The UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, proffers the full text of the Holy Father’s message.
My emphases and comments:
Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, [New Evangelization requires followups.] and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history [This is not a myth.] when God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.
They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.
The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. [Indeed, salvation for any person comes only through Christ.]
And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.
And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.
Out of love for us, he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.
As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.
Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world. I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers this Holy Season.
I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time.
I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days.
I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas.
May God bless all of you!
While the Holy Father says this was for everyone, it was delivered to the people of the UK. We should look to their reactions.
Damian Thompson’s take begins with his entry title:
The Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. There’s no sense here of Christianity as just one among many “faith communities”. The Pope was indeed being “inclusive”, but not in the way that Thought for the Day encourages its contributors to be. One can’t help wondering: if Benedict was an ordinary contributor who’d been required to submit his script for vetting the night before, as usually happens, would BBC Religion and Ethics – which controls the three-minute slot, much to the annoyance of the Today team – have insisted on a little PC fluffiness?
Damian also spotlights the secularist reaction, thusly:
You will recall that these were the ones who threw a nutty over the Pope’s state visit.
In Part One yesterday, NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood and NSS chairman Terry Sanderson got a little hot under the collar after they learned that Pope Benedict XVI had been invited to deliver the Christmas Eve Thought for the Day on Radio 4! Much hilarity ensued as Keith and Terry literally fell over each other trying to be the first to sock it to Old Redsocks. “No platform for the Pope,” wrote Keith, and was just about to press “send” when Terry – accidentally! – split a mug of Fairtrade coffee over the keyboard. After being chased round the kitchen by his angry pal, Terry fished his mobile phone out of his pocket and tapped out the words “no uninterrupted platform on Thought for the Day“…
… and left viewers in suspense until Part Two, going out later today, entitled “Why has the BBC become the official propaganda arm of the Vatican?”
The great Fr. Blake, P.P. of Brighton made this observation:
What I thought was even more interesting was a very surreal interview with Archbishop Longley, it was almost paradigm of how English Church seems to work. Humphries was asking him some very real questions about adherence to the Catholic Faith, whether people accepted or rejected the Church’s teaching on such issues as abortion, contraception women priests and homosexuality and the Archbishop kept going on about Newman and the development of doctrine, speaking about the Church changing and adapting to the times.
What he seemed incapable of saying is that the Church proclaims the Gospel which is unchanging and counter-cultural, it offers the Truth “which the world cannot accept”.
I am sure we will see more reactions.