Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Faith Confronts "Dark Evil" of Secular Society, Pope Says

Vatican, Jan. 2, 2008 ( - In his last public appearance of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) reflected on the "the dark evil of modern Western society," caused by a "deficit of hope and trust in life." The darkness, he said, can be dispelled only by faith.

The Holy Father spoke about the "many challenges" of life in a modern secular society, as he preached at a Vespers service in St. Peter's basilica on December 31. That service-- the first Vespers of January 1, the feast of the Mother of God-- was combined with the singing of a Te Deum in thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year.

Pope Benedict noted that despite the difficulties of Christian life in an often hostile world, "there is no shortage of lights and of reasons for hope." The yearly celebration of the Incarnation, he said, is a reminder that "Christ is our dependable hope." And citing a reading from St. Paul's epistle to the Galatians, he added a mention of "the woman by whom the Son of God entered the world." The Virgin Mary, the Pope said, "represents the Church's most authentic image: the person in whom the ecclesial community must continually discover the authentic meaning of its own vocation and mystery."

The Pope prayed for the success of missionary efforts undertaken in 2008, for a spread of the Gospel throughout the world, and especially for the Rome diocese-- where, he noted, Christians face an "educational emergency" as they try to teach young people to avoid "the exaltation-- or, more accurately, the profanation-- of the body and the trivialization of sexuality."

The Vespers service and singing of the Te Deum are a Vatican tradition for the final day of the year. Traditionally the service took place in the Gesu, the venerable Jesuit church in Rome. But in his final years, as illness made it difficult for him to make the trip across Rome, the late Pope John Paul II (bio - news) held the service in the Vatican basilica. Pope Benedict has continued that practice.

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