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POPE-AUDIENCE Jan-4-2012 (330 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope, at audience, reflects on meaning of Christmas, Epiphany


Irish Cardinal Desmond Connell, retired archbishop of Dublin, right, looks on as Pope Benedict XVI waves before his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 4. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- At Christmas, the human dream of being like God started to become a reality -- not through any human efforts, but through God sending his son to be born on earth to redeem humanity, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Addressing an estimated 7,000 people gathered for his weekly general audience Jan. 4, the pope encouraged Christians to continue living the joy and mystery of Christmas as they prepare for the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated at the Vatican Jan. 6, and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which the pope planned to celebrate Jan. 8 by baptizing babies in the Sistine Chapel.

"Christmas is the feast when God becomes so close to human beings that he shares the same fact of being born to reveal to them their deepest dignity, that of being sons and daughters of God. In that way, the dream of humanity that began in paradise -- we want to be like God -- is realized in an unexpected way: not because of the greatness of man, who cannot make himself God, but through the humility of God, who descends," the pope said.

Pope Benedict said that if at Christmas Jesus is born and almost "hidden" in human form in the manger of Bethlehem, at Epiphany he is revealed to the Three Kings, and the world.

The pope encouraged Christians to stay with the Christmas spirit, contemplating the fact that God has revealed himself to humanity and radiating "the joy born of knowing how close God is to us."

The celebrations of Christmas, Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, he said, are invitations to become more aware of the responsibility each Christian has to bring the light of Christ to the world.

The feasts also are an invitation to welcome Christ into one's heart once again and strengthen a commitment to imitating him, so that "his feelings, thoughts and actions are our feelings, thoughts and actions," the pope said.

- - -

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120104_en.html.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120104_sp.html.

END


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