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 CNS Story:

POPE-EPIPHANY Jan-6-2009 (800 words) With photos. xxxi

Christians can find hope despite evil, danger in world, pope says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even though evil and environmental degradation threaten to destroy the world, Christians can always remain hopeful in their efforts to free humanity from sin and destruction, said Pope Benedict XVI.

"No matter how gloomy, there is no darkness that can blot out the light of Christ," he said.

God's promises and grace also give his people the courage and direction to weather "the great social and economic crises afflicting humanity" today, he said.

The pope made the remarks at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 6 on the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world.

"Our efforts to liberate human life and the world from the poison and pollution which could destroy the present and the future still have value and meaning" despite the enormity of the challenge, he said in his homily.

Today humanity must face global economic and social crises and "hatred and destructive violence that do not stop spilling blood across many regions of the earth," he said.

Other dangers are egoism and human pretension which can dangerously distort "the divine plan concerning life and human dignity, the family and the harmony of creation," he said.

Even though it sometimes appears that people of faith have accomplished nothing in their efforts to bring God's healing power to the world "or we seem powerless before overwhelming, hostile forces," Christians will not give up hope, he said.

"It is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad," he said quoting his encyclical, "Spe Salvi" (on Christian hope).

The church recognizes its own humanity, with its limitations and misfortunes, yet no one can take away Christ's light and glory because they do not come from a human church, but from God, he said.

The pope dedicated much of his homily to the symbolic and theological significance of the star that shone over Bethlehem at Christ's birth. He linked the Gospel image to the field of science and astronomy.

After noting the year 2009 marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first observations of the cosmos with a telescope, the pope recalled the New Testament account of the three Wise Men or Magi who were guided by a star to the grotto where Christ was born.

He said the Fathers of the Church saw this new star as a kind of "cosmic revolution caused by the Son of God coming into the world."

While pagan theology divinized countless natural elements and the powers of the cosmos, Christianity contemplated the one God who was creator and lord over the whole universe, he said.

The world and the heavens are not driven by blind, cruel or anonymous forces, the pope said.

"The fundamental and universal law of creation is divine love, made flesh in Christ," he said.

Pope Benedict said St. Paul taught that through Christ people are not slaves to cosmic forces. Instead, they are "free and capable of realizing themselves" through their relationship with God, he said.

The universe is not an empty, cold place because "within everything and above everything there is a personal will -- the Spirit of God who in Christ is revealed as love," he said.

Christ, the new sun who shines upon the whole universe, was born man so he could "again take on himself the earth and heavens, nature and the Creator, flesh and the spirit," he said.

Jesus "is the center of the cosmos and history because in him the author and his work unmistakably merge," said the pope.

Christianity's special view of the cosmos is showing signs of a "new flowering" in the world of science thanks to the many scientists of faith who, "following in the footsteps of Galileo, do not renounce reason or faith," he said.

These men and women place enormous value on both faith and reason and recognize how they mutually enrich each other, the pope said.

The pope urged the church and today's Christians to be like the star that drew the three kings to Christ, and to help lead the world's people to God.

After the Mass, Pope Benedict gave his noonday Angelus address to those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

From his studio window, the pope asked people to "abandon wicked deeds," open their hearts to the Gospel of salvation and follow the right path.

May people let themselves be conquered and transformed by the God who "came among us in order to give us the gift of his peace and love," he said.

The pope also extended a Christmas greeting to Eastern Christians who follow the Julian calendar and were preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ Jan. 7.


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