And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
– Luke 2:13-14
|Madonna del Sacro Monte di Viggiano|
The statue of the Madonna del Sacro Monte di Viggiano is displayed in St. Peter's Basilica during the Mass on this day. It is one of many Black Madonnas which is venerated by the Catholic Church.
I am very dark, but comely,The Madonna of Viggiano seems to be based on the more famous Virgen de Montserrat in Spain, affectionately known as "La Moreneta" – roughly translated this means "the dark-skinned one".
O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
like the curtains of Solomon.
– Song of Solomon 1:5
|La Virgen de Montserrat|
Today, also, Pope Benedict XVI issued his Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace. He titled it "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace". The Pope has highlighted recently the persecution of Christians around the world. There are the examples of violence like what has been occurring in Iraq, but there are also the attacks on religious freedom in the name of secular humanism which are occurring in the more "liberal" societies. These actions are sometimes cleverly disguised as affirmations of various human rights, when they are actually designed to attack one of the most fundamental human rights which is the right of freedom of religion.
Here are some excerpts from the Pope's message, "Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace".
Among the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in the dignity of the person, religious freedom enjoys a special status. When religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root, and the ethos and institutions of peoples are strengthened. On the other hand, whenever religious freedom is denied, and attempts are made to hinder people from professing their religion or faith and living accordingly, human dignity is offended, with a resulting threat to justice and peace.[NOTE: It is very saddening that the Catholic Bishops in the United States seem to have been afflicted by the secular spirit and have decided not to recognize as a separate Holy Day the celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1. Their thinking seems to be that most American Catholics will not be interested in taking time out of their busy week to attend Mass on a Saturday. This is unfortunate. I hope that in the future the Bishops will show leadership in this matter, rather than acquiescing to the most lackadaisical desires of the laity.]
Each person must be able freely to exercise the right to profess and manifest, individually or in community, his or her own religion or faith, in public and in private, in teaching, in practice, in publications, in worship and in ritual observances. There should be no obstacles should he or she eventually wish to belong to another religion or profess none at all.
The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.
Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed. A society reconciled with God is closer to peace, which is not the mere absence of war or the result of military or economic supremacy, much less deceptive ploys or clever manipulation. Rather, peace is the result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human dignity is fully respected. I invite all those who wish to be peacemakers, especially the young, to heed the voice speaking within their hearts and thus to find in God the stable point of reference for attaining authentic freedom, the inexhaustible force which can give the world a new direction and spirit, and overcome the mistakes of the past.