Pope Benedict XVI began the new year yesterday evening with a First Vespers service in St. Peter's Basilica for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. Catholic News Service has an article on the Holy Father's words. Full translations are available from the Vatican, Zenit and Papa Ratzinger Forum. He reminded people that while the calendar turns to a new year, the Church is still in Christmastide, so that we should first give thanks for the Incarnation of Christ. The prayer of thanksgiving, he said, is also a prayer for God's continued help in the coming year, mentioning particularly help for those living in poverty and those living in a banalisation of sexuality. He asked people to be beacons of hope for a better future.
Vatican Radio has an audio report on the service. The audio report also looks over the events of the past year, including the various papal journeys of 2007.
This morning, the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, in a packed St. Peter's Basilica. Asia News has an article. Full translations are available from the Vatican, Zenit and Papa Ratzinger Forum. The Holy Father began the new year by calling on Mary, the Mother of God, for intercession for "the gift of peace, for our families, cities and the whole world." He remembered the many anniversaries to be held in the coming year, including the 60th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's Charter for the Rights of the Family. He thus dedicated his Message for this World Day of Peace to The Human Family, a Community of Peace. He spoke of the world as one great family, and expressed a hope for all to have a greater sense of being a part of that family, seeking peace as a divine gift.
The Holy Father also remembered Mary pondering in her heart the mysteries of the Incarnation as told to her by the angel -- a mystery that cannot be understood by human intelligence alone. In Mary's school, he said, we can grasp what our eyes and minds alone cannot perceive, and only faith can grasp. As Mary, in her heart, continued to "put together" the events of the crucifixion and resurrection, she became the path of love to follow in putting together what we live and finding unity, in generous service to others, in the wisdom of the saints.
Articles about the Holy Father's first Angelus address of the year appear at Vatican Radio and Asia News. Full translations are available from the Vatican, Zenit and Papa Ratzinger Forum. Addressing 40,000 people in St. Peter's Square, he referenced his Message for World Peace Day, in which he wrote, "'All peoples'—as the Second Vatican Council declared—'are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God.'" (referencing the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, 1. There is thus, he said, a close connection among family, society and peace. He also spoke of the importance of protection of the family, following his words on Sunday in the Angelus address broadcast to Madrid's demonstration for the family and his Message for World Peace Day.
Section 5 of the Message for World Day of Peace is one of those he drew from, which says that because the family is the fundamental group unit of society that expresses the human person (Section 4), "Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace." In the Message, he listed more specifically those actions he saw as circumventing the institution of the family, including anything that weakens the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and anything that stands in the way of responsible openness to new life, and anything that obstructs the family's right to be responsible for its children's education. He spoke of peace as both a divine gift and a "commitment that must be pursued with patience."