Vatican Information Service
Following Mass on Thursday, December 8, in St. Peter's Basilica, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his private study in order to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in the square below. In remarks to them, he referred to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception as "a day of intense spiritual joy."
The Pope recalled the image of Mary as she appears in the thirty-third canto of Paradise in Dante's Divine Comedy — "humbler and higher than all other creatures, fixed aim and goal of the eternal plan" — saying: "In contemplating the Virgin, how can we not reawaken in ourselves, her children, the aspiration to beauty, goodness and purity of heart? Her celestial candor attracts us towards God, helping us to overcome the temptation to a mediocre life — one made up of compromises with evil — and orienting us decisively towards authentic goodness, which is a source of joy."
The Pope then recalled once more the 40th anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II, "the greatest ecclesial event of the twentieth century," when Pope Paul VI "amid the jubilation of many faithful in St. Peter's Square, entrusted the implementation of the conciliar documents to the Virgin Mary, calling her with the title of Mother of the Church. In a special way, Mary watched with maternal concern over the pontificates of my venerated predecessors, each of whom, with great pastoral wisdom, guided the ship of Peter on the route of authentic conciliar renewal, working ceaselessly for the faithful interpretation and implementation of Vatican Council II."
After praying the Angelus, the Pope blessed the Olympic torch which was carried across Rome yesterday and which will eventually be borne to the northern Italian city of Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. The torch was brought into St. Peter's Square by a Swiss Guard and a member of the Vatican Gendarmerie. "May this flame," said the Holy Father, "serve to recall those values of peace and universal fraternity that are the foundation of the Olympic Games."