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Pope makes pilgrimage to Loreto

Catholic World News - October 05, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI completed a pilgrimage to Loreto on October 4, in preparation for next week’s opening of the Synod of Bishops.

Arriving in Loreto by helicopter (to the surprise of some reporters, who had understood that he would travel by train), the Pontiff visited the shrine of the Holy Family at Loreto, then celebrated Mass on the adjoining plaza. In his homily the Pope explained the purpose of his visit, which duplicated the pilgrimage taken by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 just before the opening of Vatican II:

Fifty years on, having been called by divine Providence to succeed that unforgettable Pope to the See of Peter, I too have come on pilgrimage to entrust to the Mother of God two important ecclesial initiatives: the Year of Faith, which will begin in a week, on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which I have convened this October with the theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

The shrine at Loreto is centered on a building that is believed to be the home in which the Virgin Mary lived at Nazareth. A pious tradition teaches that the shrine was miraculously carried to Loreto by angels at the end of the 13th century; a more mundane explanation is that the stones were brought from the Holy Land by a wealthy family after the Crusaders were ousted. The stones of the Loreto shrine do indeed match the stones of another structure, still standing at Nazareth inside the basilica of the Annunciation, that is believed to be another part of the Blessed Mother’s home.

In his homily to the congregation of about 10,000 in Loreto, the Pope spoke about how the Virgin Mary, accepting God’s invitation to become the Mother God, made herself the “home” for the Almighty. “The will of Mary coincides with the will of the Son in the Father’s unique project of love,” the Pope said, “and, in her, heaven and earth are united.” He went on to speak of the Church as a “home” for God, saying that “where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, His brothers and sisters are no longer strangers.”

In the contemporary world, the Pope continued, man often chooses not to make room for God. He reflected:

Without God, man ultimately chooses selfishness over solidarity and love, material things over values, having over being. We must return to God, so that man may return to being man.

As he concluded his homily the Pope urged the faithful to imitate the Virgin in offering a “Yes” to God’s will. He reminded the congregation that God “forces no one” to accept his invitation, because in mankind God “has created a free partner in dialogue.”

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