VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI visited one of the parishes of Rome on Sunday, encouraging the parishioners to prepare for Christmas, "not just with gifts but with our hearts."
The Pope visited "Santa Maria delle Grazie" at Casal Boccone, in the northern sector of the Diocese of Rome, telling the people that "we must not lose contact with God in our hearts. If such contact exists then we have a reason to be joyful. To all of you I wish the joy of Christmas, the presence of the Baby Jesus Who is the God of our hearts."
The Holy Father celebrated the 9:30 a.m. Mass, noting in his homily the celebration of "Gaudete" Sunday, "the Sunday of joy."
"It tells us that, even amidst our doubts and difficulties, joy exists because God exists and he is with us," the Pontiff said.
He added: "May the Mass be the focus of your Sunday, which must be rediscovered and lived as the day of the Lord and of the community, a day on which to praise and celebrate the One Who was born for us, Who died and rose again for our salvation, and Who asks us to live together joyfully, to be a community open and ready to welcome anyone who is alone and in difficulty. Do not lose your understanding of the significance of Sundays, and remain faithful to your appointment with the Eucharist. Early Christians were ready to give their lives for this."
After Mass, the Holy Father made some brief comments to the people, telling them their "beautiful, open and heartfelt cordiality reminded me of my visit to Africa."
He also spoke of preparations for Christmas: "I know that people have many commitments, but getting ready for Christmas does not only mean shopping and making preparations, it means being in contact with the Lord, going out to meet him. I feel it is important not to forget this dimension. ... This is not an additional burden, but the power that enables us to do all we need to do. I hope you maintain permanent contact with Jesus, that his joy and strength might help you to live in this world."
Upon his return to the Vatican, the Holy Father kept with a Roman tradition for the third Sunday of Advent, blessing statuettes of the Baby Jesus brought to the square by children from local oratories. The images will be placed in nativity scenes in homes, schools and parishes.
"Dear children," the Pope told them, "when you pray before your crèche, remember me too as I will remember you. Thank you and Merry Christmas!"
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of Angelus address: www.zenit.org/article-33973?l=english