Vatican City, Jan 1, 2023 / 03:17 am (CNA).
At the first papal Mass of 2023, thousands of Catholics gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica prayed for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95.
In the prayers of the faithful on Jan. 1, the congregation prayed: “Remember Lord, the deceased Pope Emeritus Benedict. May the chief Shepherd, who always lives to intercede for us, welcome him kindly into the kingdom of light and peace.”
On New Year’s Day, Pope Francis entrusted the soul of the late Benedict XVI to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” Francis said.
The Catholic Church begins each new year with the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, a title confirmed at the First Council of Ephesus in 431.
Pope Francis, who turned 85 last month, arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica in a wheelchair. He sat in a white chair in front of the congregation for the Mass.
In his homily for the Marian solemnity, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to see the new year as an opportunity to do good by sharing God’s love with “the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street.”
“At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters,” he said.
The pope urged Catholics to imitate the shepherds in Bethlehem by “setting out in haste” to serve others.
“Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: ‘This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help? So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help,” Francis said.
“Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good.”
Like the shepherds, Christians should also prioritize time in the new year to contemplate “the Christ Child resting in his mother’s arms,” the pope added.
He asked, “How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him?”
On Jan. 1, the Catholic Church also celebrates the World Day of Peace, a tradition established by Pope Paul VI and confirmed by Pope John Paul II.
At the Mass, Pope Francis entrusted victims of war to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He prayed for all those “passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference.”
“For all those who have no peace, let us invoke Mary, the woman who brought into the world the Prince of Peace,” he said.
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