Pope Benedict spoke these words to the Romans on Tuesday, when he celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with them in Piazza de Spagna.  But they’re addressed to us all.  (Emphases mine. For the complete text, see here.)

“We often lament the pollution of the air, which in certain places of the city is unbreathable.  It is true: We need everyone’s commitment to make the city cleaner.

And yet, there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is that which renders our faces less smiling, more gloomy, which leads us not to greet one another, to not look at one another in the face.  The city is made up of faces, but unfortunately the collective dynamics can make the perception of their depth disappear.  We see everything on the surface.  Persons become bodies, and these bodies lose the soul, become things, objects without a face, to be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of persons, because in her there is perfect transparency of the soul in the body.  She is purity personified, in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are in her, fully consistent between themselves and with the will of God.  The Madonna teaches us to open ourselves to God’s action, to look at others as he looks at them — from the heart. And to look at them with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, most looked down upon, most exploited. ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’

I wish to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, not with words, but with deeds, make an effort to practice this evangelical law of love, which sends the world forward.  They are so many, also here in Rome, and rarely do they make news.  Men and women of every age, who have understood that it is no use to condemn, to lament, to recriminate, but it is better to respond to evil with good.  This changes things, it changes persons and, in consequence, improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city!  While we are busy in daily activities, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal.  She says to each one of us: Where sin increased, grace can overflow, beginning precisely from your heart and your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian, more human.”

Make your life, your encounters, more humane.  And we can save the world.

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