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Pope Benedict"s Message for 2009

As 2009 begins, Pope Benedict XVI is increasingly concerned about grinding poverty and the victims of war. And he has called on all Christians to “fight poverty” and “build peace.” But how?

Pope Benedict’s voice was hoarse during the first days of 2009. “I have lost my voice, but I hope I will be able to make myself understood,” he told some 4,000 pilgrims in the Paul VI Audience Hall on January 7 in his first general audience of the year. The pilgrims cheered...

Every new year is a time of “new year’s resolutions,” of new initiatives and new hopes. But each new year is also often a time of new difficulties, and sometimes these difficulties can seem overwhelming. How are we to face them? How are we to go forward, burdened and weighed down by our own limitations, shortcomings... sins?

The Pope answered this question in his first audience of the year. (Photo: Pope Benedict XVI, his image reflected by the marble floor, arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican Jan. 7 -- CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

We can go forward by returning to the most fundamental, profound things, he said. Above all, by opening our hearts and minds to Christ in order to live as “true friends of Christ,” he told the pilgrims.

That is the Pope’s constant message even more emphatically stated for 2009: that we open our hearts and minds to Christ.

If we do this, “His companionship will mean that, even with this year’s inevitable difficulties, the year can be a journey full of joy and peace,” the Pope said. “In fact, only if we stay united with Jesus will it be a good and happy new year.”

Pope Benedict then explained why Christ is so central to our lives, citing the writings of the Apostle Paul. According to St. Paul, Benedict said, Christ’s death and resurrection brought about “a historic transformation that radically changed and renewed the nature of worship.”

The ancient Jewish ritual for the atonement of sins on Yom Kippur, Benedict said, entailed sacrificing the life of an animal and sprinkling its blood upon the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Jerusalem. (The lid of the Ark was believed to be the bridge or point of contact between God and mankind.) The sacrificial blood on the lid “symbolically carried the sins from the past year to God and that way sins were more or less absorbed and forgiven by God” so that the people could start life anew, Benedict said. He explained that St. Paul knew this ritual was “an expression of the desire to be able to really put all of our sins in the abyss of divine mercy and, that way, make them disappear.”

But true atonement, as St. Paul knew, could not come from the blood of animals; it required more direct and real contact with God. Through his death on the cross, Benedict continued, Christ took upon himself the sins of all people. Jesus “is the point of contact between human misery and divine mercy.”

“The dismal lump of evil carried out by humankind melts in the heart” of Jesus, thereby giving everyone new life. Sacrifice no longer involves the death of an animal, but living one’s life fully for Christ. he summed up.

St. Paul urges Christians to “offer our own bodies — meaning our entire selves — as a spiritual worship, not in the abstract, but in our concrete daily life,” the Pope concluded.

So this is Benedict’s teaching for us as this new year begins: that we offer “our entire selves” as an act of “spiritual worship” and that we do this, not in the abstract, but “in our daily lives.”

What that commitment may entail was suggested by the Pope in another speech that he made the very next day, on January 8 (Photo: Pope Benedict XVI greets the Vatican diplomatic corps at the Vatican Jan. 8 before delivering his annual address to the ambassadors -- CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

The speech was his annual address to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican. (After delivering his speech in the Sala Regia, the 81-year-old pontiff greeted the diplomats one by one; among the representatives was the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon, who left her post January 19.) This speech to the diplomatic corps, sometimes called the Pope’s “State of the World” address, reviewed developments on several continents, from the refugee crisis in central Africa to the recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In the speech, Pope Benedict XVI called for major new efforts in three areas: (1) to reduce global poverty; (2) to end regional conflicts; and (3) to restore ethics to the global financial system.

Taking up the theme of his recent World Peace Day message, the Pope told the diplomats that “to build peace we must give new hope to the poor.” The Pope called for an effective strategy to fight hunger and promote local agricultural development, along with a reduction in military spending, which he said diverts enormous resources away from development projects.

“Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation, which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric,” he said.

Turning his attention to the Middle East, Benedict appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the support of the international community. “Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned,” he said. (Photo: An Israeli woman and her two children lie on the ground during a rocket attack near Kfar Aza in Israel just outside the northern Gaza Strip Jan. 7. The woman came to meet her husband, an Israeli army officer currently serving on the Gaza border. Rockets exploded as they were waiting for him. (CNS photo/Baz Ratner, Reuters)

He asked both sides to agree to “the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms.” He noted that upcoming elections would be crucial in choosing leaders who can lead their people to reconciliation. Israel holds elections in February, and Palestinians are expected to vote for new leadership sometime in the coming months.

The Pope concluded his talk by saying the fight against global poverty in all its forms can be inspired by Jesus and his Gospel.

“Because he is the Son of God, he tells us that fraternal solidarity between all men and women is the royal road to fighting poverty and to building peace,” he said. “May the light of his love illumine all government leaders and all humanity!”

During 2009 we must try with renewed energy to put this fraternal solidarity into practice, combating poverty and building peace, so that the love of Christ shines forth, enlightening even government leaders.

Sursa: www.InsideTheVatican.com

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