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People watch from St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus from the window of his apartment at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Yesterday Pope Benedict held his penultimate Angelus address yesterday before a huge crowd in St. Peter’s Square. From Vatican Information Service:

More than one hundred and fifty thousand people attended Benedict XVI's second-to-last Angelus in St. Peter's Square today. The Pope, who appeared at the window of his study at noon, focuses his Sunday meditation on Lent, "a time of conversion and penitence in preparation for Easter."

"The Church, who is mother and teacher," he said, "calls on all of her members to renew their spirit, to reorient themselves toward God, renouncing pride and selfishness in order to live in love. In this Year of Faith, Lent is a favourable time to rediscover faith in God as the fundamental criterion of our lives and the life of the Church. This always implies a struggle, spiritual combat, because the spirit of evil, naturally, opposes our sanctification and tries to turn us from God's path. … Jesus, after having received 'investiture' as the Messiah―'anointed' by the Spirit―at his Baptism in the Jordan, was led by the same Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. On beginning his public ministry, Jesus had to unmask and reject the false images of the Messiah proposed to him by the tempter. But these temptations are also the false images of humanity that have always harassed our consciences, disguising themselves as convenient and effective, even good proposals."

"The core of these temptations," Benedict XVI explained, "always consists in instumentalizing God for our own interests, giving more importance to success or material goods. The tempter is sly: he doesn't push us directly toward evil, but toward a false good, making us believe that power and that which satisfies our basic needs are the true realities. In this way, God becomes secondary; He is reduced to a means, becomes unreal, no longer counts, disappears. In the final analysis, faith is what is at stake in temptation because God is at stake. In the decisive moments of our lives, but on closer inspection in every moment, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the 'I' or God? Do we want to seek out selfish interests or the true Good, that which is truly good?"

"As the Church Fathers teach us, temptation forms part of Jesus' 'descent' into our human condition, into the abyss of sin and its consequences. It is a descent that Jesus follows to its very end, even to death on the cross and the hell of extreme distance from God. … As St. Augustine teaches, Jesus has taken temptation from us in order to give us victory over it. Therefore we too have no fear of facing the battle against the spirit of evil. What is important is that we face it with him, with Christ the Victor," the pontiff concluded.

After the Marian prayer the Pope thanked everyone for their prayers and affection, which he has felt in these days. "I ask," he said, "that you continue to pray for me and for the next Pope, as well as for the spiritual exercises that I will begin with the members of the Roman Curia this afternoon." He also greeted the "beloved city of Rome", seeing that among those filling St. Peter's Square there was a delegation from the municipality headed by the mayor.

 

Letters spell "Danke," German for thank you, as a crowd listens to Pope Benedict XVI lead the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
 
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Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
 
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