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Pope's op-ed on Christmas published in Financial Times

Catholic World News - December 20, 2012

“The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life,” writes Pope Benedict XVI in an op-ed column that appears in the December 20 issue of London’s Financial Times.

The Pope’s column—an unprecedented appearance by a Roman Pontiff as an essayist in a secular newspaper—focused on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, drawing a distinction between heavenly and earthly kingdoms. “Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir,” the Pope observed, “but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.”

Pope Benedict warned against both the “politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power.” He reminded readers of Christ’s admonition to his followers: “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

“Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar,” the Pope wrote, warning that the faithful cannot “bow down before the false gods proposed today.” He pointed out that in Italy, crèche scenes often “feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background.” This, the Pope said, is a reminder that “the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love.”

The full text of the Pope’s column, which originally appeared on a Financial Times web site that required readers to register, was released later by the Vatican press office.

The Pope insisted that Christians should be active in the political and economic world, serving others, especially the poor. “Christian fight poverty,” he wrote, “out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being.” The faithful should work to eliminate inequalities and to protect the vulnerable, he said. “The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.”

“Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom,” the Pope wrote as he concluded his column, saying that this is “a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.”

The Vatican press office reported that the Financial Times had solicited a column from the Pontiff about Christmas. “Despite the unusual nature of the request, the Holy Father accepted willingly,” the Vatican statement noted.

The press office called attention to the fact that Pope Benedict has accepted other invitations from the secular media in previous years: for interviews with BBC and the Italian RAI network—for Christmas and Good Friday, respectively. The statement noted: “These too have been opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a wide forum at salient moments during the Christian liturgical year.”

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