Pope Benedict XVI gave a short address to the English-speaking world this Christmas Eve morning, becoming the first pontiff to deliver a meditation on national radio.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s morning program called ‘Thought for the Day’ – a short slot running since 1970 and given to religious leaders and thinkers to share a topical reflection - the Holy Father recalled his visit to Britain and spoke about the true meaning of Christmas.
Traditionally, the Christmas Eve meditation is given by the Archbishop of Westminster or the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Pope’s words were recorded at the Vatican on Wednesday, and the broadcast can be heard here.
“Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.
Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days. I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful joyful Christmas. May God bless all of you!”
The websites of Vatican Radio (www.radiovaticana.org) and of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (www.pccs.org), as well as the website www.pope2you.net, in close collaboration with the Vatican Television Centre (CTV) and through an agreement with Telecom Italia, will be offering a new service for the Christmas holiday period: live coverage of the liturgical celebrations presided by the Holy Father, according to Vatican Information Service.
The Pope’s celebrations - Midnight Mass on 24 December, his Christmas Message and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing at midday on 25 December, and Mass for the World Day of Peace on 1 January - will be transmitted in live audio/video linkup with commentary in six languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The Midnight Mass will also have commentary in Chinese, and the Mass of 1 January in Arabic.
VIS says the service has been made possible thanks to Telecom Italia’s technology platform “Content Delivery Network”, which enables rapid and effective distribution of multimedia content, making it accessible to computers and iPhones all over the world.