I've neglected to cover beloved Pope Benedict lately. He's been on a roll all year long, and he certainly didn't let up this week. Not sure where the 79-year old pontiff gets his energy. This week he's spoken out about:
- Nativity scenes - The traditional tableau depicting the Three Wise Men visiting Jesus in a manger "is an important part not only of our spirituality, but also of our art and culture", the Pope said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.
- Where to see the face of God - "In the face of the little Jesus," said Benedict, "we contemplate the face of God, which is not revealed through force or power, but in weakness and the fragile constitution of a child...(Christmas) invites us to recognize the Infant Jesus in all babies, who are the joy of the Church and the hope of the world."
- His concern for Europe, "which seems almost no longer to want children." The Pope said, "Men and women today are unsure about the future." This fact, "alongside the desire to have all of life to themselves, is perhaps the most profound reason for which the risk of having children appears to many as almost unbearable.”
- Violence in the Middle East - Pope Benedict said that 2006 "remains in our memory with the profound imprint of the horrors of the war that took place in the surroundings of the Holy Land, as well as, in general, of the danger of a clash between cultures and religions, a danger that still threatens this historic moment."
- A recap of the Pope's trips to Spain, Poland, Germany and Turkey this year.
Tonight Papa Ratzi celebrated Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, which was attended by thousands and watched by millions (it was broadcast on 73 television stations in 47 countries). Excerpts from his homily:
"The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn," said the spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics. Speaking in Italian, he pointed to "children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world ... children who have to beg ... children who suffer deprivation and hunger ... children who are unloved." He said: "In all of these it is the child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us. ... Let us pray this night that the brightness of God's love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected."
AP Report: "While the pope spoke, police guarded churches in Pakistan and Indonesia, and in Bethlehem." 18,000 police were stationed at churches in Indonesia.
Pray for the Pope, and pray for persecuted religious minorities. Merry Christmas to all!