SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD AND WORLD DAY OF PEACE:  THURSDAY, 1 JANUARY

A "new international order' can build justice, peace


On Thursday, 1 January 2004, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the World Day of Peace, the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the faithful in St Peter's Basilica and focused on the theme of this year's World Day:  "An ever timely commitment:  teaching peace". During his Homily the Pope paid tribute to Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, "a witness to the Gospel of peace" who was killed on 29 December 2003 in Burundi carrying out his mission. To counter such outbursts of violence, the Pope said we must "build roads to peace together". He pointed out that people are becoming more and more aware of "the need for a new international order that will make the most of the experience of the United Nations Organization... an order that can provide satisfactory solutions to the problems of our day". The following is a translation of the Holy Father's Homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4: 4).
Today, the liturgy of the Octave of Christmas presents to us the icon of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. The Apostle Paul points her out as the "woman" through whom the Son of God entered the world. Mary of Nazareth is the Theotokos, the One who "gave birth to the King of Heaven and earth for ever" (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Sedulius).
At the beginning of this new year, let us place ourselves with docility at the school of Mary. We want to learn from her, the Holy Mother, how to accept in faith and prayer the salvation that God never ceases to offer to all who trust in his merciful love.

Peace wishes for the New Year

2. In this atmosphere of listening and prayer, let us give thanks to God for this New Year:  may it be a year of prosperity and peace for everyone!
With these wishes, I am pleased to address a respectful thought to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who are present at today's celebration. I cordially greet Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, and my collaborators in the Secretariat of State. With them, I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all the members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am grateful to them for their concerted effort to extend everywhere the invitation to peace that the Church constantly proclaims.

The commitment to teach peace

3 "An ever timely commitment:  teaching peace":  this is the theme of the Message for today's World Day of Peace. It is ideally linked to what I proposed at the beginning of my Pontificate when I reasserted the urgent need to form consciences to the culture of peace. For peace to be possible, I wished to repeat, it is also a duty (cf. Message, n. 4).
Challenged by situations of injustice and violence that threaten various parts of the globe and the never-ending wars, often ignored by public opinion, it is becoming more and more necessary to build roads to peace together; consequently, educating for peace becomes indispensable.
For Christians, in fact, "to proclaim peace is to announce Christ who is "our peace' (Eph 2: 14); it is to announce his Gospel, which is a "Gospel of peace' (Eph 6: 15); it is to call all people to the beatitude of being "peacemakers' (cf. Mt 5: 9)" (Message, n. 3). Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, my representative as Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi who was tragically killed a few days ago as he carried out his mission encouraging dialogue and reconciliation, was also a witness to the "Gospel of peace". Let us pray for him and hope that his example and his sacrifice will bear fruits of peace in Burundi and throughout the world.

A new international order

4. Every year in this Christmas season we return in spirit to Bethlehem to adore the Child lying in the manger. Unfortunately, in the land in which Jesus was born tragic conditions endure. In other parts of the world, hotbeds of violence and conflict are also still smouldering. However, we must persevere without giving in to the temptation to despair. All are asked to make an effort to see that the fundamental rights of the person are respected, by constantly teaching respect for the law. With this in mind, it is necessary to strive to transcend "the logic of simple justice and to be open also to the logic of forgiveness". Indeed, "there is no peace without forgiveness!" (cf. Message, n. 10).
People are becoming more and more aware of the need for a new international order that will make the most of the experience of the United Nations Organization and the results it has achieved in recent years:  an order that can provide satisfactory solutions to the problems of our day, founded on the dignity of the human person, on an integral development of society, on solidarity between the rich and poor countries and on sharing resources and the extraordinary results of scientific and technological progress.

"Queen of peace, pray for us!'

5. "Love is... the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between human beings" (ibid.). The awareness of this guided me in drafting the Message for today's World Day of Peace. May God help us build together the "civilization of love". Only a humanity in which love is triumphant will be able to enjoy authentic and lasting peace.
May Mary obtain this gift for us. May she sustain us and accompany us in the arduous but exalting process of building peace. Let us never tire of praying confidently for this:  Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us!

(©L'Osservatore Romano - 7 January 2004)
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The Pope expresses distress, sends prayers regarding the violent death of his Nuncio in Burundi


When the Holy Father learned the distressing news of the assassination of Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, on the afternoon of 29 December in Minago, about 50 kms from the capital city of Bujumbura, the Holy Father sent a Telegram addressed to Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Burundi, expressing his sympathy and spiritual closeness to the Bishops and the entire Church in Burundi. The Pope also asked everyone to remain committed to following Christ so that they will be able to reject violence and build a lasting peace. The following is a translation of the Holy Father's Telegram, which was written in French and released on 30 December 2003.

Profoundly distressed by the sorrowful news of the violent death of Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, I come to express my spiritual closeness and deep sympathy to the Bishops' Conference of Burundi and to the Catholic Church in that Country. As I pray to the Lord of Life to welcome into his Kingdom of light and peace the one who for more than three years expressed the daily concern of the Successor of Peter for all Burundians, I invite each one to engage to follow Christ day after day in order to reject violence, which is a road with no future, and to build a lasting peace founded on justice, respect for individuals and security for everyone. As a pledge of comfort, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all who are affected by this tragedy, so that God may keep you in peace and in hope.

IOANNES PAULUS PP. II



(©L'Osservatore Romano - 7 January 2004)
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Pope prays for plane crash victims


When learning that a Boeing 737 had crashed on Saturday, 3 January, in the Red Sea, killing all 148 mostly French passengers and crew on board, the Holy Father expressed his condolences through Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, Apostolic Nuncio in France, in a Telegram signed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State. Here is a translation of the French text of the Holy Father's Telegram, released on 4 January.

Informed of the tragedy caused by the disastrous plane crash of the Boeing 737 that occurred seconds after take-off from (Egypt's) Sharm el Sheikh Airport, the Holy Father expresses his deep condolences to the bereaved families and assures all those affected by this disaster of his deep sympathy and spiritual closeness. He commends the deceased to God's mercy, praying to the Almighty to welcome them into his peace and light. He asks God to support and comfort all the persons harshly tried by this tragedy, and expresses the hope that they may find at hand the help they need at this sorrowful moment.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano,Secretary of State



(©L'Osservatore Romano - 7 January 2004)
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TO UNIVERSITY STUDENTS IN ROME

Make your study a constant quest for God


On Thursday, 11 December 2003, in St Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father presided at Holy Mass celebrated for the students of Roman Universities, some of whom were participating in a meeting that focused on the process of European integration. The following is a translation of the Pope's Homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "Fear not, I will help you" (Is 41: 13). God's promise, echoed by the Prophet, was entirely fulfilled in the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. In him, God became one of us! For this reason, we need not fear; the season we are living of Advent encourages us to hope.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, today's gathering is situated in this setting of confident expectation of Christ's coming. I greet you all with affection. I greet first of all the distinguished rectors, lecturers and students of the Roman Universities. I extend a special thought to Letizia Moratti, Minister for Education and for University and Research. I greet the University chaplains and the national delegations of the university apostolate.
I thank the President of the Conference of Rectors of the Italian Universities, and the student representatives who expressed the sentiments of all.

Thirst for truth, justice and peace

2. "I will make... the dry land into springs of water" (Is 41: 18). This is God's great promise to the destitute and poor who, as the Prophet affirms, "seek water...", because "their tongue is parched with thirst" (Is 41: 17). Their thirst refers to the ardent desire for truth, justice and peace present in the soul of every man and woman.
In reality, the human being's most intimate aspirations find their complete answer in God alone. For this reason I encourage you, dear students, to make your time of formation an unremitting quest for God. Do not be deterred by doubts and difficulties. God, the Prophet assures, holds you by the "right hand" (Is 41: 13), he is next to you. His consoling presence will make you more aware of the mission that you are called to carry out in the university setting.

Never neglect the spiritual

3. In these days, many of you have taken part in the meeting that focused on the process of European integration. You who are part of the university world must also make your contribution to this process. Social, political and economic structures certainly hold major importance for the unity of Europe, but the humanistic and spiritual aspects cannot possibly be neglected. It is essential that modern Europe safeguard its scale of values and recognize above all that Christianity was the force able to promote, counsel and consolidate them.

God gives back human dignity

4. Christmas is the privileged occasion to highlight one of the most influential Christian values:  with the birth of Jesus, in the simplicity and poverty of Bethlehem, God gave back dignity to every human being's existence. He offered to all people the possibility to participate in his same divine life. May this immeasurable gift always find hearts ready to receive it!
I entrust this wish of mine to the maternal intercession of Mary. May she protect each one of you, your families and the academic communities to which you belong. Happy Advent and a Happy Christmas!

(©L'Osservatore Romano - 7 January 2004)
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