Pope Benedict XVI urgently appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria this Sunday, where a wave of bombings and gun attacks have left over 150 people dead in the north eastern parts of the country. Following the Angelus prayer he said : “I am following with concern the tragic incidents that have occurred in recent days in Nigeria and, as I pray for the victims, I call for an end to all violence, that which never solves problems, but only increases them, sowing hatred and division even among believers”.
Earlier in his Angelus reflections the Pope returned once again to the subject of death, one that is often obscured from contemporary culture, but one that nonetheless pervades everyday life.
In explaining the meaning of the Gospel and readings the Holy Father noted that the difference between believers and nonbelievers on death “is definitive”, because those who believe in the God who is Love “live and die in hope”.
This, he added, is an important point particularly in today’s world: “If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness. And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people”.
True wisdom Pope Benedict said means “taking advantage of our mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because, after our death, it will no longer be possible. When we are reawakened for the Last Judgment, it will be based on the love we practiced in our earthly life (cf. Mt 25,31-46). And this love is the gift of Christ, poured out in us by the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in God who is Love carry within an invincible hope, like a lamp with which to cross the night after death, and reach the great celebration of life”.
In his greetings to pilgrims following the Angelus prayer Pope Benedict’s thoughts turned to north-western Italy and in particular the city of Genoa, devastated by flash flooding that has claimed six lives this weekend. Five of the victims, including two children, died when the lobby of an apartment block in which they had sought shelter flooded. Another woman was crushed by cars being swept away by the torrents of water.
The Holy Father prayed : “Today our thoughts go to the city of Genoa, hard hit by flooding. I assure the victims, their families and those who have suffered serious damage of my prayers. May Our Lady of the Guard support the dear population of Genoa as they commit themselves through solidarity to overcoming this trial”.
Below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus Address (original text Italian)
Dear brothers and sisters!
The Bible Reading of this Sunday’s liturgy invites us to prolong our reflections on eternal life, which began during the Commemoration of All Souls. On this point the difference between believers and nonbelievers, or, one might also say, among those who hope and who do not hope, is definitive. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: "We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ marks, even in this field, a decisive watershed. Again St. Paul reminds the Christians of Ephesus that, before accepting the Good News, they were "without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2.12). In fact, the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death, so that an ancient inscription said: "In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus," which means "How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing". If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness. And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people.
Today's Gospel is a famous parable, about ten maidens invited to a wedding, a symbol of the kingdom of heaven, of eternal life (Mt 25.1 to 13). It is a happy image, with which, however, Jesus teaches a truth that question us; in fact, of those ten maidens five enter the celebration, because on the groom's arrival, they have the oil to light their lamps; while the other five remain outside, being foolish, did not bring the oil. What does this oil, which is essential to be admitted to the wedding, represent? St. Augustine (cf. Discourses, 93, 4) and other ancient authors see it as a symbol of love, which you can not buy, but is received as a gift, custodied within ourselves, and practiced in our deeds. True wisdom is taking advantage of mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because, after our death, it will no longer be possible. When we are reawakened for the Last Judgment, it will be based on the love we practiced in our earthly life (cf. Mt 25,31-46). And this love is the gift of Christ, poured out in us by the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in God who is Love carry within an invincible hope, like a lamp with which to cross the night after death, and reach the great celebration of life.
We ask Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, to teach us true wisdom, that which was made flesh in Jesus. He is the Way that leads from this life to God, the Eternal. He has made known the Father's face, and so gave us a hope full of love. For this reason, the Church speaks to the Mother of God with these words: "Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra". May we learn from her how to live and die in the hope that never disappoints.
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be prepared, like the wise maidens, for the definitive encounter with him who will come to complete his work of salvation at the end of time. May the light of faith always guide us and may the gift of Christian love grow strong in our hearts and in our deeds as we journey to the eternal wedding feast. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!