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The Vatican Information Service is a news service, founded in the Holy See Press Office, that provides information about the Magisterium and the pastoral activities of the Holy Father and the Roman Curia...[]

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Friday, December 30, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 30, 2005 (VIS) - All the staff of the Vatican Information Service wishes a Happy New Year to all of its readers.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 30, 2005 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the participants of the XXXIII International Congress of the International Federation of "Pueri Cantores", gathered during these days in Rome. This association was created in 1965 by a decree of the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, as a moral institution, proposes the spreading of liturgical music interpreted by children in their scholastic years.

  The Pope welcomed the President and manifested his appreciation for the "spirit in which your federation realizes and intends to pursue its mission in the Church, at the service of the liturgy, giving the entire world a message of peace and brotherhood".

  The Holy Father continued: "It is particularly opportune during Christmas time to sing praises to the Lord and to express our joy to him, following the example of the Virgin Mary, who was the first person to give grace to the Lord for the Mystery of the Incarnation, with her 'Magnificat', which the Church repeats from generation to generation. (...) Vatican Council II recalled how greatly the Church appreciates the role of those who, with their singing, contribute to the beauty of the liturgy. Because Christ 'is present when the Church prays and sings' and we are united with the heavenly Church".

  The Holy Father underlined the importance of the mission of the Pueri Cantores today in "helping the People of God to pray with dignity, because sacred music is a 'ministerial function' in the Divine service. (...) When the Church prays, sings or acts, the faith of the participants is nourished, the souls are raised towards God to give Him spiritual homage and to receive grace with greater abundance".

  At the end of the speech, the Pope gave the Apostolic Blessing to all the members of the Federation of Pueri Cantores.


VATICAN CITY, DEC 30, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, Benedict XVI visited the Santa Marta Dispensary, which is located in the Vatican. The dispensary assists and helps families from different countries, ethnic backgrounds or religions, focusing on the children. Ten doctors with different specializations collaborate with this center, as well as one psychologist and forty volunteers, coordinated by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paoli.

  In his speech, the Holy Father pointed out that his visit took on "special significance, because it was during the Christmas period: during these days, our gaze is turned to the Child Jesus". As from the Grotto in Bethlehem, "Jesus knocks at the door of our heart, asking us to make a space for Him in our lives. God is like this: He does not impose Himself, He never enters forcefully, however, like a child, He asks to be listened to. In a certain sense, (...) He waits for us to open our hearts to Him and take care of Him".

  After recalling that today was the celebration of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Pope assured that in seeing the work achieved in the dispensary for all the children and their parents, he wished to underline "the fundamental vocation of the family in being the first and fundamental place for welcoming life. The modern concept of family, also due to a reaction to the past, places great relevance on marital love, underlining the subjective aspects of freedom of choice and sentiments. Whereas it is more difficult to perceive and understand the value of the calling to collaborate with God in the procreation of human life".

  He added: "Also, contemporary societies, even with so many means, cannot always simplify the parents' task, on the spiritual and moral motivational level as well as on the level of the practical conditions of life. There is a great need, under the cultural profile as well as the political and legislative one, to sustain the family, and initiatives such as your dispensary are very useful for the above. These are small but important realities and, thanks to God, the Church is full of these and never ceases in making them available to all".

  Before finishing, Benedict XVI invited those present "to pray for all the families in Rome and in the world, especially for those going through difficult times, especially those obliged to live far from their original land. We pray for those parents that cannot ensure their children the necessary things for health, instruction, or for a dignified and serene way of life".
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Thursday, December 29, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Octavio Villegas Aguilar of Tula (Mexico), Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Morelia (area 17, 710, population 2,378,720, Catholics 2,259,784, priests 513, religious 1,254, permanent deacons 8) in Mexico.
  Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halyc, with the consent of the Synod of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church and after having informed the Apostolic See, transferred Bishop Ihor Vozniak, C.SS.R., from Auxiliary Bishop of the Archeparchy of Lviv of the Ukrainians to residential Archbishop of the same see.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2005 (VIS) - From the beginning of Benedict XVI Papacy, this past April 24th, 2,855,500 persons participated in public meetings with the Holy Father, according to a communication by the Prefecture of the Pontifical House.

  Benedict XVI held his first general audience on April 27th, and with yesterday's, the last one for this year, he has celebrated a total of 32, in which 810,000 faithful participated. The months with the highest number of persons participating were, respectively: October, with 190,000 persons; June, with 130,000 and September, with 126,000.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 29, 2005 (VIS) - Following are highlights of the activities of Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy See for the months of August through December 2005.


 - 18 - 21: Apostolic trip to Cologne, Germany, for the celebration of 20th World Youth Day on the theme: "We have come to adore Him."


 - 2: Benedict XVI entrusts Vatican Radio with the exercise and protection of the copyright and intellectual property rights of all audio recordings of his voice dating back to the period prior to his elevation to the Chair of Peter, with the exception of those rights already legitimately acquired by third parties.

 - 16: The Holy Father receives in audience participants in an international congress on the theme: "Holy Scripture in the Life of the Church." The congress, held in Rome from September 14 - 18, was jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and by the Catholic Biblical Federation (FBC), for the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Vatican Council II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Dei Verbum."

 - 23: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of Luis Felipe Bravo Mena, the new ambassador of Mexico to the Holy See.

 - 24: The Holy Father Benedict XVI meets with Professor Hans Kung of Tubingen, Germany

 - 29: Boris Tadic, president of the Republic of Serbia, invites the Holy Father to visit his country.


 - 2: Opening of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

 - 9: Beatification of Servant of God Clemens August Von Galen (1878 - 1946), bishop of Munster, Germany.

 - 11: Presentation of the book "La Rivoluzione di Dio" (The Revolution of God), a collection of the twelve discourses pronounced by Benedict XVI in August 2005 during World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, the Pope's first apostolic trip outside Italy,

 - 15: One hundred thousand children from Italy and other parts of the world who took First Communion this year, gather in St. Peter's Square for a meeting of prayer and catechesis with the Holy Father. The theme of the event was: "The bread of heaven."

 - 17: Telegram of condolence from the Holy Father for the death of Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, who passed away on October 15.

 - 22: Publication in various languages of the final message of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, entitled: "The Eucharist: Living Bread for the Peace of the World."

 - 23: The presidents delegate and the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops send a letter to the four Chinese prelates absent from the synodal assembly: Bishops Antonio Li Duan, Xi'an; Luca Li Jingfeng, Fengxiang; Aloysius Jin Luxian S.J., Shanghai; and Giuseppe Wei Jingyi, Qiqihar.

 - 23: Mass in St. Peter's Square, concelebrated by the Synod Fathers and presided by Benedict XVI for the closing of the Year of the Eucharist and of the Eleventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Canonization of Blesseds: Archbishop Jozef Bilczewski of Lviv of the Latins, died in 1923; Gaetano Catanoso, priest, founder of the Congregation of the Veronica Sisters of the Holy Countenance, died in 1963; Zygmunt Gorazdowski, priest, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, died in 1920; Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Jesuit priest, died in 1952; and Felice da Nicosia, of the Friars Minor Capuchin, died in 1787.

 - 27: Day of commemoration for the promulgation of the Vatican Council II Declaration "Nostra aetate" on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions.

 - 28: Presentation of the Holy Father's Message for the 92nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which is due to be celebrated on January 15, 2006, and which has the theme: "Migrations, sign of the times."

 - 29: Beatification of Servants of God: Josep Tapies Sirvant and six companions, priests, martyrs died in 1936; and Maria de los Angeles Ginard Marti, professed religious of the Sisters Guardians of the Eucharistic Cult, virgin and martyr, died in 1936.


 - 6: Beatification of Eurosia Fabris (1866 - 1932), of the Third Order of St. Francis, known as "Mother Rosa."

 - 12: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of Francis Rooney, the new ambassador of the United States to the Holy See.

 - 13: Beatification of Servants of God: Charles de Foucauld, priest (1858-1916); Maria Pia Mastena, virgin and foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Countenance (1881-1951); and Maria Crocifissa Curcio, virgin and founder of the Carmelite Missionary Sisters of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (1877-1957).

 - 17: Visit to the Holy Father Benedict XVI by Moshe Katsav, president of the State of Israel.

 - 19: "Motu proprio" entitled "De Basilicis Sancti Francisci et Sanctae Mariae Angelorum," establishing new norms concerning the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, which is run by the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in the same city, which is in the hands of the Order of Friars Minor.

 - 20: Beatification in the Jalisco Stadium of Guadalajara, Mexico, of thirteen martyrs who were killed during religious persecutions in Mexico last century: Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and seven companions, Jose Trinidad Rangel, Andres Sola Molist, Leonardo Perez, Dario Acosta Zurita, and the fourteen-year-old boy Jose Sanchez del Rio.

 - 22: Presentation of the calendar of events to commemorate the fifth centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Swiss Guard (1506 - 2006).

 - 25: Visit by the Holy Father Benedict XVI to Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University for the inauguration of the academic year.

 - 28: Publication of a Message from the Holy Father to the young Dutch participants in the first National Day of Catholic Youth, celebrated in Nieuwegein, Netherlands.

 - 29: The Holy Father Benedict XVI grants the faithful a Plenary Indulgence for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 2005, the fortieth anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II.

 - 29: Publication of the document: "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders."


 - 1: Benedict XVI receives the Letters of Credence of eleven new ambassadors to the Holy See: Ali Abeid A. Karume of Tanzania; Madan Kumar Bhattarai of Nepal; Pekka Ojanen of Finland; Gilbert Ramirez Chagoury of Santa Lucia; Francisco A. Soler of El Salvador; Sten Erik Malmborg Lilholt of Denmark; Konji Sebati of South Africa; Idriss Jazairy of Algeria; Petros Tseggai Asghedom of Eritrea; Feliz Kodjo Sagbo of Togo; and Antoni Morell Mora of Andorra.

 - 3: At the end of the "ad limina" visit of a group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Poland, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow invites the Holy Father to visit Poland.

 - 3: Holy Father receives in audience Mahmud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

 - 8: Benedict XVI presides at a Eucharistic concelebration in the Vatican Basilica to mark today's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the fortieth anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II.

 - 13: Presentation of Holy Father's Message for the World Day of Peace 2006 on the theme: "In truth, peace."

 - 15: Benedict XVI receives members of the joint coordinating committee of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

 - 16: Publication of the Pope's Message for the 14th World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated every year on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

- 18: First pastoral visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the parishes in the Diocese of Rome and celebration of the Holy Mass in the Parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice in Casalbertone. The then Cardinal Ratzinger became titular of this parish in 1977.

- 19: Presentation to the Holy Father of the Letters of Credence of Mr. Bernard Kessedjian, the new French ambassador to the Holy See.

- 23: Presentation of the Letters of Credence for the new ambassador of Great Britain to the Holy See, Mr. Francis Martin-Xavier Campbell.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 28 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

-Approved the canonical election of the following prelates for the Synod of Bishops of the Church of Antioch of the Maronites, which met in Bkerké (Lebanon) from the 18th to the 24th of September 2005:

    -Fr. Georges Bou-Jaoudé, C.M., Superior of the Religious Order of Mejdlaya, as Archbishop of Tripoli of the Maronites (Catholics 101,350, priests 171,  religious 226) in Lebanon. The Archbishop elect was born in 1943 in Jouret El-Ballout (Lebanon), took his vows in 1966 and was ordained priest in 1968.

    -Fr. Elias Nassar, parish priest of Jezzine in the Eparchy of Saïd, as Bishop of Saïd of the Maronites (Catholics 83,000, priests 85, religious 80) in Lebanon. The Bishop elect was born in 1960 in Sarba (Lebanon), was ordained priest in 1990.

    -Fr. Abbott Simon Atallah, O.A.M., Superior of the Convent of Saint John in Ajaltoun (Lebanon), as Bishop of Baalbek - Deir El-Ahmar of the Maronites (Catholics 30,000, priests 14, religious 20, permanent deacons 2) in Lebanon. The Bishop elect was born in 1937 in Hemayri (Lebanon), took his vows in 1959 and was ordained priest in 1963.

    -Fr. Abbott François Eid, O.M.M., General Procurator of the Maronite Mariamite Order, as Bishop of Cairo of the Maronites (Catholics 5,003, priests 6, religious 3) in Egypt. The Bishop elect was born in 1943 in Mtolleh (Lebanon) and was ordained in 1971.

-Nominated Fr. Patrick K. Lynch, SS.CC. and Fr. Paul Hendricks, auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese of Southwark (area 3,000, population 404,890, Catholics 385,384, priests 393, religious 865, permanent deacons 78) in England. The Bishop elect Lynch was born in Cork City (Ireland) in 1947, took his vows in 1965, was ordained priest in 1972 and until today was the episcopal vicar for the religious persons and the parish priest in the same archdiocese. The Bishop elect Hendricks was born in Beckenham (England) in 1956, was ordained in 1984 and until today was a parish priest of Peckham (England).
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 28, 2005 (VIS) - Today, 20,000 persons participated in Wednesday's General Audience, in Saint Peter's Square. Benedict XVI, once again, spoke about the Psalms.

  The Pope said: "Psalm 138, (...) knowledgeable hymn of intense beauty and passion, points at the highest and most admirable reality of the entire universe, man, defined as the "prodigy" of God. A theme completely in harmony with the Christmas atmosphere (...) when we celebrate the great mystery of the Son of God, made man for our salvation".

  Benedict XVI reminded that throughout this psalm runs the recurrent symbol of the pottery maker and the sculptor that "form and model the artistic creation, the masterpiece" and adds that in the text the "idea that God already sees all the future of that still unformed embryo is extremely potent: in the book of the life of the Lord, already the days that creature will live has been written and would fill with works during his worldly existence. Thus the transcendent greatness of Divine knowledge re-emerges, which not only embraces the past and the present of humanity, but also the entire range hidden by the future".

  The Pope concluded quoting the reflection by Saint Gregory Major on this psalm which represents "a meditation on those who are weakest in their spiritual path in the Christian community". No matter how "imperfect or small they may be, according to their capabilities, they love God and their brethren (...) contributing to the edification of the Church (...) This is a message of hope for all, even for those who continue with difficulty along the path of spiritual and ecclesial life".

  After the catechesis, the Pope welcomed the pilgrims in various languages and in particular remembered "the dear populations hit by the tsunami a year ago, which caused many victims and great damage to the environment. We pray the Lord for them and for those, even in other areas of the world, that have suffered natural calamities, and await our concrete and active solidarity".
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 26, 2005 (VIS) - At noon today, before thousands of people convened in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope spoke these words before the Angelus: "After having celebrated the solemnity of Christ's Birth yesterday, today we remember Saint Stephen's rise to heaven, the first martyr".

  "In an atmosphere of Christmas joy, remembering the martyrdom of Saint Stephen should not seem out of place. In fact, already the shadow of the Cross falls over the Manger in Bethlehem. This is announced by the poverty of the stall where the Baby cries, the prophecy by Simeon about the contradiction and the sword destined to pierce the Virgin's soul, the persecution by Herod that will make flight from Egypt a necessity".

  Benedict XVI pointed out that "we should not be surprised if one day, this Child, becoming an adult, would ask his disciples to follow him on the path of the Cross with complete trust and faithfulness. Attracted by his example and supported by the love of many Christians, already from the beginning of Christianity, they would testify their faith with a profusion of blood. Other martyrs followed the first ones throughout the centuries until today".

  "How can we avoid acknowledging that also today, in various parts of the world, to profess the Christian faith requires the heroism of martyrs? How can we not say that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, to live the Gospel with coherence bears a high cost with it?".

  "Contemplating the Divine Child in Mary's arms and looking at the example of Saint Stephen, we ask God for the grace to live our faith with coherence, always ready to answer anybody asking us the reason for the hope which is in us".
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2005 (VIS) - At noon today, the Solemnity of the Lord's Birth, the Pope addressed the traditional Nativity message from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, the first one of  his pontificate and transmitted by 111 television stations from 68 nations.

  The Holy Father said: "On this solemn day, the Angel's proclamation rings out once again, inviting us, the men and women of the third millennium, to welcome the Saviour.  May the people of today's world not hesitate to let him enter their homes, their cities, their nations, everywhere on earth!".

  Benedict XVI stated that "men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart.  That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being".

  He exhorted: "Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium!  At Christmas, the Almighty becomes a child and asks for our help and protection.  His way of showing that he is God challenges our way of being human.  By knocking at our door, he challenges us and our freedom; he calls us to examine how we understand and live our lives."

  "Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand!  Do not fear; put your trust in him!  The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships.  May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a family called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support".

  The Pope assured that "a united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet".

  Looking at the situations in the different continents, the Holy Father asked "for peace, integral development and the prevention of fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises, such as those in Darfur and in other regions of central Africa".

  Benedict XVI also asked God to "lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony.  May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom; may he favour the process of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that, by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await".

  The Pope also imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to Rome and to the World) with this message in 32 languages.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Lord's Nativity. During the "Gloria", children coming from the five continents deposited flowers before the image of the Baby Jesus.

  After the Gospel, Benedict XVI addressed the homily, the salient paragraphs being given below:

  "The Lord said to me: You are my son; this day I have begotten you".  With these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the Vigil Mass of Christmas, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer in a stable in Bethlehem.  This Psalm was once a part of the coronation rite of the kings of Judah.  The people of Israel, in virtue of its election, considered itself in a special way a son of God, adopted by God.  Just as the king was the personification of the people, his enthronement was experienced as a solemn act of adoption by God, whereby the King was in some way taken up into the very mystery of God.  At Bethlehem night, these words, which were really more an expression of hope than a present reality, took on new and unexpected meaning.  The Child lying in the manger is truly God's Son.  God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving".

  "But there is more: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. (...)  God's everlasting today has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God's eternal today.  God is so great that he can become small.  God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. (...) This is Christmas: "You are my son, this day I have begotten you".  God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him.  As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger (...) And on every child shines something of the splendour of that "today", of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield - it shines on every child, even on those still unborn".

  "Let us listen to a second phrase from the liturgy of this holy Night, one taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: "Upon the people who walked in darkness a great light has shone". (...)  But first, light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance.  Light gives us life, it shows us the way.  But light, as a source of heat, also means love.  Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness.  In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits".

  "The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished.  In every age it has touched men and women, "it has shone around them".  Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up - charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness.  From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries. (...) In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness.  He calls us to follow that Child".

  "On this night, when we look towards Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there.  We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land: Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you!  Let your light shine upon it!  Let it know peace!"

  "The word "peace" brings us to a third key to the liturgy of this holy Night.  The Child foretold by Isaiah is called "Prince of Peace". His kingdom is said to be one "of endless peace".  The shepherds in the Gospel hear the glad tidings: "Glory to God in the highest" and "on earth, peace...".  At one time we used to say: "to men of good will".  Nowadays we say "to those whom God loves".  What does this change mean?" (...) We would do better to ask: who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? (...)  The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves.  There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna.  But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the Magi".

  "Tonight let us look at the shepherds. (...)  In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court.  But really, who were they?  To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue.  They were simple souls.  The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful.  This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night.  But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God's word.  Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open.  In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him.  Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness - a readiness to listen and to set out.  They were waiting for a light which would show them the way.  That is what is important for God.  He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature".

  "Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist.  There Christ's peace is present.  In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world.  The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself.  When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the house of bread".
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Friday, December 23, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 23, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Msgr. Jose Maria Yanguas Sanz of the clergy of the diocese of Calahorra y la Calzada-Logrono, Spain, bureau chief at the Congregation for Bishops, as bishop of Cuenca (area 17,140, population 202,982, Catholics 199,722, priests 317, permanent deacons 1, religious 446), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Alberite de Iregua, Spain in 1947 and ordained as a priest in 1972.

 - Fr. Randolph Roque Calvo of the clergy of San Francisco, U.S.A., pastor of the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redwood City, as bishop of Reno (area 183,506, population 607,459, Catholics 91,973, priests 42, permanent deacons 11, religious 50), U.S.A. The bishop-elect was born in Agana on the island of Guam in 1950 and ordained as a priest in 1977.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 23, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State and president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

 - Workers who participated in the reconstruction and redecoration of the pontifical apartments.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 23, 2005 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received the Letters of Credence of the new ambassador of the United Kingdom to the Holy See, Francis Martin-Xavier Campbell.

  In his address to the diplomat, Benedict XVI highlighted the fact that relations between the Holy See and the United Kingdom "have made possible a significant degree of cooperation in the service of peace and justice, especially in the developing world, where the United Kingdom has played a leading role in international efforts to combat poverty and disease. ... I pray that this effective solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters will be maintained and deepened in years to come."

  Referring to an observation made in the new ambassador's speech, that his "country is no stranger to the strife caused by the sad divisions within Christianity," the Pope affirmed that "the wounds resulting from more than four centuries of separation cannot be healed without determined efforts, perseverance, and above all, prayer."

  Having given thanks to God for the progress made in ecumenical dialogue, the Pope said: "Ecumenism is not simply an internal matter of concern to Christian communities; it is an imperative of charity which expresses God's love for all humanity and His plan to unite all peoples in Christ, ... and as such [it] has an essential part to play in overcoming divisions between communities and nations."

  Benedict XVI also expressed his happiness at "the significant progress that has been made over the last few years towards achieving peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Local Churches and ecclesial communities have worked hard to overcome historic differences between sections of the population, and among the most visible signs of the growth in mutual trust is the recent decommissioning of weapons by the Irish Republican Army. This would not have been possible without immense diplomatic and political efforts."

  The Holy Father also recalled the July bomb attacks in London, giving assurances "of the continuing support of the Church as you seek solutions to the underlying tensions that give rise to such atrocities. The Catholic population in Great Britain is already marked by a high degree of ethnic diversity and is eager to play its part in furthering reconciliation and harmony between the various racial groups present in your country. ... Tolerance and respect for difference are values that the United Kingdom has done much to promote both within its borders and beyond."

  The Pope went on: "You have spoken of the importance for the United Kingdom of remaining faithful to Europe's rich traditions, and such fidelity naturally involves a profound respect for the truth that God has revealed concerning the human person. It requires us to recognize and protect the sanctity of life from the first moment of conception until natural death. It requires us to acknowledge the indispensable role of stable marriage and family life for the good of society. It obliges us to consider carefully the ethical implications of scientific and technological progress, particularly in the field of medical research and genetic engineering.

  "Above all," he concluded, "it directs us towards a proper understanding of human freedom which can never be realized independently of God but only in cooperation with His loving plan for humanity. Tolerance and respect for difference, if they are truly to benefit society, need to be built upon the rock of an authentic understanding of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God and called to a share in His divine life."
CD/LETTERS OF CREDENCE/UK:CAMPBELL                VIS 20051223 (600)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 23, 2005 (VIS) - As previously advised, there will be no service on Monday, December 26 or Tuesday, December 27, the next service will be transmitted on Wednesday, December 28. The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a very happy and holy Christmas.
.../.../...                                        VIS 20051223 (50)

Thursday, December 22, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 22, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Jose Luis Mollaghan of San Miguel, Argentina, as metropolitan archbishop of Rosario (area 13,500, population 1,700,000, Catholics 1,501,620, priests 226, permanent deacons 2, religious 268), Argentina. The archbishop-elect was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1946, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1971, and consecrated a bishop in 1993. He succeeds Archbishop Eduardo Vicente Miras, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Jorge Eduardo Lozano, auxiliary of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as bishop of Gualeguaychu (area 33,887, population 320,450, Catholics 288,000, priests 69, religious 113), Argentina.

 - Appointed Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, as his special envoy to celebrations for the 14th World Day of the Sick, due to be held in Adelaide, Australia on February 11, 2006.
NER:NA/.../...                                    VIS 20051222 (160)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 22, 2005 (VIS) - Archbishop Silvano Tomasi C.S., apostolic nuncio and chief of the Holy See delegation to the sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), held in Hong Kong, China, from December 13 to 18, delivered a talk to delegates on the final day of the meeting. The text of the archbishop's English-language address was made public today.

  The aim of Archbishop Tomasi's talk was "to recall that the system of international trade regulations must become a means to reach farther objectives, among them the fundamental goal of the integral development of all individuals and the reduction of poverty."

  Quoting the Pope's reference to the Hong Kong conference during his recent meeting with members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the archbishop said: "The Holy See is confident that a sense of responsibility and solidarity with the most disadvantaged will prevail, so that narrow interests and the logic of power will be set aside."

  "The Holy See recognizes," he went on, "the benefit of an equitable and participatory multilateral system of trade relations directed to attaining and developing the common good. ... Protectionism too often favors already privileged segments of society. Effective multilateralism, on the other hand, is an inclusive process which acknowledges that at the core of all social and economic relations, and hence of trade relations, is the human person, with dignity and inalienable human rights. Therefore, a rules-based trade system or, better, a fair system of trade rules is indispensable, ... shaped according to the level of economic development of the member States and giving explicit support and special and differential treatment to the poorest countries."
DELSS/TRADE SYSTEM/TOMASI:HONG KONG                VIS 20051222 (290)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 22, 2005 (VIS) - This morning in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father held his traditional annual meeting with the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and members of the Roman Curia for the exchange of Christmas greetings.

  In his address, Benedict XVI mentioned "the great events that profoundly marked the life of the Church," such as: the death of John Paul II, World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany and the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II.

  Benedict XVI pointed out that no Pope had written as many texts as John Paul II, or visited "the whole world and spoken directly to human beings of all continents. Nonetheless, in the end, his was a journey of suffering and silence," and from this cathedra, Pope Benedict added, "he taught us an important lesson."

  Speaking of John Paul II's last book, "Memory and identity," the Pope explained how "it left us with an interpretation of suffering that was not a theological or philosophical theory, but a fruit matured over a personal journey of endurance which he underwent, supported by faith in the crucified Lord." In this work, Benedict XVI went on, the late Pope "shows how deeply touched he was by the spectacle of the power of evil during last century." Faced with the dilemma of whether some limit against evil exists, the response from his book is: "divine mercy."

  "Of course we have to do all we can to alleviate suffering and to prevent the injustice that causes the suffering of the innocent," said Benedict XVI. "Nonetheless, we must do everything possible for human beings to discover the meaning of suffering, to accept suffering and to unite it to Christ's suffering. In this context, he emphasized how the worldwide response to the Pope's death became a recognition of his complete submission to God for the sake of the world.

  On the subject of World Youth Day in Cologne, which was held in August, the Holy Father indicated that the theme of that event, "We have come to adore Him," contained two distinct images: that of pilgrimage, of man who "goes in search of truth, of just life, of God," and that of adoration. This word, he added, takes us through to October's Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, and the Year dedicated to this Sacrament.

  "It moves me to see," the Pope continued, "how the joy of Eucharistic adoration is increasing throughout the Church, and how its fruits are appearing. During the period of liturgical reform, Mass and Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass were often seen as being in opposition." However, "receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him Whom we receive."

  Benedict XVI then offered some reflections on the 40th anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II, considering the outcomes of the event and how it had been received.

  "Problems in its reception," he said, arose from "two contrasting interpretations: ... the interpretation of discontinuity and rupture," which found favor among the media and a certain segment of modern theology, and "the interpretation of reform," of renewal and continuity within the one Church. The former of these two interpretations, said the Pope, "risks leading to a fracture between pre-conciliar Church and post-conciliar Church."

  As for "the interpretation of reform," Benedict XVI recalled "Pope John XXIII's well known words, ... when he said that the Council 'wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it." It is necessary, added Pope Benedict, "for this certain and unchangeable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, to be more deeply studied and presented in a way appropriate to the needs of our time."

  "It is clear that the commitment to express a particular truth in a new way calls for fresh reflection and for a new and living relationship with that truth. ... In this sense, the plan proposed by John XXIII was extremely demanding, just as the synthesis of faithfulness and dynamism is demanding. But wherever this interpretation has been the guideline for the reception of the Council, there new life has grown and new fruits have matured. Forty years after the Council, ... the positive aspects are greater and more vibrant than they appeared in the years around 1968."

  Benedict XVI then went on to observe how Paul VI, in closing the Council, indicated "a specific motivation for which the 'interpretation of discontinuity' could appear to be the more convincing. In the great debate concerning the human being that characterizes modern times, the Council had to dedicate itself specifically to the subject of anthropology," to raise questions "on the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one hand, and man and the modern world on the other." In other words, "the Council had to find a new definition of the relationship between the Church and the modern age."

  The Pope outlined the difficulties that have marked this relationship: including the trial of Galileo, the French Revolution, the clash with liberalism, the two world wars, and without overlooking the ideologies that gave rise to nazism and communism, or the questions raised by scientific progress and the historical and critical interpretation of Holy Scripture.

  "It could be said that three tiers of questions were formed that now awaited a response: ... a new definition of the relationship between faith and modern science; ... a new definition of the relationship between the Church and the modern State, ... which is associated more generally with the problem of religious tolerance; ... and a new definition of the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel."

  The Holy Father indicated how all these sectors risked giving rise to some form of discontinuity which, nonetheless, was not without a certain continuity of principles. "It is precisely in this continuity and discontinuity at various levels that the true nature of reform lies. And in this process of novelty in continuity we found we had to learn to understand, in more concrete terms than before, that the Church's decisions regarding contingent things (for example, certain forms of liberalism or the liberal interpretation of the Bible) had themselves to be contingent, precisely because they referred to a particular real situation which was itself changeable. We had to learn to recognize that, in those decisions, the lasting element was expressed only by principles, principles that remained in the background and motivated decisions from within."

  Benedict XVI then dwelt on the subject of religious freedom and recalled that Vatican Council II, recognizing an essential principle of the modern State and adopting it with a Decree on religious freedom, returned to the most profound heritage of the Church. ... The ancient Church's natural practice was to pray for emperors and political leaders, considering this to be her duty but, ... she refused to worship them, and thus clearly opposed the religion of State. ... A missionary Church, knowing she is held to announce the message to all peoples, must commit to the freedom of faith."

  "Vatican Council II, with the new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, reconsidered and even corrected certain historical decisions. But in this apparent discontinuity, [the Church] actually maintained and deepened her intimate nature and her true identity." Yet "those who expected that with this fundamental 'yes' to the modern age, all tensions would melt away, and that this 'openness to the world' would render everything harmonious, had undervalued the interior tensions and contradictions of the modern age."

  "In our time too, the Church remains 'a sign of contradiction.' ... The Council could not seek to abolish this Gospel contradiction in the face of the dangers and the errors of mankind. What it did seek to do was to set aside erroneous and superfluous contradictions and present to our world the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity."

  He concluded: "The step taken by the Council towards the modern age ... is part of the perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason, which is presented in ever new forms. ... And so, today, we can turn our gaze back with gratitude to Vatican Council II: if we read and accept it guided by a correct interpretation, it can become a great force in the ever necessary renewal of the Church."
AC/CHRISTMAS GREETINGS/ROMAN CURIA                VIS 20051222 (1400)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 22, 2005 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon were the words pronounced by Benedict XVI at the end of a concert given in the Sistine Chapel on December 20 by the "Cappella Musicale Pontificia," also known as the Sistine Choir.

  "On the night the Savior was born," the Pope told members of the choir, "the Angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds with the words: 'Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra Pax hominibus.' Tradition has always held that the angels did not simply speak as men do, but that they sung and that theirs was a song of celestial beauty revealing the beauty of heaven. Tradition also holds that choirs of unbroken voices can help us to feel the resonance of angelic song. And it is true that in the music of Sistine Chapel, in the great liturgies, we can feel the presence of a celestial liturgy, a small taste of the beauty by which the Lord wishes to communicate His joy.

  "Indeed, praise of God calls for song," said the Holy Father. "For this reason, your contribution is essential to the liturgy; it is not some marginal adornment, quite the contrary, the liturgy requires this beauty, it needs song in order to praise God and to bring joy to the participants."

  The Pope concluded: "I would like to thank you with all my heart. The liturgy of the Pope, the liturgy of St. Peter, must be an exemplary liturgy for the world. You know that today, through television and radio, many people all over the world follow this liturgy; from here they learn ... what the liturgy is and how it must be celebrated. That is why it is so important, not only that our masters of ceremonies show the Pope how to celebrate the liturgy well, but also that the Sistine Chapel should be an example of the beauty of song in praise of God."
AC/SONG:LITURGY/SISTINE CHOIR                    VIS 20051222 (340)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 21, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Gave his assent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church of Fr. Dionisio Lachovicz O.S.B.M., rector of the Basilian major seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, as bishop of the Curia of the major archbishopric of Kyiv-Halyc, Ukraine; and of Fr. Bohdan Dzyurakh C.Cs.R., as auxiliary of the archieparchy of Kyiv-Vyshhorod, Ukraine. Bishop-elect Lachovicz was born in Pombas, Brazil in 1946 and ordained as a priest in 1972. Bishop-elect Dzyurakh was born in Hirske, Ukraine in 1967 and ordained as a priest in 1991.

 - Appointed Fr. Michel Pansard of the clergy of Nanterre, France, vicar general, as bishop of Chartres (area 5,940, population 407,665, Catholics 285,000, priests 103, permanent deacons 23, religious 373), France. The bishop-elect was born in Rennes, France in 1955 and ordained as a priest in 1982.

- Appointed Msgr. Jozef Piotr Kupny of the clergy of the archdiocese of Katowice, Poland, rector of the major seminary, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 2,400, population 1,712,000, Catholics 1,660,000, priests 1,061, religious 1,078). The bishop-elect was born in Dabrowka Wielka, Poland in 1956 and ordained as a priest in 1983.

- Appointed Msgr. Marian Rojek of the clergy of the archdiocese of Przemysl of the Latins, Poland, rector of the major seminary, as auxiliary of the same archdiocese (area 9,750, population 780,000, Catholics 763,352, priests 983, religious 1,360). The bishop-elect was born in Rzeszow, Poland in 1955 and ordained as a priest in 1981.

- Appointed Fr. Meron Mazur O.S.B.M., superior of the major seminary of St. Basil in Curitiba, as auxiliary of the eparchy of Sao Joao Batista em Curitiba of the Ukrainians (Catholics 161,500, priests 77, permanent deacons 2, religious 552), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Prudentopolis, Brazil in 1962 and ordained as a priest in 1990.

  His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, with the consent of the Synod of the Chaldean Church and after having consulted with the Apostolic See, transferred, in accordance with canon 85 para. 2 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Archbishop Jacques Ishaq, emeritus of Arbil, Iraq, to the titular archiepiscopal see of Nisibi of the Chaldeans, with the office of patriarchal auxiliary.
NEA:NER:NA/.../...                                VIS 20051221 (390)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 21, 2005 (VIS) - Following today's general audience, the Holy Father received in audience Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to Uganda.
AP/.../...                                        VIS 20051221 (30)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 21, 2005 (VIS) - "The light of Christmas" was the theme of Benedict XVI's special catechesis in today's pre-Christmas general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 15,000 people.

  "Today's audience is taking place in a climate of joyful and eager expectation as we await the imminent Christmas festivities," said the Pope, adding that many symbols help us to understand the mystery of Christmas, "among them that of the light, which is one of the richest in spiritual significance."

  He went on: "Christmas in our hemisphere coincides with the days in which the sun completes its descendent cycle and the period of daylight gradually begins to lengthen. ... This helps us to a better understanding of the subject of light overcoming shadow; a symbol evoking a truth that touches the most intimate part of man: the light of goodness that overcomes evil, ... of life that overcomes death. Christmas - which re-presents us with the announcement of the definitive victory of God's love over sin and death - causes us to think of this interior light, this divine light. ... As we prepare to celebrate with joy the birth of the Savior in our families and our ecclesial communities, a certain form of modern consumer culture tends to remove Christian symbols from the Christmas celebration. Let everyone, then, seek to understand the value of the Christmas traditions, which are part of the heritage of our faith and our culture."

  "In particular, when we see streets and squares adorned by dazzling lights, let us remember that these lights call us to another light, one invisible to the eyes but not to the heart. As we admire them, as we light the candles in church or the lights on the nativity scene or the Christmas tree in our homes, let our souls open to the true spiritual light, which was brought to all men and women of good will."

  The Pope concluded his catechesis by calling on the faithful to "maintain their interior wonder" as they celebrate the birth of the Savior, and wishing everyone "a happy and holy Christmas."
AG/LIGHT:CHRISTMAS/...                            VIS 20051221 (370)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 20, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. David R. Choby, of the clergy of the diocese of Nashville, U.S.A., diocesan administrator and pastor of St. John Vianney parish, as bishop of the same diocese (area 42,206, population 2,105,161, Catholics 71,188, priests 75, permanent deacons 52, religious 212). The bishop-elect was born in Nashville in 1947 and ordained as a priest in 1974.
NER/.../CHOBY                                    VIS 20051220 (70)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 20, 2005 (VIS) - Around 50,000 young people from all over Europe are expected to come together in Milan, Italy from December 28, 2005 to January 1, 2006 in the 28th meeting organized by the ecumenical community of Taize. This is the first meeting of young people since the death of the founder of the Taize Community, Brother Roger Schultz, who was murdered in August.

  On their arrival, each of the participants will be given a copy of an unfinished letter that Brother Roger had begun to write last summer, shortly before he was killed.

  In a Message to participants in the event, made public in various languages including English, Benedict XVI expresses the hope that, "in expressing tribute to Brother Roger who desired these international meetings in order to root in young Christians a spirit of brotherhood and peace, ... the Pope's wish is that the dialogue among you, who have come from different countries and different Christian denominations, as well as the meeting with the Christians of Milan who are welcoming you, will enable you to form new ties that will be seeds of peace among people.

  "May the example of the founder of Taize and the tireless testimony of Pope John Paul II in favor of dialogue and peace encourage you to be peacemakers in your turn!"

  The Pope's message continues: "In a world made fragile by many situations of tension, and in our developed societies marked by new forms of violence that affect the young in particular, the Pope invites you to witness with simplicity and joy to the Spirit of peace that dwells within you."

  Finally, after quoting the words of the Apostle Paul, "He is our peace," Benedict XVI points out how God "invites us to forgive, the sign of an absolute love."
MESS/YOUTH MEETING TAIZE/MILAN                    VIS 20051220 (320)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 20, 2005 (VIS) - Yesterday, during a private audience with Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorized the congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- Venerable Servant of God Luigi Boccardo, Italian, priest of the archdiocese of Turin, Italy, founder of the Order of Sisters of Christ the King, a contemplative branch of the Poor Sisters of San Gaetano (1861 - 1936).

 - Venerable Servant of God Luigi Monza, Italian, priest of the archdiocese of Milan, Italy, founder of the Secular Institute of the Little Apostles of Charity (1898 - 1954).

 - Venerable Servant of God Mose Tovini, Italian, priest of the diocese of Brescia, Italy (1877 - 1930).

 - Venerable Servant of God Agostino Thevarparampil, known as "Kunjachan," Indian, priest of the eparchy of Palai, India (1891 - 1973).

 - Venerable Servant of God Eustachio Van Lieshout, Dutch, professed priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus) (1890 - 1943).

 - Venerable Servant of God Maria Teresa di Gesu, nee Maria Scrilli, Italian, founder of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Carmel (1825 - 1889).

 - Venerable Servant of God Maria Teresa di San Giuseppe, nee Anna Maria Tauscher van den Bosch, German, founder of the Congregation of Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus (1855 - 1938).

 - Venerable Servant of God Maria della Passione di Nostro Signore Gesu Cristo, nee Grazia Tarallo, Italian, of the Institute of Crucified Sisters Adorers of the Holy Eucharist (1866 - 1912).

 - Venerable Servant of God Elia di San Clemente, nee Teodora Fracasso, Italian, professed nun of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (1901 - 1927).


 - Servants of God Victorio Chumillas Fernandez, Spanish, professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor (1902 - 1936), and 21 companions, of the same Order of St. Francis, martyrs.

 - Servants of God Antero Mateo Garcia, Spanish, husband and father, of the Third Order of St. Dominic (1875 - 1936), and eleven companions of the Second and Third Orders of St. Dominic, martyrs.


 - Blessed Simone da Lipnica, Polish, professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor, (1440 - 1482), whose cult was confirmed by the Holy See on February 14, 1685.

 - Blessed Camilla Battista Varano, Italian, professed nun of the Order of Poor Clares (1458 - 1524) whose cult was confirmed by the Holy See on April 7, 1843.

 - Servant of God Carlo Bascape, ne Giovanni Francesco, Italian, of the Congregation of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul (Barnabites), bishop of Novara, Italy (1550 - 1615).

 - Servant of God Massimo Rinaldi, Italian, of the Congregation of Missionaries of St. Charles, bishop of Rieti, Italy (1869 - 1941).

 - Servant of God Paolo Giuseppe Nardini, diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Family (1821 - 1862).

 - Servant of God Eustachio Kugler, ne Giuseppe, German, professed religious of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God (1867 - 1946).

 - Servant of God Isabella De Rosis, Italian, founder of the Congregation of Reparatrix Sisters of the Sacred Heart (1842 - 1911).

 - Servant of God Josefa Segovia Moron, first director of the Teresian Institute (1891 - 1957).
CSS/DECREES/SARAIVA                            VIS 20051220 (560)

Monday, December 19, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the apostolic exarchate for Greek-Melkite Catholics residing in Argentina, presented by Bishop Georges Haddad, S.M.S.P.
  On Saturday, December 17, it was made public that the Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of apostolic nuncio to the United States of America and Holy See permanent observer to the Organization of American States presented by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, upon having reached the age limit. Thanking Archbishop Montalvo for his long service, the Holy Father called to succeed him Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Choluteca, Honduras, presented by Bishop Raul Corriveau P.M.E., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Guido Plante P.M.E.
RE:NN/.../...                                    VIS 20051219 (160)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

  On Saturday, December 17, he received in audience Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.
AP/.../...                                        VIS 20051219 (50)


THE HOLY SEE HAS ADHERED TO THE "Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War" (ERW), an annex to the "Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects" (CCW), adopted on November 28, 2003 at the meeting of States parties to the CCW. On December 13, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the U.N., deposited the instrument of adhesion at the office of the U.N. secretary general in New York. The CCW includes four other protocols which, together with the convention, were ratified by the Holy See on June 16, 1997.

THE POST-SYNODAL COUNCIL OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for America held its tenth meeting on December 1 and 2 in Rome. According to a communique, the participants discussed the current social and ecclesiastical situation on the American continent in the light of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America," also bearing in mind the Synod on the Eucharist held in October this year. The prelates emphasized the fact that in America there is more awareness of the equal dignity of all human beings, of the promotion of the family and of the culture of life, but expressed concern over political and economic instability, drugs and arms trafficking, the growth of religious sects and a culture that often runs counter to the values of the Gospel.
.../IN BRIEF/...                                    VIS 20051219 (250)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - As is traditional during Advent, the Holy Father today received a group of young people from Italian Catholic Action, accompanied by their general ecclesiastical assistant, Bishop Francesco Lambiasi.

  "In the Child of Bethlehem," the Pope told them, "the 'smallness' of God-made-man reveals to us the greatness of man and the beauty of our dignity as children of God. Contemplating this Child, we see how great is the faith that God places in each of us, and how great is the chance given us to do good and great things in our daily lives, living with Jesus and like Jesus."

  Recalling that this year Italian Catholic Action has chosen the slogan "You are with us," Benedict XVI called on the young people never to doubt Jesus' presence. "Always seek the Lord Jesus, develop your friendship with Him, learn how to listen to and know His Word, and to recognize Him in the poor of your own communities."

  "Bear witness to everyone, beginning with your peers, to the joy of His strong and sweet presence. Tell them how wonderful it is to be friends with Jesus and that it is worthwhile following Him. Show your enthusiasm, ... only by following Jesus can the true meaning of life, and true and lasting joy, be found."
AC/CHRISTMAS/ITALIAN CATHOLIC ACTION                VIS 20051219 (230)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Bernard Kessedjian, the new ambassador of France to the Holy See.

  The Pope began his address to the diplomat by referring to the fact that this year France is celebrating the centenary of the law separating Church and State. "As my predecessor John Paul II recalled in a letter addressed to French bishops," he said, "the principle of the lay State lies in a healthy distinction of powers, it is by no means antagonistic and does not exclude the Church's ever more active participation in social life, while maintaining full respect for the competencies of each side."

  "This concept," the Pope went on, "must promote the Church's autonomy, both in her organization and her mission. On this matter, I view very positively ... the dialogue between the Church and civil authorities in all fields," so that "all forces concerned with the wellbeing of society may unite their efforts in the interests of citizens."

  "Your country has gone through a difficult period," said Benedict XVI, "that has made manifest the profound dissatisfaction among certain groups of young people. This situation seems to have touched not only the outskirts of the big cities, but all sectors of the population. The internal violence that marks societies, and that is to be absolutely condemned, nonetheless expresses a message, especially in the case of young people, and invites us bear their needs in mind and to provide - as Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux and president of the French Episcopal Conference has said - 'a response equal to these dramatic tensions in our society'."

  The Pope then went on the mention the contribution to French development made by the numerous foreign workers who emigrated to the country, especially since the Second World War. "It is important," he said, "to thank them and their descendents for this economic, cultural and social wealth of which they are an integral part. The vast majority of them have become French in every sense of the word. The challenge today is to uphold the values of equality and fraternity, which are a constituent part of French identity, so that all the country's citizens, while respecting legitimate differences, may form part of an authentic shared culture, one that carries fundamental moral and spiritual values."

  The Holy Father also called for special attention to be given to "the institution of marriage and the family, with which no other form of relationship can be compared."

  "I also wish to call the attention of all men and women of good will," he continued, "to the decisions and actions to be taken in the field of bioethics, which is showing an ever greater tendency to consider the human being, especially in the first moments of life, as a mere object of research. It is important to consider ethical questions not only from the point of view of science, but also from the perspective of human beings, a perspective which has to be respected. If this fundamental moral criterion is not accepted, it will be difficult to create a society that respects all its members without distinction."

  Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the aid given by France to developing countries. By way of example, he mentioned the recent African-French summit in Mali, and recalled that the responsibility of rich countries towards poor ones does not only consist in giving them "financial help, but also training and education, ... so that these nations may become ever more independent and masters of their own destiny."


VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2005 (VIS) - At midday today, in remarks to the faithful prior to praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI considered the figure of St. Joseph. Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled how the evangelist Matthew presents the saint as the model "of the 'just' man who, in perfect harmony with his wife, welcomes the Son of God-made-man, and watches over His human development."

  He added: "For this reason, in the days prior to Christmas, it is more important than ever to establish a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph, because he helps us to experience fully this great mystery of the faith."

  John Paul II was greatly devoted to St. Joseph, said the Holy Father, and left us a meditation dedicated to him in the Apostolic Exhortation "Redemptoris Custos" (Guardian of the Redeemer), in which the late Pope "particularly stressed the silence of St. Joseph; a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of complete openness to the divine will. In other words, St. Joseph's silence was not an expression of interior emptiness, but on the contrary, of the fullness of faith that he carried in his heart, and that guided his every thought and deed.

  "A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, safeguarded the Word of God ... and continually compared it with the events of Jesus' life; a silence interwoven with constant prayer ... and with unreserved trust in Divine providence. It is no exaggeration to say that from His 'father' Joseph, Jesus learnt - at a human level - the vigorous interior life that is a premise of true justice, the 'superior justice' that one day He would teach His disciples."

  Benedict XVI concluded: "Let us allow ourselves to be 'infected' by St. Joseph's silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God. During this period of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior meditation, in order to welcome and safeguard Jesus in our lives."
ANG/ST. JOSEPH/...                                VIS 20051219 (360)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2005 (VIS) - The traditional practice of visits by the Bishop of Rome to parishes in his diocese resumed today as Benedict XVI made his first pastoral visit to a Roman parish, arriving at 9 a.m. in the parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice in the neighborhood of Casal Bertone, where he celebrated Mass. As a cardinal, Benedict XVI was titular holder of this parish until 1993.

  In his homily, delivered entirely off-the-cuff, the Holy Father recalled "October 15, 1977, when I took possession of this titular church. ... Now we are all together again here. This truly is a great joy. Since then, our mutual bond has become progressively stronger and deeper. A bond of affection and friendship that warmed my heart, and warms it again today. This bond did not slacken when in 1993 I became titular holder of the diocese of Velletri, and acquired a new and more profound dimension by my becoming bishop of Rome."

  The Pope went on to comment the scene of the Annunciation as recounted in today's Gospel. "With the angel's greeting to Mary - 'kaire' in the Greek, which means 'be joyful' - the New Testament begins," he said. "We could say that the first word of the New Testament is 'be joyful,' 'be happy,' in other words, 'joy.' This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that He became a child."

  The Holy Father then highlighted how "we realize that today's world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty." Nonetheless, "the words 'be joyful because God is with you and with us,' truly open a new time."

  "Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us. ... Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives."

  Later in his homily, the Benedict XVI commented the phrase "do not be afraid," with which the angel comforted the Virgin as she faced the mission with which God had entrusted her. "This world of ours is a world of fear," said the Pope, "fear of misery and poverty, fear of sickness and suffering, fear of solitude, fear of death. ... The only worthwhile assurance in such moments is the one that comes from the Lord. ... We may fall, but in the end we fall into the hands of God; and God's hands are good hands."

  In closing, he referred to Mary's "yes," her acceptance of the Lord's will, something "apparently too great for a human being to bear. ... Initially, this may appear as an almost unsupportable burden, an unbearable yoke, but in reality God's will is not a burden, it gives us wings that we may fly. And so, with Mary, we too may dare to open the door of our lives and the doors of this world to God, saying 'yes' to His will, in the knowledge that this will is the true goodness that guides us to true happiness."
  Following Mass, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican by car. His next visit to a parish community is scheduled to take place on March 16, 2006, the third Sunday of Lent.
HML/.../SANTA MARIA CONSOLATRICE                    VIS 20051219 (580)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 17, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received a group of pilgrims from Upper Austria, led by the president of their region, Josef Puhringer. The region has donated the huge fir which is adorning St. Peter's Square for this year's Christmas celebrations. The tree was taken from the forests of Eferding in Upper Austria.

  After recalling that this evening, "following the official donation ceremony, the lights on the tree will be lit," Benedict XVI expressed his thanks for the gift of the giant fir and of the other smaller firs which will be placed in various sites around the Apostolic Palace and the offices of the Roman Curia.

  "With these much appreciated gifts, you have chosen to express the spiritual closeness and friendship that have long linked Austria and the Holy See, in keeping with the noble Christian tradition which, with its spiritual and cultural values, has enriched the literature and art of your nation and of all Europe," said the Pope.

  Referring to the birth of the Messiah, the Holy Father pointed out how, "with His luminous presence, Jesus dissipated the shadows of error and of sin, bringing humanity the joy and radiance of divine light, of which the Christmas tree is a symbol and a reminder."

  Benedict XVI expressed his best wishes to those present, extending his Christmas greetings to all inhabitants of the region of Upper Austria and concluded by calling for them all to "welcome into their hearts the gift of His joy, His peace and His love. Believing in Christ means allowing oneself to be bathed in the light of His truth, which gives full meaning, value and significance to our lives."
AC/CHRISTMAS TREE/PUHRINGER                    VIS 20051219 (300)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 17, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received the third group of prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. In remarks to them, he offered some reflections on the role of lay people in the Church.

  After first highlighting how "the essential element in the structure of the Church is the parish," the Pope stated that "the first and most important requirement is that the parish should constitute an 'ecclesial community' and an 'ecclesial family'." Apart from the "indispensable role of priests, especially pastors, ... the active participation of the laity is also important in the formation of the community. ... Pastoral councils must collaborate with a spirit of common concern for the good of the faithful."

  The Holy Father highlighted the need for pastors to maintain "active contact with the various communities dedicated to the apostolate within the parish," adding that such communities must "collaborate among themselves, never must there be any rivalry between them."

  Pastors must do all in their power "to ensure that the people entrusted to their care are made aware of the gift (of the Eucharist), and that they participate in it as frequently as possible," both in Mass and communion, and in adoration. In this context, Benedict XVI called on priests to look after children and altar boys and to show special pastoral solicitude "for the girls who actively participate ... in the liturgy. This pastoral service can prove very fruitful in terms of priestly and religious vocations."

  Turning to consider the subject of ecclesial movements, the Pope recalled the duty of diocesan bishops to maintain "active contact with them, encouraging them to operate in accordance with a charism recognized by the Church and, at the same time, to guard against closing themselves off from the reality surrounding them." Pointing out that many of these movements have established contacts with non-Catholic Churches, the Pope told the bishops "to take care to interpret ecumenism correctly," and to seek "the truth, not simplistic compromises that can bring Catholic movements to lose their own identity."

  The Holy Father stressed that people who occupy important positions in society, or who dedicate themselves to political life, need the Church's help, and that a clear distinction must be made "between the tasks which Christians undertake, individually or as a group, on their own responsibility as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and the activities which, in union with their pastors, they carry out in the name of the Church."

  He concluded with a reference to the theme of voluntary work, including care for the poor, the sick, people alone, and the physically and mentally handicapped. "I know that in Poland a form of voluntary work is being developed that has the aim of defending human life. ... All these people await the encouragement and the moral support of bishops, of priests and of the entire community of believers."

  "Missions are another field of Church life in which volunteers are active. Ever greater numbers of lay people leave for mission lands to exercise their profession and their talents, and at the same time to bring a testimony of Christian love to those living in the poorest regions of the world. Theirs is an activity worthy of admiration and recognition."
AL/.../POLAND                                    VIS 20051219 (570)

Friday, December 16, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father elevated:

 - The "sui iuris" Greek-Catholic Metropolitan Church of Romania to the rank of Major Archiepiscopal Church.

 - Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras and Alba Julia of the Greek Catholics, Romania, to the rank of major archbishop of the same archdiocese.
ECE:NA/.../MURESAN                            VIS 20051216 (60)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences four prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Jerzy Mazur S.V.D., of Elk, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Romuald Kaminski.

    - Archbishop Ivan Martyniak of Przemysl-Warsaw of the Byzantine-Ukrainian Rite.

    - Bishop Wlodzimierz Roman Juszczak O.S.B.M., of Wroclaw-Gdansk of the Byzantine-Ukrainian rite.

  This evening, he is scheduled to receive in audience Archbishop William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accompanied by Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the same congregation.
AL:AP/.../...                                    VIS 20051216 (100)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2005 (VIS) - Made public today was Benedict XVI's Message for the 14th World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated every year on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 2006, the Day will be celebrated in Adelaide, Australia, culminating with a Eucharistic celebration in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier.

  In the text of his Message, which is dated December 8, the Pope highlights the fact that on the forthcoming Day of the Sick, the Church will have "particular solicitude for the suffering, recalling the attention of public opinion to problems associated with mental distress, which now strikes a fifth part of mankind and constitutes a true social and health care emergency."

  The Holy Father goes on to recall that many countries still lack mental health policies and appropriate legislation. Moreover, "armed conflicts, ... natural catastrophes and the spread of terrorism, as well as causing large numbers of deaths, have given rise to psychological traumas in many survivors."

  Speaking about developed countries, the Pope observes in his Message that, according to experts, "the negative influence of the crisis of moral values" lies at the origin of new forms of mental illness. "This increases the feeling of solitude, undermining and even destroying traditional forms of social cohesion, ... and marginalizing the sick, especially the mentally infirm, who are often considered a burden to families and to the community."

  After thanking people who, "drawing inspiration from human and evangelical principles," care for the mentally ill, the Holy Father writes: "Unfortunately, in may parts of the world, services for these sick people are lacking or insufficient." And he continues: "The social context does not always accept mentally ill people with their limitations, and for this reason too it is difficult to find the necessary human and financial resources.

  "There is a need for greater integration of two factors - appropriate therapy and a new sensitivity to illness - in order to enable those who operate in this sector to meet the needs of these sick people more effectively, as well as the needs of their families who are not able to care for them adequately alone."

  Benedict XVI concludes his Message by addressing "those tried by sickness," inviting them to unite themselves to Christ in order to offer their sufferings "to the Father, in the certainty that all trials accepted with a spirit of resignation are meritorious and attract divine benevolence on all of humanity."

  Finally, the Pope exhorts those who care for the sick, especially doctors, nurses, chaplains, pastoral care leaders and volunteer associations, "to support with effective initiatives families who have to look after the mentally ill." He also expresses hopes for an increase "in acceptance and sharing, thanks also to appropriate laws and health care projects that are provided with sufficient resources for their implementation."
MESS/WORLD DAY OF SICK/...                        VIS 20051216 (490)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2005 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at midday today, at the conclusion of a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, military ordinary of Italy, the Pope met groups from the Italian armed forces.

  In his address, Benedict XVI said: "He Whom we adore in the Sacrament of the altar is the Emmanuel, God with us, Who came into the world for our redemption. ... At Christmas the Messiah will come, ... man's Redeemer will come to free us and will break the chains of error, selfishness and sin that hold us prisoner. Christ will come to free the heart of man with His love. How important it is to ready ourselves to welcome Him with humility and sincerity!"

  "May these closing days of Advent strengthen in each of you the desire to meet Christ, Prince of Peace, source of our true joy."

  The Holy Father affirmed that every day "we experience the precarious and provisional nature of earthly life but, thanks to the incarnation of the only begotten Son of the Father, our gaze is always able to capture the providential love of God which gives meaning and value to all our lives. The liturgy during this period of Advent ... encourages us to trust ourselves to Him, Who can fully realize the expectations of our hearts.

  "Mary, with her 'yes' to the Archangel Gabriel adhered totally to the will of the Lord and gave rise to the great mystery of Redemption. May she accompany us to the meeting with the Emmanuel, God-with-us."

  Benedict XVI concluded by wishing a holy and happy Christmas to all the servicemen present.
AC/.../ITALIAN ARMED FORCES                        VIS 20051216 (290)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 16, 2005 (VIS) - Yesterday evening, following the annual pre-Christmas Mass for Roman university students, celebrated in the Vatican by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope arrived in the basilica to greet the students. The tradition of celebrating this Mass dates back to Servant of God John Paul II, who upheld the custom throughout the 26 years of his pontificate.

  Benedict XVI greeted the rectors, professors, chaplains and students from Italian universities, as well as student delegations from various European and African countries, and participants in a world congress for the pastoral care of foreign students, which is being promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

  "Continue your reflections," said the Pope in his address, "on the new humanism, bearing in mind the great challenges of modern times and seeking to bring faith and culture together harmoniously. How important it is at this moment in history to cultivate attentive cultural and spiritual research!"

  The Holy Father expressed his contentment at the fact that the five faculties of medicine in Rome have agreed to collaborate in certain fields concerning life, adding: "From a pastoral perspective, I appreciate the decision to dedicate more profound consideration to the theme of transmitting the faith, with a formative path that involves both students and teachers."

  The Holy Father then called on young people "to follow joyfully the itinerary of your Christian formation," and to associate it with their daily studies. "It is necessary to rediscover the beauty of having Christ as the Master of one's life, and thus freely and consciously renewing one's own profession of faith."

  Turning to consider foreign students, the Pope pointed out how young people leaving their country of origin in order to study "face no small number of problems, especially the risk of a crisis of identity, and of a loss of spiritual and moral values However, he went on, "for many young people the chance to study abroad represents a unique opportunity ... to contribute to the development of their own countries, and to participate actively in the mission of the Church. It is important to continue on the journey we have begun in order to meet the needs of these brothers and sisters of ours."

  With reference to the forthcoming Christmas celebrations, Benedict XVI made a call "to grasp the fullness of the message with which this feast presents us. God became Man, He came to dwell among us. Let us prepare our hearts to welcome Him Who came to save us by giving His life."

  The Holy Father concluded: "May you be guided by Mary Most Holy, 'Sedes Sapientiae.' Her icon, which is being taken around various nations, is now passing from the Polish to the Bulgarian delegation, to continue her 'peregrinatio' in the university cities. May she, the faithful Virgin, Mother of Christ, obtain for each of you and for your academic institutions the light of divine Knowledge, Christ the Lord."
AC/UNIVERSITY STUDENTS/RUINI                    VIS 20051216 (500)

Thursday, December 15, 2005


VATICAN CITY, DEC 15, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of San Antonio, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Thomas J. Flanagan, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Erected the new diocese of Pekhon (area 25,890, population 450,000, Catholics 37,194, priests 23, religious 46) Myanmar, with territory taken from the archdiocese of Taunggyi, making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan church. He appointed Bishop Peter Hla, auxiliary of Taunggyi, as first bishop of the new diocese.

 - Appointed Bishop George Hugh Niederauer, bishop of Salt Lake City, as metropolitan archbishop of San Francisco (area 2,620, population 1,744,050, Catholics 425,210, priests 425, permanent deacons 62, religious 1,004), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in Los Angeles, U.S.A. in 1936, he was ordained a priest in 1962 and consecrated a bishop in 1995.
RE:ECE:NER/.../FLANAGAN:HLA:NIEDERAUER                VIS 20051215 (150)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 15, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences thirteen prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek S. Chr., of Lomza.

    - Archbishop Jozef Miroslaw Zycinski of Lublin, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishops Ryszard Karpinski, Mieczyslaw Cislo, and Artur Grzegorz Mizinski.

    - Bishop Andrzej Dziega of Sandomierz, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Marian Kazimierz Zimalek.

    - Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski of Siedlce, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Henryk Marian Tomasik.

    - Archbishop Edmund Michal Piszcz of Warmia, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Jacek Jezierski.

    - Bishop Jan Styrna of Elblag, accompanied by Auxiliary Bishop Jozef Wysocki.

  This evening, he is scheduled to receive in audience Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
AL:AP/.../...                                    VIS 20051215 (130)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 15, 2005 (VIS) - A nativity scene, one of the most famous works of art to be housed in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major, will be presented to the public today following several months of restoration work.

  The nativity scene was created by the Florentine sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio - whose death 700 years ago is currently being recalled with a series of exhibitions and cultural events throughout Italy - between 1290 and 1292 at the behest of Nicholas IV, the first Pope from the Franciscan Order. The pontiff ordered Arnolfo di Cambio to construct a nativity scene in the form of a chapel, in order to encourage devotion for the relic of the manger, which according to tradition is housed in St. Mary Major.

  The sculpture has undergone interventions and alterations over the centuries, and only a few figures from the original nativity scene have survived: St. Joseph, the ox and the ass, and the three Magi. The most famous intervention was that undertaken by the architect Domenico Fontana who in 1590, by order of Pope Sixtus V, transferred the whole group beneath the altar of St. Mary Major's Sistine Chapel, which was then being built.

  The restoration, ordered by Cardinal Bernard Law, archpriest of the Basilica, involved studies on the work's artistic and historical context, and the technique with which it was created, as well as photographic studies and a series of scientific investigations on remaining traces of polychromy. The restoration revealed, among other things, that a sculpture of the Virgin with Child, which had long been considered to be a work of the late Renaissance, is actually the original of Arnolfo di Cambio's nativity scene, its front re-sculpted in accordance with the artistic fashions of the late sixteenth century.

  The restoration work was directed by the experts Arnold Nesselrath and Luciano Ermo of the general direction of the Vatican Museums. The nativity scene is currently on display in the museum of St. Mary Major, awaiting the completion of restoration work in the basilica's Sistine Chapel.

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