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September 20, 2017

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Pope Benedict XVI completes Jesus book trilogy with infancy narrative

VATICAN CITY--Pope Benedict XVI completed his trilogy on the life of Jesus Christ with a new book on Jesus' birth, insisting on its significance for Christians today and lamenting that God is still considered by many an obstacle to their freedom.

"Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives," hits bookstores in 50 countries on Wednesday, the third and final installment of a project the 85-year-old Benedict conceived a decade ago and began writing soon after he became pope in 2005.

The first two books, which topped the bestseller lists in Italy, dealt with Jesus' public ministry and his death, leaving just Jesus' birth to complete the series. More than 1 million copies are planned for the initial print run, just in time for Christmas.

In the book, which the Vatican presented Tuesday, Benedict blends history, theology, linguistics and even astronomy to interpret the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which describe the months just before and after Jesus' birth.

Benedict's findings: Jesus was indeed conceived immaculately to Mary and was born poor, in a stable in Bethlehem. Yet he was revered by even his first visitors who brought him gifts befitting a king — the first visitors of what would become billions of followers.

Benedict laments that despite all the evidence pointing to Jesus as the savior of mankind, he remains a contradiction today — a contradiction that in the end is directed at God.

"God himself is constantly regarded as a limitation placed on our freedom, that must be set aside if man is ever to be completely himself," Benedict writes. But he insists: "God, with his truth, stands in opposition to man's manifold lies, his self-seeking and his pride. God is love."

It's a theme Benedict has insisted on throughout his pontificate: that in today's increasingly secular world, more and more people think they can live without God. Benedict has focused much of his teaching on trying to reverse that trend, trying to revive Christianity in parts of the world where it no longer takes center stage or where it has been damaged by scandal.

In his previous Jesus books, Benedict made some sweeping proclamations, for example exonerating the Jews as a people for Christ's death in "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection," which was published in 2011.

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