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Friday, December 28, 2012


Vatican City, 28 December 2012 (VIS) - The following are highlights of the activities of Pope Benedict XVI and of the Holy See for the months of September to December 2012.


4: Message from the Holy Father for the funeral of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., archbishop emeritus of Milan, Italy, who died on 31 August at the age of 85.

10: The Holy Father receives the second group of bishops from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, at the end of their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

14-16: Apostolic Visit to Lebanon.

14: Publication of Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente" in Beirut, Lebanon.

18: The Holy Father appoints the Synod Fathers for the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which takes place from 7 to 28 October on the theme "The new evangelisation for the transmission of the Christian faith".

20: Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, penitentiary major emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, dies at the age of 77.

21: The Holy Father receives prelates from the Episcopal Conference of France on their "ad limina" visit.

25: "God, the unknown. Dialogue between believers and non-believers" is the theme of the "Atrium of St. Francis", an initiative organised by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Holy Convent of Assisi and the "Oicos Riflessioni" Association.


4: Pastoral visit to Loreto, Italy, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Blessed Pope John XXIII's pilgrimage to the Marian city.

5: By a decree made public today and signed by Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Bishop Krzysztof Nykiel, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Benedict XVI grants faithful Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the Year of Faith. The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.

7-28: Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme: "The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian faith".

8: Benedict XVI proclaims St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Universal Church and presides at the Eucharistic celebration during which he inaugurates the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

8: Cardinal Lucian Muresan, major archbishop of Fagaras and Alba Julia of the Romanians, Romania, takes possession of the title of Sant'Atanasio, Via del Babuino 149, Rome.

10: In the general audiences, an Arabic speaker joins the other speakers providing a summary of the papal catechesis in various different languages.

11: Beginning of the Year of Faith.

14: Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York, takes possession of the title of Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario, Piazza Nostra Signora di Guadalupe 12, Rome.

14: Cardinal George Alencherry, major archbishop of Ernakulam Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, takes possession of the title of San Bernardo alle Terme, Via Torino 94, Rome.

18: Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, receives the Letters of Credence of Carl-Henri Guiteau, ambassador of Haiti to the Holy See.

20: Cardinal Julien Ries takes possession of the diaconate of Sant’Antonio di Padova a Circonvallazione Appia, Circonvallazione Appia 150, Rome.

20: The "Ratzinger Prize" is conferred upon historian and philosopher Remi Brague, and scholar of patrology and theology Fr. Brian Edward Daley S.J.

21: Papal Mass for the canonisation of seven new saints: Jacques Berthieu, martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (1838-1896); Pedro Calungsod, lay catechist and martyr (1654-1672); Giovanni Battista Piamarta, 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); Maria del Carmen (born Maria Salles y Barangueras), foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching (1848-1911); Marianne Cope, nee Barbara,  religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A. (1838-1918); Kateri Tekakwitha, laywoman (1656-1680), and Anna Schaeffer, laywoman (1882-1925).

23: Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins, archbishop of Toronto, Canada, takes possession of the title of San Patrizio, Via Boncompagni 31, Rome.

25: Cardinal Edwin Frederick O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, takes possession of the diaconate of San Sebastiano al Palatino, Via di San Bonaventura, Rome.

29: Pope's Message for the ninety-ninth World Day of Migrants and Refugees (13 January 2013) on the theme: "Migrations: Pilgrimage of Faith and Hope".

31: The Holy Father presides at the first Vespers of the Solemnity of All Saints in the Sistine Chapel to commemorate the five-hundredth anniversary of the unveiling of the ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.


10: By the Motu Proprio "Latina lingua" Benedict XVI establishes the Pontifical Academy for Latin, under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

12: The Holy Father visits the Sant Egidio Community's "Viva gli Anziani" rest home for the elderly in Rome, to mark the occasion of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Among Generations.

16: Holy Father's Message for the 28th World Youth Day 2013, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2013, with the title "Go and make disciples of all nations!"

17: Pope's address to prelates from the Episcopal Conference of France on their "ad limina" visit.

20: Presentation to the international press of the book "The Infancy Narratives", third volume of Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth" trilogy.

24: Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of six new cardinals.

30: Pope's address to the third group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of France on their "ad limina" visit.


1: Publication of Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter issued "motu proprio" on "The Service of Charity", dated 11 November 2012.

9: Inauguration of the International Congress "Ecclesia in America" on the Church in the American continent with a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica.

12: The Pope enters Twitter with a blessing.

13: Audience with six new ambassadors and non-resident ambassadors accredited to the Holy See: Bizwayo Newton Nkunika of Zambia, Chalermpol Thanchitt of Thailand, Ravinatha Pandukabhaya Aryasinha of Sri Lanka, Wafic Rida Said of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Aminatou Batoure Gaoh of Niger and Ibrahima Sory Sow of Guinea.

16: Third Sunday of Advent "Gaudete", pastoral visit to the Roman parish of San Patrizio al Colle Prenestino, celebration of the Eucharist at 9.30 a.m.

17: The Holy Father receives in audience Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

17: The Holy See and the Republic of China complete the necessary procedures to allow the entry in force of the Agreement between the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China on collaboration in the field of higher education and on the recognition of studies, qualifications, diplomas and degrees.

22: Benedict XVI grants pardon to Paolo Gabriele.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for January 2013 is: "That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him".

His mission intention is: "That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance".


Vatican City, 26 December 2012 (VIS) - At midday today, Feast of St. Stephen the Deacon and 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 that in the Acts of the Apostles St. Stephen is portrayed as a "man filled with grace and the Holy Spirit; in him we find the fulfilment of Jesus' promise ... that the believers called to bear witness in difficult and dangerous circumstances will not be abandoned or left defenceless: the Spirit of God will speak within them. Indeed, the deacon Stephen was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he worked, spoke and died, bearing witness to the love of Christ even to the point of the most extreme sacrifice... Filled with the Holy Spirit, just before his eyes were dimmed forever, he turned his gaze upon 'Jesus standing at the right side of God', the Lord of all, who draws all to Him ... Allowing ourselves to be drawn to Christ, like St. Stephen, means opening our lives to the light that calls, guides and makes us follow the path of good, the path of humanity according to God’s loving plan".

St. Stephen is, furthermore, "a model for all those who wish to serve the new evangelisation", continued the Holy Father. "He demonstrates that the newness of proclamation does not consist primarily in the use of original methods or techniques, although these are certainly useful, but rather relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and on allowing ourselves to be guided by Him. The newness of proclamation resides in profound immersion in the mystery of Christ, in the assimilation of His Word and His presence in the Eucharist, so that He, the living Christ, might speak and act through His envoy. In essence, the evangeliser becomes capable of effectively bringing Christ to others when he lives the life of Christ, when the newness of the Gospel is made manifest in his own life. We pray to the Virgin Mary that the Church, in this Year of Faith, might see more men and women who, like St. Stephen, are able to bear convinced and courageous witness to the Lord Jesus".


Vatican City, 25 December 2012 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Pope pronounced his traditional Christmas Message from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, and imparted the 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing.

"In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: 'Truth shall spring out of the earth'", said the Holy Father in his message. "Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: ... 'The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe'.

"'If we believe'. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; He has done the impossible: He was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: ... And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to Him.

"Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! ... In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that He might come to dwell among us. ... This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

"Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.

"May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may He grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.

"In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future – and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus – may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.

"May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in Him. May the King of Peace turn His gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

"May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.

"May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate Him in Latin America. May He increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.

"Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; He is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!"

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).


Vatican City, 24 December 2012 (VIS) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

During the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his homily, ample extracts from which are given below:

"Again and again it astonishes us that God makes Himself a child so that we may love Him, so that we may dare to love Him, and as a child trustingly lets Himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.

"I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: 'he came to his own home, and his own people received him not'. The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: ... Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that He simply ought not to exist. Even if He seems to knock at the door of our thinking, He has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the 'God hypothesis' becomes superfluous. ... We are so 'full' of ourselves that there is no room left for God.

"And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul's exhortation: 'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind'. Paul speaks of ... the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord ... that we may that we may hear how ... He knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for Him within ourselves, that we may recognise Him also in those through whom He speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.

"There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels' hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' God is glorious ... the radiance of truth and love. ... He is ... goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding Him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God's glory. ... There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God's truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and He is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.

"Linked to God's glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where He is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone.

"Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God's cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God's light is extinguished, man's divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God's image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God's light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. ... And through the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God Who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

"So Christ is our peace. ... How could we now do other than pray to Him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares, that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people 'with whom you are pleased' – people according to your image and thus people of peace".

"Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church's liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go 'across', daring to step beyond, to make the 'transition' by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God Who in His turn has come across to us".

"Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great 'crossing over' to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.

"The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet He is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask Him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord Who today once more comes to meet us".


Vatican City, 24 December 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu, auxiliary of Xuan Loc, Viet Nam, as coadjutor bishop of Bui Chu (area 1,350, population 1,859,000, Catholics 394,453, priests 163, religious 799), Viet Nam.


Vatican City, 23 December 2012 (VIS) - The Gospel of this fourth Sunday of Advent preceding the birth of the Lord narrates Mary's visit to her relative Elizabeth. "This episode is not merely a simple gesture of courtesy, but rather depicts with great simplicity the encounter between the Old and New Testaments", explained the Pope to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus. "The two women, both expectant mothers, incarnate both expectation and the expected One. The older Elizabeth symbolises Israel, whereas the younger Mary carries within her the fulfilment of expectation, to the benefit of all humanity".

"Elizabeth, welcoming Mary, recognises that God's promise to humanity is being realised and exclaims: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”. John's leap for joy recalls David's dance when he accompanied the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. The soon-to-be-born John exults with joy before Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, who bears Jesus in her womb, the Son of God made man.

"The scene of the Visitation also expresses the beauty of hospitality: where there is mutual welcome, listening, accommodating the other, there we find God and the joy that emanates from him. Let us imitate Mary during the Christmas season, visiting those who are in difficulty, especially the sick, prisoners, the elderly and children. And let us also imitate Elizabeth who welcomes the guest as if he were God Himself: unless we wish for the Lord we will never know Him; unless we expect Him, we will never meet Him, unless we seek Him, we will never find Him. With the same joy as Mary, who hastens to Elizabeth, we too must approach the Lord, who in turn comes to us. Let us pray that all men seek God, and in doing so discover that it is God Himself who comes first to us", concluded the Holy Father.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The staff of the Vatican Information Service wishes all its readers a Happy New Year. The next VIS bulletin will be transmitted on Wednesday 2 January 2013.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Vatican City,  22 December 2012 (VIS) - Given below is the communiqué released this morning by the Secretariat of State:

"This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited Paolo Gabriele in prison in order to confirm his forgiveness and communicate in person his decision to grant Mr Gabriele's request for pardon, thereby remitting the sentence passed against the latter. This constitutes a paternal gesture towards a person with whom the Pope shared a relationship of daily familiarity for many years.

"Mr Gabriele was subsequently released from prison and has returned home. Since he cannot resume his previous occupation or continue to live in Vatican City, the Holy See, trusting in his sincere repentance, wishes to offer him the possibility of returning to a serene family life".


Vatican City,  22 December 2012  (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.


Vatican City,  22 December 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today appointed:

- Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; Cardinal James Michael Harvey; Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, almoner emeritus of His Holiness; Archbishop Fabio Bernardo D'Onorio O.S.B. of Gaeta; Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia; and Bishop Paolino Schiavon, auxiliary of Rome, as members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

- Bishop Alfonso Cortes Contreras of Cuernavaca, Mexico, as archbishop of Leon (area 8,110, population 2,866,000, Catholics 2,543,000, priests 355, permanent deacons 12, religious 882), Mexico. He succeeds Archbishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Fr. Estanislau Marques Chindekasse S.V.D. as bishop of the diocese of Dundo (area 103,130, population 827,000, Catholics 269,000, priests 10, religious 23), Angola. The bishop-elect was born in Huambo, Angola in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1987. He has served as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as a professor at the major seminary of Luanda. He obtained his doctorate in philosophy from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, and is currently General Counsellor of the Society of the Divine Word.

- Fr. Robert W. Oliver, assistant for canonical matters of the archdiocese of Boston, U.S.A., as promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received the cardinals and members of the Roman Curia and the Governorate of Vatican City State for the traditional exchange of Christmas and New Year greetings. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, greeted the Pope in the name of those present.

Given below are ample extracts from Benedict XVI's address.

"Once again we find ourselves at the end of a year that has seen all kinds of difficult situations, important questions and challenges, but also signs of hope, both in the Church and in the world. I shall mention just a few key elements regarding the life of the Church and my Petrine ministry. First of all, ... there were the journeys to Mexico and Cuba – unforgettable encounters with the power of faith, so deeply rooted in human hearts, and with the joie de vivre that issues from faith".

Events 2012

"In Mexico, I recall how the great liturgy beside the statue of Christ the King made Christ's kingship present among us – His peace, His justice, His truth. All this took place against the backdrop of the country's problems, afflicted as it is by many different forms of violence and the hardships of economic dependence. While these problems cannot be solved simply by religious fervour, neither can they be solved without the inner purification of hearts that issues from the power of faith, from the encounter with Jesus Christ. And then there was Cuba – here too there were great liturgical celebrations, in which the singing, the praying and the silence made tangibly present the One that the country's authorities had tried for so long to exclude. That country's search for a proper balancing of the relationship between obligations and freedom cannot succeed without reference to the basic criteria that mankind has discovered through encounter with the God of Jesus Christ".

"As further key moments in the course of the year, I should like to single out the great Meeting of Families in Milan and the visit to Lebanon, where I consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that is intended to offer signposts for the life of churches and society in the Middle East along the difficult paths of unity and peace. The last major event of the year was the Synod on the New Evangelisation, which also served as a collective inauguration of the Year of Faith, in which we commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, seeking to understand it anew and appropriate it anew in the changed circumstances of today".


"The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. ... The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. ... Man's refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his 'I' ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. ... When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost".

"The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: 'one is not born a woman, one becomes so' (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term 'gender' as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. ... People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.  According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. ... Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. ... But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker Himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being".


"At this point I would like to address the second major theme, ... the question of dialogue and proclamation. Let us speak firstly of dialogue. For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions. In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man's experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition ... Human culture, of which she is a guarantee, has developed from the encounter between divine revelation and human existence. The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria. Yet just as an individual without memory has lost his identity, so too a human race without memory would lose its identity. ... In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions. Along with other forces in society, she will wrestle for the answers that best correspond to the truth of the human condition. The values that she recognizes as fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition she must propose with all clarity.  She must do all she can to convince, and this can then stimulate political action".

"In man's present situation, the dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world and it is therefore a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities.  This dialogue of religions has various dimensions. In the first place it is simply a dialogue of life, a dialogue of being together. This will not involve discussing the great themes of faith – whether God is Trinitarian or how the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures is to be understood, and so on. It is about the concrete problems of coexistence and shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity. In the process, it is necessary to learn to accept the other in his otherness and the otherness of his thinking. To this end, the shared responsibility for justice and peace must become the guiding principle of the conversation. A dialogue about peace and justice is bound to pass beyond the purely pragmatic to an ethical struggle for the truth and for the human being: a dialogue concerning the values that come before everything. In this way what began as a purely practical dialogue becomes a quest for the right way to live as a human being. ... Thus this search can also mean taking common steps towards the one truth, even if the fundamental choices remain unaltered. If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless".

"Two rules are generally regarded nowadays as fundamental for inter-religious dialogue:1. Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelisation, from mission. 2. Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other".

"True, dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at better mutual understanding – that is correct. But all the same, the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth. Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth. ... I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, Who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that His hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge".

New evangelisation

"Finally, at least a brief word should be added on the subject of proclamation, or evangelisation. ... The word of proclamation is effective in situations where man is listening in readiness for God to draw near, where man is inwardly searching and thus on the way towards the Lord. His heart is touched when Jesus turns towards him, and then his encounter with the proclamation becomes a holy curiosity to come to know Jesus better.  As he walks with Jesus, he is led to the place where Jesus lives, to the community of the Church, which is His body. That means entering into the journeying community of catechumens, a community of both learning and living, in which our eyes are opened as we walk".

"'Come and see!' This saying, addressed by Jesus to the two seeker-disciples, He also addresses to the seekers of today. At the end of the year, we pray to the Lord that the Church, despite all her shortcomings, may be increasingly recognizable as His dwelling-place. We ask Him to open our eyes ever wider as we make our way to His house, so that we can say ever more clearly, ever more convincingly: 'we have found Him for Whom the whole world is waiting, Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and true man'. With these sentiments, I wish you all from my heart a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This afternoon the Holy Father will receive in audience Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Devprasad John Ganawa S.V.D. of Jhabua, India, as bishop of Udaipur (area 47,000, population 8,224,000, Catholics 24,265, priests 71, religious 217), India. He succeeds Bishop Joseph Pathalil, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI addressed a group of young people from Catholic Action Italy who

"We know who this maker is: He is God, who has shown His face to us. God created us, He made us in His image, and above all He gave us the gift of His son, Jesus Christ, as a child - we will soon worship him on the feast of the Nativity - who grew up, as you have, and followed the paths of our world so as to communicate to us the love of God, which brings beauty and happiness to our lives, rendering them full of goodness and generosity.

"Certainly, you also search the creator of your joy", the Pope continued. "There are many people who bring you happiness, but there is also a great friend who is the creator of the joy of all, and with Whom our hearts are filled with a joy that surpasses all other, and which lasts throughout our lives: this friend is Jesus. ... The more you get to know Him and to enter into dialogue with Him, the greater the happiness you will feel in your hearts, and the more  able you will be to overcome the minor disappointments you sometimes feel within.

"You are also in search of a guide in love. ... We all need to love others and to feel that someone accepts and loves us in return. To feel loved is necessary for life, but it is equally important to be able to love others, to bring beauty to the lives of all, including our peers who find themselves in difficult situations. Jesus showed us through the example of His life that God loves all without discrimination, and wants all of us to live in happiness".

"Finally, you are without doubt in search of a bringer of peace, the need for whom the world so keenly feels. Often men believe they are able to build peace by themselves, but it is important to understand that it is only God who can bring us true and durable peace. If we learn how to listen to Him, if we make space for Him in our lives, God clears away the selfishness that often pollutes the relationships between people and nations, and gives rise to the desire for reconciliation, forgiveness and peace, even in those with the most hardened of hearts".

"If you wish to help each other to find the great Creator of life, joy, love and peace, you will discover that He is never far from you, but rather, is very close to us: He is the God who came to us as the child Jesus Christ!" concluded the Holy Father.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The "Financial Times" daily newspaper has today published an article by Benedict XVI entitled "A time for Christians to engage with the world". According to an introductory note from the Holy See Press Office, "The Pope's article for the Financial Times originates from a request from the editorial office of the Financial Times itself which, taking as a cue the recent publication of the Pope's book on Jesus' infancy, asked for his comments on the occasion of Christmas. Despite the unusual nature of the request, the Holy Father accepted willingly.

"It is perhaps appropriate to recall the Pope's willingness to respond to other unusual requests in the past, such as the interview given for the BBC, again at Christmas a few months after his visit to the United Kingdom, or the television interview for the programme 'A sua immagine' produced by the RAI, the Italian state broadcasting company, to mark the occasion of Good Friday. These too have been opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a wide forum at salient moments during the Christian liturgical year".

Below is the full text of the Pope's article:

A time for Christians to engage with the world
"'Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,' was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force Him to take sides in the highly-charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel. Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely He would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose Him either as a threat to the regime, or a fraud.

"Jesus’ answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicisation of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As He told Pontius Pilate, 'My kingship is not of this world.'

"The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a “census of the whole world” taken by Caesar Augustus, the Emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the Empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.

"Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation He brought to His people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.

"The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?

"Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the Child in the manger, but as the one in Whom we recognize God made Man.

"It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the Stock Exchange. Christians shouldn’t shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.

"Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. Christians work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that, as stewards of God’s creation, we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. Christian belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.

"Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful cooperation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the Emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the last century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated world-view. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.

"In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love. He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of good will can help to build here on earth".


Vatican City, Vatican City,  (VIS) - Today, during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- Blessed Antonio Primaldo e Compagni, killed in 1480 in Otranto, Italy.

- Blessed Laura Montoya, Colombian foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and of St. Catherine of Siena (1874-1949).

- Blessed Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, Mexican co-foundress of the Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary and of the Poor (1878-1963).

- Venerable Servant of God Antonio Franco, Italian bishop of Santa Lucia del Mela (1585-1626).

- Venerable Servant of God Jose Gabriele del Rosario Brochero,  Argentinian priest (1840-1914).

- Venerable Servant of God Cristobal of St. Catherine (ne: Cristobal Fernando Valladolid), Spanish priest and founder of the Congregation and the Hospital of Jesus of Nazareth in Cordoba (1638-1690).

- Venerable Servant of God Sofia Czeska-Maciejowska, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Virgins of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1584-1650).

- Venerable Servant of God Margherita Lucia Szewczyk, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God - Seraphic Sisters (1584-1650).


- Servant of God Miroslav Bulesic, Croatian priest, killed in hatred of the faith in 1947.

- Servant of God José Javier Gorosterratzu, Spanish, and five companions of the Congregation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1938.

- Servants of God Fr. Riccardo Gil Barcelon and Antonio Arrue Peiro, Postulant, of the Congregation of the Small Work of Divine Providence, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.

- Servant of God Manuel de la Sagrada Familia, (ne Manuel Sanz Dominguez), Spanish professed monk and Reformer of the Order of San Girolamo, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.

- Servant of God Maria di Monserrat (nee Giuseppa Pilar Garcia y Solanas) and eight companions, Spanish professed nun, along with Lucrezia Garcia y Solanas, laywoman, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.

- Servant of God Melchora de la Adoración Cortés Bueno, Spanish, and fourteen companions of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.


- Servant of God Paul VI, Giovanni Battista Montini, Italian, Supreme Pontiff (1897-1978).

- Servant of God Francesco Saverio Petagna, bishop of Castellamare di Stabia, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts (1812-1878).

- Servant of God Juan José Santiago Bonal Cortada, Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Anne (1769-1829).

- Servant of God Fr. Louis-Marie Baudouin, French priest, (1765-1835).

- Servant of God Marcelina de San José (nee Luisa Aveledo), foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, Venezualan (1874-1959).

- Servant of God Claudia Russo, Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1889-1964).

- Servant of God Maria Francisca de las Llagas (nee Rosa Elena Cornejo), Ecuadorean  foundress of the Congregation of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate (1874 -1964).

- Servant of God Clara Ludmilla Szczesna, Polish cofoundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1863-1916).

- Servant of God Consuelo (nee Joaquina Maria Mercedes Barceló y Pagés), Spanish cofoundress of the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation (1857-1940).


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience  Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The faith of Mary in the light of the mystery of the  Annunciation was the theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis during the last general audience of 2012, celebrated in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

In the annunciation the angel greets Mary with the words "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you". "This greeting is an invitation to rejoice, and announces the end of the sadness of the world in relation to the limits of life, suffering ... the darkness of the evil that seems to obscure the light of divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News", explained the Pope.

The reason for the invitation to rejoice offered to the Virgin is in the second part of the phrase: "The Lord is with you". In Mary "the anticipation of the definitive coming of God is made tangible; the living God dwells within her". The expression "full of grace" further clarifies the source of Mary's joy, which "arises from her communion with God, ... from being the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. ... Mary is the being who has, in a singular way, opened the door to the Creator, who has placed herself in His hands, without limits" and lives with "care to recognise the signs of God in the journey of His people; she enters into a story of faith and hope in God's promises, which constitute the very fabric of her existence. ... Like Abraham, Mary entrusts herself entirely to the word announced by God's messenger, and becomes the model and mother of all believers".

Benedict XVI underlined another important aspect: "the openness of the soul to God and to His action in faith also includes an element of obscurity. The human being's relationship with God does not eliminate the distance between the Creator and His creature. ... But he who, like Mary, opens himself completely to God, reaches acceptance of divine will, even though it is mysterious and often does not correspond to our own wishes. ... It is thus for Mary - her faith experiences the joy of the Annunciation, but passes also through the darkness of the crucifixion of the Son, before finally arriving at the light of the Resurrection".

"This is not different to the journey of faith each of us takes: we encounter moments of light but also periods in which God seems to be absent, his silence weighs heavily in our hearts and his will does not correspond to our own", commented the Holy Father. "The more we open ourselves to God ... like Abraham and like Maria, the more He renders us able, through His presence, to live every moment in life in the peace and certainty of His loyalty and His love. However, this means leaving behind ourselves and our own plans, so that the Word of God might be the guiding light for our thoughts and actions".

After losing Jesus in the Temple, Mary "must renew that profound faith with which she answered 'yes' to the Annunciation. ... And Mary's 'yes' to the will of God, to the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life up to its most difficult moment, that of the Cross".

"There is a fundamental attitude that Mary adopts in relation to the events of her life", explained the Pope. "We see that she 'treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart'. We might say that she ... arranged every single element, every word, every event as part of a greater whole and, comparing and conserving them, recognised that everything originates from God's will. Mary does not stop at an initial superficial comprehension of what is happening in her life, but rather knows how to observe in depth, allowing herself to be questioned by events, elaborating upon them, discriminating among them, and thus acquiring the comprehension that only faith may guarantee. It is the profound humility of Mary's obedient faith that welcomes also what she is not able to comprehend in the action of God, allowing God to open her mind and heart."

"The solemnity of the Birth of the Lord, which we will soon celebrate, invites us to experience the same humility and obedience of faith. The glory of God is not made manifest in the triumph or power of a king, it does not shine from a resplendent palace, but rather finds its dwelling in the womb of a virgin, and reveals itself in the poverty of a child. The omnipotence of God, also in our life, acts with the often silent strength of truth and love. Faith tells us, therefore, that in the end the defenceless power of the Child triumphs over the noise of worldly powers".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Fr. Peter Loy Chong of the clergy of Suva as archbishop of Suva (area 18,333, population 1,297,683, Catholics 101,050, priests 81, religious 162), Fiji. The archbishop-elect was born in Natovi, Fiji in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1992. He has fulfilled  pastoral roles in the parishes of Lautoka, Vatukoula and Soleva, and received his doctorate in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology of the Santa Clara University in California, United States of America. He succeeds Archbishop Petero Mataca, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Chaldean Church presented by His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, and convoked the Synod of Bishops of the same Church in Rome on 28 January 2013 to elect a successor. The Synod will be presided by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Jacques Ishaq as administrator of the Chaldean Church pending the election of the patriarch.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Department of Science of Education at the "Roma 3" University has organised an international seminar, concluding today, on the theme "Religion and public space".

The conference examines the following issues: the redefinition of public space in relation to the new presence of the religious; the debate surrounding the acceptance or refusal of religious symbols in public places; the ways in which the various religious presences engage with politics, culture and with the presence of symbols in public places; the concept of current religious pluralism in two nations in which Catholicism has, until recent times, occupied a position of 'monopoly' or near-monopoly and/or within protected 'religious markets'; the relationships between political and religious leaders.

The philosopher Massimo Introvigne, co-ordinator of the Observatory on Religious Freedom of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opened yesterday's symposium with a presentation entitled "Religious freedom and relations between States and religions: different models in conflict?". This was followed by a round table discussion on "The case of Italy", "Church and State in Italy and Brazil: problems and moments", "Religious freedom, public space and judicial systems: redefinitions and new scenarios", "Secularity in pluralistic Italy", "Secularism as an ideology", and "Lay aggregations between secularisation and desecularisation".

The first day concluded with a debate on "Religion and politics in Italy".

This morning discussions focused on "The case in Brazil", in particular "Catholic Charismatic Renewal and evangelical Pentecostalism in Brazil: doctrinal divergence and political convergence", "Human rights in the Catholic Church in Brazil: from political to moral discourse", and "Religious symbols in public spaces: different configurations of Catholicism". At 10.30 a.m. the sociologist Franco Garelli gave a presentation on "Religion and public space", then at 11.30 there was a round table discussion on "Religion and politics in Latin America". The latter focused on the themes of "Marian sanctuaries as public space: Catholicism and nation in Argentina", "Argentina: the complicity of silence", "Revolutionary pastoral: some considerations regarding guerilla priests in Latin America", "The relationship between Church and State in Argentina during the last military government (1976-1983)" and "The Church of liberation and new popular governments".

The afternoon session will consist of a presentation by Enzo Pace at 3 p.m. entitled "Achilles and the tortoise: Italian Catholicism facing unprecedented religious diversity"; the seminar will then conclude with a debate on "Religion and public space".

Monday, December 17, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The cordial discussions made reference to the recent Resolution approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations by which Palestine was recognised as a Non-member Observer State of the aforementioned Organisation. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between the Parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both.

Attention then turned to the situation in the Region, troubled by numerous conflicts, in the hope that the courage for reconciliation and peace will be found.

Finally, mention was made of the contribution Christian communities can offer to the common good in the Palestinian territories and throughout the Middle East.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - "Any sporting activity, be it at amateur or professional level, requires loyalty in competition, respect for one's own body, a sense of solidarity and altruism; it and then also brings joy, satisfaction and celebration. All this presupposes a path of true human development, requiring sacrifice, tenacity, patience, and above all humility, which does not receive applause but which is the secret of victory".

This morning, with these words, the Pope received the athletes who represented Italy in the London 2012 Olympics, and who won a total of 28 medals, eight of them gold. The athletes were accompanied by the directors of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).

"The Church regards sport as a part of man's entire being, and recognises that sporting activity is linked to education, the formation of the person, relationships between people and spirituality", said the Holy Father. "The athlete who lives his experience fully pays attention to God's plan for his life, learns to listen to His voice throughout the long periods of training, to recognise Him in the face of his companions and even that of his adversaries. ... I think of you, dear athletes, as both champions and witnesses, with a mission to accomplish: with the admiration you inspire, become valid models to imitate, ... masters of an honest and transparent sporting practice".

The Pope reiterated to the athletes that the pressure to obtain impressive results should not induce them "to take short cuts, as in the case of 'doping'. The team spirit that should encourage avoidance of these blind alleys should also give support to those who are aware of having made this mistake so that they might be heard and assisted.

In relation to the Year of Faith, the Holy Father emphasised that sport could also play a role in educating in "spiritual 'professionalism', or rather, living each day seeking the triumph of good over evil, truth over lies and love over hate, above all in ourselves. Considering the commitment to new evangelisation, the world of sport may also be considered as a modern "Courtyard of the Gentiles", that is, a valuable forum open to all, believers and non-believers, where it is possible to experience the joy and difficulties of encountering people of diverse cultures, languages and religious orientations".

Finally, the Pope recalled Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, "a young man who embodied both passion for sport - especially mountaineering - and passion for God", and invited the athletes to read his biography. "Blessed Pier Giorgio shows us that being Christians means loving life, loving nature, and above all, loving one's neighbour, and especially those in difficulty. I hope that each one of you will experience the greatest joy of all: that of improving and loving more day by day".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Today there took place an exchange of Notes between the Vatican and Taipei, by which the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs communicated, respectively, that the Holy See and the Republic of China have completed the necessary procedures to allow the entry in force of the Agreement between the Congregation for Catholic Education of the Holy See and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China on Collaboration in the field of higher education and on the recognition of studies, qualifications, diplomas and degrees.

The Agreement was signed in Taipei on 2 December 2011 by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Wu Ching-Ji, minister for Education of the Republic of China (ROC). On 20 November it was unanimously approved by the parliamentary assembly (Legislative Yuan) of the Republic of China.

It is an agreement "of a cultural and administrative character", stipulated within the framework of the UNESCO Regional Convention on the recognition of studies, diplomas and teaching grades in Asia and the Pacific, signed in Tokyo on 26 November 2011 with the participation of the Republic of China and the Holy See, among other States. It regulates two sectors: the academic-administrative domain of the reciprocal recognition of studies, qualifications, diplomas and grades, and that of collaboration in the field of higher education, which would include the presence of the Catholic Church in the university environment within the Chinese language zone.

By this agreement, the Republic of China concedes to the Holy See the recognition of study titles and ecclesiastical grades issued throughout the world, respect for canon law on the structure and management of Catholic universities and ecclesiastical faculties of theology in Taiwan, and the possibility of proposing Catholic values in the academic field in faculties other than those of theology. The latter two guarantees are included, fundamentally, in Article 2, which regards the recognition of the unique character of the education system, specific to ecclesiastical universities and faculties. This recognition implies respect for canon academic legislation, the protection of the Catholic character of academic institutions, the exclusive competence of the Holy See for content, academic programmes and the appointment of directors and teaching staff, as well as the individual written commitment on the part of teachers and administrative staff to moral conduct compatible with Catholic doctrine and morality. The rest of the Agreement is mostly concerned with the technical and bureaucratic aspects of the recognition of studies, qualifications, titles and grades. The relevant UNESCO Regional Conventions are cited, often literally.

The Agreement will also bring advantages to priests, seminarians and clergy from continental China who undertake studies at the Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei.


Vatican City, 16 December 2012 (VIS) - At midday, following his pastoral visit to the parish of San Patrizio al Colle Prenestino, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to recite the Angelus with the faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

Today's Gospel again presented the figure of John the Baptist; the Pope commented on the words of the Baptist when he spoke to the people gathered by the River Jordan to be baptised, who asked "What should we do?", while awaiting the Messiah, a question that proves to be "of current relevance".

"The first response is addressed to the crowds in general. The Baptist says, 'Whoever has two cloaks should give one to he who has none, and whoever has food should do likewise'. Here we can see a criterion of justice, inspired by charity", explained the Pope.  "Justice requires that we overcome the imbalance between those who have more than they need and those who lack basic necessities; charity impels us to care for one another, to reach out to others and meet their needs, instead of seeking excuses to defend our own interests. Justice and charity are not opposed, but both are necessary and complement each other".

"The second answer was addressed to some 'public officials', whose role was to collect taxes on behalf of the Romans. Tax collectors were disliked, largely because they often took advantage of their position in order to steal. The Baptist advises them neither to change jobs, nor to exact more than what was required. The prophet, in God's name, does not ask for exceptional gestures, but rather the honest fulfilment of one's duty. A first step toward eternal life is always keeping the commandments, in this case the seventh: 'Thou shalt not steal.'"

The third response concerns soldiers, "another category with a certain power, and therefore tempted to abuse it. John says to the soldiers, 'Do not oppress and extort anything from anyone; be content with your wages'. Again, conversion begins with honesty and respect for others, an indication that applies to everyone, especially those who bear greater responsibility."

After the Marian prayer, in his greetings in several languages, the Pope recalled that the European meeting of the Taize community will take place from 28 December to 2 January and, since the demand for accommodation will exceed availability, renewed the appeal already made in the parishes to families in Rome to extend their hospitality to the young people who will gather in the capital, "so that other families, with great simplicity, can enjoy this beautiful experience of Christian fellowship".

He went on to express his spiritual closeness to those who in Poland participate in  "Christmas Aid to Children". He said, "I hope this charitable and ecumenical initiative, a gesture of tangible assistance offered to those in need, will bring joy to the hearts of many children. May the flame of the candles lit by families during the Christmas Eve dinner be a symbol of this initiative, and may God reward the generosity of hearts and bestow His blessing to all".

Finally, the Pope greeted the children of Rome, gathered in St Peter's Square for the traditional blessing of the figures of Baby Jesus which will be placed in nativity displays on Christmas Eve.


Vatican City, 16 December 2012 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI, as bishop of Rome, visited the parish of San Patrizio al Colle Prenestino, an area urbanised between the 1960s and 1980s, and which has a new Church since 2007. The Pope was received by the parish community in which he met with the children baptised this year, accompanied by their fathers, and presided at the Holy Mass at 10 a.m.

On the third Sunday of Advent, called "Gaudete" Sunday as it invites us to be glad, the Holy Father observed that Advent is not only a time for conversion but also for joy, because "it is the time in which the anticipation of the Saviour is awakened in the hearts of believers, and awaiting the arrival of a loved one always brings joy".

The Pope commented on the first reading in which Zephaniah uses the expression "Sing aloud, O daughter Zion", explaining that the prophet intended to say that "there is no longer any reason for distrust ... or sadness, whatever situation we have to face, because we are certain of the presence of the Lord, which alone is enough to gladden and cheer the heart. The prophet also makes us understand that this joy is reciprocal; we are invited to rejoice, but also the Lord rejoices at His bond with us".

"In just a few days' time we will celebrate Christmas, the feast of the coming of God, who came among us as a child and as our brother to be with us and to share in our human condition. We must rejoice for His closeness and His presence, and always to seek to understand that He is truly near, so that the goodness of God and the joy of Christ might enter into us. ... St. Paul expressed emphatically in one of his letters that nothing can separate us from God's love as manifested in Christ. Only sin can lead us astray from Him, but this is an element that we ourselves bring to our relationship with Him. However, even when we turn away from Him, He never ceases to love us and to remain close to us with His mercy, His willingness to forgive and to welcome us anew in His love".

Therefore "we must never distress ourselves, as we can always express our wishes,our needs and our concerns to the Lord 'with prayer and petition'. This is a great cause for joy: to know that it is always possible to pray to the Lord and that the Lord hears us, that God is not distant from us, but truly listens to us, that He knows us and never turns away from our prayers, and even if He does not always respond as we might wish, he nevertheless responds."

However, "the joy that the Lord communicates to us must find grateful love in us. Indeed, we achieve full joy when we recognise His mercy, when we become aware of the signs of His goodness. ... He who receives the gifts of God in a spirit of selfishness does not know true joy; rather, it is he who finds in God's gifts the opportunity to love Him with sincere gratitude and to communicate His love to others whose heart is filled with joy", concluded the Pope.

Following the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope greeted the sick and elderly of the parish and returned to the Vatican to pray the Angelus.


Vatican City, 15 December 2012 (VIS) - A telegram of condolence was sent in the Holy Father's name by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to Msgr. Jerald A. Doyle, diocesan administrator of Bridgeport, United States of America, following the assassination of 26 people - twenty children and six adults - by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

Benedict XVI expressed his heartfelt grief and assured his closeness in prayer to the victims, their families and all those affected by this shocking event. "In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Holy Father's Message for the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on 21 April 2013, fourth Sunday of Easter, was published today, in which Benedict XVI reflects on the theme of "Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith". Given below are extensive extracts from the message.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, what exactly is God’s faithfulness, to which we adhere with unwavering hope? It is his love! He, the Father, pours His love into our innermost self through the Holy Spirit. And this love, fully manifested in Jesus Christ, engages with our existence and demands a response in terms of what each individual wants to do with his or her life, and what he or she is prepared to offer in order to live it to the full.

"The love of God sometimes follows paths one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found. Hope is nourished, then, by this certainty: 'We ourselves have known and believed in the love that God has for us'. This deep, demanding love, which penetrates well below the surface, gives us courage; it gives us hope in our life’s journey and in our future; it makes us trust in ourselves, in history and in other people.

"I want to speak particularly to the young and I say to you once again: 'What would your life be without this love? God takes care of men and women from creation to the end of time, when He will bring His plan of salvation to completion. In the Risen Lord we have the certainty of our hope!' (Address to Young People of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro, 19 June 2011).

"Just as He did during His earthly existence, so today the risen Jesus walks along the streets of our life and sees us immersed in our activities, with all our desires and our needs. In the midst of our everyday circumstances He continues to speak to us; He calls us to live our life with Him, for only He is capable of satisfying our thirst for hope. He lives now among the community of disciples that is the Church, and still today calls people to follow Him. The call can come at any moment.

"Today too, Jesus continues to say, 'Come, follow me'. Accepting His invitation means no longer choosing our own path. Following Him means immersing our own will in the will of Jesus, truly giving Him priority, giving Him pride of place in every area of our lives: in the family, at work, in our personal interests, in ourselves. It means handing over our very lives to Him, living in profound intimacy with Him, entering through Him into communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and consequently with our brothers and sisters. This communion of life with Jesus is the privileged 'setting' in which we can experience hope and in which life will be full and free.

"Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with Him, so as to enter into His will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to His voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God’s call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God, nourished by recourse to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by a fervent life of prayer. This latter 'must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly.'

"Deep and constant prayer brings about growth in the faith of the Christian community, in the unceasingly renewed certainty that God never abandons His people and that He sustains them by raising up particular vocations – to the priesthood and the consecrated life – so that they can be signs of hope for the world.  Indeed, priests and religious are called to give themselves unconditionally to the People of God, in a service of love for the Gospel and the Church, serving that firm hope which can only come from an openness to the divine.

"By means of the witness of their faith and apostolic zeal, therefore, they can transmit, especially to the younger generations, a strong desire to respond generously and promptly to Christ Who calls them to follow Him more closely. Whenever a disciple of Jesus accepts the divine call to dedicate himself to the priestly ministry or to the consecrated life, we witness one of the most mature fruits of the Christian community, which helps us to look with particular trust and hope to the future of the Church and to her commitment to evangelisation. This constantly requires new workers to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

"So let there be committed priests, who know how to accompany young people as 'companions on the journey', helping them, on life’s often tortuous and difficult path, to recognize Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, telling them, with Gospel courage, how beautiful it is to serve God, the Christian community, one’s brothers and sisters. Let there be priests who manifest the fruitfulness of an enthusiastic commitment, which gives a sense of completeness to their lives, because it is founded on faith in Him, who loved us first.

"Equally, I hope that young people, who are presented with so many superficial and ephemeral options, will be able to cultivate a desire for what is truly worthy, for lofty objectives, radical choices, service to others in imitation of Jesus. Dear young people, do not be afraid to follow Him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment!  In that way you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of a joy that the world cannot give, you will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love, you will learn to 'give an account of the hope that is within you'!"


Vatican City,  (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Julian Herranz, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, and Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi.


On Saturday, 15 December, the Holy Father appointed:

- Msgr. Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin, nunciature counsellor, as apostolic nuncio, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Saint-Dizier, France, in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1989. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1994, and has served as a papal representative in India, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgium, Lebanon, Cuba, Bulgaria and in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. He was appointed to the College of Apostolic Protonotaries "de numero participantium" in 2009.

- Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Fr. Achim Buckenmaier, professor of dogmatic theology and director of the Academy for the Theology of the People of God at the Pontifical Lateran University, as consultors for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present Benedict XVI's Message for the 46th World Day of Peace, which will take place on 1 January with the theme "Blessed are the peacemakers". Participating in today's conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso S.D.B., respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The cardinal referred first to the "concrete" nature of the document. "The title, drawn from the Gospel, would induce us to think of the Message as having a rather spiritual or, so to speak, theoretical nature", he said. "However, the Pope's message is very closely linked to reality. It states a fact - the existence, in the midst of conflicts, tension and violence, of numerous peacemakers; in the explanation of the Gospel beatitude it explains that this is a promise that is guaranteed, in that it is made by God and does not refer merely to the future but already finds fulfilment in this life. It clearly indicates the duties of peacemakers: they must promote life in its fullest expression, in its entirety and therefore in all the dimensions of the human person, and draws attention to urgent problems issues such as the correct vision of marriage, the right to conscientious objection, religious freedom, the issues of work and unemployment, the food crisis, the financial crisis, and the role of the family in education.

He then went on to emphasise the "positivity" of the Message which, "aside from opening the way to hope, reflects love for life and life in its completeness. Alongside the theme of the defence of life, the Pope highlights matters connected to justice, necessary for a worthwhile life, lived fully, or rather in which all people have the opportunity to develop their own potential".

A further characteristic of the text is its "educational and pedagogical perspective. ...This is an aspect which is always close to the heart of the Church, one of whose tasks is to 'form consciences'", the cardinal emphasised. "In this regard, the Pontiff calls for responsibility on the part of the various educational institutions who must form capable leaders and propose new economic and financial models. This is necessary to overcome the particularly grave situation the globalised world is currently facing, a phase of profound spiritual and moral crisis in which there are still bloody conflicts and numerous threats to peace".

Bishop Mario Toso observed that Benedict XVI's message is "an invitation to become peacemakers 'at three hundred and sixty degrees', in our entirety, protecting and implementing all the rights and duties of the individual and of communities".

He continued, "Typical of the Pontiff's view is the part of the Message in which he urges us not to erode social rights, foremost among which he includes the right to work, which is a fundamental rather than marginal right. This is in spite of the context of economic recession, provoked in part by the financial crisis which began in 2007, and ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy according to which development can be achieved without social and democratic progress. Without the defence and promotion of social rights - as recognised by liberals, communists, socialists and Catholics during the last century - civil and political rights cannot be adequately attained, and democracy itself - substantial, social and participatory - would be undermined.

"In summary, the Message promotes the growth of a human family that is not divided into groups and peoples in favour of life, and those who work for peace without equal passion for the defence of human life from conception to natural end. Peace is a common goal to be pursued as a community, to the full benefit of every human being and population", concluded the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - "Blessed are the Peacemakers" is the title chosen by the Holy Father for his Message for the 46th World Day of Peace, celebrated every year on 1 January. Given below is the full text of the Message:

"1. Each new year brings  the expectation  of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved.

"Fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which helped to strengthen the Church’s mission in the world, it is heartening to realise that Christians, as the People of God in fellowship with Him and sojourning among mankind, are committed within history to sharing humanity’s joys and hopes, grief and anguish, as they proclaim the salvation of Christ and promote peace for all.

"In  effect,  our  times,  marked  by  globalisation with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man.

"It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism. In addition to the varied forms of terrorism  and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of  fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.

"All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.

"All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God'. 

Gospel beatitude

"2. The beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed are promises. In the biblical tradition, the beatitude is a literary genre which always involves some good news, a 'gospel', which culminates in a promise. Therefore, the beatitudes are not only moral exhortations whose observance foresees in due time – ordinarily in the next life – a reward or a situation of future happiness. Rather, the blessedness of which the beatitudes speak consists in the fulfilment of a promise made to all those who allow themselves to be guided by the requirements of truth, justice and love. In the eyes of the world, those who trust in God and His promises often appear naïve or far from reality. Yet Jesus tells them that not only in the next life, but already in this life, they will discover that they are children of God, and that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on their side. They will understand that they are not alone, because He is on the side of those committed to truth, justice and love. Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer Himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God.

"Jesus’ beatitude tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort. In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others. The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing. It is indispensable, then, that the various cultures in our day overcome forms of anthropology and ethics based on technical and practical suppositions which are merely subjectivistic and pragmatic, in virtue of which relationships of coexistence are inspired by criteria of power or profit, means become ends and vice versa, and culture and education  are  centred  on  instruments,  technique and  efficiency  alone.  The  precondition  for  peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgement of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God. As Psalm 29 puts it: 'May the Lord give strength to His people; may the Lord bless His people with peace'.

Peace: God’s gift and the fruit of human effort

"3. Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to His will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation. Above all, as Blessed John XXIII wrote in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will fall in a few months, it entails the building up of a coexistence based on truth, freedom, love and justice. The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God Himself, jeopardises peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise.

"To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by His only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.

"The attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family. This family is structured, as the Encyclical Pacem in Terris taught, by interpersonal relations and institutions supported and animated by a communitarian 'we', which entails an internal and external moral order in which, in accordance with truth and justice, reciprocal rights and mutual duties are sincerely recognized. Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout  the world  for greater communion in spiritual values. It is an order achieved in freedom, that is, in a way consistent with the dignity of persons who, by their very nature as rational beings, take responsibility for their own actions.

"Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world. God Himself, through the incarnation of His Son and His work of redemption, has entered into history and has brought about a new creation and a new covenant between God and man, thus enabling us to have a 'new heart' and a 'new spirit'.

"For this very reason the Church is convinced of the urgency of a new proclamation of Jesus Christ, the first and fundamental factor of the integral development of peoples and also of peace. Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation. The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.

"From this teaching one can infer that each person and every community, whether religious, civil, educational or cultural, is called to work for peace. Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global. Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.

Peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote life in its fullness
"4. The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.

"Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not  realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.

"There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize  marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.

"These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.

"Consequently, another important way of helping to build peace is for legal systems and the administration of justice to recognize the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.

"One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom. At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from – for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one’s religion – but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for – for example, bearing witness to one’s religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each. Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.

"Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that  economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and  duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realisation of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.

"One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labour and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely  free markets. Labour is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms. In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and  political factors, demand that we continue 'to prioritise the goal of access to steady employment for everyone'. If this ambitious goal is to be realised, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.

Building the good of peace through a new model of development and economics

"5. In many quarters it is now recognized that a new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. Both integral, sustainable development in solidarity and the common good require a correct scale of goods and values which can be structured with God as the ultimate point of reference. It is not enough to have many different means and choices at one’s disposal, however good these may be. Both the wide variety of goods fostering development and the presence of a wide range of choices must be employed against the horizon of a good life, an upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.

"In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model. The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness. Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a 'liveable' or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift. Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity  with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.

"In the economic sector, states in particular need to articulate policies of industrial and agricultural development concerned with social progress and the growth everywhere of constitutional and democratic states. The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable; these must be stabilised and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor. With greater resolve than has hitherto been the case, the concern of peacemakers must also focus upon the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis. The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda, as a result of inter- related crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behaviour by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments  and the international community. To face this crisis, peacemakers are called to work together in a spirit of solidarity, from the local to the international level, with the aim of enabling farmers, especially in small rural holdings, to carry out their activity in a dignified and sustainable way from the social, environmental and economic points of view.

Education for a culture of peace: the role of the family and institutions

"6. I wish to reaffirm forcefully that the various peacemakers are called to cultivate a passion for the common good of the family and for social justice, and a commitment to effective social education.

"No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing. The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation  according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured.

"Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new  evangelisation, which is centred on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.

"Cultural institutions, schools and universities have a special mission of peace. They are called to make a notable contribution not only to the formation of new generations of leaders, but also to the renewal of public institutions, both national and international. They can also contribute to a scientific reflection which will ground economic and financial activities on a solid anthropological and ethical basis. Today’s world, especially the world of politics, needs to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonise the various political currents with a view to the common good. The latter, seen as an ensemble of positive interpersonal and institutional relationships at the service of the integral growth of individuals and groups, is at the basis of all true education for peace.

A pedagogy for peacemakers
"7. In the end, we see clearly the need to propose and promote a pedagogy of peace. This calls for a rich interior life, clear and valid moral points of reference, and appropriate attitudes and lifestyles. Acts of peacemaking converge for the achievement of the common good; they create interest in peace and cultivate peace. Thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere. There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance. A fundamental encouragement to this is 'to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive', in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. This requires the growth of a pedagogy of pardon. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father Who loves all His children. This is a slow process, for it presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history. There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference. The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.

"Jesus embodied all these attitudes in His own life, even to the complete gift of Himself, even to 'losing His life'. He promises His disciples that sooner or later they will make the extraordinary discovery to which I originally alluded, namely that God is in the world, the God of Jesus, fully on the side of man. Here I would recall the prayer asking God to make us instruments of His peace, to be able to bring His love wherever there is hatred, His mercy wherever there is hurt, and true faith wherever there is doubt. For our part, let us join Blessed John XXIII in asking God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by His power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them.

"With this prayer I express my hope that all will be true peacemakers, so that the city of man may grow in fraternal harmony, prosperity and peace."

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