He continued: “This is the role Mary fulfilled throughout her entire earthly life and which she forever retains: to be the humble handmaid of the Lord, nothing more. At a certain point in the Gospels, she almost seems to disappear; but then she reappears in the more crucial moments, such as at Cana, when her Son, thanks to her caring intervention, performs his first ‘sign,’ and then on Golgotha at the foot of the cross.”
He described how Christians began to pray to Mary, using expressions found in the Gospels, such as “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women.” The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 approved the title “Mother of God,” which was added to the Hail Mary prayer.
Reflecting on the line “now and at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary, he said: “Mary is always present at the bedside of her children when they depart this world. If someone is alone and abandoned, she is Mother, she is there, near, as she was next to her Son when everyone else abandoned him.”
“Mary was and is present in these days of the pandemic, near to the people who, unfortunately, have concluded their earthly journey all alone, without the comfort of or the closeness of their loved ones. Mary is always there next to us, with her maternal tenderness.”
Concluding his reflection, he said: “She listens as Mother. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation.”
“Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. To pray with us. Why? Because she is our Mother.”
In remarks at the end of the audience, the pope expressed sorrow at terrorist attacks in the West African state of Niger that have claimed 137 lives.
“Let us pray for the victims, for their families and for the entire population so that the violence suffered may not cause them to lose trust in the path of democracy, justice and peace,” he said.
He also conveyed his sympathies to people affected by flooding in the Australian state of New South Wales.
He said: “I am near the people and the families affected once again by this calamity, especially those who saw their houses destroyed. I give encouragement to those who are doing everything possible to search for those who are missing and to bring aid.”
He also noted that World Tuberculosis Day falls on March 24, the day in 1882 when the German physician Robert Koch announced that he had identified the bacterium causing the infectious disease.
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The pope said: “May this annual event foster a renewed interest in the treatment of this disease and increased solidarity toward those who suffer from it. Upon them and their families, I invoke the Lord’s consolation.”