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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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