Thursday, 10 December 2009

The dignity of each person

As happens every year, the Pope visits the monument of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna to pay her homage on her feast day. The speech he gave is valid for every city and good for every person to hear. This here is my own translation which I hope will give you a taste of the clear and important teaching that he imparts. Indeed I find it a very fitting meditation for the holy season of Advent.

My dear brothers and sisters !
In the heart of Christian cities, Mary is a sweet and reassuring presence. In her silence she extends to every person peace and hope in both the joyful and sad moments of human existence. In churches, chapels and on the walls of palaces: a painting, a mosaic, a statue reminds us of the presence of Mary that constantly keeps vigil over her children. Here also, in Piazza di Spagna, Mary is placed on high, almost keeping vigil on Rome.
What does Mary say to the city? What does she remind us of by her presence? She reminds us that “however much sin increased, grace was always greater” (Rom 5:20) – as the apostle Paul writes. She is the Mother Immaculate that repeats also to men of this age: do not be afraid, Jesus has won over evil; he destroyed evil from its roots, giving us freedom from its hold on us.
We are in need of this good news! Ever day through newspapers, television and radio evil is recounted, repeated, amplified getting us used to the most horrible things, making us insensible and in some way inebriating us with it as evil is accumulated each day without being taken away. The heart hardens and thoughts are darkened. For this reason the city needs Mary, through her presence she speaks to us of God, she reminds us of the triumph of Grace over sin and leads us to hope in the face of the most difficult human conditions.
In the city live- or survive – invisible persons, that sometimes appear on the front pages or the screens and are used mercilessly while the news and the image sell. This is a perverse mechanism to which few resist. The city hides people in anonymity and then exposes them to the general public: without mercy or with a false one. In every person there is the desire of being accepted as a person and to be considered as a sacred reality, as every human story is a sacred story, and asks for the greatest respect.
 The city, dear brothers and sisters, is us! Each one contributes to its life and moral climate in good or bad. In the heart of each one of us is the border between good and evil and not one of us should take the right of judging others, instead each one of us needs to feel the need to make ourselves better! The mass media makes us feel spectators, as if evil is someone else’s business, and that some things can never happen to us. In fact we are all “actors”, in the good as in the bad, our behaviour has influence on others.
Often we complain about pollution where in some places it is difficult to breathe. It is true: we need the commitment of all to have a cleaner city. But there is another type of pollution, less perceptible to the senses but as bad. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is the pollution that wipes away the smile from our  faces, makes them darker that leads us not to greet each other, not to look each other in the face…The city is made up of faces but sadly the collective perception makes us loose the depth of meaning of each face. We see everything superficially. Persons become people, and these people become soulless, they become objects, objects without a human face, they can be replaced and traded.
Mary Immaculate helps us to discover and defend the depth of personhood, in her is the perfect vision of the soul and body, Mary is purity in person in the sense that her spirit, soul and body are coherent among themselves and with the will of God. Mary teaches us to be open to the action of God, to see others as He sees them: starting with the heart. It is to see others in mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, despised and used. “However much sin increased, grace was always greater”.
I want to pay tribute to those who in silence, not with words only but with action, strive to put in action this evangelical law of love that makes the world move forward. There are many, even here in Rome, and seldom are they in the headlines. Men and women of all ages that have understood the futility of condemning, complaining, blaming, but the need to respond to evil with good. This changes things; better still, it changes persons and therefore betters society.
Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city, as we face the daily chores, let us open our ears to Mary. Let us listen to her silent but appealing call. She says to each one of us: however sin has increased, grace is always greater, starting from within your own heart and your own life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian and more human.
Thank you, Holy Mother, for this your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Health of the Roman People, pray for us!

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