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Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 2001

Pope Saint John Paul II's Homily at Midnight Mass
St Peter's Basilica - in English, French, German, Italian, PolishPortuguese & Spanish

"1. "Populus, qui ambulabat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" (Is 9, 1).

Every year we listen again to these words of the prophet Isaiah in the moving context of the liturgical re-evocation of Christ’s Birth. Every year these words take on new meaning and cause us to relive the atmosphere of expectation and hope, of amazement and joy typical of Christmas.

To the people, oppressed and suffering, who walked in darkness, there appeared "a great light". A truly "great" light indeed, because the light which radiates from the humility of the crib is the light of the new creation. If the first creation began with light, how much more splendid and "great" is the light which inaugurates the new creation: it is God himself made man!

Christmas is an event of light, it is the feast of light: in the Child of Bethlehem the primordial light once more shines in humanity’s heaven and dissipates the clouds of sin. The radiance of God’s definitive triumph appears on the horizon of history in order to offer a new future of hope to a pilgrim people.

2. "Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone" (Is 9, 1).

These joyful tidings, proclaimed just now in our assembly, are also meant for us, the men and women of the dawn of the third millennium. Throughout the world the community of believers gathers in prayer to listen to it once again. Amid the cold and snow of winter or in the torrid heat of the tropics, tonight is a Holy Night for all.

Long awaited, the splendour of the new Day at last shines forth. The Messiah is born, Emmanuel, God-with-us! He is born, who was announced by the Prophets of old and long invoked by all "who dwelt in the land of gloom". In the silence and the darkness of the night, the light becomes a word and message of hope.

But does this certainty of faith not seem to clash with the way things are today? If we listen to the relentless news headlines, these words of light and hope may seem like words from a dream. But that is precisely the challenge of faith, which makes this proclamation at once comforting and demanding. It makes us feel that we are wrapped in the tender love of God, while at the same time it commits us to a practical love of God and of our neighbour.

3. "The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all" (Tit 2, 11).

Our hearts this Christmas are anxious and distressed because of the continuation in various parts of the world of war, social tensions, and the painful hardships in which so many people find themselves. We are all seeking an answer that will reassure us.

The passage from the Letter to Titus which we have just heard reminds us that the birth of the Only-begotten Son of the Father has been revealed as "an offer of salvation" in every corner of the earth, at every time in history. The Child who is named "Wonder-Counsellor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace" (Is 9, 5) is born for every man and woman. He brings with him the answer which can calm our fears and reinvigorate our hope.

Yes, in this night filled with sacred memories, our trust in the redemptive power of the Word made flesh is confirmed. When darkness and evil seem to prevail, Christ tells us once more: Fear not! By his coming into the world he has vanquished the power of evil, freed us from the slavery of death and brought us back to the banquet of life.

It is up to us to draw from the power of his victorious love by appropriating his "logic" of service and humility. Each of us is called to overcome with Christ "the mystery of iniquity", by becoming witnesses of solidarity and builders of peace. Let us go then to the cave of Bethlehem to meet him, and to meet, in him, all the world’s children, every one of our brothers and sisters afflicted in body or oppressed in spirit.

4. The shepherds, "once they had seen, made known what had been told them concerning this child" (Lk 2, 17).

Like the shepherds, we too on this wonderful night cannot fail to experience the desire to share with others the joy of our encounter with this "child wrapped in swaddling cloths", in whom the saving power of the Almighty is revealed. We cannot pause in ecstatic contemplation of the Messiah lying in the manger, and forget our obligation to bear witness to him.

In haste we must once more set out on our journey. With joy we must leave the cave of Bethlehem in order to recount everywhere the marvel which we have witnessed. We have encountered light and life! In him, love has been bestowed upon us.

5. "A child is born to us...".

We welcome you with joy, Almighty Lord of heaven and earth, who out of love became a Child "in Judea, in the city of David, which is called Bethlehem" (Lk 2, 4).

We welcome you with gratitude, new Light rising in the night of the world.
We welcome you as our brother, the "Prince of Peace", who "made of the two one people".

Fill us with your gifts, you who did not hesitate to begin human life like us. Make us children of God, you who for our sake desired to become a son of man (cf St Augustine).

You, "Wonder-Counsellor", sure promise of peace; you, powerful presence of the "God-Hero"; you, our one God, who lie poor and humble in the dim light of the stable, welcome us around your crib.

Come, peoples of the earth, open to him the doors of your history! Come to worship the Son of the Virgin Mary, who descended among us, on this night prepared for down the centuries.

Night of joy and peace.

Venite, adoremus!"

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Urbi et Orbi Message on Christmas Day
St Peter's Square, 25 December 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Christ is our peace",
"Christ is our peace;
he has made the two into one people" (cf Eph 2, 14).
At the dawn of the new millennium,
which began with so much hope
but is now threatened by dark clouds
of violence and war,
the words of the Apostle Paul
which we listen to this Christmas
are a powerful ray of light,
a cry of trust and optimism.
The Divine Child born in Bethlehem
brings in his little hands as a gift
the key to peace for mankind.
He is the Prince of Peace!
This is the joyful news which echoed that night in Bethlehem,
and which I wish to reaffirm before the world
on this blessed day.
Let us listen once more to the words of the angel:
"I bring you good news of a great joy
which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2, 10-11).
On this day the Church echoes the song of the angels
and repeats their astonishing message,
which first amazed the shepherds
on the hills above Bethlehem.

2. "Christ is our peace!"
Christ, "the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in the manger" (Lk 2, 12),
is indeed our peace.
A helpless Newborn Child in a lowly cave
restores dignity to every life being born,
and brings hope to those overcome by doubt and discouragement.
He has come to heal life's wounds
and to restore meaning to death itself.
In that Child, meek and defenceless,
crying in a cold and bare cave,
God has destroyed sin,
and planted the seed of a new humanity,
called to bring to fulfilment
the original plan of creation
and to transcend it through the grace of redemption.

3. "Christ is our peace!"
Men and women of the third millennium,
you who hunger for justice and peace,
accept the message of Christmas,
which today rings out around the world!
Jesus was born to strengthen the bonds
uniting individuals and peoples,
to make them all, in himself, brothers and sisters.
He came to break down
"the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2, 14)
and to make one family of all mankind.
Yes, we can repeat with certainty:
Today, in the Incarnate Word, peace is born!
Peace to be implored,
for God alone is its source and guarantee.
Peace to be forged
in a world in which peoples and nations,
burdened with so many and such varied difficulties,
hope for a new humanity
united not just by economic interests
but by the unceasing effort to bring about
a society that is more just and supportive.

4. Let us hasten like the shepherds to Bethlehem,
let us pause in adoration in the cave,
and gaze upon the Newborn Redeemer.
In him we can recognize the face
of every little child who is born,
of whatever race or nation:
the little Palestinian and the little Israeli;
the little American and the little Afghan;
the child of the Hutu and the child of the Tutsi...
whoever the child is, to Christ each one is special.
Today my thoughts go to all the children of the world:
so many, too many are the children
condemned from birth to suffer
through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts.
Let us save the children,
in order to save the hope of humanity!
This is what we are urgently called to do
by that Child born in Bethlehem,
the God who became man,
to give us back the right to hope.

5. Let us beg from Christ the gift of peace
for all who are suffering as a result of conflicts old and new.
Day after day, I bear in my heart
the tragic problems of the Holy Land;
every day I think with anxiety
of all those who are dying of cold and hunger;
every day there reaches me the desperate cry
of those who, in so many parts of the world,
call for a fairer distribution of resources
and for gainful employment for all.
Let no one lose hope
in the power of God's love!
May Christ be the light and support
of those who believe and work, sometimes in the face of opposition,
for encounter, dialogue and cooperation
between cultures and religions.
May Christ guide in peace the steps
of those who tirelessly devote themselves
to the progress of science and technology.
May these great gifts of God never be used
against respect for human dignity and its promotion!
May God's holy name
never be used as a justification for hatred!
Let it never be used as an excuse for intolerance and violence!
May the gentle face of the Child of Bethlehem
remind everyone that we all have one Father.

6. Christ is our peace!
Brothers and Sisters, who are listening to me,
open your hearts to this message of peace,
open your hearts to Christ, the Son of the Virgin Mary,
to the One who became "our peace"!
Open them to the One who takes nothing away from us
except our sin,
and who gives us in return
the fullness of humanity and joy.
And You, the Child of Bethlehem whom we adore,
bring peace to every family and town,
to every nation and continent.
Come, God made man!
Come to be the heart of the world renewed by love!
Come where the fate of humanity
is most in peril!
Come and do not delay!
You are "our peace" (Eph 2, 14)!

St JPII - St Peter's Square, the Vatican, Christmas Day, 25th December 2001