Sunday, 20 December 1998


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. In a few days it will be Christmas. Families are busy with preparations. The crib, being set up in this square too, and the tree, pointing to heaven and already decorated with strands of light, remind us of the approach of this feast, which is so rich in sentiment and inspiration. As I offer you my most cordial greetings, I urge everyone not to stop at the external aspect of Christmas, reducing it to a folkloric festival, but to rediscover its profound truth, that of the Son who came among us in the humility of our flesh. We must renew within ourselves that attitude of wonder and astonished admiration which the Virgin Mary experienced in the presence of this Mystery. May Christmas bring everyone to meet God and awaken in all hearts feelings of mutual forgiveness and fraternal solidarity.


2. The Christmas atmosphere causes us even deeper suffering over what is happening in these days to the Iraqi people, to whose tragedy no one can be indifferent.


My profound sorrow for the situation of that people is combined with deep distress at seeing how often hopes in the effectiveness and force of international law and in the organizations called to guarantee its application are disappointed.


I repeat once again: war has never been and will never be an appropriate way to solve problems between nations!


More than ever, then, it is the Iraqi people who must be the chief concern of those in Iraq and elsewhere who have the obligation to resolve this crisis. To everyone I make a heartfelt appeal that human solidarity and respect for the international order will prevail.




After leading the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father said:


I cordially greet the pilgrims from Bad S臘kingen who have donated this year痴 Christmas tree. You give everyone great joy with this Black Forest firtree. God痴 blessing to your compatriots and a Happy Christmas!


I wish everyone a pleasant Sunday and a fervent preparation for Christmas.



Fourth Sunday of Advent, 23 December 2001


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. Today we are celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Advent, while preparations are well under way for the feast of Christmas. The Word of God in the liturgy helps us focus our attention on the meaning of this fundamental saving event, which is at once historic and supernatural.


"Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ": God-with-us (Isaiah 7,14). Isaiah's prophecy is of capital importance in the economy of salvation. It assures us that "God himself" will give King David a descendent as a "sign" of his fidelity. This promise was fulfilled by Jesus born of the Virgin Mary.

2. Thus to benefit from the meaning and gift of grace of Christmas, now at hand, we must hasten to the school of Our Lady and her husband Joseph whom we contemplate in ecstatic adoration of the newborn Messiah in the manger.


In today's Gospel passage, Matthew highlights the role of Joseph whom he describes as a "just" man (Matthew 1,19), and thus emphasizes his unreserved devotion to fulfilling God's will. Precisely because of this inner righteousness, which in the ultimate analysis coincides with love, Joseph does not decide to reject Mary when he discovers she is with child. He resolves to "send her away quietly" (Matthew 1,19), but the angel of the Lord tells him not to fear, and to take her as his wife.


Another essential aspect of St Joseph's personality emerges here: he is ready to listen to God in prayer. He learns from the angel that "it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her, [Mary]" (cf. Matthew 1,20), according to the ancient prophecy: "Behold, a young woman shall conceive...", and he is quick to accept God's plans that surpass human limitations.

In sum, Joseph can be described as an authentic man of faith like his wife Mary. Faith combines justice and prayer; this is the most appropriate attitude with which to encounter the Emmanuel, God-with-us. Indeed, believing means living through history open to God's initiative, to the creative force of his Word who became flesh in Christ, uniting himself to our humanity forever. Thus, the Virgin Mary and St Joseph help us to celebrate fruitfully the birth of the Redeemer.




After praying the Angelus the Holy Father said:


I would like to make an appeal on behalf of those who have been kidnapped. I am thinking especially of those who were kidnapped because of their faith, and in particular of Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni, a Dehonian priest who was kidnapped more than two months ago in the Philippines.

May holy Christmas, a mystery of goodness and peace, move the kidnappers' hearts to pity and induce them to release these people. I assure them and their relatives of my remembrance in prayer.


I now greet warmly the pilgrims who have come here, especially the altar boys of the Roman Parish of St Mary Mother of Mercy, with their relatives and friends. To you all, my fervent good wishes for a Happy Christmas.



Fourth Sunday of Advent, 19 December 2004


1. The Feast of Christmas, perhaps the dearest to popular tradition, is full of symbols connected with the different cultures. There is no doubt that the most important of them all is the crib, as I had occasion to emphasize last Sunday.


2. Next to the crib, as in St Peter's Square, we find the traditional "Christmas tree". This too is an ancient tradition that exalts the value of life, for in the winter season the evergreen fir becomes a sign of undying life. Christmas gifts are usually placed on the tree or arranged at its base. The symbol thus also becomes eloquent in a typically Christian sense: it calls to mind the "tree of life" (cf. Genesis 2: 9), a figure of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity.


3. The message of the Christmas tree is consequently that life stays "evergreen" if we make a gift of it: not so much of material things, but of life itself:  in friendship and sincere affection, in fraternal help and forgiveness, in time shared and reciprocal listening.


May Mary help us to live Christmas as an occasion to savour the joy of giving ourselves to our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest.




After leading the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father said: 


Dear children of Beslan, I greet you on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ. I greet with great affection the children and young people from Beslan, Ossezia, who are staying with some friends of the Discalced Carmelites of Trent. Dear friends, may the good that you are receiving from so many friends help you recover from the injuries of the terrible experience you have been through. Happy Christmas!


I greet all the pilgrims present, especially the faithful from the Roman Parishes of St Tarcisius and St Frances Cabrini, and from Taranto and Castellaneta. A thought also goes to the "For Another Hope" Association from Verona.


Have a good Sunday and a Happy Christmas!


Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God痴 encouragements to all of us.  



St Peter's Square
Fourth Sunday of Advent, 23 December 2007


Dear Brothers and Sisters,


Only one day separates this Fourth Sunday of Advent from Holy Christmas. Tomorrow night we will gather together to celebrate the great mystery of love which never ceases to amaze us: God became the Son of Man so that we might become children of God. During Advent, a frequent entreaty has risen from the heart of the Church: "Come, Lord, visit us with your peace, your presence will fill us with joy". The Church's evangelizing mission is the response to the cry "Come, Lord Jesus" that pervades all of salvation history and continues to rise from believers' lips. Come, Lord, transform our hearts, so that justice and peace may be spread in the world! The Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization, recently published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, intends to recall this. In fact, the Document sets out to remind all Christians - in a situation in which the actual reason why evangelization exists is often no longer clear even to many of the faithful - that "the acceptance of the Good News in faith is thus dynamically ordered to" (n. 7) communicating salvation received as a gift.


Indeed, "The truth which saves one's life inflames the heart of the one who has received it with a love of neighbour that motivates him to pass on to others in freedom what he has freely been given" (ibid.) Being reached by the presence of God who makes himself close to us at Christmas is a priceless gift. It is a gift that can make us "live within the universal embrace of the friends of God" (ibid.), in that "network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth" (ibid., n. 9), which directs human freedom towards its fulfilment and, if it is lived in its truth, blossoms "in a love that is freely given and which overflows with care for the good of all people" (ibid., n. 7). Nothing is more beautiful, urgent and important than freely offering to men and women, in turn, what we ourselves have freely received from God! Nothing can dispense or relieve us from this burdensome but fascinating commitment. While the joy of Christmas that we already anticipate fills us with hope, it spurs us at the same time to proclaim to everyone God's presence in our midst.


The Virgin Mary, who did not communicate to the world an idea but Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is an unparalleled model of evangelization. Let us invoke her with trust so that, in our time too, the Church may proclaim Christ, the Saviour. May every Christian and every community feel the joy of sharing with others the Good News that "God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son... that the world might be saved through him" (John 3: 16-17). This is the authentic meaning of Christmas, which we must rediscover and live intensely.


After the Angelus:


I address my cordial greetings to those who work for the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, who, this morning in St Peter's Square, are proposing an initiative of solidarity for children in Uganda. As I express my appreciation for the special attention that L'Osservatore pays to humanitarian emergencies in every part of the world, I praise the fact that it is also borne out by concrete gestures such as this, which I hope will be truly successful.


I extend warm greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we contemplate God's ancient promise to send us his Son, "Emmanuel" - "God is with us". As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I pray that you may open your hearts to welcome him with joy. God bless you all! Happy Christmas!




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22 December 2013