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Thursday, December 28, 2006


VATICAN CITY, DEC 27, 2006 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello S.D.B., auxiliary of Santiago de Chile, as metropolitan archbishop of Concepcion (area 11,330, population 1,164,000, Catholics 606,000, priests 129, permanent deacons 21, religious 295), Chile. The archbishop-elect was born in Campiglia dei Berici, Italy, in 1942, he was ordained a priest in 1970 and consecrated a bishop in 1996. He succeeds Archbishop Antonio Moreno Casamitjana, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese, the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Saturday, December 23, it was made public that the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, as his special envoy to celebrations marking the 15th World Day of the Sick, due to take place in Seoul, Korea, on February 11, 2007.
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FOLLOWING THE OIL PIPELINE EXPLOSION ON THE OUTSKIRTS of Lagos, Nigeria, which occurred on December 26 and left hundreds dead, the Pope sent a telegram of condolence, through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., to Cardinal Anthony Olunbunmi Okogie, archbishop of Lagos.

THE HOLY FATHER SENT A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE to Catholics living in the Middle East, assuring them of his "spiritual closeness," and communicating his hope that this period of the liturgical calendar "may mark an end to, or at least a respite from, so much suffering and give many families the supplementary hope necessary to persevere in the arduous task of promoting peace in a world still so torn and divided." The Pope also expresses the hope that circumstances will enable him to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

THE POPE SENT A MESSAGE, THROUGH CARDINAL SECRETARY OF STATE Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., to young people participating in a European meeting promoted by the Taize Community, being celebrated in Zagreb, Croatia from December 28 2006 to January 1, 2007. "In the land of Croatia, marked in recent years by conflict," reads the Message, "you are a sign of new hope and a demonstration of the fact that the young look forward to a new humanity, founded on the recognition of all people, whatever their nationality or religion."

ON SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23, DURING A BRIEF CEREMONY attended by Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., and Camillo Ruini, respectively secretary of State and vicar general for the diocese of Rome, the managing director of Italian State Railways and the mayor of Rome inaugurated two plaques dedicated to Servant of God John Paul II in Rome's central Termini Station. The plaques are 12 meters high and have been placed at the busiest parts of the station building.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 27, 2006 (VIS) - Following today's general audience, Benedict XVI received Manouchehr Mottaki and Rahim Mashai, respectively foreign minister and vice president of Iran, who gave the Holy Father a message from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to a communique from the Holy See Press Office.

  "During the meeting," the communique reads, "the Iranian representatives expressed their best wishes to the Pope, and their satisfaction for 50 years of diplomatic relations between Iran and the Holy See.

  "For his part, the Holy Father also expressed his best wishes and reaffirmed the role the Holy See intends to play for peace in the world, not as a political but as a religious and moral authority, appealing to consciences so that the problems of peoples are always resolved through dialogue, in mutual understanding and in peace."


VATICAN CITY, DEC 27, 2006 (VIS) - Christmas was once again the theme of the Pope's catechesis during today's general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall.

  "Today's audience is taking place in a Christmas atmosphere pervaded with joy for the birth of the Savior," he began. "The words of John the Evangelist resound in our hearts, ... 'the Word became flesh.' ... God came to dwell among us, He came for us, to stay with us." But "a question traverses these two thousand years of Christian history: Why did He do it? Why did God become man?

  "The song of the angels over the manger in Bethlehem," the Pope proceeded, "helps us to answer this question: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' ... The term 'glory' indicates the splendor of God which inspires the grateful praise of His creatures. ... 'Peace' summarizes the fullness of the messianic gifts: salvation, ... identified with Christ Himself ... Who is our peace." The reference to the men and women loved by the Lord makes the Christmas message even more explicit, "with the birth of Jesus, God has manifested His love towards everyone."

  "God's glory is expressed, then, in the salvation of man, whom God so loved 'that He gave His only Son.' ... Hence, love is the ultimate reason for the incarnation of Christ." In this context, the Holy Father recalled the words of the theologian H. U. von Balthasar: "God is not primarily absolute power, but absolute love, the sovereignty of which is not expressed in keeping what it has for itself, but in letting it go."

  "The God we contemplate in the manger is God-Love," Pope Benedict concluded. "The announcement of the angels is, for us, also an invitation: 'let there be' Glory to God in the highest, 'let there be' peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased. The only way to glorify God and to build peace in the world consists in the humble and trusting acceptance of the gift of Christmas: love."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 26, 2006 (VIS) - At midday, before praying the Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled how today is the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and protomartyr.

  At first sight, the fact that the feast of the protomartyr falls the day after Christmas "may leave some people surprised," said the Holy Father, "because of the striking contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the drama of Stephen, stoned to death in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church."

  However, he went on, it must be remembered that "the Baby Jesus lying in the manger ... will save humanity by dying on the cross."

  "In the first four centuries of Christianity, all the saints venerated by the Church were martyrs," said Benedict XVI. "For believers, the day of death - and even more so the day of martyrdom - is not the end of everything but the 'transit' towards eternal life, the day of definitive birth, in Latin 'dies natalis.' ... If Jesus had not been born on earth, mankind would not have been able to be born in heaven. It is precisely because Jesus was born, that we can be 'reborn'."

  The Pope entrusted "those who undergo persecution and suffering in witnessing and serving the Gospel" to the Virgin Mary "who held the Redeemer in her arms in Bethlehem" and after He was removed from the cross.

  "With particular spiritual closeness," he concluded, "I think also of those Catholics who maintain their faithfulness to the See of Peter without giving way to compromise, at times even at the cost of great suffering. All the Church admires their example and prays that they may find the strength to persevere, in the knowledge that their tribulations are a source of victory, even when they may appear as failures."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Holy Father pronounced his traditional Christmas Message from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, and imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

  Extracts of the Message are given below:

  "'Our Savior is born to the world!' During the night, in our churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. ... But does a 'Savior' still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium? Is a 'Savior' still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature's secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome?

  "Is a Savior needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.

  "So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all.

  "And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

  "How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today 'the true light that enlightens every man' came into the world. 'The word became flesh and dwelt among us,' proclaims the Evangelist John.

  "Today, this very day, Christ comes once more 'unto His own,' and to those who receive Him He gives 'the power to become children of God;' in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God's glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today 'our Savior is born to the world,' for He knows that even today we need Him. Despite humanity's many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his 'heart,' that man always needs to be 'saved.' And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Savior all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross His only-begotten Son as the Savior of the world?"

  "With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments.

  "I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.

  "Our Savior is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love."

  "Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Savior before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, He elevates and perfects."

  Following his Message, the Pope extended Christmas greetings in 62 languages and imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing.
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 24, 2006 (VIS) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Thirty-six cardinals concelebrated with the Holy Father.

  On this holy night, said the Holy Father in his homily, God "makes Himself small for us. This is how He reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby - defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with His strength. He takes away our fear of His greatness. He asks for our love: so He makes Himself a child."

  "God made Himself small so that we could understand Him, welcome Him, and love Him," Benedict XVI went on. "He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way He teaches us to love the weak. In this way He teaches us respect for children. The Child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem Who is crying out to us; it is the God Who has become small Who appeals to us."

  "He Who is the Eternal One, above time, He has assumed our time and raised it to Himself on high. Christmas has become the feast of gifts in imitation of God Who has given Himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact! Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God."

  "Man, in order to live, needs bread, the fruit of the earth and of his labor. But he does not live by bread alone. He needs nourishment for his soul: he needs meaning that can fill his life. Thus, for the Fathers of the Church, the manger of the animals became the symbol of the altar, on which lies the Bread which is Christ himself: the true food for our hearts. Once again we see how He became small: in the humble appearance of the host, in a small piece of bread, He gives us Himself."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 24, 2006 (VIS) - Shortly before midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study in order to pray the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

  "The celebration of Christmas is now imminent," said the Holy Father in his opening remarks. "In the Divine Newborn Child, ... our salvation is made manifest. In God, Who for us became man, we feel loved and accepted, and we discover ourselves to be precious and unique in the eyes of the Creator.

  "The Nativity of Christ," the Pope added, "helps us to realize the value ... of each human life, from its first instant to its natural end. To those people who open their hearts to this 'babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger' He offers the chance to contemplate daily reality with new eyes. They will be able to savor the ... inner wonder of the love of God, Who can transform even pain into joy.

  "Le us prepare ourselves, dear friends, to meet Jesus, the Emmanuel, God-with-us. Born into poverty in Bethlehem, He wants to be our companion on all our journeys. Ever since He decided to pitch his 'tent' in this world, no one is a stranger. ... This is the amazing gift of Christmas: Jesus came for each of us, and in Himself He made brothers of us all. Consequently, our task is to overcome ... preconceptions and prejudices, break down barriers, and eliminate the contrasts that divide individuals and peoples or, worse still, set them against one another, in order to build together a world of justice and peace."
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