Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Feast of Assumption is reminder that love conquers hatred, pope says

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- The feast of Mary's assumption into heaven is a reminder that in the end, love and peace will conquer hatred and violence, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Celebrating an early morning Mass Aug. 15 in the small parish church at Castel Gandolfo and reciting the Angelus at noon with visitors to the papal summer residence, the pope prayed for Mary's intercession for peace in the world.

Mary's assumption, body and soul, into heaven is a divine reassurance that "love, and not hatred, will conquer. Peace will win," the pope told the 200 people crowded into the Church of St. Thomas.

Those inside included Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is about to retire as Vatican secretary of state, and Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope's older brother, who is staying at the summer residence.

Even though the Mass began at 8 a.m. on a major Italian holiday, the small square shared by the church and the papal villa was filled with people who could not get into the church for the pope's Mass. They watched the Mass on a big screen, and priests were sent out to distribute Communion.

Giving his homily without using a text or notes, Pope Benedict said the saints "are mirrors of God's light" and, particularly in Mary, "we can see his beauty, love and mercy."

"We can venerate Mary because she is blessed ... because she is united with God and lives in God," he said.

"She shows us how we can become blessed," the pope said.

The first, fundamental step is to believe, to have faith in God, he said.

Pope Benedict said the "fear of the Lord" praised by the prophets is not an anguished trembling, but "like children with their father, it is a concern not to destroy love."

Believing is not an intellectual exercise or a matter of thinking profound thoughts, he said. "It is a way of life."

In many cases, the pope said, "if a piece of information is not true, our lives won't change, but if God does not exist, everything changes. If God does not exist, life is empty and has no meaning."

Believing that God exists gives direction to a person's life, he said.

"To believe is to attach ourselves to God, to live in him," he said.

Believing does not mean living free from danger, he said.

In the face of the "dark forces" of the world, it often seems that the church and its members are defenseless, Pope Benedict said. But that should not be surprising, he added.

"God is vulnerable, because love is vulnerable," he said.

During the Mass, the pope prayed "that humanity would know a period of peace."

And during the Angelus later, he said, "to the Queen of Peace, whom we contemplate today in her heavenly glory, I want to entrust once again the worries of humanity for every place in the world torn by violence."

The pope said that in a special way he wanted to join the prayers of Lebanese celebrating the feast at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, north of Beirut, and the prayers of the Catholics of Israel and the Palestinian territories celebrating at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

"My thoughts also go to the dear nation of Sri Lanka, threatened by the deterioration of the ethnic conflict, (and) to Iraq, where the frightening and daily trail of blood lessens the prospects for reconciliation and reconstruction," he said.

Pope Benedict prayed that Mary would help people learn to understand each other and make a commitment to finding agreement.

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