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Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's words at the Regina Caeli
St Peter's Square, VII Sunday of Easter, 4 May 2008 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ into heaven is being celebrated in various countries, including Italy, a mystery of faith which the Acts of the Apostles places 40 days after the Resurrection (cf Acts 1: 3-11) and for this reason it was celebrated last Thursday in the Vatican and in several other Nations of the world. After the Ascension, the first disciples remained together in the Upper Room gathered around the Mother of Jesus, fervently awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (cf Acts 1: 14). On this first Sunday of May, the month of Mary, we too relive this experience, feeling Mary's spiritual presence more intensely. And St Peter's Square looks almost like an "Upper Room" under the open sky, packed with the faithful, most of whom belong to the Italian Catholic Action to whom I shall speak after the Marian prayer of the Regina Caeli.

In his farewell discourses to the disciples, Jesus stressed the importance of his "return to the Father", the culmination of his whole mission: indeed, he came into the world to bring man back to God, not on the ideal level - like a philosopher or a master of wisdom - but really, like a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold. This "exodus" toward the heavenly Homeland which Jesus lived in the first person, he faced totally for us. It was for our sake that he came down from Heaven and for our sake that he ascended to it, after making himself in all things like men, humbling himself even to death on a cross and after having touched the abyss of the greatest distance from God. For this very reason the Father was pleased with him and "highly exalted" him (Phil 2: 9), restoring to him the fullness of his glory, but now with our humanity. God in man - man in God: this is even now a reality, not a theoretical truth. Therefore, Christian hope, founded on Christ, is not an illusion but, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, "we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul" (Heb 6: 19), an anchor that penetrates Heaven where Christ has gone before us.

And what does the human person in every epoch need other than this: a firm anchorage in life? Here once again is the wonderful meaning of Mary's presence among us. Turning our gaze to her, like the first disciples, we are immediately directed to the reality of Jesus: the Mother points to the Son who is no longer physically among us but awaits us in the Father's house. Jesus invites us not to linger looking upwards, but to be united in prayer together, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, only those who are "born from on high", that is, from God's Spirit, have access to the Kingdom of Heaven (cf Jn 3: 3-5), and the first to be "born from on high" was, precisely, the Virgin Mary. To her, therefore, let us turn in the fullness of Easter joy."

After the Regina Caeli:

"Chers pèlerins francophones présents à la prière mariale de ce jour, je vous adresse mes salutations chaleureuses. Avec l’aide de la Vierge Marie, puissiez-vous ouvrir vos cœurs à l’Esprit Saint, pour être témoins, personnellement et en Église, de la Bonne Nouvelle du salut.

I greet with joy the English-speaking pilgrims who have come here today, particularly the members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way from Mumbai in India. In the course of this week we will pray with the whole Church for the coming of the Holy Spirit. May all of you receive abundant blessings of peace and joy.

Mit Freude grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache hier auf dem Petersplatz. Diese Tage vor Pfingsten sind eine Zeit des besonderen Gebets um den Heiligen Geist. Bitten wir inständig um die Gabe des Geistes Gottes! Er macht uns neu, er schenkt Leben und gibt Kraft, das Antlitz der Erde zu erneuern. Der Herr erfülle euch mit seiner Gnade und seinem Frieden.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los fieles de las Parroquias del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, de Albacete, y de San Juan Bautista, de Fuensalida, en Toledo. En este día, en el que en algunos lugares se celebra la solemnidad de la Ascensión del Señor a la derecha del Padre, os invito a exultar de gozo por este gran misterio, que acrecienta nuestra esperanza de llegar también nosotros, como miembros de su cuerpo, donde nos ha precedido Él, que es nuestra Cabeza. Feliz domingo a todos.

Pozdrawiam serdecznie Polaków. Uroczystość Królowej Polski i Wniebowstąpienie Pańskie nadają szczególny akcent pierwszym dniom maja. Niech nasze serca przenika nadzieja i radość, że kiedyś spotkamy się z Chrystusem i z Jego Matką w chwale nieba. Z serca wam błogosławię.

Saluto infine con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare le Suore dell’Adorazione Perpetua del Santissimo Sacramento, la cui fondatrice Maria Maddalena dell’Incarnazione ieri è stata proclamata beata. Saluto inoltre i giovani dell’Oratorio Sacra Famiglia di Cinisello Balsamo, i ragazzi che si preparano a ricevere la Cresima, il Centro "Grazie alla vita" di Mezzolombardo, la scolaresca di Sènnori e i fedeli provenienti da Villa Garibaldi, da Coste e Madonna della Salute e da Scandicci. A tutti auguro una buona domenica."