VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today is the beginning of the season of Advent, a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Christmas. The voices of prophets resound in the liturgy, who announce the Messiah, inviting us to conversion of heart and to prayer. John the Baptist, the last and greatest of them all, cries out: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!” (Luke 3:4), because he “will come to visit his people in peace.”

2. Christ is coming, the Prince of peace! To prepare for his Nativity means to reawaken in ourselves and in the world the hope for peace. First of all, peace in hearts, which is built by putting down the weapons of rancor, of revenge and of every form of egoism.

The world is in great need of this peace! I am thinking especially, with profound sorrow, of the last episodes of violence in the Middle East and the African continent, as well as those in so many other parts of the earth reported in the daily news. I renew my appeal to the leaders of the great religions: Let us join forces to preach nonviolence, forgiveness and reconciliation! “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

3. In this Advent season of waiting and hope, the ecclesial community identifies more than ever with the Most Holy Virgin. May she, the expectant Virgin, help us to open our hearts to him who brings, with his coming among us, the priceless gift of peace to the whole of humanity.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims:]

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, a sickness that, unfortunately, is still growing strongly, especially in the poorest countries. While I pray for those who are stricken by this scourge, I encourage all those in the Church who carry out an invaluable service of acceptance, healing and spiritual support towards these, our brothers and sisters.

I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, in particular the members of Sant’Egidio Community, who today, in contact with numerous cities of the world, are relaunching the international campaign against the death penalty.

I wish all a good Sunday.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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