VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2012 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below. Among those present was a group of children from Catholic Action of the diocese of Rome, who annually celebrate January as the "month of peace". At the end of the Marian prayer two of the children read out a message and released two doves, as a symbol of peace, from the Pope's window.
Benedict XVI introduced the prayer with some brief remarks on today's Gospel reading in which St. Mark relates Jesus' teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum, and the healing of a man with an "unclean spirit" who recognises the Messiah. "Within a short time", the Pope explained, "Jesus' fame began to spread in the region, throughout which he travelled announcing the Kingdom of God and healing sick people of all kinds: word and action. ... The words Jesus addresses to mankind give direct access to the Father's will and to the truth about ourselves" while, moreover, "Jesus united the effectiveness of the Word with those signs of deliverance from evil. ... Divine authority ... is the power of God's love which created the universe and, becoming incarnate in the only-begotten Son, descended upon our humanity and healed the world corrupted by sin".
"For man", the Holy Father observed, "authority often means possession, power, dominion, success. For God, however, authority means service, humility, love. It means entering into the logic of Jesus Christ Who leans down to wash the feet of His disciples, Who seeks man's authentic good, Who heals wounds, Who is capable of a love so great as to give His life, because He is Love. ... Let us trustingly invoke Most Holy Mary that she may guide our hearts always to draw from the well of divine mercy, which liberates and heals our human condition, filling it with all grace and benevolence, with the power of love".
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned three events which took place today. Firstly, the beatification in Vienna of Hildegard Burjan, "laywoman and mother who lived between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and founded the Sisters of Social Charity. Let us give praise to the Lord for this magnificent witness to the Gospel", the Pope said.
Today is also World Leprosy Day, in which context Benedict XVI spoke of his desire "to express encouragement to everyone affected by the disease, and to the people who assist them and who, in various ways, strive to eliminate the poverty and marginalisation which are the true causes of its continuance".
Finally, today also marks the International Day of Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land. "In profound communion with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custos of the Holy Land, we invoke the gift of peace for that Land blessed by God", Pope Benedict said.
The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in various languages. Addressing faithful from Poland, he mentioned the fact that Thursday 2 February is the World Day of Consecrated Life. "Grateful to religious for their ministry of prayer, for their apostolic and charitable activity in the Church, we pray for new vocations", he said. "May the Holy Spirit arouse in many hearts the desire for complete dedication to Christ".