and peace for the human family, and I reminded, to this end, that in this year of 2011 will be observed the 25th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace that the Venerable John Paul II convoked in Assisi in 1986. Because of this, in the forthcoming month of October, I will go as a pilgrim to the city of St. Francis, inviting Christian brothers of different confessions, exponents of religious traditions of the world and, ideally, all men of good will, to join in this journey to recall that historic gesture willed by my predecessor and to renew solemnly the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith as service for the cause of peace. Whoever is journeying towards God cannot but transmit peace, whoever builds peace cannot but be close to God. I invite you to support this initiative from now on with your prayer.

In this context, I wish to greet and encourage all those who, from yesterday evening and during the whole of today, in the whole Church are praying for peace and for religious liberty. In Italy, the traditional march promoted by CEI, Pax Christi and Caritas took place in Ancona, city that will host next September the National Eucharistic Congress. Here in Rome, and in other cities of the world, Sant’Egidio Community has again proposed the initiative «Peace in All Lands»: my heartfelt greeting to all those who took part. I also greet the adherents of the Family Love Movement, who this evening watched in St. Peter’s Square and in the dioceses of L’Aquila praying for peace in families and in nations.

[The Holy Father then greeted those present in various languages. In English, he said:]

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. On the first day of the year the Church pays special honour to the Mother of God, recalling how in humble obedience to the Lord’s will she bore in her womb and gave birth to him who is the Light of the World. On this day, too, we pray especially for peace throughout the world, and I invite all of you to join in heartfelt prayer to Christ the Prince of Peace for an end to violence and conflict wherever they are found. Upon all of you, and upon your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings for the year that lies ahead. Happy New Year!

© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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