December 19, 2011
Pope Benedict makes his way to the Spanish Steps for a ceremony honouring Mary in Rome Dec. 8.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Pope Benedict makes his way to the Spanish Steps for a ceremony honouring Mary in Rome Dec. 8.

The Church should fear the sin of its own members more than hatred against Christians, Pope Benedict said.

While the Church has been persecuted throughout its history, it "is supported by the light and strength of God" and will always end up victorious, the pope said on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

Overcoming trials and outside threats shows how the Christian community "is the presence, the guarantee of God's love against all ideologies of hatred and selfishness," he said.

"The only danger the Church can and should fear is the sin of her members."

Pope Benedict marked the feast day by making a visit to a statue of Mary erected near the Spanish Steps.

He told the crowds gathered for the event that Mary is "free from every stain of sin (and) the Church is holy, but at the same time is marked by our sins."

For that reason, Christians often turn to Mary for help and encouragement in living a truly Christian life, he said.

"Mary helps us see that there is a light beyond the blanket of fog that seems to envelop reality," he said.