Sunday 12 December 1999



Dear Brothers and Sisters!


1. Today the liturgy invites us to rejoice because "the Lord is at hand" (Philippians 4: 5). The day of his Birth is now close, as is the Great Jubilee, which in a sense will be a year-long celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation, 2,000 years after the coming of the Son of God in the lowliness of our human nature.


It is Christ himself, using Isaiah's prophetic words, who explains the reasons for this joy: "The Spirit of the Lord", he proclaims, "is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" (Luke 4: 18; cf. Isaiah 61: 1).


On the eve of the new millennium, the Church makes this message of hope her own and proclaims "the year of the Lord's favour" (Isaiah 61: 2), inviting all to draw abundantly from the very source of grace, Jesus Christ, the Man-God, Redeemer of man and the centre of history.


2. One of the popular expressions of the joyful expectation of Christmas is the preparation of cribs in families. In Christian homes these are the days when a suitable corner is chosen for arranging the figurines, leaving room between Mary and Joseph for the Child Jesus. Having in mind all the Christian families arranging their cribs, I very gladly bless you, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come in large numbers with your Bambinelli. May Christmas, now close at hand, spur you and all believers in every part of the world to prepare a worthy dwelling-place for Christ.


Precisely in order to have more accommodating places of worship today in every neighbourhood in the Diocese of Rome, we are observing the day of prayer and collections for the construction of new churches in the outlying areas of the city. As I thank everyone who has contributed to this project in recent years, I hope that a church with other parish facilities can be built in the areas where one is lacking, as a true reference-point for the spiritual and community life of so many people and families.


3. May Mary, the one who cherishes the secret of joy, accompany us on this journey to the Holy Night. Her immaculate heart is filled with the joyful expectation of God's coming and the fulfilment of his promises.


In cribs it is the image of the Blessed Virgin which attracts our special attention. In her we see the mothers who are preparing to give birth. In her we recognize all the women who surround the great mystery of life with love and care. May the Mother of the Lord help us to be ready for Christmas by preparing our hearts to receive Jesus.




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


This evening a demonstration will be held at the Colosseum as part of the world campaign for a moratorium on the death penalty. The Great Jubilee is an excellent opportunity to promote in the world ever more mature forms of respect for the life and dignity of every person. I therefore renew my appeal to all leaders to reach an international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty, since "cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2267).


Next Tuesday, 14 December, I will have the joy of celebrating Holy Mass for university students. I expect the whole university world of Rome to come to the Vatican Basilica for this gathering of faith shortly before Christmas.


I would like to extend a cordial greeting to the representatives of the RAI (Italian Radio and Television) and La Sapienza University, who, with the approach of the Christmas holidays, are involved in organizing a convention on child hunger, scheduled for next Wednesday in Rome. I hope that this praiseworthy project, promoted in collaboration with the FAO, the World Food Programme and the United Nations, will help to inform and to increase public awareness of the serious problem of hunger that afflicts a large part of humanity, especially the world of children.


I affectionately greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, especially those who have come from San Pedro del Pinatar, Lorca and Alhama in Murcia. As Christmas draws near, I invite you to open your hearts to Jesus, the Incarnate Word, proclaiming him in word and by the witness of your life. Many thanks.


I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, particularly the faithful from the parishes of St Pius X in Bolzano and Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Trieste, as well as the group from the ACLI Tourist Centre of Chiavari, and the Confirmation candidates with their parents and the Salesian Sisters who teach catechism at Sts Rufina and Secunda Parish in Rome.


Happy Christmas to all! Praised be Jesus Christ!






Sunday, 15 December 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. "Brethren, rejoice always” (I Thessalonians 5:16). The invitation of the Apostle Paul to the faithful of Thessalonica, that has just been read, expresses well the atmosphere of today's liturgy. Indeed, today is the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally known as "Gaudete" (Rejoice) Sunday, from the Latin Word with which the Entrance Antiphon begins.


"Rejoice in the Lord always". In the face of the inevitable difficulties of life, the uncertainties and fears for the future, the temptation to give in to despair and disappointment, the Word of God always proclaims again the "glad tidings" of salvation:  the Son of God comes to heal "the wounds of the broken-hearted" (cf. Isaiah 61,1). May this joy, anticipation of the coming joy of Christmas, fill each of our hearts and every corner of our lives.


2. Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St John Nepomucene Neumann:  Welcome! It is wonderful to meet you just before Christmas! As we know, Christmas is a feast that families and children especially enjoy, and you are a parish made up of many young families.


I offer all of you my cordial greeting. I greet Cardinal Ruini, Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Western sector, Bishop Apicella, your parish priest, Fr Danilo Bissacco, and his vicars, to whom the care of the community is entrusted. I thank those who, on your behalf, expressed sentiments of affection and communion to me at the beginning of the celebration. Through you who are here, I would like to convey a word of heartfelt closeness to the almost 10,000 people who live in the parish territory.


Gathered round the Eucharist, we realize more easily how it is the mission of every Christian community to bring the message of God's love to all people. This is the reason why it is important that the Eucharist always be the heart of the life of the faithful, as it is today for your parish, even if all its members have not been able to take part personally.


3. Two years after its foundation, your community still does not have a proper place of worship. On this very day, the Third Sunday of Advent, the diocese observes the Day of Prayer and Awareness so that all the areas of the city, especially those on the outskirts, may have a church with the necessary structures for the normal round of liturgical, formative and pastoral activities.


I hope that you too will be able to achieve this plan as soon as possible, but without losing the missionary style that in recent years has made your parish family lively and dynamic.


I am conscious of the difficulties your parish has to face every day. The ancient Borgata Fogaccia, today known as Borgata Montespaccato, in which the parish is located, is a densely populated area, where buildings have shot up without respect for the zoning plan, without social structures, and where there is a noticeable presence of non-Italian immigrants and people in search of permanent work.


4. However, you must not lose heart. Besides, your young community is full of initiative, thanks to the Redemptorist Fathers who, in the year of the Great Jubilee as true sons of St Alphonsus, agreed to take charge of the parish. Despite the lack of structures and the burdens of daily life, you already take care of those in difficulty.


Dear brothers and sisters, continue on this path. Above all, take care of the children and adolescents, ensuring that they do not lack attention, friendship or confidence. Support families, especially young and poor ones, and those in difficulty.


May your heavenly Patron, St John Nepomucene Neumann, protect you even though you may not know him as well as he deserves. In the mid-19th century, this great missionary bishop, an extraordinary pioneer of the Gospel in North America, spent himself for the Lord, for the Church and for the people entrusted to his care. Imitate his zeal for proclaiming the Gospel and his burning love for the Church and for his neighbour in need.


5. "Make straight the way of the Lord" (John 1:23). Let us accept the Evangelist's invitation! The approach of Christmas calls us to a more vigorous expectation as we await the Lord who comes, even as today's liturgy presents John the Baptist to us as an example to imitate.


Finally, let us turn our gaze to Mary, "cause" of our true and profound joy, so that she may obtain for each one that joy which comes from God and which no one can ever take from us. Amen!



3rd Sunday of Advent
15 December 2002



Dear Brothers and Sisters,


1. There is already a Christmas atmosphere in St Peter's Square. Beside the crib, still being set up, stands the Christmas tree that Croatia has given this year. Let me repeat my thanks to our Croatian brothers and sisters for their kind gift.


Dear children and youngsters of Rome, you have come today to add a touch of liveliness in keeping with the tradition of having the Baby Jesus of your cribs blessed by the Pope. I greet you affectionately and thank you because your joy fits in very well with the spirit of joy that is appropriate for the Third Sunday of Advent.


I also think of the cribs that you and your parents and teachers have prepared in your homes and schools. In the manger, between Mary and Joseph, you will place the Baby Jesus you hold in your hands. The crib will become the centre of your classroom and the heart of your families.


Above all, Christmas is a feast of the family because, by being born in a human family, the Son of God chose it as the first community consecrated by his love.


2. Speaking of families, I want to call to your attention that from 22-26 January 2003, the Fourth World Meeting of Families will take place in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The first was held in Rome in 1994, the International Year of the Family. Three years later it was followed by the extraordinary gathering in Rio de Janeiro; in the year 2000 the families of the whole world met in Rome for the Great Jubilee. The next appointment will serve to relaunch the Gospel of the family in the third millennium.


I thank all those who are busy with the preparation of this important meeting in Manila. I hope that there will be as great a participation of families as possible. The world needs a sign of hope that comes from Christian families.


3. From this day, I entrust this world appointment to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the family. We ask her to protect families everywhere in the world, especially those living in situations of great poverty and difficulty. May every family nucleus be able to open its doors to the Lord who will come at Christmas to bring to the world joy, peace and love.


This Sunday the Diocese of Rome re-launches the campaign for new churches and parish centres.


Christmas reminds us that God wants to dwell among us, in our homes, so that we can meet Him and live in communion with Him. Further, families know well how important it is to have in their neighbourhoods centres for the formation of their children and young people. For this reason, I invite you to support the endeavour of the diocese to achieve this important goal.







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11 January 2015