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Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2015 & the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy

Pope Francis's homily at Holy Mass & Opening of the Holy Door
St Peter's Basilica, Tuesday 8th December 2015 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy.  We carry out this act – as I did in Bangui – so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard.  That word highlights the primacy of grace.  Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1, 28).

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her.  God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ.  When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her.  The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love.  Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world.  This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves. The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love. The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God’s will. This is the enmity which keeps striking at people’s lives, setting them in opposition to God’s plan. Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Sin can only be understood in this light. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace.  To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is He who seeks us! It is He who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy. How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (cf St Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)! But that is the truth.  We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome and in all the dioceses of the world, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which 50 years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world.  This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, which testify to a great advance in faith.  Before all else, the Council was an encounter.  A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time.  An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey.  It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces.  Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God.  After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm.  The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council.  May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan."

Pope Francis's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Tuesday 8th December 2015 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy feast day!
Today the Feast of the Immaculate Conception leads us to contemplate Our Lady who, by unique privilege, was preserved from original sin from the very moment of her conception. Even living in a world marked by sin, she was not touched by it: Mary is our sister in suffering, but not in evil or in sin. Instead, evil was conquered in her even before deflowering her, because God had filled her with grace (cf Lk 1, 28). The Immaculate Conception signifies that Mary is the first one to be saved by the infinite mercy of the Father, which is the first fruit of salvation which God wills to give to every man and woman, in Christ. For this reason the Immaculate One has become the sublime icon of the divine mercy which conquered sin. Today, at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, we want to look to this icon with trusting love and to contemplate her in all her splendour, emulating her faith.

In the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are invited to recognize the dawn of the new world, transformed by the salvific work of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The dawn of the new creation brought about by divine mercy. For this reason the Virgin Mary, never infected by sin and always full of God, is the mother of a new humanity. She is the mother of the recreated world.

Celebrating this feast entails two things. First: fully welcoming God and his merciful grace into our life. Second: becoming in our turn artisans of mercy by means of an evangelical journey. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception then becomes the feast of all of us if, with our daily “yes”, we manage to overcome our selfishness and make the lives of our brothers ever more glad, to give them hope, by drying a few tears and giving a bit of joy. In imitation of Mary, we are called to become bearers of Christ and witnesses to his love, looking first of all to those who are privileged in the eyes of Jesus. It is they who he himself indicated: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25, 35-36).

Today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception has a specific message for us: it reminds us that in our life everything is a gift, it is all mercy. May the Blessed Virgin, first fruit of the saved, model of the Church, Holy and Immaculate Spouse, loved by the Lord, help us to ever increasingly rediscover divine mercy as the distinguishing mark of Christians. One cannot understand a true Christian who is not merciful, just as one cannot comprehend God without his mercy. This is the epitomizing word of the Gospel: mercy. It is the fundamental feature of the face of Christ: that face that we recognize in the various aspects of his existence: when he goes to meet everyone, when he heals the sick, when he sits at the table with sinners and, above all, when nailed to the cross he forgives; there we see the face of divine mercy. Let us not be afraid: let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God who awaits us and forgives all. Nothing is sweeter than his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God: the Lord is so good, and he forgives all.

Through the intercession of Immaculate Mary, may mercy take possession of our hearts and transform our whole life."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all with affection, especially families, parish groups and associations.

This afternoon I shall go to Piazza di Spagna, to pray at the feet of the monument to the Immaculate. I will then go to St Mary Major. I ask you to join me spiritually on this pilgrimage, which is an act of filial devotion to Mary, Mother of Mercy. I shall entrust to her the Church and all of humanity, and in a special way the city of Rome.

Today Pope Benedict also passed through the Door of Mercy. Let us greet Pope Benedict from here!

I wish everyone a happy feast day and an abundantly fruitful Holy Year, with the guidance and intercession of our Mother; a Holy Year filled with mercy for you and, from you, for others. Please, ask this of the Lord for me too, as I have such a need for it! Enjoy your lunch! Arrivederci!"

Act of Veneration to Mary Immaculate

Papa Francesco's Prayer to Mary
Piazza di Spagna, Roma - in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish & Swahili

"Vergine Maria,
in questo giorno di festa per la tua Immacolata Concezione,
vengo a presentarti l’omaggio di fede e d’amore
del popolo santo di Dio che vive in questa Città e Diocesi.
Vengo a nome delle famiglie, con le loro gioie e fatiche;
dei bambini e dei giovani, aperti alla vita;
degli anziani, carichi di anni e di esperienza;
in modo particolare vengo a te
da parte degli ammalati, dei carcerati,
di chi sente più duro il cammino.
Come Pastore vengo anche a nome di quanti
sono arrivati da terre lontane in cerca di pace e di lavoro.

Sotto il tuo manto c’è posto per tutti,
perché tu sei la Madre della Misericordia.
Il tuo cuore è pieno di tenerezza verso tutti i tuoi figli:
la tenerezza di Dio, che da te ha preso carne
ed è diventato nostro fratello, Gesù,
Salvatore di ogni uomo e di ogni donna.
Guardando te, Madre nostra Immacolata,
riconosciamo la vittoria della divina Misericordia
sul peccato e su tutte le sue conseguenze;
e si riaccende in noi la speranza in un vita migliore,
libera da schiavitù, rancori e paure.

Oggi, qui, nel cuore di Roma, sentiamo la tua voce di madre
che chiama tutti a mettersi in cammino
verso quella Porta, che rappresenta Cristo.
Tu dici a tutti: “Venite, avvicinatevi fiduciosi;
entrate e ricevete il dono della Misericordia;
non abbiate paura, non abbiate vergogna:
il Padre vi aspetta a braccia aperte
per darvi il suo perdono e accogliervi nella sua casa.
Venite tutti alla sorgente della pace e della gioia”.

Ti ringraziamo, Madre Immacolata,
perché in questo cammino di riconciliazione
tu non ci fai andare da soli, ma ci accompagni,
ci stai vicino e ci sostieni in ogni difficoltà.
Che tu sia benedetta, ora e sempre, Madre. Amen.