"I invite everyone to renew, in the month of June, his devotion to the Heart of Christ, making use also of the traditional prayer of daily offering and including the intentions I have proposed for the whole Church". This is the pope's suggestion to the approximately 30,000 faithful gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart has roots in the Middle Ages, but it was emphasised and encouraged by the popes after the appearance of Jesus to St Marguerite Marie Alacoque in the 17th century.
"The Heart of Christ", the pontiff explained, "expresses in a simple and authentic way the 'good news' of love, summarising in itself the mystery of the Incarnation and of the Redemption . . . From the infinite horizon of his love, in fact, God wished to enter within the limits of history and the human condition, he took on a body and a heart, so that we can contemplate and encounter the infinite in the finite, the invisible and ineffable Mystery in the human Heart of Jesus, the Nazarene".
Benedict XVI recalled that his two encyclicals have also been inspired by the mystery of the Sacred Heart: "In my first encyclical, on the theme of love, the point of departure was precisely the contemplation of the pierced side of Christ, of which John speaks in his Gospel (cf. 19:37; Deus Caritas Est, 12). And this centre of the faith is also the source of hope in which we have been saved, the hope that I made the object of the second encyclical".
"Every person ", the pope continued, "needs a 'centre' for his life, a source of truth and goodness to draw upon in various situations and in the struggle of everyday life. Each of us, when we pause in silence, needs to feel not only the beating of his own heart, but more profoundly the pulsing of a trustworthy presence, which is sensed through faith but nonetheless is much more real: the presence of Christ, the heart of the world".
The solemnity of the sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated last Friday, May 30. The following day, the Immaculate Heart of Mary is venerated.
Benedict XVI concluded with an invocation to the "maternal intercession of the Virgin" for the populations of China and Myanmar, "struck by natural calamities", and "for those going through the many situations of pain, illness, and material and spiritual misery that mark humanity's journey".