(Vatican Radio) On a chilly but bright Saturday afternoon Pope Benedict XVI, to the joy of pilgrims and to the curiosity of visiting Christmas shoppers to Rome, made his way, in his new Pope mobile, to a packed square just a stones throw away from the famous Spanish Steps.
He was here to pay homage to Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In the first of three points on the Immaculate Conception, the Pope noted that the encounter between the divine messenger and the Immaculate Virgin goes completely unnoticed: nobody knows about it, nobody talks about it.
Pope Benedict went on to say that if this great event was to happen in our time, “it would not leave traces in newspapers and magazines, because it is a mystery that happens in silence.”
What often goes unnoticed and is silent, said the Pope “is more fruitful than the frenetic pace that characterizes our city.”
Being here at the statue Mary in the centre of Rome, he continued “reminds us that God's voice is not recognized in the noise and agitation”, his design on our personal and social life is not superficial, but goes to a deeper level, where the forces are not economic or political, but moral and spiritual.
Making his second point the Holy Father underlined that the Immaculate tells us that the salvation of the world is not the work of man - science, technology, ideology - but it is the work of grace.
Grace, he said means love in its purity and beauty, it reminds us that the power of God's love is stronger than evil and it can fill in the gaps that selfishness causes in the lives of individuals, families, and nations and the world.
Finally, coming to his third point Pope Benedict explained that the Immaculate Conception speaks of joy, the real joy that spreads in the heart freed from sin. Sin, he said brings with it a negative sadness, whereas Grace brings true joy that does not depend on the possession of things but is rooted in the depths, of the person.
The Pope then called on the faithful to learn to say no to the voice of selfishness, and to say yes to that which is authentic love. Mary's joy is full, he said because in her heart there is no shadow of sin.
Before taking his leave the Holy Father noted that in this time of Advent, Mary Immaculate teaches us to listen to the voice of God who speaks in silence and gives his grace, which frees us from sin and selfishness, so as to enjoy true joy.
Earlier in the day during the Angelus in St Peter’s Square the Pope described Mary as a genuine expression of grace.
The Holy Father also expressed his closeness to the people of the Philippines who have been hit in recent days by a violent storm.
The Pope prayed for the victims, for their families and for the many who have been displaced.
He also prayed that their faith would give them the strength to face, what he called , “this difficult trial.” Listen to this report by Lydia O’Kane