Pope Venerates Image of Virgin Mary on Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Traditional Tribute Takes Place in Rome

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI made his way to Piazza di Spagna in Rome for the traditional act of veneration of the image of the Virgin Mary on the column situated in front of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See.

During his journey, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, where he greeted the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, the Pope began by offering a prayer, followed by a reading from the Apocalypse of St. John, a homily and the offering of a floral tribute to the image of the Virgin. In his address, the Pope reflected on the Gospel of this solemnity, the Gospel of the Annunciation.

The Holy Father began by explaining that the encounter between the angel and Mary, the decisive moment in which God became Man, "was enveloped in a great silence. ... That which is truly great often goes unnoticed and calm silence is more fruitful than the frenzy that characterizes our cities, and which, in due proportion, was also present in the important cities of those times, such as Jerusalem. All this action prevents us from pausing, allowing ourselves to be calm and listening to the silence in which the Lord makes his discreet voice heard."

On the day of the Annunciation, the Holy Father said, Mary was "deep in thought and yet ready to listen to God. There was no obstacle within her, no barrier, nothing that would separate her from God. This is the meaning of her being without original sin. Her relationship with God is free from even the slightest rift; there is no separation, no shadow of selfishness, but rather perfect harmony."

"Coming here, before this monument to Mary, in the center of Rome, reminds us first that the voice of God is not recognized amid noise and turmoil; his plan for our life as individuals and as a society are not visible on the surface; we need to descend to a deeper level where the forces at work are not economic or political but moral and spiritual. It is at this deeper level that Mary invites us to enter into harmony with God's action."

Pope Benedict also said that the example of Mary Immaculate teaches humanity that salvation does not lie in man, technology or ideology but on Grace. "Grace means love in its purity and beauty. It is God Himself as revealed in the salvific narrative of the Bible and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Mary is called the 'favored one' and this identity recalls to us God's primacy in our life and in the history of the world," the Pope said.

"Grace can disperse the darkest clouds, and make life beautiful and rich in meaning even in the most inhumane situations."

Concluding his address, Pope Benedict XVI called on the faithful to look at the Virgin Mary as model of Christian life during the holy season.  "In this time of Advent, Mary Immaculate teaches us to listen to the voice of God that speaks to us in silence; to welcome His Grace that frees us from sin and selfishness, so that we may experience true joy," the Holy Father said.