.- Pope Benedict said on today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception that the day honoring Mary should give Christians “comfort” and remind them that God's mercy “is more powerful than evil.”
On a cloudy morning in St. Peter's Square, pilgrims came to pray the Angelus with the Pope and to hear his remarks on the significance of the Marian feast day.
Pope Benedict briefly spoke from his study window overlooking the square and recalled that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception – Mary being born without original sin – was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The teaching, he said, is “a source of inner light, of hope and comfort,” in the midst of life's difficulties.
The reality of sin in the world, he explained, can be traced to disobedience to God's will, adding that now evil has its root in the human heart, which is “sick and wounded,” and “unable to heal itself.”
But the life of Mary, Mother of Christ, shows us that tells us that God's mercy is more powerful than evil and that grace is greater than sin, the Pope taught.
He added that God has prepared a new and everlasting covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ who was “born of a woman.” Pope Benedict then explained the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, saying that the Virgin Mary experienced in advance the redeeming death of her Son, since she was conceived without sin.
After his remarks in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in several different languages. Speaking in English, he said that Church “joyfully” celebrates the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
“By her prayers, may our hearts and minds be kept free from sin, so that like Mary we may be spiritually prepared to welcome Christ,” he said.
“Let us turn to her, the Immaculate, who brought Christ to us, and ask her now to bring us to Him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!”
Later in the afternoon, Pope Benedict also led a traditional procession to crown a statue of Mary at the Piazza di Spagna – one of Rome's most prestigious shopping districts. Leading the way in his popemobile, the pontiff and procession solicited curious stares from busy onlookers doing their holiday shopping.
He emphasized to the crowds gathered in the piazza that the message of the Virgin Mary is for everyone, even those not aware of the feast day, and especially for those who may feel alone or abandoned.