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Friday, December 2, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2011 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today, the Pope and the pontifical family attended the first sermon of Advent delivered by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the theme: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news".

  This year's sermons, which are taking place in the "Redemptoris Mater" chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, focus on the general topic of evangelisation, in view of next year's Synod of Bishops on the same subject. Particular attention will be given to four historical periods in which missionary efforts accelerated or resumed: (1) The second half of the third century when vast sectors of the Roman empire were converted thanks to the efforts of bishops. (2) The sixth to ninth centuries during which the monks worked for the re-evangelisation of Europe following the barbarian invasions. (3) The sixteenth century with the discovery and conversion of the peoples of the New World through the apostolate of the friars. (4) Our own day, when the Church is committed to re-evangelising a secularised West though the commitment of the lay faithful.
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VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Over recent days, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, which is presided by Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, has been holding its third World Congress for the Pastoral Care of International Students. The participants were received this morning by the Holy Father who remarked that the theme chosen for the congress, which focused on the meeting of cultures, is "a fundamental aspect of our age, and is vital for the future of humanity and of the Church".

  "Today more than every the openness of cultures to one another is the most fertile terrain for dialogue among people committed to seeking authentic humanism. The meeting of cultures in universities must, then, be encouraged and supported. ... Thanks to their intellectual, cultural and spiritual formation, international students have, in fact, the potential to become architects and protagonists of a more human world".

  The Pope noted that international students are an increasingly large group within the broader phenomenon of migration. This, he said, can be due to a lack of high-quality education and suitable structures in their countries of origin, the presence of social and political tensions, or the availability of economic support to study abroad. "It is important", he went on, "to offer them a healthy and well-balanced intellectual, cultural and spiritual formation, so that they do not get absorbed into the 'brain drain' but become a socially and culturally relevant group in view of their return as future leaders to their countries of origin" where they can "help to build cultural, social and spiritual 'bridges' with their host nations".

  Universities are a vital field for the evangelisation of the Church, because "the spread of 'weak' ideologies in various sectors of society is a call to Christians to make fresh efforts in the academic world, to encourage the new generations in their search for and discovery of the truth about man and God". In this context, Benedict XVI used the example of Blessed John Henry Newman whose life, "so strongly associated with the world of academe, confirmed the importance and beauty of promoting an educational environment in which intellectual formation, ethics and religious commitment walk hand in hand".

  "Young Christians, who come from different cultures but belong to the one Church of Christ, can show that the Gospel is the Word of hope and salvation for men and women of all peoples and cultures, of all ages and epochs", the Holy Father concluded.
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VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in the annual plenary session of the International Theological Commission, which has just completed its work under the direction of its president, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

  The Holy Father dedicated his remarks to three themes the Commission has been examining in recent years, turning first to consider the question of God and the understanding of monotheism. Benedict XVI recalled how "behind the Christian profession of faith in the one God lies the daily profession of faith of the People of Israel". However, with the incarnation of Jesus Christ, "the monotheism of the one God came to be illuminated with a completely new light: the light of the Trinity, a mystery which also illuminates brotherhood among men". For this reason theology "can help believers to become aware of and bear witness to the fact that Trinitarian monotheism shows us the true face of God, ... and is the source of personal and universal peace".

  The Commission has also been studying the criteria whereby a particular form of theology may be considered as "Catholic". On this subject the Pope explained that "the starting point for all Christian theology lies in personal acceptance of divine revelation, of the Word made flesh", in "listening to the Word of God in Holy Scripture". Nevertheless, the history of the Church shows that "recognition of this starting point is not enough to achieve the unity of the faith. The Bible is always necessarily read in a certain context, and the only context in which the believer can be in full communion with Christ is the Church and her living Tradition".

  Catholic theology, as it has always done over the course of its history, must continue to pay particular attention to the relationship between faith and reason. Today this is more important than ever, said Pope Benedict, "in order to avoid the violent consequences of a religiosity which opposes reason, and a reason which opposes religion".

  Thirdly, the International Theological Commission has been examining the Church's Social Doctrine in the broader context of Christian doctrine. "The Church's social commitment is not a merely human activity", Benedict XVI explained, "nor is just a social theory. The transformation of society by Christians over the centuries has been a response to the coming of the Son of God into the world. ... The disciples of Christ the Redeemer know that no human community can live in peace without concern for others, forgiveness, and love even for one's enemies. ... In our indispensable collaboration for the common good, even with those who do not share our faith, we must explain the true and profound religious motivations for out social commitment. ... People who have understood the foundation of Christian social activity may also find therein a stimulus to consider faith in Jesus Christ".

  In conclusion, the Pope highlighted the Church's great need for theologians' reflections "on the mystery of God in Jesus Christ and of His Church. Without healthy and vigorous theological activity the Church risks failing to give full expression to the harmony between faith and reason".
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VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This Christmas, the nativity scene in St. Peter's Square will be dedicated Mary, the Mother of God, also in view of the beatification earlier this year of John Paul II, who was profoundly devoted to Our Lady.

  Standing next to the manger in the nativity scene, which will be inaugurated on 24 December, are a number of buildings recreated in the architectural style of biblical Palestine, where the events of Mary's life took place, such as the Annunciation, the meeting with her cousin Elisabeth and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The figures in the grotto itself come from the nativity scene created by St. Vincent Pallotti for the Roman church of Sant'Andrea della Valle in 1842.

  The Christmas tree, which will be raised next to the obelisk, is a spruce from the Zakarpattia region in Ukraine, 30.5 metres high and with a trunk of 56 centimetres in diameter. Its more than 700 branches will be decorated with 2,500 silver- and gold-coloured baubles illuminated by white and yellow lights.

  The tree, a gift from the Republic of Ukraine, will be raised on 5 December and inaugurated on 16 December in the presence of the bishops of that nation.
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VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:

 - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

 - Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, Italy.
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