Pope’s New Year message: Be reborn in hope and mercy

Pope Francis leads the Angelus over St Peter's Square, Rome
Pope Francis leads the Angelus over St Peter's Square, Rome

Pope Francis has called on people to open their hearts to people in need as a means to nurture peace. Addressing pilgrims and visitors in St Peter’s Square after Mass in St Peter’s Square yesterday, he renewed his calls for peace and goodwill throughout the world.

New Year’s Day is not only the Solemnity of the Mother of God; it is also the World Day of Peace, the theme of which in 2016 is ‘Overcome Indifference and win Peace’. “That peace, which God the Father wants to sow in the world, must be cultivated by us,” Pope Francis said after the Angelus. “This involves a real struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place in our hearts, for the enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closures [of mind and heart].”

An icon of peace

The Pope said he thanked God for the way that modern means of communication can keep us informed about events in the world, but warned that it must not distract us from the needs of our neighbours: “Sometimes we are so inundated with news that we are distracted from reality, from the brother and sister who needs us,” he told pilgrims. “Let us begin to open our hearts, awakening attention to our neighbour … This is the way to win the peace.”

Earlier, Pope Francis had presided and preached at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Mother of God whom he described as “an icon of peace”, insisting that despite the pain and injustices around the world, mercy and peace cannot be vanquished. “At the beginning of a new year,” he said, “the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace.  In her, the ancient promise finds fulfilment.” Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the Annunciation, he went on: “She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord.  Through her, through her ‘yes’, the fullness of time came about.”

The hope of salvation

“Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated,” he said, “and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world.  We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims.  How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights?  A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ.

“And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world,” the Pope continued. “All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing.  The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.”

Photo: © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk