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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, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for January 2012 is: "That the victims of natural disasters may receive the spiritual and material comfort they need to rebuild their lives".

  His mission intention is: "That the dedication of Christians to peace may bear witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will".
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VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following are highlights of the activities of Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy See for the months of September to December 2011.


3: Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for Relations with States, meets Helena Keleher, charge d'affaires a.i. of the Embassy of Ireland to the Holy See, and gives her the "Holy See's Response to the Irish Government concerning the Cloyne Report".

3: Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, dies at the age of 87.

7: The Holy Father receives in audience Michael Spindelegger, vice chancellor and foreign minister of Austria, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.

8: The Holy Father receives a group of twenty-three prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India at the end of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

9: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Nigel Marcus Baker, the new British ambassador to the Holy See.

11: The Holy Father makes a pastoral visit to the Italian city of Ancona to preside at the closure of the twenty-fifth Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

12: Publication of a message from Benedict XVI to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, for a congress on the theme: "Bound to live together. The dialogue of religions and cultures", sponsored by the archdiocese and the Sant'Egidio Community.

13: The Pope receives a group of prelates from the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India - including bishops from the provinces of Agra, New Delhi and Bhopal, as well as from the apostolic vicariate of Nepal - at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

21: Benedict XVI imposes the pallium on Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Italy.

22-25: Benedict XVI makes an apostolic trip to Germany.

29: Promulgation of "Quaerit Semper", an Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" which modifies the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus", transferring certain functions of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to a new office established in the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The office will deal with the procedures for dispensation from unconsummated marriage and causes for the nullity of priestly ordination.

29: Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. presides at Mass at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens for the feast of the patron of Vatican Radio. The Mass was concelebrated by, among others, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. and Fr. Andrzej Koprowski S.J., respectively director general and director of programmes of Vatican Radio which is celebrating eighty years of activity.


2: Beatification in the Italian town of Ivrea of Sr. Antonia Maria Verna (1773-1838), foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.

7: The Pope meets with prelates from the Indonesian Episcopal Conference at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

9: The Holy Father makes a pastoral visit to the Italian towns of Lamezia Terme and Serra San Bruno.

13: Benedict XVI receives in audience Porfirio Lobo Sosa, president of the Republic of Honduras.

14: The Holy Father meets with Italian provincial prefects, in an audience arranged as part of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Italian unification.

17: Publication of "Porta fidei", an Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" with which Benedict XVI proclaims a "Year of Faith", to begin on 11 October 2012, fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, and due to end on 24 November 2013, Feast of Christ the King.

17: Benedict XVI receives in audience Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, president of Mongolia.

19: The Pope inaugurates the "Domus Australia", a welcome centre for Australian pilgrims in Rome.

20: Benedict XVI meets with prelates of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

21: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Joseph Weterings, the new ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

23: Canonisation of blesseds: Guido Maria Conforti, Italian archbishop-bishop and founder of the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions (1865-1931); Luigi Guanella, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Servants of Charity and of the Institute of the Daughters of Our Lady of Providence (1842-1915), and Bonifacia Rodriguez de Castro, Spanish foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters, Servants of St. Joseph (1837-1905).

24: Presentation of a note from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace entitled: "Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of a global public authority".

25: Presentation of Benedict XVI's Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012. The Day is due to be celebrated on 15 January 2012 under the theme of "Migrations and New Evangelisation".

27: The Pope travels to Assisi, Italy, for a Day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace and justice in the world under the theme: "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace".

29: The Holy Father receives a group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Angola and Sao Tome at the conclusion of their "ad limina" visit.

31: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Almir Franco de Sa Barbuda, the new ambassador of Brazil to the Holy See.


4: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Joseph Tebah-Klah, the new ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire to the Holy See.

7: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of Reinhard Schweppe, the new German ambassador to the Holy See.

12: Benedict XVI receives in audience Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.

18-20: Benedict XVI makes an apostolic trip to Benin for the signing of the Apostolic Exhortation "Africa munus".

21-26: A series of meetings takes place between members of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) and the Vatican authorities responsible for the prevention and countering of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

26: Benedict XVI receives a group of prelates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

26: The Holy Father receives in audience Najib Mikati, prime minister of Lebanon.


7: Events involving the Pope and the Holy See become available in French at: www.youtube.co/vaticanfr in addition to the service already available in Italian, English, Spanish and German.

11: The Holy Father makes a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of "Santa Maria delle Grazie" at Casal Boccone.

11: Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, dies at the age of 76.

12: Benedict XVI receives in audience Serzh Sargsyan, president of the Republic of Armenia.

12: Benedict XVI presides at Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of Latin America, to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the independence of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

15: The Holy Father receives the Letters of Credence of eleven new non-resident ambassadors to the Holy See: Margaret Allison King-Rousseau of Trinidad and Tobago, Hilia Garez Gomes Lima Barber of Guinea Bissau, Paul Widmer of Switzerland, Anatole Bacanamwo of Burundi, Arbhorn Manasvanich of Thailand, Muhammad Saleem of Pakistan, Amadeu Paulo Samuel da Conceicao of Mozambique, Tolendy Makeyev of Kyrgyzstan, Jaume Serra Serra of Andorra, Tamara Kunanayakam of Sri Lanka and Joseph Pare of Burkina Faso.

15: The Holy Father presides at Vespers in the Vatican Basilica with students of Roman universities.

16: Presentation of Benedict XVI's Message for the World Day of Peace 2012, on the theme: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace".

17: Benedict XVI receives prelates from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

18: Benedict XVI makes a pastoral visit to Rebibbia Prison in Rome.

19: The Holy Father signs a decree acknowledging the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), who will become the first native North American to be raised to the glory of the altars.
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VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Fr. Davide Salvatori, adjunct judicial vicar at the Flaminio Regional Ecclesiastical Tribunal, and Fr. Markus Graulich S.D.B., substitute promoter of justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, as prelate auditors of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

 - Appointed Msgr. Francesco Viscome, notary of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, as defender of the bond in the same tribunal.

 - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of San Isidro, Argentina, presented by Bishop Alcides Jorge Pedro Casaretto, upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea.

 - Erected the new diocese of La Ceiba (area 4,640, population 547,709, Catholics 398,800, priests 22, religious 42) Honduras, with territory taken from the diocese of San Pedro Sula, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Tegucigalpa. He appointed Fr. Michael Lenihan O.F.M., former vicar general and pastor in the diocese of Comayagua, Honduras, as first bishop of the new diocese. The bishop-elect was born in Abbeyfeale, Ireland in 1951 and ordained a priest in 1980. He worked in pastoral care in Ireland and in El Salvador before moving to Honduras.

 - Appointed Bishop Noel Simard, auxiliary of Sault Sainte Marie, Canada, as bishop of Valleyfield (area 3,225, population 272,000, Catholics 201,000, priests 73, permanent deacons 17, religious 107), Canada.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - In a recent interview on Vatican Radio, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. reviewed the activities of the Holy Father over the course of 2011. A summary of his remarks is given below.

  Fr. Lombardi first turned his attention to the Pope's trips, noting that the visit to Germany in September had reflected the Holy Father's concern to speak to modern secularised society, especially in Europe, about God and His primacy. By contrast, his visit to Spain for World Youth Day was "a great experience of the vitality of the faith, of its future". In Benin, Benedict XVI had signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africa munus" in which he examines the problems facing Africa and "identifies reasons for realistic hope with which to face the future, recognising the dignity of the African people", Fr. Lombardi said.

  Another key moment of 2011 was the inter-religious meeting at Assisi in October, which had focused on "the search for truth". The event had been attended not just by representatives of different religious confessions, but also by "people who, though they do not recognise a God, sincerely seek after the truth".

  Among the documents published during 2011, Fr. Lombardi mentioned the Motu Proprio "Porta Fidei" with which Benedict XVI proclaims a "Year of Faith" to begin in October 2012. This, he noted, is associated with one of the great themes of the pontificate: new evangelisation. The Holy See Press Office Director also recalled the recent Mass to mark the independence of various Latin American countries, during which the Pope had announced his forthcoming trip to Mexico and Cuba.

  At Christmas every year the Holy Father makes special visits of solidarity, and this year's took him to the Roman prison of Rebbibia where he gave spontaneous answers to questions put to him by the inmates. That meeting, said Fr. Lombardi, shows "how the Church, though recognising that civil society has legislative responsibility for dramatic issues such as justice and prisons, ... can send out a strong message ... about reconciliation, hope and reintegration into society".

  Also during 2011 the Pope was able to speak with astronauts orbiting the earth on the international space station, "thus underlining with great willingness and joy the Church's benevolence towards scientific research and technology, when they serve the good of humanity". The beatification of John Paul II was another key moment of the past year, which "mobilised the entire Church" and was experienced "with immense delight".

  The year also saw the publication of part two of Joseph Ratzinger's book "Jesus of Nazareth", focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ. "We continue to hope", Fr. Lombardi concluded, "that he will write a third volume, on the infancy, in order to complete this extraordinarily vivid and profound presentation of Jesus for us today".
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VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Waclaw Depo of Zamosc-Lubaczow, Poland, as archbishop of Czestochowa (area 6,925, population 824,993, Catholics 819,921, priests 901, religious 1,165), Poland. He succeeds Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Bishop Jan Kopiec, auxiliary of Opole, Poland, as bishop of Gliwice (area 2,250, population 725,500, Catholics 660,900, priests 473, religious 357), Poland. He succeeds Bishop Jan Walenty Wieczorek, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed as members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India; Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York, U.S.A.; Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation; Bishop Manuel Jose Macario do Nascimento Clemente of Porto, Portugal; Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba of Kribi, Cameroon, and Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

 - Appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Fr. Antonino Spadaro S.J., director of the magazine "Civilta Cattolica"; Fr. Eric Salobir O.P., general assistant for social communications of the Order of Friars Preachers, France; Fr. Augustine Savarimuthu S.J., director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Communications of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Sr. Dominica Dipio O.P. associate professor of literature at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; Antonio Preziosi, director of "Giornale Radio Rai" and of "Rai Radio Uno"; Erminio Fragassa, president and managing director of "MicroMegas Comunicazione S.p.A."; Marco Tarquinio, director of the "Avvenire" newspaper; Paul Wuthe, secretary of the media commission of the Austrian Bishops' Conference; Greg Erlandson, president of the Catholic Press Association, U.S.A.; Gian Maria Vian, director of the "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, and Susana Nuin Nunez of the Focolari Movement, executive secretary of the commission for social communications media of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

 In the course of the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his homily.

  "This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is He merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of Him on the basis of mere words. He has 'appeared'. But now we ask: how has He appeared? Who is He in reality? The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: 'the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed'. For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God Himself might not be good either, that He too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real 'epiphany', the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness. Today too, people who are no longer able to recognise God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world. 'The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed': this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas".

  "God has appeared - as a child. It is in this guise that He pits Himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace. At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors' rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord: O mighty God, you have appeared as a child and you have revealed yourself to us as the One Who loves us, the One through Whom love will triumph. And you have shown us that we must be peacemakers with you. We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors' rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours.

  "Christmas is an epiphany - the appearing of God and of His great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings. In 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas in Greccio with an ox and an ass and a manger full of hay, a new dimension of the mystery of Christmas came to light. ... For the early Church, the feast of feasts was Easter: in the Resurrection Christ had flung open the doors of death and in so doing had radically changed the world: He had made a place for man in God Himself. Now, Francis neither changed nor intended to change this objective order of precedence among the feasts, the inner structure of the faith centred on the Paschal Mystery. And yet through him and the character of his faith, something new took place: Francis discovered Jesus' humanity in an entirely new depth. ... The Resurrection presupposes the Incarnation. For God's Son to take the form of a child, a truly human child, made a profound impression on the heart of the Saint of Assisi, transforming faith into love. ... In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God. And so the liturgical year acquired a second focus in a feast that is above all a feast of the heart".

  "It is right here, in this new experience of the reality of Jesus' humanity that the great mystery of faith is revealed. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God's humility shone forth. God became poor. ... God made Himself dependent, in need of human love, He put Himself in the position of asking for human love - our love. Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light".

  "Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus' Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half metres high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half metres has remained. ... Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus' birth has to bend down. ... If we want to find the God Who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognising God's closeness. We must follow the interior path of St. Francis - the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God Who is so different from our prejudices and opinions - the God Who conceals Himself in the humility of a newborn baby. In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God Who reveals Himself to the simple of heart. And let us also pray especially at this hour for all who have to celebrate Christmas in poverty, in suffering, as migrants, that a ray of God's kindness may shine upon them, that they - and we - may be touched by the kindness that God chose to bring into the world through the birth of His Son in a stable".
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VATICAN CITY, 25 DEC 2011 (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:

  "The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; He is the Saviour of all. This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: 'O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God'. Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. ... This hand is Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of His Truth and His Love".

  "Jesus ... means 'Saviour'. He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take His place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death. This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God's help".

  "The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves. ... God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. ... To realise this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone Who hears us and can come to our assistance.

  "Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. ... The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God Who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about Him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.

  "Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: 'Come to save us!'".

  "Together let us ask God's help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.

  "May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods.

  "May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood. May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where He chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. May He bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May He foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May He grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.

  "May the birth of the Saviour support the prospects of dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar, in the pursuit of shared solutions. May the Nativity of the Redeemer ensure political stability to the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and assist the people of South Sudan in their commitment to safeguarding the rights of all citizens".

  "Let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to Him; let us receive Him into our lives".

  Following his Message, the Pope extended Christmas greetings in sixty-five languages and imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world).
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VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, Feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope explained how, "following the generation of the Apostles, martyrs came to acquire high standing in the Christian community. At times of greatest persecution, remembering and praising them brought relief to the faithful on their arduous journey and encouraged those seeking truth to convert to the Lord. Thus the Church, by divine disposition, venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them under such names as 'life masters' and 'living witnesses'".

  "The true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian authors have defined as 'the secret martyrdom'. ... Today, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel may call for the sacrifice of life, and many Christians in various parts of the world are subject to persecution and sometimes to martyrdom. But, as the Lord reminds us, 'the one who endures to the end will be saved'".

  "Let us pray to Most Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs, to maintain our desire for goodness intact, especially towards those who oppose us. In particular, let us today entrust the deacons of the Church to divine mercy so that, illumined by the example of St. Stephen, they may collaborate, in accordance with their specific mission, in the task of evangelisation".

Appeal for an end to violence in Nigeria

  After praying the Angelus the Pope said: "Christmas arouses, even more strongly, our prayer to God that violent hands may cease to spread death, and that justice and peace may reign in the world. Yet our earth continues to be stained with innocent blood. It was with great sadness that I heard the news of attacks which, this year too, on the Day of Christ's Birth, have brought mourning and pain to certain churches of Nigeria. I wish to express my sincere and affectionate closeness to the Christian communities and to everyone who has been affected by this senseless gesture, and I invite people to pray to the Lord for the many victims. I make this appeal that, with the collaboration of all components of society, security and serenity may be restored. At this time I wish to reiterate once again: violence is a way which leads only to suffering, destruction and death; respect, reconciliation and love are the only way to achieve peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Prayer in the Holy Family of Nazareth was the theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis during today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 pilgrims.

  "The house of Nazareth", the Pope explained, "is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus".

  "Mary is the peerless model for the contemplation of Christ", he said. She "lived with her eyes on Christ and treasured His every word. ... Luke the Evangelist makes Mary's heart known to us, her faith, her hope, her obedience, her interior life and prayer, her free adherence to Christ. All of these came from the gift of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon her just as it descended upon the Apostles according to Christ's promise. This image of Mary makes her a model for all believers".

  Mary's capacity to live by the gaze of God is "contagious", the Holy Father went on. "The first to experience this was St. Joseph. ... With Mary, and later with Jesus, he began a new rapport with God, he began to accept Him into his life, to enter into His plan of salvation, to do His will".

  Although the Gospel has not preserved any of Joseph's words, "his is a silent but faithful presence, constant and active. ... Joseph fulfilled his paternal role in all aspects". In this context, the Pope explained how Joseph had educated Jesus to pray, taking Him to the synagogue on Saturdays and guiding domestic prayer in the morning and evening. "Thus, in the rhythm of the days spent in Nazareth, between Joseph's humble dwelling and his workshop, Jesus learned to alternate pray and work, also offering up to God the fatigue by which they earned the bread the family needed".

  Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, as narrated in the Gospel of St. Luke. "The Jewish family, like the Christian family, prays in the intimacy of the home, but it also prays together in the community recognising itself as part of the pilgrim People of God", he said.

  Jesus' first words - "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house" - pronounced when Mary and Joseph found Him sitting among the teachers in the Temple, are a key to understanding Christian prayer. "From that moment, the life of the Holy Family became even richer in prayer, because the profound significance of the relationship with God the Father began to spread from the Heart of the boy (then adolescent, then young man) Jesus to the hearts of Mary and Joseph. The Family of Nazareth was the first model of the Church in which, in the presence of Jesus and thanks to His mediation, a filial rapport with God came to transform even interpersonal relations".

  "The Holy Family", Benedict XVI concluded, "is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".
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VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Remidio Jose Bohn, auxiliary of Porto Alegre, Brazil, as bishop of Cachoeira do Sul (area 10,736, population 220,000, Catholics 161,287, priests 24, permanent deacons 7, religious 46), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Irineu Silvio Wilges O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

  On Monday 26 December it was made public that the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago presented by Archbishop Edward Joseph Gilbert C.SS.R., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph Harris C.S.Sp.

  On Saturday 24 December it was made public that the Holy Father appointed:

 - Bishop Joseph Hii Teck Kwong, auxiliary of Sibu, Malaysia, as bishop of the same diocese (area 41,484, population 790,000, Catholics 109,944, priests 19, religious 30). He succeeds Bishop Dominic Su Haw Chiu, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

 - Msgr. Joseph Mbatia of the clergy of the diocese of Nyahururu, Kenya, vicar general, as bishop of Nyahururu (area 8,066, population 1,043,000, Catholics 332,700, priests 54, permanent deacons 4, religious 82). The bishop-elect was born in Itabua, Kenya in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1989. He has worked as assistant to the bishop of Nyeri and as pastor in a number of parishes in his country. He succeeds Bishop Luigi Paiaro, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Bishop Vital Chitolina S.C.I., prelate of Paranatinga, Brazil, as bishop of Diamantino (area 105,406, population 310,897, Catholics 224,779, priests 25, religious 60), Brazil.
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Friday, December 23, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 22 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, on the death this past Sunday of former president Vaclav Havel, whose funeral was celebrated this morning in the Cathedral of St. Vitus at the Prague Castle. President Havel was 75 years old.

  In the text, the Pope expressed his nearness to those attending the funeral, joining them in "commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of our heavenly Father" and recalling Vaclav Havel's courage in the defence of "human rights at a time when these were systematically denied to the people of your country". He paid tribute to his "visionary leadership in forging a new democratic policy after the fall of the previous regime" and gave thanks to God "for the freedom that the people of the Czech Republic now enjoy".

  The Holy Father concluded by imparting the Apostolic Blessing as "a pledge of spiritual strength and comfort" to all those mourning the deceased, "in hope of resurrection to new life".
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VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

  - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals,

  - Archbishop Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and

  - Mr. Timothy Andrew Fischer, ambassador of Australia, accompanied by his wife, on his farewell visit.
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VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a very happy and holy Christmas. During the Christmas holiday there will be no VIS bulletin from Saturday 24 December through Tuesday 27 December. The next bulletin will be transmitted on Wednesday 28 December.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 22 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received  cardinals along with members of the Roman Curia and of the Governance of the Vatican City State for the traditional exchange of Christmas and New Year's greetings. Speaking for those present, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, greeted the Pontiff.

  In his following address, Benedict XVI reviewed the major events of this year, which has been marked by "an economic and financial crisis that is ultimately based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent. Even if such values as solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbour and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practise renunciation and make sacrifices". That is why "the key theme of this year, and of the years ahead, is this: how do we proclaim the Gospel today?" in a way that the faith may be the living force that is absent today.

  In this respect, the Pope noted that "the ecclesial events of the outgoing year were all ultimately related to this theme. There were the journeys to Croatia, to the World Youth Day in Spain, to my home country of Germany, and finally to Africa – Benin – for the consignment of the Post-Synodal document on justice, peace and reconciliation ...  Equally memorable were the journeys to Venice, to San Marino, to the Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, and to Calabria. And finally there was the important day of encounter in Assisi for religions and for people who in whatever way are searching for truth and peace".

  Other important steps in the same direction were the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, which points "towards next year’s Synod on the same theme", and the proclamation of the Year of Faith.

Without Revitalizing the Faith, Church Reform Will Remain Ineffective

  To all of this is joined the reflection on the need for reform within the Church. "Faithful believers ... are noticing with concern that regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing; that recruitment of priests is stagnating; that scepticism and unbelief are growing. ... There are endless debates over what must be done in order to reverse the trend. There is no doubt that a variety of things need to be done. ... The essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe ... is the crisis of faith. If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective".

  In contrast to the European situation, Benedict XVI asserted that during his trip to Benin "none of the faith fatigue that is so prevalent here ... was detectable there. Amid all the problems, sufferings and trials that Africa clearly experiences, one could still sense the people’s joy in being Christian, buoyed up by inner happiness at knowing Christ and belonging to His Church. From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ in hard-pressed situations of human suffering, the strength to put oneself at his disposal, without looking round for one’s own advantage. Encountering this faith that is so ready to sacrifice and so full of happiness is a powerful remedy against the fatigue with Christianity such as we are experiencing in Europe today".

  Another sign of hope is seen in the World Youth Days where "again and again ... a new, more youthful form of Christianity can be seen", one possessing five main characteristics. "Firstly, there is a new experience of catholicity, of the Church’s universality. This is what struck the young people and all the participants quite directly: we come from every continent, but although we have never met one another, we know one another" because "the same inner encounter with Jesus Christ has stamped us deep within with the same structure of intellect, will, and heart. ... In this setting, to say that all humanity are brothers and sisters is not merely an idea: it becomes a real shared experience, generating joy".

  Secondly, "from this derives a new way of living our humanity, our Christianity. For me, one of the most important experiences of those days was the meeting with the World Youth Day volunteers: about 20,000 young people, all of whom devoted weeks or months of their lives" to the preparations. "At the end of the day, these young people were visibly and tangibly filled with a great sense of happiness: their time had meaning; in giving of their time and labour, they had found time, they had found life. ... These young people did good, even at a cost, even if it demanded sacrifice, simply because it is a wonderful thing to do good, to be there for others. All it needs is the courage to make the leap. Prior to all of this is the encounter with Jesus Christ, inflaming us with love for God and for others, and freeing us from seeking our own ego". The Pope recalled having found the same attitude in Africa from the Sisters of Mother Teresa "who devote themselves to abandoned, sick, poor, and suffering children, without asking anything for themselves, thus becoming inwardly rich and free. This is the genuinely Christian attitude".

The Joy of Knowing We Are Loved by God

  The third element characterizing the World Youth Days is adoration. Benedict XVI remarked on the crowds' silence before the Blessed Sacrament in Hyde Park, Zagreb, and Madrid. "God is indeed ever-present", he said. "But again, the physical presence of the risen Christ is something different, something new. ... Adoration is primarily an act of faith – the act of faith as such. God is not just some possible or impossible hypothesis concerning the origin of all things. He is present. And if He is present, then I bow down before him. ... We enter this certainty of God’s tangible love for us with love in our own hearts. This is adoration, and this then determines my life. Only thus can I celebrate the Eucharist correctly and receive the body of the Lord rightly".

  Confession is another essential characteristic of the World Youth Days because, with this sacrament "we recognize that we need forgiveness over and over again, and that forgiveness brings responsibility. Openness to love is present in man, implanted in him by the Creator, together with the capacity to respond to God in faith. But also present, in consequence of man’s sinful history ... is the tendency ... towards selfishness, towards becoming closed in on oneself, in fact towards evil. ... Therefore we need the humility that constantly asks God for forgiveness, that seeks purification and awakens in us the counterforce, the positive force of the Creator, to draw us upwards".

  Fifthly, and finally, the Pope mentioned the joy that above all depends on the certainty, based on faith that "I am wanted; I have a task; I am accepted, I am loved. ... Man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. ... This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. ... If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. ... Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within".

  In conclusion, the Pontiff thanked the Curia for "for shouldering the common mission that the Lord has given us as witnesses to His truth" and them wished all a blessed Christmas.
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VATICAN CITY, 22 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father named as consultors of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See: Dr. Fabio Marenda, Dr. Pasquale D'Agostino, Dr. Gianluca Piredda, and Dr. Maria Rita Sanguigni.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 21 DEC 2011 (VIS) - "The greeting on everyone's lips during this period is 'Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas Holidays!'. Let us ensure that, also in our modern societies, this exchange of good wishes does not lose its profound religious significance, and the feast does not become overshadowed by external factors", said Benedict XVI during today's general audience, his last before the Feast of the Lord's Nativity.

  "With the Christmas liturgy the Church introduces us into the great Mystery of the Incarnation", the Pope told faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall. "Christmas, in fact, is not simply the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, it is the celebration of a Mystery which has marked and continues to mark the history of man: God came to dwell amongst us, He became one of us. ... During Midnight Mass on Christmas Night we will intone these words in the responsorial Psalm: 'Today the Saviour is born for us'. ... By indicating that Jesus is born 'today', the liturgy underlines that His birth touches and permeates all of history. ... Of course, the redemption of humankind took place at a specific and identifiable moment of history: in the event of Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus is the Son of God ... Who became flesh. Eternity entered into the confines of time and space, making it possible to meet Him 'today'. ... When, in liturgical celebrations, we hear or pronounce the phrase: 'Today the Saviour is born for us', we are not using an empty conventional expression, what we mean is that 'today', now, God is giving us the possibility to recognise and accept Him, as did the shepherds of Bethlehem, so that He can also be born into and renew our lives".

  The Pope then turned his attention to another aspect, reflecting on the birth in Bethlehem in the light of the Paschal Mystery because, he said, "both Christmas and Easter are feasts of redemption. Easter celebrates redemption as a victory over sin and death. It marks the culminating moment when the glory of the Man-God shines like the light of day. Christmas celebrates redemption as the entry of God into history, when He became man in order to bring man to God. It marks, so to speak, the starting point when the first light of dawn begins to appear".

  "Even the seasons of the year in which these two great feasts fall, at least in some areas of the world, can help us understand this aspect. Easter coincides with the beginning of spring when the sun triumphs over the cold and the fog and renews the face of the earth. Christmas comes at the very beginning of winter when the light and heat of the sun are unable to awaken nature, covered in a shroud of cold under which, nonetheless, life is pulsating".

  "At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God Who is attentive to our weakness and sin, and lowers Himself to our level. ... Let us live this Christmastime with joy. ... Above all, let us contemplate and experience this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the heart of Christmas. There Jesus is truly present, the true Bread descended from heaven, the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation. I wish all of you and your families a truly Christian Christmas. May the exchange of greetings on that day be an expression of our joy in knowing that God is near us, and that He wishes to follow the journey of life with us", the Pope concluded.

The poor cannot wait

  At the end of his general audience, the Holy Father delivered greetings in a number of languages to the pilgrims filling the Paul VI Hall, among them a group of primary school children from Korea and another of Australian seminarians. To Spanish speaking pilgrims he said: "I will pray to the God Child for everyone, especially those who suffer. In these holy days, may Christian charity be particularly active towards those most in need. The poor can brook no delay".
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VATICAN CITY, 21 DEC 2011 (VIS) - During today's general audience, three Korean children gave the Pope a file containing letters and drawings by thirty-three of their peers, prize-winners in a competition organised by the Korean embassy to the Holy See and published in the Korean Catholic daily "Pyeonghwa Shinmun". More than 1,200 children from all over the country participated in the competition, which was organised to coincide with sixtieth anniversary of the priestly ordination of Benedict XVI.

  According to a communique published today by the embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See, the aim of the competition was "to thank the Holy Father for his tireless service to humankind and for his great affection for the people of Korea. ... This event will help the Church and society in Korea to promote the Catholic vocation, increasing the 'sensus fidei' of Korean Catholics".

  During Midnight Mass on 24 December, one of the children will read the Prayer of the Faithful, two will participate in the offertory, two will carry flowers to the nativity scene and two more will receive Communion from the hands of the Holy Father.
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VATICAN CITY, 21 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, apostolic nuncio to Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Guyana, and apostolic delegate in the Antilles, also as apostolic nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

 - Appointed Bishop Jaime Vieira Rocha of Campina Grande, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Natal (area 25,059, population 2,082,000, Catholics 1,738,000, priests 154, permanent deacons 41, religious 243), Brazil. He succeeds Archbishop Matias Patricio de Macedo, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

 - Appointed Fr. Joao Justino de Medeiros Silva of the clergy of the archdiocese of Juiz de Fora, rector of the "Santo Antonio" archdiocesan seminary, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Belo Horizonte (area 7,240, population 4,767,000, Catholics 3,411,312, priests 645, religious 2,007), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Juiz de Fora in 1966 and ordained a priest in 1992. He has worked as pastor in a number of parishes and is a member of the presbyteral council and of the college of consultors.

 - Appointed Fr. Rubens Sevilha O.C.D., provincial of the Carmelite Province of "Sao Jose" and pastor of the parish of "Santa Terezinha" in the archdiocese of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Msgr. Joaquim Wladimir Lopes Dias of the clergy of the diocese of Jundai, Brazil, vicar general, as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Vitoria (area 7,234, population 3,210,000, Catholics 2,010,000, priests 138, religious 264), Brazil. Bishop-elect Sevilha was born in Tarabai, Brazil in 1959 and made his perpetual religious profession in 1984. He studied in Brazil and Rome and has held various offices in his order and been active in pastoral care. Bishop-elect Lopes Dias was born in Cafelandia, Brazil in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1997. He has worked as pastor in a number of parishes and as vice rector and later rector of the diocesan seminary.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Cuba is preparing to greet Benedict XVI "with affection and respect", and President Raul Castro has welcomed "with satisfaction" the official announcement of the Pope's visit to the country, according to an official note released on Cuban media today. The visit is due to take place at the end of March 2012.

  On Sunday 18 December, the Cuban president met with a Holy See delegation to discuss preparations for the forthcoming visit, which the Holy Father himself announced during a Mass on 12 December for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of Latin America, and for the two hundredth anniversary of the independence of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. During the meeting "the excellent relations between Cuba and the Holy See were highlighted, and certain details of the Pope's visit were examined".

  Benedict XVI's visit, his second to Latin America following his trip to Brazil in 2007, will coincide initiatives organised by the local episcopate to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the image of "Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", patron of the island. One of these initiatives is a Marian Jubilee Year, which will begin on 7 January 2012 and end on 5 January 2013.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father yesterday signed decrees acknowledging miracles attributed to the intervention of seven blesseds (four women and three men) who will shortly be canonised. One of the new blesseds is Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North American to be raised to the glory of the altars.

  Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in Ossernenon (present-day Auriesville, U.S.A.). Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Roman Catholic Algonquian who had been educated by French missionaries. At the age of four she lost her family in a smallpox epidemic which also left her disfigured and with poor eyesight. Adopted by a relative, the chief of neighbouring clan, she continued to nurture an interest in Christianity and was baptised at the age of 20.

  The members of her tribe did not understand her new religious affiliation and she was marginalised, practising physical mortification as a path of sanctity and praying for the conversion of her relatives. Having suffered persecutions which put her life at risk, she was forced to flee to a native American Christian community in Kahnawake, Quebec where she made a vow of chastity and lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance, and care for the sick and elderly. She died in 1680 at the age of 24. Her last words were: "Jesus, I love you". According to tradition, Kateri's scars disappeared after her death to reveal a woman of great beauty, and numerous sick people who participated in her funeral were miraculously healed.

  The process of canonisation began in 1884. She was declared venerable by Pius XII in 1943 and beatified by John Paul II in 1980. As the first native North American to be beatified she occupies a special place in the devotion of her people. Her feast day falls on 14 July.
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Monday, December 19, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Jubilee year of the Church in Naples, Italy, came to a close yesterday evening with a celebration presided by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, in the city's cathedral. The ceremony also included the projection of a video message from the Holy Father, specially recorded for the occasion. Extracts from his remarks are published below.

  "Your journey over these months has involved the joyful participation of the ecclesial and civil communities, and of many people of good will. ... This special Jubilee Year has, for the Church in Naples, been a time of immersion in the mystery of God, and therefore a time of grace. ... The Jubilee caused heaven to open above you and the power of the Holy Spirit to descend upon your lives and communities, just as it descended on the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost".

  "Now, with renewed enthusiasm and with the strength of faith, hope and charity, you can face the many and complex problems of your daily lives. Just as, after Pentecost, the Apostles courageously began to announce the Good News so you too, after this Jubilee, can renew your hope, allow yourselves to be guided by the power of the Holy Spirit and work together with renewed energy in the mission of the Church. May each of you put the gifts you have received to good use, placing them at the service of others and of the entire community, without selfishness or rivalry, but in a spirit of sincere humility and joyful fraternity. Have special care, as you already do, for the weakest and most fragile, the poorest and most disadvantaged of our brothers and sisters.

  "May Our Lady of Mount Carmel, protectress of the city of Naples, and St. Genarius, watch over you and help you to maintain, with perseverance and faithfulness the commitments you have taken on in this Jubilee Year".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.

  In his address to the group, the Pope spoke of the challenges "which are common to all of you, in spite of the many social, economic and cultural contexts in which you work". In particular, he mentioned secularism and its "significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family", he said.

  "Ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision. ... Thus, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation was recently established. Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelisation is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church. You, as bishops and pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples".

  Benedict XVI then reminded the prelates of the importance of caring for their priests, "especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests. ... In our day young people need more assistance with spiritual discernment so that they may know the Lord's will. In a world affected by a 'profound crisis of faith', ensure too that your seminarians receive a well-rounded formation". The Pope also acknowledged the "significant contribution" made by religious to the work of evangelisation, and the contribution of the lay faithful.

  "I have had this opportunity to discuss with you the new evangelisation, I do so mindful of the recently proclaimed Year of Faith, which 'is intended to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves'. May this privileged time serve as an inspiration as you join the entire Church in the ongoing efforts of the new evangelisation, for although you are spread among many islands and we are separated by great distances, together we profess 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all'".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Synod of Bishops today published a communique concerning the tenth meeting of the Special Council of Oceania, which took place on 9 December under the presidency of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod, and was attended by most of the prelates of Oceania, currently in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

  The council focused its attention on the application of John Paul II's 2001 Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Oceania" to the daily lives of the particular Churches of the region. The participants highlighted how the Exhortation maintains all its validity in the current social and ecclesial situation, "which has undergone a certain degree of radicalisation, especially in the process of secularisation and particularly in Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, there are signs of hope, such as the openness of young people and of certain intellectuals to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although these aspects involve a minority, they are important signals and nourish hope for the future".

  The challenges facing the Church in the region include human rights, bioethics, ecology, the family, charity, inculturation, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. At the same time, "the 'ad gentes' mission is a pressing necessity in Oceania, where the particular Churches are committed to continuing the mission of the evangelisers who first announced the truth of Christ. It is important to continue along this path, both in the context of secularised societies and among the traditionally religious peoples of the Pacific, paying particular attention to indigenous peoples. ... The announcement of the Gospel requires fresh ardour from all Christians, including the laity, who must rediscover their missionary vocation".

  The meeting also examined the preparations underway for the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, due to be held in the Vatican in October 2012.
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VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

 - Fr. Serge Thomas Bonino O.P., professor of philosophy at the "Institut Catholique" and of theology at the Dominican Studium in Toulouse, France, as secretary general of the International Theological Commission.

 - Msgr. Giovanni Battista Gandolfo of the clergy of the diocese of Albenga-Imperia, Italy, president of the Committee for Charitable Initiatives in Favour of the Third World and director of the same Office at the Italian Episcopal Conference, as a member of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum".

 - As members of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples: Bishop Wojciech Polak, auxiliary of Gniezno, Poland, and Bishop Edward Janiak, auxiliary of Wroclaw, Poland.

 - Msgr. Enrico Feroci, director of diocesan Caritas in Rome, as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

 - Msgr. Antonio Grappone of the clergy of the diocese of Rome, official of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as bureau chief of the same pontifical council.

 - Sr. Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati of the Congregation of the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ, official of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as under secretary of the same congregation.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father made a pastoral visit to the prison of Rebbiba in northern Rome. On his arrival he was welcomed by Paola Severino, minister of justice; Franco Ionta, head of the prison administration department, and Fr. Pier Sandro Spriano and Fr. Roberto Guarnieri, prison chaplains.

  The Holy Father met the prisoners in the institute's central church, dedicated to Our Father. Excerpts from his remarks to them are given below.

  "'I was in prison and you visited me'. These are the words of the Final Judgment according to Matthew the Evangelist, the Lord's words in which He identifies Himself with those in prison, words which fully express the significance of my visit to you today. Wherever someone is hungry, a stranger, sick or in prison, there is Christ Himself Who awaits our visit and our assistance. ... The Church has always considered visiting the imprisoned as one of the corporal acts of mercy, but this, in order to be complete, means fully accepting the prisoner, 'making space for him in our time, in our home, in our friendships, in our laws, in our cities'. ... The Only-begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus, also experienced jail. He was judged before a tribunal and suffered a ferocious death sentence.

  "During my recent apostolic trip to Benin last month, I signed a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation in which I underlined the Church's concern for justice in States. I wrote: 'Independent judiciary and prison systems are urgently needed, therefore, for the restoration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders. It is time to put a stop to miscarriages of justice and ill-treatment of prisoners, and the widespread non-enforcement of the law ... which represents a violation of human rights, as well as imprisonment either without trial or else with much-delayed trial. The Church in Africa ... recognises her prophetic mission towards all those affected by crime and their need for reconciliation, justice and peace. Prisoners are human persons who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They need our care".

Justice is inseparable from mercy
  "Human justice and divine justice are very different. Men are not, of course, capable of applying divine justice, but they must at least ... seek to understand the spirit that moves it, in order to illuminate human justice and to ensure that prisoners do not become outcasts, as unfortunately they often do. God, in fact, is He Who strongly proclaims justice, but at the same time heals wounds with the balm of mercy".

  "Justice and mercy, justice and charity are cardinal points of Church social doctrine. They differ only for we human beings, as we carefully distinguish between an act of justice and an act of love. ... But this is not true of God. In Him justice and charity coincide; there is no act of justice that is not also an act of mercy and forgiveness while, at the same time, there is no act of mercy that is not perfectly just".

  "The penitential system has two main points, both of them important: protecting society from possible threats, and rehabilitating those who have erred without trampling on their dignity or excluding them from social life. Both of these aspects ... are aimed at avoiding that 'chasm' between what life in jail is really like and how it was intended by the law, which gives fundamental importance to the re-educational function of punishment and to respecting the rights and dignity of persons".

Overcrowding and degradation make prison sentences worse

  "I know that overcrowding and the dilapidation of jails can make detention even worse. ... Public institutions must carefully analyse the situation in prisons today, monitoring structures, resources and staff so that prisoners do not serve a 'double sentence'. It is important to develop the prison system in such a way that, while respecting justice, it is increasingly adapted to the needs of human beings, also by using non-custodial penalties or different forms of custody".

  "Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. May the Lord's Nativity, which is now drawing near, reawaken hope and love in your hearts. The birth of the Lord Jesus, which we will celebrate in a few days' time, reminds us of His mission to save all mankind, excluding no one. ... Let us ask Him ... to free everyone from the prison of sin, arrogance and pride. Each of us, in fact, has need to leave this inner prison in order to be truly free from evil, anguish and death".

  "I would like to conclude by saying that the Church supports and encourages all efforts to ensure that everyone lives a dignified life. Be sure that I am close to each of you. ... May the Lord bless you and your future".
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VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following his address to inmates in the Roman prison of Rebbibia this morning, the Pope responded to six questions put to him by his audience. Summaries of the questions and his answers are given below:

  Q. I would like to ask His Holiness whether the simplicity of his gesture [in coming here today] will also be understood by our politicians, so that the dignity and hope which belong to each living being may be restored to all mankind, including we prisoners.

  A. "I have come here above all to express my personal and intimate closeness, in communion with Christ Who loves you. But of course this visit ... is also a public gesture reminding our fellow citizens, our government, of the fact that there are serious problems in Italian jails. Clearly, prisons exist to favour justice, and a primary factor of justice is human dignity. ... In as much as I can, I would like to give a signal of how important it is for prisons to respond to their purpose of renewing human dignity, supporting it not undermining it. Let us hope the government has the possibility to respond to this vocation".

  Q. Rather than asking a question, I would like to ask you to allow us to come to you with our suffering, our own suffering and that of our families, like a cable which communicates with the Lord Jesus. I love you.

  A. "I also love you. ... The Lord's self-identification with the imprisoned is an obligation upon us, and I too have to ask myself whether I have acted according to the commandment of the Lord. ... This is one of the reasons I came here, because I know that in you the Lord is waiting for me, that you have need of human recognition, that you need this presence of the Lord. I hope that prisons may realise their true goal of helping people to find themselves, ... to find self-reconciliation and reconciliation with others, with God, in order to re-enter society and help the progress of humankind".

  Q. Do you feel it is right that, ... now that I am a new man and father to a beautiful two-month-old daughter, ... I am not granted the possibility to return home despite the fact that I have paid my debt to society?

  A. "First of all congratulations! I am happy you consider yourself to be a new man. ... You know that, according to Church doctrine, the family is fundamental and it is important for a father to be able to hold his daughter in his arms. Thus, I pray and hope that you will soon embrace your daughter, be with her and your wife to build a beautiful family, and so collaborate in the future of Italy".

  Q. What can sick and HIV-positive prisoners ask of the Pope? ... We are not often mentioned, and then in aggressive terms, as if seeking to eliminate us from society. This makes us feel subhuman.

  A. "We have to endure the fact that people speak about us 'aggressively'. They also speak 'aggressively' about the Pope, yet nonetheless we persevere. I think it is important to encourage everyone to think positively, to understand your sufferings, to understand the need to help you rise again. I will do my part, inviting everyone to think in the right way, not abusively but humanly, understanding that anyone can fall, but God wants everyone to reach Him. We must cooperate in a spirit of fraternity recognising our own fragility so that people can truly ... continue their journey with dignity".

  Q. Holiness, I was taught that the Lord can see and read inside each one of us. Why has absolution been delegated to priests. If I, alone and on my knees, asked the Lord to absolve me, would He?

  A. "Of course if you, on your knees and with authentic love for God, ask Him to forgive you, He will do so. ... However, sin is not only a 'personal' thing, an individual account between me and God. Sin also has a social dimension. ... And it is this social dimension of sin that needs to be absolved at the level of the human community, the community of the Church. ... It requires the Sacrament. ... Sacramental absolution is necessary to absolve me of this bond of evil and to rehabilitate me in the will of God, ... to give me the certainty that God forgives me and receives me into the community of His children".

  Q. Holy Father, last month you visited the African nation of Benin, one of the poorest countries in the world. ... They place their hope and faith in God, and die amidst poverty and violence. Why does God not listen to them? Does God perhaps listen only to the rich and powerful who have no faith?

  A. "God's criteria are different from ours. God gives these poor people the joy of His presence, He makes His closeness felt in their suffering and difficulties, and of course He calls on us all to do everything we can to ensure they can emerge from their sickness and poverty. ... We must pray to God for justice, so that everyone can live in the joy of being His children".

  Having answered the questions, the Pope then prayed with prisoners. On leaving the church, and before returning to the Vatican, he blessed a cypress tree planted in memory of his visit.
PV-REBBIBIA/                            VIS 20111219 (930)


VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following his visit to the Roman prison of Rebbiba this morning, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican Apostolic Palace where he appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  The Pope introduced the Marian prayer with a reflection on the importance of Mary's virginity. Recalling the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel", he explained how "this ancient promise was abundantly fulfilled in the incarnation of the Son of God. Not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so by the Holy Spirit; that is, by God Himself. The human being Who began life in her womb took Mary's flesh, but His existence derived entirely from God".

  "The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is, then, essential for an understanding of Jesus and of our faith. It is a testament to the fact that the initiative was God's and, above all, it reveals Who the person conceived is. As the Gospel says, 'the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the son of God'. In this perspective, Mary's virginity and Jesus' divinity are warranties of one another".

  The Holy Father continued: "God awaited the 'yes' of this young girl in order to achieve His plan. He respected her dignity and her freedom. ... Mary's virginity is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns all Christians, ... because those who have profound trust in the love of God welcome Jesus and His divine life into their own lives, by the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas".

  Following the Angelus, Benedict XVI expressed his concern for people in the southern Philippines where a tropical storm has caused great loss of human life and material damage. "I pray for the victims, of whom so many are children, for the homeless and the missing", he said.

  Finally he delivered greetings in a number of languages. Addressing Spanish pilgrims, her recalled the fact that twenty-two Oblates of Mary Immaculate, killed in 1936, were beatified in Madrid yesterday. "Joy at their beatification is linked to the hope that their sacrifice may yet bring great fruits of conversion and reconciliation", he concluded.
ANG/                                    VIS 20111219 (410)


VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation of children from Italian Catholic Action, with whom he exchanged Christmas greetings.

  The Holy Father thanked the group for their visit, then went on to remark on a theme they have been studying this year, the invitation made to Bartimaeus in the Bible: "Arise, He is calling". This call, the Pope explained, "has already been repeated often in your lives, and it is repeated again today. The first call was in the gift of life. Always be attentive to this great gift, appreciate it and be grateful to the Lord. Ask Him to give a joyful life to all the boys and girls of the world, that they may all be respected and none may lack what they need to live".

  "Another important call was Baptism. ... At that moment you became brothers and sisters of Jesus Who loves you more than anyone else and wants to help you to grow. Another call was First Communion. On that day your friendship with Jesus became closer and more intimate. ... Respond generously to the Lord Who calls you to be friends with Him. He will never let you down".

  "Dear friends", Pope Benedict concluded, "I would like to ask you for one thing. Take this beautiful invitation - "Arise, He is calling" - to your own friends and tell them: Look, I have responded to Jesus' call and I am happy because I have found a great Friend in Him, a Friend I meet in prayer, Who I see among my Friends, to Whom I listen in the Gospel. My Christmas wish for you is that, when you make your nativity scenes, you imagine you are saying to Jesus: come into my life and I will listen to you always".
AP/                                    VIS 20111219 (320)


VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:


 - Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and of the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord (1841-1913).

 - Blessed Jacques Berthieu, French martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) (1838-1896).

 - Blessed Maria del Carmen (born Maria Salles y Barangueras), Spanish foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching (1848-1911).

 - Blessed Maria Anna Cope, nee Barbara, German religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A. (1838-1918).

 - Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, American laywoman (1656-1680).

 - Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Filipino lay catechist and martyr (1654-1672).

 - Blessed Anna Schaffer, German laywoman (1882-1925).

 - Servant of God Louis Brisson, French priest and founder of the Oblates of St. Francis of Sales (1817-1908).

 - Servant of God Luigi Novarese, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Silent Workers of the Cross (1914-1984).

 - Servant of God Maria Luisa (nee Gertrude Prosperi), Italian abbess of the convent of the Order of St. Benedict of Trevi (1799-1847).

 - Servant of God Mother St. Louis (nee Maria Luisa Elisabeth de Lamoignon, widow of Mole de Champlatreux), French foundress of the Sisters of St. Louis (1763-1825).

 - Servant of God Maria Crescencia (nee Maria Angelica Perez), Argentinean professed religious of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Orchard (1897-1932).


 - Servant of God Nicola Rusca, Swiss diocesan priest, killed in hatred of the faith (1563-1618).

 - Servants of God Luis Orencio (ne Antonio Sola Garriga) and eighteen companions of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools; Antonio Mateo Salamero, diocesan priest, and Jose Gorostazu Labayen, layman, all killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.

 - Servants of God Alberto Maria Marco y Aleman and eight companions of the Order of Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, and Agustin Maria Garcia Tribaldos and fifteen companions of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools; all killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.

 - Servants of God Mariano Alcala Perez and eighteen companions of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.


 - Servant of God Donato Giannotti, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters Handmaidens of the Immaculate Conception (1828-1914).

 - Servant of God Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus (ne Henri Grialou), French professed priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and founder of the Institute of Notre-Dame de Vie (1894-1967).

 - Servant of God Alphonse-Marie (nee Elisabeth Eppinger), French foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Blessed Saviour (1814-1867).

 - Servant of God Marguerite Lucia Szewczyk, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God - Seraphic Sisters (1828-1905).

 - Servant of God Assunta Marchetti, Italian co-foundress of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles (1871-1948).

 - Servant of God Maria Julitta (nee Teresa Eleonora Ritz), German professed sister of the Congregation of Sisters of the Redeemer (1882-1966).

 - Servant of God Maria Anna Amico Roxas, Italian laywoman and foundress of the Society of St. Ursula (1883-1947).
CSS/                                    VIS 20111219 (580)


VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:

 - Esteban Kriskovic, the new ambassador of Paraguay to the Holy See for the presentation of his Letters of Credence.

 - Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

 On Saturday 17 December he received in audience:

 - Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

 - Five prelates from the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, on their "ad limina" visit:

    - Fr. Olivier P. Aro, M.S.P., superior of the "sui iuris" mission of Tokelau.

    - Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva.

    - Bishop Paul Donoghue S.M. of Rarotonga.

    - Bishop Paul Eusebius Mea Kaiuea M.S.C. of Tarawa and Nauru.

    - Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.
AP:AL/                                VIS 20111219 (130)

Friday, December 16, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday evening, in keeping with a pre-Christmas tradition, the Holy Father presided at Vespers in the Vatican Basilica with students from Roman universities. Also present at the ceremony - which this year coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the Office for Pastoral Care in Universities, established by Blessed John Paul II - were representatives from a number of academic institutions, and Francesco Profumo, minister for education, universities and research.

  Benedict XVI's homily, extracts of which are given below, reflected on the Apostle James' call to "be patient until the coming of the Lord".

  "To you who live at the heart of the cultural and social environment of our time, who experience new and increasingly refined technologies, who are protagonists of historical changes which sometimes seem overwhelming, the Apostle's call may appear to be an anachronism. ... His exhortation to patient constancy, which in our time may leave us somewhat perplexed, is in fact the way to a deeper understanding of the question of God and its importance in life and history; because it is in patience, in faithfulness, in the constant search for and openness to God, that He reveals His Face".

  "St. James ... reminds us that ... we are not alone, and that we do not create history by ourselves. God is not distant from man, He has come close to him, He became flesh. ... Patience is the virtue of those people who entrust themselves to this presence in history, who do not let themselves be drawn by the temptation to place all their hope in the present moment, in a purely horizontal perspective, in projects that are technically perfect but far distant from the profound truth that gives human beings their greatest dignity: the transcendent dimension, the fact of being created in the image and likeness of God".

  "In the incarnation of the Son, ... God experienced man's temporality, his growth and development over time and history. The Child is a sign of the patience of God, Who was the first to be patient, constant and faithful in His love for us. ... How many times has mankind tried to construct the world alone, without God or against Him! The result is to be seen in ideologies which, in the end, revealed themselves as being against man and his profound dignity".

  "Being constant and patient means learning to construct history together with God, because only if built upon Him and with Him can it have solid foundations. ... Let us, then, stoke up hope in our hearts, because the Word of God reminds us that ... the Lord is with us and that we can build with Him. ... We can plan our entire history, the history of humanity not as a utopia but in the certainty that the God of Jesus Christ is present and accompanies us".

  "The Lord asks each of you to collaborate in constructing the city of man, uniting faith and culture with seriousness and passion. Therefore I invite each of you to seek the true Face of God with patient constancy. ... Announce to everyone that the true Face of God is in the Baby of Bethlehem, so close to each of us that no one can feel excluded, no one can doubt the possibility of meeting Him, because He is the patient and faithful God, Who waits and respects our freedom".

  At the end of the liturgy, a Spanish university delegation consigned the image of "Maria Sedes Sapientiae" to a delegation from the Roman University of "La Sapienza". The image will be taken on a "Peregrinatio Mariae" to various university chaplaincies in the Italian capital in preparation for an international symposium of university professors, due to be held in June 2012.
HML/                                    VIS 20111216 (640)


VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from Ukraine, the country which donated the Christmas tree decorating St. Peter's Square this year. The tree, a spruce from the Zakarpattia region 30.5 metres high and decorated with 2,500 silver- and gold-coloured baubles, will be lit this evening in the presence of Ukrainian bishops. Other smaller trees have also been donated, which will be set up at other places in Vatican City State.

  The Pope greeted the bishops accompanying the Ukrainian delegation: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc; Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, and Bishop Milan Sasik C.M. of the eparchy of Mukachevo of the Byzantine rite, as well as members of the Orthodox Church led by the Archbishop of Poltava and Myrhorod.

  This tree, said the Holy Father, is "a significant symbol of Christ's Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life. The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favouring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to response to this unique vocation".

  The tree and nativity scene, Benedict XVI went on, "are elements of that typically Christmas atmosphere which is part our communities' spiritual heritage; a climate impregnated with religiosity and family intimacy which we must seek to conserve, even in modern societies where consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail. Christmas is a Christian feast and its symbols are important references to the great mystery of the incarnation and birth of Jesus, which the liturgy constantly re-evokes. The Creator of the universe, by becoming a child, came among us to share our journey; He became small to enter the heart of man and renew it with His love. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Him with faith".
AC/                                    VIS 20111216 (370)


VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2011 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference took place to present Benedict XVI's Message for the World Day of Peace 2012, due to be celebrated on 1 January. The theme of this year's message is: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace". The conference was presented by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Extracts of the English-language version of the Pope's Message are given below.

  The beginning of a new year, God's gift to humanity, prompts me to extend to all, with great confidence and affection, my heartfelt good wishes that this time now before us may be marked concretely by justice and peace.

  It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labour and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological.

  I would like therefore to devote this message for the forty-fifth World Day of Peace to the theme of education: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace", in the conviction that the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world.

  My Message is also addressed to parents, families and all those involved in the area of education and formation, as well as to leaders in the various spheres of religious, social, political, economic and cultural life and in the media.

  Education ... calls for responsibility on the part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves. For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts. ... A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others.

  Where does true education in peace and justice take place? First of all, in the family, since parents are the first educators. ... It is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others. The family is the first school in which we are trained in justice and peace.

  We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival - all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents. ... I would urge parents not to grow disheartened! May they encourage children by the example of their lives to put their hope before all else in God, the one source of authentic justice and peace.

  I would also like to address a word to those in charge of educational institutions: with a great sense of responsibility may they ensure that the dignity of each person is always respected and appreciated.

  Every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers and sisters.

  I ask political leaders to offer concrete assistance to families and educational institutions in the exercise of their right and duty to educate. Adequate support should never be lacking to parents in their task. ... Let them give young people a transparent image of politics as a genuine service to the good of all.

  In today's society the mass media have a particular role: they not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people.

  Education, indeed, is concerned with the integral formation of the person, including the moral and spiritual dimension, focused upon man's final end and the good of the society to which he belongs. Therefore, in order to educate in truth, it is necessary first and foremost to know who the human person is, to know human nature. ... Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth - a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life's meaning - since he was created in the image and likeness of God. ... Hence the first step in education is learning to recognise the Creator's image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being.

  Only in relation to God does man come to understand also the meaning of human freedom. It is the task of education to form people in authentic freedom.

  Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused.

  Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits. Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties: consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence. The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others.

  It is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots. Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love.

  The "earthly city" is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion.

  Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.

  Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community.

  Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one's particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.

  Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication.

  Realise that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centred but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, Who is Himself justice and peace.

  Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace.
MESS/                                    VIS 20111216 (1480)
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