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 CNS Story:

POPE-ANNOUNCE Dec-24-2007 (380 words) xxxi

Birth of Jesus should spur Christians to evangelize, pope says

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The gift of Jesus' birth at Christmas should spur Christians everywhere to evangelize, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The joy of Christmas ... fills us with hope and at the same time should stimulate us to announce to all people the presence of God among us," he said.

The pope spoke to several thousand pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at his weekly Sunday blessing Dec. 23. They gathered in the middle of the square around a shrouded creche, which was to be unveiled Christmas Eve.

In his final public remarks before Christmas, the pope turned to what has become a dominant year-end theme at the Vatican: the need to evangelize.

"The evangelizing mission of the church is the answer to the cry 'Come, Lord Jesus!' which runs through salvation history and that continues to rise from the lips of believers," the pope said.

He cited a recent document from the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, which underlined Christians' duty to share the salvation they have received as a gift. That is something many Catholics do not seem to understand anymore, the pope said.

"Nothing is more beautiful, more urgent and more important than giving back gratuitously to people that which we have gratuitously received from God," he said.

"Nothing can exempt us or relieve us of this demanding and fascinating task," he said. Every Christian and every Christian community should be animated by the joy of sharing the good news of Christ's birth, he said.

"This is the real meaning of Christmas, which we should always rediscover and experience intensely," he said.

The pope said the unparalleled model of evangelization was Mary, "who communicated to the world not an idea but Jesus, the Word Incarnate."

The pope then offered pre-Christmas greetings in six languages. Speaking in English, he said:

"I extend warm greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we contemplate God's ancient promise to send us his son, Emmanuel -- God is with us. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, I pray that you may open your hearts to welcome him with joy. God bless you all!"

END


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