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Wednesday, January 4, 2012


VATICAN CITY, 4 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father held his weekly general audience this morning in the Paul VI Hall, in the presence of 7,000 pilgrims.

  Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the mystery of the Lord's Nativity, noting that "our first reaction to this extraordinary event of God Who becomes a child ... is joy". This "arises from a sense of heartfelt wonder at seeing how God comes close to us and cares for us; how He acts in history. ... It arises from a contemplation of the face of that humble child because we know that it is the Face of God. ... Christmas is a time of joy ... because God - Who is the goodness, life and truth of mankind - comes down to man's level in order to raise man to Himself. God comes so close that we can see and touch Him". For this reason, the Pope explained, "Christmas is the point at which heaven and earth unite. ... In that needy Child ... what God is (eternity, strength, sanctity, life, joy) unites with what we are (weakness, sin, suffering death)".

  The phrase "admirabile commercium" is current in the theology and spirituality of the Nativity, used to describe this "admirable exchange between the divine and the human. ... The first act of that exchange comes about in Christ's own humanity. The Word assumed our humanity and, in exchange, human nature was raised to divine dignity. The second act of the exchange consists in our real and intimate involvement in the divine nature of the Word. ... Thus Christmas is the feast in which God comes so close to man as to share the very act of being born, showing men and women their most profound dignity: that of being children of God. Humanity's dream which began in the Garden of Eden - we want to be like God - is realised in an unexpected way, not through the greatness of man, who cannot make himself God, but through the humility of God Who came down among us in His humility, raising us to the true greatness of His being ".

  Benedict XVI also turned his attention to another aspect of Christmas, symbolised by light. "Christ's coming dissipates the shadows of the world and fills the holy night with a celestial splendour, spreading the radiance of God the Father over the faces of men, even today", he said. "After having spoken and intervened in history through messengers and signs, 'He appeared', He came out of His inaccessible light in order to illuminate the world". All Christians must be aware of their mission and responsibility to bear witness to the new light of the Gospel, and to bring it to the world. The Church receives the light of Christ "to be illuminated thereby and to spread it in all its splendour. And this must also come about in our own lives".

  "Christmas means pausing to contemplate the Child, the Mystery of God Who became man in humility and poverty. Above all it means once again making that Child, Who is Christ the Lord, part of ourselves so as to live our lives from His, so as to make His feelings, His thoughts, His actions our feelings, thoughts and actions. To celebrate Christmas is to express the joy, novelty and light which that Birth brought into our lives, that we too may bring others joy, true novelty and the light of God".

  After his catechesis the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in various languages, thanked a number of bands for having enlivened the celebration with their music and imparted his blessing upon those present.
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VATICAN CITY, 4 JAN 2012 (VIS) - Made public yesterday was the Holy Father's Message for the World Day of the Sick which will be held, as is traditional, on 11 February, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The message, dated from the Vatican on 20 November 2011, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ Universal King, has as its title Jesus' words to the leper from the Gospel of St. Luke: "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you".

  Extracts from the English-language version of the message are given below.

  "I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to all sick people, ... expressing to each one of them the solicitude and the affection of the whole Church. In the generous and loving welcoming of every human life, above all of weak and sick life, a Christian expresses an important aspect of his or her Gospel witness, following the example of Christ, Who bent down before the material and spiritual sufferings of man in order to heal them.

  "I would like to place emphasis upon the 'Sacraments of healing', that is to say upon the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which have their natural completion in Eucharistic Communion. The encounter of Jesus with the ten lepers, narrated by the Gospel of St. Luke, ... helps us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with Him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in His Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts.

  "The faith of the lone leper who ... immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: 'your faith has saved you'. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God's love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord's saving work, will never fail. Physical healing, an outward expression of the deepest salvation, thus reveals the importance that man - in his entirety of soul and body - has for the Lord".

  "The tandem of physical health and renewal after lacerations of the soul thus helps us to understand better the 'Sacraments of healing'".

  "The Sacrament of Penance ... consists in restoring us to God's grace, and joining with Him in an intimate friendship'".

  "God, 'rich in mercy', like the father in the Gospel parable, does not close His heart to any of His children, but waits for them, looks for them. ... A time of suffering, in which one could be tempted to abandon oneself to discouragement and hopelessness, can thus be transformed into a time of grace so as to return to oneself, and like the prodigal son of the parable, to think anew about one's life, recognizing its errors and failures, longing for the embrace of the Father, and following the pathway to His home. He, in His great love, always and everywhere watches over our lives and awaits us so as to offer to every child that returns to Him the gift of full reconciliation and joy.

  "From a reading of the Gospels it emerges clearly that Jesus always showed special concern for sick people. He not only sent out His disciples to tend their wounds but also instituted for them a specific Sacrament: the Anointing of the Sick. The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental act already in the first Christian community: by the Anointing of the Sick, accompanied by the prayer of the elders, the whole of the Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord so that He may alleviate their sufferings and save them".

  "This Sacrament deserves greater consideration today both in theological reflection and in pastoral ministry among the sick. Through a proper appreciation of the content of the liturgical prayers that are adapted to the various human situations connected with illness, and not only when a person is at the end of his or her life. ... Attention to and pastoral care for sick people, while, on the one hand, a sign of God's tenderness towards those who are suffering, on the other brings spiritual advantage to priests and the whole Christian community as well, in the awareness that what is done to the least, is done to Jesus Himself".

  "The 'Sacraments of healing' ... are precious instruments of God's grace which help a sick person to conform himself or herself ever more fully to the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. Together with these two Sacraments, I would also like to emphasise the importance of the Eucharist. Received at a time of illness, it contributes in a singular way to working this transformation, associating the person who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ to the offering that He made of Himself to the Father for the salvation of all. The whole ecclesial community, and parish communities in particular, should pay attention to guaranteeing the possibility of frequently receiving Holy Communion, to those people who, for reasons of health or age, cannot go to a place of worship".

  "The Eucharist, especially as Viaticum, is - according to the definition of St. Ignatius of Antioch - 'medicine of immortality, the antidote for death'; the Sacrament of the passage from death to life, from this world to the Father, Who awaits everyone in the celestial Jerusalem.

  "The theme of this Message for the Twentieth World Day of the Sick, 'Stand up and go; your faith has saved you', also looks forward to the forthcoming Year of Faith which will begin on 11 October 2012. ... I wish to encourage sick people and the suffering always to find a safe anchor in faith, nourished by listening to the Word of God, by personal prayer and by the Sacraments, while I invite pastors to be increasingly ready to celebrate them for the sick. ... Priests should be full of joy, attentive to the weakest, the simple and sinners, expressing the infinite mercy of God with reassuring words of hope.

  "To all those who work in the field of health, and to the families who see in their relatives the suffering face of the Lord Jesus, I renew my thanks and that of the Church".

  "[May] Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick ... accompany and sustain the faith and the hope of every sick and suffering person on the journey of healing for the wounds of body and spirit! I assure you all of a remembrance in my prayers, and I bestow upon each one of you a special Apostolic Blessing".
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VATICAN CITY, 4 JAN 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 - Appointed Bishop Cirilo Flores, auxiliary of Orange in California, U.S.A., as coadjutor bishop of San Diego (area 22,942, population 3,118,990, Catholics 981,211, priests 319, permanent deacons 114, religious 384), U.S.A.

 - Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of Los Angeles, U.S.A., presented by Bishop Gabino Zavala, in accordance with canons 411 and 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
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