VATICAN CITY - Welcoming in the new year, Pope Benedict XVI
said that despite the injustice and violence in the world,
every human being yearns for and is made for peace.
"Man is made for peace, which is a gift of God," but also
something individuals must work tirelessly to build, he said.
The pope celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 1,
which the church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God
and as World Peace Day. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde was
among the bishops who attended the liturgy.
Thousands of people filled the basilica, which was decorated
with white roses, small yellow flowers and evergreens. In the
crowd was a group of children wearing colorful capes and
cardboard crowns in memory of the three kings who traveled to
Bethlehem; three of the children brought offertory gifts to
Prayers for peace were offered in five languages; in Arabic,
the prayer asked that Mary "awaken in government leaders,
legislators and men and women of science respect and concern
for motherhood, Gods supreme gift to humanity."
In his homily, the pope quoted from the peace day message he
had sent to government leaders around the globe.
Despite the "tension and conflict caused by growing instances
of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a
selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds
expression in an unregulated financial capitalism," as well
as terrorism and crime, "I am convinced that 'the many
different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world
testify to mankind's innate vocation to peace.'"
People are called to find an inner peace with God by living
according to his will, and to enrich that gift by living
peacefully with and for others, including all of creation, he
Inner peace is possible even when struggling with "problems,
darkness and distress," he said; Mary is a prime example with
how she faced uncertainty and challenges with calm and
"It's this inner peace we would want to have in the midst of
sometimes tumultuous and confusing events," he said.
Nothing can destroy a Christian's inner peace because it is
rooted in the certainty that there is a good, loving and
omnipotent God who always offers his grace and peace, the
"In fact, suffering, trials and darkness don't corrode, but
strengthen our hope, a hope that never disappoints," he said.
Pope Benedict also tweeted a special blessing in eight
languages to his more than 2 million Twitter followers: "May
Our Lord bless you and watch over you in the new year."
Speaking after the Mass from his apartment window above St.
Peter's Square, the pope highlighted the importance of
peacemakers, who, day after day, "try to conquer evil with
good, with the strength of truth, with the weapons of prayer
and forgiveness, with honest work done well, with scientific
research serving life and with works of mercy."
He said there are many peacemakers in the world, but they
work without fanfare, acting quietly "like yeast helping
humanity rise up to God's plan."
The pope also presided over an evening prayer service with
eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of
thanksgiving to God Dec. 31 in St. Peter's Basilica.
No matter how many troubles in the world or in one's life,
"there is good in the world and this good is destined to
conquer all thanks to God, the God of Jesus Christ,
incarnate, died and risen," he said.
It's easy to forget that the good will win, since evil acts
like homicides, violence and injustice are what grab the
headlines, rather than acts of love and kindness, which often
remain hidden in the background, he said.
If people are to truly understand the world and what life is
about, they must go beyond the news flash and be able to
silently reflect, think and listen to God.
"That way our soul can find healing from the inevitable
wounds of daily life" while the mind tries to see things with
God's eyes and learn to "look with truth upon our actions and
also the evil present in us and around us." Such
self-reflection is necessary for "conversion, which makes one
wiser and better" and more able to act in solidarity and
communion, he added.
Christians are people of hope, especially in the midst of
darkness, because they know that what's bad in the world
doesn't come from God but comes from human sin and error, the
Christ is the true source of life and hope and it's this
certainty "that prompts us to look to the new year with
confidence," he said.
After the prayer service, the pope went by popemobile into
St. Peter's Square, where he visited the Vatican's Nativity
scene. While the Swiss Guard band played "Silent Night," the
pope knelt before the manger scene for a few moments of
On Dec. 30, the feast of the Holy Family, the pope prayed at
his noon blessing for all the families in the world.
Just like the Holy Family, mothers and fathers worry about
properly raising their children, hoping to create honest and
responsible adults and citizens, the pope said.
Children need not only the gift of faith, but also the
personal example of their parents, he said.
"Let us pray that every child is welcomed as a gift from God
and is supported by the love of a father and mother so as to
grow like the Lord Jesus."
He asked that Mary and Joseph's love, fidelity and dedication
inspire today's Christian couples to see that "they are not
friends or lords over their children's lives, but custodians
of this unparalleled gift of God."