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Pope's Homily at His Birthday Mass

4/22/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"One's Own Life Can Serve to Proclaim God's Mercy"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at his birthday Mass on Monday.

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MASS OF THANKSGIVING IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE POPE'S 80th BIRTHDAY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Square
Second Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is called "in Albis", in accordance with an old tradition. On this day, neophytes of the Easter Vigil were still wearing their white garment, the symbol of the light which the Lord gave them in Baptism. Later, they would take off the white garment but would have to introduce into their daily lives the new brightness communicated to them.

They were to diligently keep alight the delicate flame of truth and good which the Lord had kindled within them, in order to bring to this world a gleam of God's splendour and goodness.

The Holy Father, John Paul II, wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy: in the word "mercy", he summed up and interpreted anew for our time the whole mystery of Redemption. He had lived under two dictatorial regimes, and in his contact with poverty, neediness and violence he had a profound experience of the powers of darkness which also threaten the world of our time.

But he had an equally strong experience of the presence of God who opposed all these forces with his power, which is totally different and divine: with the power of mercy. It is mercy that puts an end to evil. In it is expressed God's special nature -- his holiness, the power of truth and love.

Two years ago now, after the First Vespers of this Feast, John Paul II ended his earthly life. In dying, he entered the light of Divine Mercy, of which, beyond death and starting from God, he now speaks to us in a new way.

Have faith, he tells us, in Divine Mercy! Become day after day men and women of God's mercy. Mercy is the garment of light which the Lord has given to us in Baptism. We must not allow this light to be extinguished; on the contrary, it must grow within us every day and thus bring to the world God's glad tidings.

In these days illumined in particular by the light of divine mercy, a coincidence occurs that is significant to me: I can look back over 80 years of life.

I greet all those who have gathered here to celebrate this birthday with me. I greet first of all the Cardinals, with a special, grateful thought for the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has made himself an authoritative interpreter of your common sentiments. I greet the Archbishops and Bishops, including the Auxiliaries of the Diocese of Rome, of my Diocese; I greet the Prelates and other members of the Clergy, the men and women Religious and all the faithful present here.

I also offer respectful and grateful thoughts to the political figures and members of the Diplomatic Corps who have desired to honour me with their presence.

Lastly, I greet with fraternal affection His Eminence Ioannis, Metropolitan of Pergamon, personal envoy of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. To him I express my appreciation for this kind gesture and the hope that the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue may proceed with new enthusiasm.

We are gathered here to reflect on the completion of a long period of my life. Obviously, the liturgy itself must not be used to speak of oneself, of myself; yet, one's own life can serve to proclaim God's mercy.

"Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me", a Psalm says (66[65]:16). I have always considered it a great gift of Divine Mercy to have been granted birth and rebirth, so to speak, on the same day, in the sign of the beginning of Easter. Thus, I was born as a member of my own family and of the great family of God on the same day.

Yes, I thank God because I have been able to experience what "family" means; I have been able to experience what "fatherhood" means, so that the words about God as Father were made understandable to me from within; on the basis of human experience, access was opened to me to the great and benevolent Father who is in Heaven.

We have a responsibility to him, but at the same time he gives us trust so that the mercy and goodness with which he accepts even our weakness and sustains us may always shine out in his justice, and that we can gradually learn to walk righteously.

I thank God for enabling me to have a profound experience of the meaning of motherly goodness, ever open to anyone who seeks shelter and in this very way able to give me freedom.

I thank God for my sister and my brother, who with their help have been close to me faithfully throughout my life. I thank God for the companions I have met on my way and for ...

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