Among the faithful there were at least 2 thousand children who had brought their statues of the Infant Jesus to be blessed by the Pope, before they place them in the manager this Christmas Eve.
The pontiff spoke to them directly: "I see here in St. Peter's Square so many children and teenagers, along with parents, teachers and catechists. Dear friends, I greet you all with great affection and I thank you for coming. It gives me great joy to know that in your family the tradition of the Nativity Scene is still kept. But it is not enough to repeat a traditional gesture, however important. Try to live in the reality of every day what the crib is, the love of Christ, his humility, his poverty. This is what St. Francis did in Greccio: he created a living Nativity scene, to be able to contemplate and adore it, but above all to know how best to put into practice the message of the Son of God who for our sakes was stripped of everything and became a little child”.
For several years Italy the crib has been the centre of much controversy, similar to recent polemics surrounding the public exposure of the crucifix.
In the past it was set up in public places: schools, stations, shops.
But different secularist personalities claim that the Nativity Scene is an attack on the religious freedom of others and for this, especially in schools, they prefer not display it.
The pope did not mention this controversy; instead he emphasized the value of this simple tradition: "The crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having so many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in becoming a gift for others and loving one another. Let us look at the Nativity Scene: the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph do not seem like a very lucky family, they had their first child in the midst of great hardship, and yet are filled with deep joy, because they love each other, help each other and, above all are certain that in their history God is at work, present in the Infant Jesus. And the shepherds? What reason would they have to rejoice? That baby will not change their condition of poverty and marginalization. But faith helps them to recognize in the 'infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger', the 'sign' of the fulfillment of the promises of God for all men 'whom he loves' (Luke 2,12.14), even for them!” .
"This, dear friends - concluded Benedict XVI - is what true joy is; the feeling that our personal and community lives are visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love. We need more than things to rejoice, we need love and truth: we need a God close at hand, who warms our hearts, and responds to our deepest yearnings. This God was manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. So that Child, that we put in the manger or cave, is the centre of everything, He is the heart of the world. We pray that every man, like the Virgin Mary, may accept as a centre of their lives the God who became a Child, the source of true joy".
After the Marian prayer, in greetings, the Pope recalled the deaths of four missionaries killed in recent days in Africa: Fr. Daniel Cizimya (killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo), Fr. Louis Blondel (South Africa), Fr. Gerry Roche (Kenya), Sr Denise Kahambu (DR of Congo).
They, said the pontiff, "They have been faithful witnesses to the Gospel, who were able to proclaim with courage, even risking their lives. While I express my closeness to the families and communities who are in pain, I invite everyone to join me in praying that the Lord will accept them in his house, to console those who mourn the loss and bring with His coming, reconciliation and peace."
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