CHRISTMAS ADDRESS OF
Tuesday, 21 December 2004
1. Every year, the approach of the festive Christmas celebrations stirs feelings of serenity and peace. The birth of Jesus is an event that moves our hearts. The eternal Word became flesh and came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1: 14). In the next few days, the Liturgy will remind us more than once of this fundamental truth of our faith: "Christus natus est nobis, venite, adoremus", (Christ is born for us, come, let us adore him).
I address a special thought of gratitude to the Cardinal Dean for interpreting your common sentiments and for offering me your fervent good wishes for a Holy Christmas and for the New Year; I cordially reciprocate with my own good wishes for each one of you and for your loved ones.
Before such a great gift and mystery we are left speechless! "Adoro te devote", we will say at Christmas, already making out in the shadows of a grotto the drama of the Cross and the shining triumph of Christ's Pasch.
"Ut unum sint!". Was not this the heartfelt prayer that Christ addressed to the Father on the eve of his redeeming passion? It is urgently necessary to rebuild full communion among Christians. One of the aims of celebrating the
Year of the Eucharist is to increase this thirst for unity by indicating the one, inexhaustible source: Christ himself. We must journey on unwavering towards unity to which, providentially, the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council gave a strong impetus. Indeed, it was precisely 40 years ago, on 21 November 1964, that the Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium and the Decrees
Orientalium Ecclesiarum on the Eastern Catholic Churches and
Unitatis Redintegratio on ecumenism were promulgated.
I remember among others the
visit of the Ecumenical Delegation from Finland, and especially
that of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in June, and a little less than a month ago, for the consignment of the gift of the relics of Sts Gregory Nazi-anzen and John Chrysostom. I warmly hope that
the return to Russia of the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan will also contribute to hastening the unity of all Christ's disciples.
Believers have an immense responsibility, especially to the new generations to whom they must pass on the Christian patrimony intact. Therefore, on many occasions, especially during my
pilgrimage to Lourdes, I did not fail to encourage European Catholics to stay faithful to Christ. Indeed, it is in the heart that are nourished those Christian roots of Europe on which a future of solidarity and justice on the Continent and throughout the world largely depends. I would like to repeat here what I emphasized in my Message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good".
With affection, I impart my Blessing to you all.