VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the feast of the Holy Innocents, Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his last general audience of the year to the unborn child, saying even the tiniest embryo is the object of God's loving gaze and concern.
God looks upon all people with "loving eyes," even the "shapeless" human life curled inside a mother's womb, he said in his Dec. 28 general audience in St. Peter's Square.
The pope also paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami last year.
He asked for prayers for those struck by the Dec. 26, 2004, disaster and for all those who "have been affected by natural disasters in other parts of the world and are still waiting for our concrete and proactive solidarity."
The pope devoted his Dec. 28 catechesis to the last half of Psalm 139, in which the psalmist thanks God for having "knit me in my mother's womb." He said this psalm displays God's all-knowing and ever-present nature; even from the moment of conception, he knows a person's past, present and future.
The psalm also shows "the greatness of this small, unborn human creature, created with God's hands and surrounded by his love," the pope said.
The "benevolent and loving gaze of God's eyes already rest upon" the tiny, "shapeless" embryo, he said.
The Old Testament is replete with images of God as an artisan, a potter, even a tailor; he lovingly handcrafts people from "the clay of the ground" and "with bones and sinews knit me together," the pope said, citing verses from the books of Genesis and Job.
He said these images show "what a masterpiece the human person is," even when he or she has been "afflicted and wounded by suffering."
Whatever his or her size or condition, the human being is "a prodigy" of God and represents "the highest and most awesome reality in the entire universe," said the pope.
The Son of God "became man, rather, became a child, for our salvation," he said.
At the start of his last general audience of the year, the pope rode in the back of his open-air jeep, smiling and waving to some 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Because the morning temperatures were still cold, the pope was wearing a heavy red cape and "camauro," a red velvet cap trimmed with ermine.
He greeted and blessed dozens of handicapped children and adults at the end of his audience as they were wheeled, one by one, up to him.
He had said in his catechesis that even those who are "weak in the faith and in Christian life are a part of the architecture of the church."
"It's true, they are imperfect and small; however, for as much as they are able to understand, they love God and their neighbor, and they don't neglect to do the good they can," he said.
- Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops