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Advent is a Time of Hope, Appeal to Combat Aids: Pope

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 01 (VIS): At midday today the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope began by recalling how today marks the beginning of "a new liturgical year, which naturally opens with Advent, the period of preparation for the Lord's Nativity". In this context he explained how Vatican Council II, in its constitution on the liturgy, affirmed that the Church, 'within the cycle of a year, unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the Ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord'".

The Council, he went on, "underlined the fact that the focus of the liturgy is Christ, like the sun around which revolve, like planets, the Blessed Virgin Mary (the closest), then the martyrs and the other saints, who 'sing God's perfect praise in heaven and offer prayers for us'.

"This", the Pope added, "is the reality of the liturgical year seen, so to say, 'from God's side'. And what, we might ask, of the side of man, of history and of society? What importance can they have?

"The answer is given us by the journey of Advent itself, which we begin today. The modern world has need, above all, of hope. It is needed by people in developing countries, but also by the economically evolved. We are becoming ever more aware that we are all in the same boat and must save ourselves together. Above all, we are aware that, as we see so many false hopes collapse, we need a reliable hope, and this is only to be found in Christ Who, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, 'is the same yesterday and today and forever'".

Christ "embraces all dimensions of time because He died and rose again. He is 'the Living One' and, while sharing our precarious human condition, remains forever and offers us the stability of God Himself. ... Those who thirst for freedom, justice and peace, can stand up and raise their heads because in Christ freedom is drawing close".

"Thus we can affirm that Jesus Christ concerns not only Christians, or only believers, but all men and women, because He, Who is at the centre of the faith, is also the foundation of hope. And hope is something of which all human beings have constant need".

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned World AIDS Day which falls on 1 December. "My thoughts and prayers go", he said, "to everyone suffering from this disease, especially to children, the poor and those who are rejected.

"The Church", he added, "never ceases to strive to combat AIDS through her institutions and personnel dedicated to that task. I call upon everyone to make their contribution, with prayer and tangible assistance, so that people affected by the HIV virus may experience the presence of the Lord Who offers comfort and hope. Finally, I trust that, by increasing and co-ordinating efforts, we may manage to halt and eradicate this disease".

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