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Thursday, January 7, 2010


VATICAN CITY, 6 JAN 2010 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. today, the Pope presided at Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

  In his homily Benedict XVI commented on the readings from the Book of Isaiah and from the Gospel of St. Matthew, explaining that the Magi "were not the last but the first of the great procession of people who, through all ages of history, were able to recognise the message of the star, to follow the paths indicated by Sacred Scripture, and thus to find Him Who is apparently weak and fragile but Who, in fact, has the power to bring the greatest and most profound joy to the human heart".

  "In Him", the Pope continued, "is the expression of the stupendous truth that God knows us and is close to us, that His greatness and power are not expressed in the logic of the world, but in the logic of a defenceless child Whose strength is only that of the love He gives us. In the course of history there are always people who are illuminated by the light of the star, who find the path and manage to encounter Him. All of them live, each in their own way, the same experience as the Magi".

  "If, then, we read the promise of the prophet Isaiah and its fulfilment in the Gospel of Matthew within the great context of all history, it is evident that what we are told - and what we seek to reproduce in the nativity scene - is not a dream or a vain interplay of feelings and emotions devoid of strength or authenticity; rather, it is the Truth that irradiates around the world".

  "Only in that Child is the power of God made manifest, the power which brings together men of all centuries so that, under His lordship, they may follow the path of love which transfigures the world. And yet, although the few of Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star but only a few have understood its message".

  "We can, then, ask ourselves", said the Holy Father, "why is it that some seek and find, while others do not? What is it that opens their eyes and hearts? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent, in those who show the way but do not move themselves? And we may answer that too much self-confidence, the belief they possess a perfect knowledge of reality, and the presumption of having already formulated a definitive judgement about things makes their hearts closed and insensitive to the novelty of God. They are sure of the idea they have of the world and do not allow themselves to be intimately moved by the adventure of a God Who wants to meet them. They place their trust more in themselves than in Him, and do not believe it possible that God is so great that He can become small, that he can truly draw close to us.

  "In the end", he added, "what they lack is the authentic humility capable of submitting itself to that which is greater, but also the authentic courage which brings us to believe in that which is truly great, even if it shows itself in a defenceless Child. What they lack is the evangelical capacity to become children at heart, to be amazed and to abandon the self so as to start down the path indicated by the star, the path of God. Yet the Lord", the Pope concluded, "has the power to make us see and to save ourselves".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 JAN 2010 (VIS) - Following this morning's Mass in the Vatican Basilica, at midday the Pope appeared at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered below.

  Recalling the fact that "today we celebrate the great Feast of the Epiphany, the mystery of the apparition of the Lord to all people, as represented by the Magi who came from the East to adore the King of the Jews", the Pope said that "the star and Holy Scripture were the twin lights that guided the journey of the Magi, who appear to us as models of authentic seekers after truth".

  The Magi, he went on, "were men of learning in the broadest sense, who observed the cosmos and held it to be a vast book full of signs and divine messages for mankind. Their wisdom, then, far from being self-sufficient, was open to further revelations and divine calls".

  "The culmination of their quest came when they found themselves before 'the child with Mary his mother'. The Gospel says that 'they knelt down and paid him homage'. They could have been deluded, even scandalised; yet, being true wise men, they were open to the mystery which revealed itself in such a surprising way, and with their symbolic gifts they showed they recognised Jesus as King and Son of God. In that gesture the messianic oracles announcing the homage of the nations to the God of Israel were fulfilled.

  "One final detail confirms the blend of intelligence and faith in the Magi", the Pope added. "This is the fact that, 'having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road'. It would have been natural to return to Jerusalem, to the palace of Herod and the Temple, in order to announce their discovery. Instead the Magi, who had chosen the Child as their king, kept that discovery hidden, like Mary or, better still, like God Himself. And so, just as they appeared they disappeared in silence, contented but also changed by their encounter with the Truth. They had discovered the new face of God, a new regality: the regality of love".

  The Pope appealed to the Virgin Mary, "model of true wisdom, to help us become true searchers after the truth of God, always capable of experiencing the profound harmony that exists between reason and faith, between science and revelation".

  After the Marian prayer, the Holy Father congratulated "our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who celebrate Christmas tomorrow. May the mystery of light be a source of joy and peace for all families and communities".

  He then reminded those present that the Solemnity of the Epiphany coincides with the Day of Missionary Children, which has as its motto this year: "children helping children".

  "Promoted by the Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950, this initiative educates children to form a mentality open to the world and to show solidarity with their more disadvantaged peers", said Pope Benedict. In this context he concluded by expressing his affectionate greetings to "all the young missionaries present on the five continents, and I encourage them always to be witnesses of Jesus and announcers of His Gospel".
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VATICAN CITY, 6 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of ordinary for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, presented by Bishop Nechan Karakeheyan, and appointed Fr. Vahan Ohanian of the Mechitarist Order as apostolic administrator "sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the same Ordinariate.

 - Appointed Bishop Sebastiao Bandeira Coelho, auxiliary of Manaus, Brazil, as coadjutor of Coroata (area 18,744, population 511,000, Catholics 409,000, priests 31, religious 58), Brazil.
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VATICAN CITY, 7 JAN 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Kenan Gursoy, the new ambassador of Turkey to the Holy See.

  At the beginning of his English-language address to the diplomat, the Pope recalled how "we are fast approaching the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Holy See, a fruit of the pontificate of my predecessor Pope John XXIII".

  Referring then to his own journey to Turkey in November 2006, Benedict XVI noted that "it was my first visit as Pope to a predominantly Islamic country. I was glad to be able to express my esteem for Muslims and to reiterate the commitment of the Catholic Church to carry forward inter-religious dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship, bearing joint witness to the firm faith in God that characterises Christians and Muslims, and striving to know one another better so as to strengthen the bonds of affection between us".

  After then highlighting how "Catholics in Turkey appreciate the freedom of worship that is guaranteed by the Constitution, and are pleased to be able to contribute to the wellbeing of their fellow citizens, especially through involvement in charitable activity and healthcare", the Holy Father highlighted the fact that "the Catholic Church in Turkey is waiting for civil juridical recognition. This would help her to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society", he said.

  "Turkey is well placed to act as a bridge between Islam and the West, and to make a significant contribution to the effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. ... As history has so often shown, territorial disputes and ethnic rivalries can only be satisfactorily resolved when the legitimate aspirations of each party are duly taken into account, past injustices acknowledged and, when possible, repaired".

  Benedict XVI concluded his address by assuring the diplomat that "of the high priority that the Holy See gives to the search for just and lasting solutions to all the conflicts of the region and of its readiness to place its diplomatic resources at the service of peace and reconciliation".


VATICAN CITY, 7 JAN 2010 (VIS) - At midday today Benedict XVI received Archbishop Vincenzo Pelvi, military ordinary for Italy, accompanied by Leonardo Gallitelli, general of the Italian "Arma dei Carabinieri", and members of the force from the "Roma San Pietro" company.

  The Pope expressed his thanks for the "diligent efforts you make with your vigilant yet discreet presence in the area around the Vatican.

  "Your labours help to provide security and serenity for the pilgrims and visitors who come to the centre of the Catholic faith", he added, "and allow them the necessary spiritual concentration as they visit the tomb of the Apostle Peter and the Basilica that houses it".

  "May your own faith, the tradition of faithfulness and generosity of which you are heirs, and the ideals of your corps help you to find in this delicate service new sources for satisfaction and for experiencing positive elements in your personal and professional lives".

  And the Pope concluded: "May Mary, the 'Virgo fidelis' and your patroness, accompany you and the entire 'Arma dei Carabinieri', especially those involved in delicate peace missions in various countries of the world, and accept your good intentions, presenting them to her Son".
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VATICAN CITY, 7 JAN 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

 - Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

 - Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
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