Speeches 2005-13 182



Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Monday, 8 December 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

About three months ago I had the joy of going on pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the historical apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette. The celebration of this unique anniversary ends precisely today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because in showing herself to Bernadette for the last time in the Grotto of Massabielle, the "beautiful Lady", as Bernadette called her, revealed her name, saying "I am the Immaculate Conception". She said this in the local dialect and the little visionary related the phrase, to her unknown and incomprehensible, to her parish priest.

"Immaculate Conception": we too repeat that mysterious name with feeling, here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and countless brothers and sisters of ours are doing the same in thousands of other places in the world, at shrines and in chapels as well as in Christian homes. Today, wherever a Catholic community exists, Our Lady is venerated in it with this stupendous and marvellous name: the Immaculate Conception. Of course, the conviction that Mary's conception was immaculate had already existed for centuries before the apparitions in Lourdes, but which came as a heavenly seal after my venerable Predecessor, Bl. Pius IX, defined the Dogma on 8 December 1854. On today's feast, so dear to Christian people, this expression rises from hearts and is pronounced by lips as our heavenly Mother's name. Just as a child raises his eyes to his mother's face and on seeing her smile forgets every fear and every pain, so do we, turning our eyes to Mary, recognize in her "God's smile", the immaculate reflection of divine light; in her we find new hope even in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.

It is a tradition that the Pope joins with the homage of the City, bringing Mary a basket of roses. These flowers express our love and devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome and of the inhabitants of this City, who feel they are spiritual children of the Virgin Mary. Roses, symbolically, can express everything beautiful and good that we have done during the year because at this traditional encounter we all desire to offer everything to our Mother, convinced that we could not have done anything without her protection and without the graces that daily she obtains for us from God. Yet, as the saying goes, there is no rose without a thorn, and on the stems of these magnificent white roses too there is no lack of thorns that represent for us difficulty and suffering, the troubles that have marked and still mark people's lives and the life of our community. Joys are presented to our Mother but anxieties are also entrusted to her, since the faithful are confident that they will find comfort and support in her to go forward, so as not to be disheartened.

O Immaculate Virgin, at this moment I would especially like to entrust to you the "little ones" of our City: the children, first of all, and above all those who are seriously ill, children who are disabled and those who are suffering the consequences of oppressive family situations. Watch over them and grant that they may feel the warmth of God's love in the affection and help of those who are beside them! To you, O Mary, I entrust the lonely elderly, the sick, immigrants who find it hard to adjust, families that find it difficult to make ends meet and people who cannot find employment or who have lost a job indispensable for their survival. Teach us, Mary, to show solidarity with those in difficulty, to fill the ever increasing social gaps. Help us to foster a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for public property, and spur us to view the city and more than ever our City of Rome as the patrimony of all, making each one of us do our part, to build a more just and supportive society with awareness and commitment.

O Immaculate Mother, who are a sign of certain hope and comfort to everyone, help us to let ourselves be attracted by your immaculate purity. Your beauty Tota Pulchra, as we sing today assures us that the victory of love is possible; indeed, that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and that redemption from any form of slavery is therefore possible. Yes, O Mary, help us to believe with greater trust in good, to wager on giving freely, on service, on non-violence, on the power of the truth. Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation of easy evasions, to face reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. This is what you did, a young woman called to stake everything on the Word of the Lord. May you be a loving mother for our young people, so that they may have the courage to be "watchmen of the dawn", and give this virtue to all Christians so that they may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history. Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to the Authorities present and in particular to the President of the Italian Republic, to the other Italian Authorities, to the Grand Master of the Order of Malta and to all of you who have taken part in this evening's event, dedicated to listening to classical music played by the Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester from Frankfurt, conducted for this occasion by Maestro Inma Shara. I would like to express to her and to the orchestra members our common appreciation of the skill and effectiveness with which they have performed these evocative musical excerpts. I thank the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the "St Matthew Foundation in memory of Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan" for having sponsored the concert. It was preceded by a commemoration in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the presentation of the Cardinal Van Thuan 2008 award to Mr Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the Committee of the International Red Cross, and the presentation of "Solidarity and development" awards to Fr Pedro Opeka, a missionary in Madagascar; to Fr José Raul Matte, a missionary among the victims of Hansen's disease in the Amazon; to the consignors of the Gulunap Project, for the realization of a medical faculty in North Uganda, and to those in charge of the Ercolini Village project for the integration of Gypsy children and youth in Rome. I also address my grateful gesture to all those who contributed to the realization of this concert and to RAI, which has broadcast it expanding, so to speak, the audience of those who have been able to benefit from it.

Sixty years ago, on 10 December, the General Assembly of the United Nations, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which still today constitutes a highly respected reference point in the intercultural dialogue on human rights and freedom. Every person's dignity is only truly guaranteed when all of his fundamental rights are recognized, protected and promoted. The Church has always reasserted that fundamental rights over and above the different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of importance they may have in various cultural contexts are a universal fact because they are inherent in human nature itself. The natural law, engraved by God in the human conscience, is a common denominator of all men and all peoples. It is a universal guide that all can recognize and on the basis of which all can understand one another. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately founded in God the Creator, who has endowed everyone with intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical basis is ignored, human rights remain fragile because they are deprived of a sound foundation.

The celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Declaration thus constitutes an opportunity to ascertain the extent to which the ideals accepted by the majority of national communities in 1948 have been respected in the different national legislations and even more, in the consciences of individuals and communities. We have undoubtedly come a long way already, but there is still a long way to go; hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters still see their rights to life, to freedom and to security threatened. Neither the equality of all nor the dignity of each person is always respected, while new barriers are raised for reasons linked to race, religion, political opinion or other convictions. Therefore, may the common commitment to promote and better define human rights not slacken and may it intensify efforts to guarantee their respect. I accompany these wishes with prayers that God, Father of all people, may grant us to build a world in which every human being feels welcomed with full dignity, and where relations among individuals and peoples are governed by respect, dialogue and solidarity. My Blessing to you all.


Your Eminences,
Hon. Madam Minister and Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers,
Distinguished Rectors and Professors,
Dear Students,

The approach of Holy Christmas offers me the ever appreciated opportunity to meet the university world of Rome. I cordially greet Cardinal Agostino Vallini, my Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, whose presence takes us back in our minds and hearts to the unforgettable experience of World Youth Day last July. The passage of the icon of Mary Sedes Sapientiae from the Romanian to the Australian Delegation reminds us that this immense "network" of young people throughout the world is always active and on the move. I thank the Rector of La Sapienza University of Rome and the student who has greeted me on behalf of all. I am also grateful to the Minister of Education, Universities and Research for her presence, as I wish this sector, so important for the life of your country, every success. I extend a special greeting to the Israeli and Palestinian students who are studying in Rome thanks to the grants made available by the Lazio Region and the Universities of Rome, as well as to the three Rectors who took part yesterday in the meeting on the theme: "From Jerusalem to Rome to build a new humanism".

Dear friends, this year's programme prepared for you university students by the Diocese of Rome is appropriately combined with the Pauline Year. The 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles is helping the whole Church to rediscover her fundamental missionary vocation and, at the same time, to draw amply from the inexhaustible theological and spiritual treasure of St Paul's Letters. As you know, week by week I myself am developing a series of Catecheses on this topic. I am convinced that for you too, both personally and as a community, as well as in the university apostolate, the encounter with the figure and message of St Paul is a very enriching opportunity. For this reason I shall shortly be presenting to you a copy of the Letter to the Romans, the greatest expression of Pauline thought and a sign of his special consideration for the Church of Rome, or to use the words of greeting with which the Epistle begins for "all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints" (Rm 1,7).

The Letter to the Romans as some of the lecturers present here know well is certainly one of the most important cultural texts of all time. Yet it is and remains mainly a living message for the living Church and, as such, as a message precisely for today, I place it in your hands this evening.
May this writing, which sprang from the Apostle's heart, become a substantial nourishment for your faith, bringing you to believe more and better and also to think about yourselves in order to arrive at a faith "thought through" and, at the same time, to live this faith, putting it into practice in accordance with the truth of Christ's commandment. Only in this way does the faith one professes become "credible" also to others, who are won over by the eloquent witness of deeds. Let Paul speak to you, Christian teachers and students of contemporary Rome, and enable you to share in his own first-hand experience: that the Gospel of Jesus Christ "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Rm 1,16).

The Christian proclamation that was revolutionary in Paul's historical and cultural context was strong enough to break down "the dividing wall" that separated Jews from the Gentiles (cf. Ep 2,14 Rm 10,12). It has kept an ever current newness that can demolish other walls that are repeatedly erected in every context and in every epoch. The source of this strength lies in the Spirit of Christ, to whom Paul consciously refers. To the Christians of Corinth he declares in his preaching that he does not rely on "plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power" (1Co 2,4). And what was the core of his proclamation? It was the newness of the salvation that Christ brought to humanity: through his death and Resurrection salvation is offered to all men and women without distinction.

It is offered, not imposed. Salvation is a gift that always asks to be accepted personally. This, dear young people, is the essential content of Baptism which this year is proposed to you as a Sacrament to be rediscovered and, for some of you, to receive or to strengthen by a free and conscious choice. Precisely in the Letter to the Romans, in chapter six, we find a great expression of the meaning of Christian Baptism. "Do you not know", St Paul writes, "that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Rm 6,3). As you can easily imagine, this is a very profound idea that contains the whole theology of the Paschal Mystery: Christ's death, through God's power, is a source of life, an inexhaustible source of renewal in the Holy Spirit. Being "baptized in Christ" means being spiritually immersed in that death which is the act of God's infinite and universal love, capable of redeeming every person and every creature from the slavery of sin and death. Indeed St Paul continues: "We were buried therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (ibid., v. 4).

In his Letter to the Romans the Apostle communicates to us his full joy in this mystery when he writes: "who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm 8,35). And this same love is that in which the new life of the Christian consists. Here too, St Paul makes an impressive synthesis that stems, as always, from his personal experience: "He who loves his neighbour", he writes, "has fulfilled the Law.... therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rm 13,8).

Dear friends, this is what I wanted to impart to you this evening. It is a message of faith of course, but at the same time is a truth that illuminates the mind, enlarging it to reach the horizons of God; it is a truth that directs real life because the Gospel is the way that leads to the fullness of life. This way has already been trodden by Jesus, indeed, he himself is the Way who came to us from the Father so that we might reach the Father through him. This is the mystery of Advent and of Christmas. May the Virgin Mary and St Paul help you to adore this Way and to make him your own with profound faith and deep joy. I thank you all for your presence. With a view to the upcoming Christmas Celebrations, I express to each one my cordial greetings, which I gladly extend to your families and your loved ones. Happy Christmas!


My Dear Brother Bishops,

To all of you, I extend greetings of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus. By his grace, you have come to this city to venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul as a sign of your communion with the Church in Rome, which “presides over the universal communion of charity” (Pastores Gregis cf. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, 1:1). It is in this spirit of charity that I welcome you today and encourage the Catholic faithful in Taiwan to persevere in faith, hope and love.

“Comfort, give comfort to my people” (Is 40,1). These words, re-echoed in the Church’s liturgy this week, neatly summarize my message to you today. You are never alone! United to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, you, together with all your Brothers in the Episcopate, are graced with that “affective collegiality” that strengthens you to preach the Gospel and care for the needs of the Lord’s flock (cf. Pastores Gregis ). Indeed, your celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Catholic Evangelization in Taiwan is an occasion to manifest ever more eagerly your oneness with each other and with our Lord as you together promote the Church’s common apostolate.

This unity of mind and heart is evidenced by your desire to cooperate more closely in spreading the Gospel among non-believers and forming those already initiated into the Church through Baptism and Confirmation. I am pleased to note that you continue to coordinate a variety of institutions for this purpose, with due emphasis on the parish, the “prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis” (Catechesi Tradendae CTR 67). As Bishops, you are well aware of your vital role in this regard. Your office of teaching is inseparable from those of sanctifying and governing, and it is integral to what Saint Augustine calls the amoris officium: the “office of love” (Saint Augustine, In Ioannem, 123). Crucial to this end is the formation of priests, who are ordained to assist you in exercising this “office of love” for the good of God’s people. These programmes are to be ongoing so that priests may continually refocus on the meaning of their mission and embrace it with fidelity and generosity. Such programmes must also be designed with due consideration for the variety of ages, life conditions and duties found among your clergy.

Priority must also be given to the thorough preparation of catechists. Once again, it is essential to take into consideration the array of settings in which they work and to furnish them with the necessary resources so that they may follow the example of Jesus in speaking the truth straightforwardly and in a way readily accessible to all (cf. Mc 4,11). With their active support, you will be able to draw up well-planned catechetical programmes that employ a progressive and gradual methodology, so that from year to year an ever-deepening encounter with the Triune God may be fostered among your people.

Effective catechesis inevitably builds stronger families, which in turn give birth to new priestly vocations. Indeed, the family is that “domestic Church” where the Gospel of Jesus is first heard and the art of Christian living first practised (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11). The Church, at every level, must cherish and foster the gift of priesthood so that young men will generously respond to the Lord’s call to become labourers in the vineyard. Parents, pastors, teachers, parish leaders, and all the members of the Church must set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, so that in finding him, they find themselves (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 25).

The family, as you know, is that “first and vital cell”: the prototype for every level of society (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11). Your recent Pastoral Letter Social Concern and Evangelization underscores the Church’s need to engage actively in the promotion of family life. Founded on an irrevocable covenant, the family leads people to discover goodness, beauty and truth, so that they may perceive their unique destiny and learn how to contribute to the building up of a civilization of love. Your deep concern for the good of families and society as a whole, my Brothers, moves you to assist couples in preserving the indissolubility of their marital promises. Never tire in promoting just civil legislation and policies that protect the sacredness of marriage. Safeguard this sacrament from all that can harm it, especially the deliberate taking of life in its most vulnerable stages.

The Church’s solicitude for the weak similarly compels her to give special attention to migrants. In several recent pastoral letters, you have indicated the essential role of the parish in serving migrants and raising awareness of their needs. I am also pleased to note that the Church in Taiwan has been actively advocating laws and policies that protect the human rights of migrants. As you know, many of those who arrive on your shores not only share in the fullness of the Catholic communion, but also carry with them the unique cultural heritage of their respective places of origin. I encourage you to continue welcoming them with affection so that they may receive the assiduous pastoral care that will assure them of their belonging to the “family of the faith” (Ga 6,10).

My dear Brother Bishops, by the providence of Almighty God, you have been appointed to keep watch over that family of faith. Your apostolic bond with the Successor of Peter entails a pastoral responsibility for the universal Church across the globe. This particularly means, in your case, a loving concern for Catholics on the mainland, whom I constantly hold in prayer. You and the Christian faithful in Taiwan are a living sign that, in a justly ordered society, one need not fear to be a faithful Catholic and a good citizen. I pray that as part of the great Chinese Catholic family, you will continue to be spiritually united with your brethren on the mainland.

Dear Brothers, I am well aware that the obstacles you face can seem overwhelming. Yet there are many clear signs – Taiwan Youth Day and the Conference on Creative Evangelization are but two recent examples – of the Gospel’s power to convert, heal and save. May the words of the prophet Isaiah never fail to enliven your hearts: “Fear not! Here is your God!” (Is 40,9). The Lord indeed dwells among us! He continues to teach us by his word and feed us with his Body and Blood. The expectation of his return stirs us to voice the cry raised by Isaiah and echoed by John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (cf. Is Is 40,3). I am confident that your faithful celebration of the Holy Sacrifice will prepare you and your people to meet the Lord when he comes again.

Entrusting you and the people under your care to the maternal protection of Mary, Help of Christians, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A cordial welcome to all of you who are taking part in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In the first place my greeting goes to the Cardinal President, to whom I also express my gratitude for the courteous words with which he described the work you have done during these days. I extend my greeting to the Secretary and to the other collaborators of the Pontifical Council, as well as to all those, from various places, who have contributed their experience to the common reflection on the theme of your meeting: "Reception and future of ecumenical dialogue". This is a topic of considerable interest for the journey towards full unity among Christians, a subject that has two essential dimensions: first, the appraisal of the ground covered thus far, and second, the identification of new ways on which to continue on our way, seeking together how to overcome the divergences that unfortunately still endure in the relations among Christ's disciples.

It is indisputable that theological dialogue is an essential element for re-establishing the full communion we all long for and it should therefore be supported and encouraged. This dialogue is taking place increasingly in the context of ecclesial relations which, by the grace of God are extending to involve not only Pastors but all the various members and structures of the People of God. Let us thank the Lord for the important advances that have taken place, for example, in relations with the Orthodox Churches and with the ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches, as regards both the theological dialogue and the consolidation and growth of ecclesial brotherhood. The latest Document of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches on the theme, "Ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority" to which H.H. Bartholomew I referred in his discourse to the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, certainly unfolds a positive prospect of reflection on the relationship that exists between primacy and synodality in the Church. This is a matter of crucial importance in relations with our Orthodox brethren and will be the subject of examination and exchanges at the next meetings. It is also comforting to note that a sincere spirit of friendship between Catholics and Orthodox has been growing in recent years and has also been manifested in the many contacts that have taken place between the Heads of Dicasteries in the Roman Curia and Bishops of the Catholic Church with the Heads of various Orthodox Churches, as well as during the visits of important Orthodox representatives to Rome and to particular Catholic Churches.

At your Plenary Meeting you have reflected in a special way on the Harvest Project: "Ecumenical consensus/convergence on some basic aspects of the Christian faith found in the reports of the first four international bilateral dialogues in which the Catholic Church has taken part since the Second Vatican Council". This exchange has led you to examine the results of four important dialogues: with the Lutheran World Federation, with the World Methodist Council, with the Anglican Communion and with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. While you have outlined what, with God's help, you have already managed to achieve through reciprocal understanding and with the identification of elements of convergence, with great honesty you have not avoided bringing to the fore all that has yet to be done. It might be said that we find ourselves on the way, in an intermediate situation, in which an objective examination of the results achieved certainly seems useful and opportune. Moreover I am certain that the work of this assembly will make a valid contribution to elaborating, in this perspective, a more extensive, precise and detailed reflection.

Dear brothers and sisters, in many regions the ecumenical situation today has changed and, as it is undergoing further changes, this implies endeavouring toward a frank engagement. New communities and groups are surfacing, unheard-of trends are coming into focus and sometimes tensions, even between Christian communities. The theological dialogue that will concern the area of practical life of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities is therefore important. Placed in this light are the theme of your Plenary Assembly and the discernment indispensable for outlining in practical terms the prospects of ecumenical commitment that the Catholic Church intends to pursue and intensify with prudence and pastoral wisdom. Christ's command, the "mandatum novum" and his prayer for unity "ut omnes unum sint... ut mundus credat quia tu me misisti" (Jn 17,21) reverberate in our minds. Charity will help Christians to foster the "thirst" for full communion in truth. And by meekly following the Holy Spirit's inspirations, we may look forward to reaching the hoped for unity on the day chosen by the Lord. This is why ecumenism urges us to make a fraternal and generous exchange of gifts, well aware that full communion in the faith, in the sacraments and in the ministry remains the goal and end of the entire ecumenical movement. Spiritual ecumenism, as the Second Vatican Council clearly affirmed, is the pulsating heart of this vast undertaking.

We are living the days of Advent that prepare us for Christ's Birth. May this season of watchful expectation keep awake within us hope for the fulfilment of God's Kingdom, of the Basileia tou Theou and may Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany and guide us on the less than easy journey towards unity. With these sentiments, I express my good wishes for the forthcoming Christmas celebrations and, as I thank you once again for the work you have carried out at this assembly, I invoke God's Blessing upon each and every one of you.


Hall of Blessings

A most cordial "Gruß Gott" to all of you who have come here to bring as a gift to the Holy Father and to the Church of Rome the Christmas tree which, along with the manger, will decorate St Peter's Square in this Christmas Season. I welcome in particular Dr Erwin Pröll, Regional Governor of Lower Austria, and extend my gratitude for the kind words he expressed also on behalf of all those present. I also greet Bishop Klaus Klüng of Sankt Pölten to you too, a cordial thank you for the words that have touched my heart! Representing the Delegation and all the guests from Lower Austria, I greet Mr Johann Seper, Mayor of the Municipality of Gutenstein, in whose territory this marvellous tree grew the tallest to date in the history of Christmas trees in St Peter's Square. My special greeting goes not lastly to the young singers of Altenburg and the musicians from Ziersdorf who have given our meeting a festive tone with their musical performance and who are, so to speak, messengers of the rich culture of your country and of its many traditions. I warmly thank you!

Where there is Austria, there is music: we can experience this today too in a wonderful way. The gift that comes from the woods of your beautiful country in which are also included the other firs that you have brought to create an atmosphere of Christmas in the Apostolic Palace and in various places in the Vatican, among them my study this gift from the woods of your region recalls to mind the Visit I was able to make to your homeland last year. On that occasion, I stayed in one of the great convents that are characteristic of your country and that bear witness to its profoundly Christian history. All the faithful will have to be committed to ensuring that in the future too this witness to Christ lives on to give men and women support and guidance in their lives, or as you, Mr Regional Governor, have said in a very concrete way a railing to lean on in order to go forward.

In the coming weeks, the Christmas tree will be a cause of joy for Romans and for the many pilgrims who will come to the Eternal City from every part of the world for the celebrations of Christ's Nativity. From my study window I too shall be able to look out joyfully again and again, when from above I will be able to admire anew the tree and manger. But there will also be the chance for me to go to it directly, praying before the Baby Jesus and rejoicing for the light of the tree and for its beauty. Its towering shape, its green colour and the lights decorating its branches are symbols of life. In addition, it refers us to the mystery of the Holy Night. Christ, the Son of God brings to the dark, cold and unredeemed world into which he is born a new hope and a new splendour. If man lets himself be moved and enlightened by the splendour of the living truth that is Christ, he will feel inner peace in his heart and will become a peacemaker in a society that so longs for reconciliation and redemption.

Dear friends, once again a sincere "Vergelt's Gott" for this beautiful gift! I also thank all the collaborators who are unable to be present today, the sponsors and all those who organized the transport of the tree. May the Lord reward you for the willingness with which you generously contributed to the tree's delivery. From today I express my best wishes for a Christmas celebration that is full of grace and I ask you kindly to convey these wishes to your families and to all your fellow countrymen. I assure you of my prayers for your families and for your wonderful country, and I commend you all to the intercession of Mary, Patroness of Austria, and to Leopold, the Patron of the region, who now, in the form of a beautiful sculpture, will be able to feel "at home" in my residence as well. May the Lord protect your land bless all Austria!

Speeches 2005-13 182