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Jesus Offers the Only True Happiness, Says Pope

Warns That False Prophets Propose a "Cheap" Salvation

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2006 (Zenit) - Born in the poverty of Bethlehem, Jesus offers every man and woman true happiness, said Benedict XVI at the last general audience before Christmas.

At the audience, held today in Paul VI Hall amid a festive atmosphere that included Christmas carols, the Pope reflected on "the extraordinary event ... that changed the course of history: the birth of the Redeemer."

In this context, the Holy Father asked: "Does humanity of our time still await the Savior?"

"The impression is that many think that God is foreign to their own interests," he told the 8,000 people on hand. "It would seem they have no need of him; they live as if he did not exist and, worse still, as if he were an 'obstacle' that must be removed so they can be fulfilled.

"However, despite its contradictions, anxieties and dramas, and perhaps because of them, today's humanity seeks a way of renewal, of salvation, a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Lord who renews the world and our lives; the coming of Christ, the only true Redeemer of man and of all men."

Benedict XVI said that "false prophets continue to propose a 'cheap' salvation, which always ends by causing harsh deceptions."

"In fact, the history of the last 50 years shows the search for a 'cheap' Savior and manifests all the disillusions that have derived from it," the Pope continued.

Expectations

"We Christians have the task to spread, with the testimony of life, the truth of Christmas, which Christ brings to all men and women of good will," he said. "On being born in the poverty of the stable, Jesus comes to offer to all the only joy and peace that can satisfy the expectations of the human spirit."

The Successor of the Apostle Peter invited the faithful to prepare for Christmas as Mary and Joseph did.

They "experienced in the first person the emotion and trepidation for the Child about to be born," the Holy Father said. "It is not difficult to imagine how they spent the last days, waiting to take the newborn in their arms.

"May the Child Jesus, being born among us, not find us distracted or dedicated simply to decorating our homes with lights. Rather, in our spirit and in our families let us decorate a worthy dwelling in which he feels welcomed with faith and love."

The Pontiff concluded by wishing all a holy and happy Christmas, "in particular those who are in difficulty or suffering in body and in spirit."

"Happy Christmas to you all!" he exclaimed.

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