VATICAN CITY, 4 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father addressed some remarks to faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer. He reminded them that the current liturgical time of Advent "highlights two figures who had a pre-eminent role in preparing the way for the historical coming of the Lord Jesus: the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist".

In today's Gospel reading "John is presented as an ascetic figure. ... On one occasion Jesus Himself contrasted John with those who 'are in royal palaces' and who wear 'soft robes'. The way of life of John the Baptist should call all Christians to a sober lifestyle, especially in the lead-up to Christmas when the Lord (as St. Paul would say), 'though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich'".

"John's mission", the Holy Father went on, "was an appeal to conversion, his Baptism 'was associated with an ardent call to a new way of thinking and acting, it was associated above all with announcing the judgement of God' and the imminent coming of the Messiah". John "called people to inner conversion on the basis of a recognition and confession of their sins. As we prepare for Christmas, it is important we look into ourselves and make a sincere assessment of our lives".

In his language greetings following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI noted that this week marks the sixtieth anniversary of the International Organisation for Migration and of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. "May the Lord protect people who, often under constraint, have to abandon their own country or who have no nationality of their own", the Pope said. "While encouraging solidarity towards them, I pray for all those who strive to protect and assist these our brothers and sisters in emergency situations, often exposing themselves to serious fatigue and danger".

ANG/                                                         VIS 20111205 (350)

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