Mankind Longs for Joy of Peace This Christmas, Pope Says

Appeals to Believers to Be "Prophetic Ferment of a Reconciled World"

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Humanity longs for peace above all this Christmas, John Paul II said today.



"It is up to us believers, with the eloquence of love expressed in deeds, to become every day a prophetic ferment of a world reconciled by love and vivified by divine joy," the Pontiff told visitors and pilgrims in St. Peter´s Square.

The Vatican is readying for Christmas. The Nativity scene, surrounded by scaffolding, is under construction in St. Peter´s Square, and the white fir from Romania is yet to be fully decorated.

Following a tradition, thousands of Roman boys and girls came to pray the Angelus with the Pope at midday, and to have their figurines of the Christ Child blessed. The youngsters will use them in the Nativity cribs at home.

The Holy Father addressed the children affectionately and thanked them for coming, invoking "peace and serenity for you and your family" this Christmas.

In his brief address, John Paul II said that the Christmas message is meant especially for all the poor and those living in anguish.

"Joy is the heart of the Gospel of Christmas," he said. "As an expert Mother, the Church knows better than any other institution the difficulties and sufferings proper to human life."

He continued: "It well understands that in the life of so many peoples and individuals, sadness prevails over joy, anguish over hope, but it is precisely to these men and women that the Christmas message is especially proclaimed, because Christ announced the Gospel of salvation to the poor, ´liberty to prisoners, joy to the afflicted.´"

"Therefore, Christ is the authentic liberator of man, sent by God to rescue him from the power of evil and death," the Pope added. "From this profound and total liberation is derived the joy that Christ gives to his friends, a joy that, like his peace, is different to that of the world, superficial and ephemeral."

"The grave problems that surround life sometimes make it difficult to recognize these gifts of Christ," the Bishop of Rome said realistically. "Guided by the Holy Spirit, the task of the Church is, precisely, to make them visible and to witness to their presence."

The Pope concluded by requesting prayer to Mary so that Christians "will always be, but especially at the present time, credible witnesses of the joy of Christ."