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Monday, December 10, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon the International Congress "Ecclesia in America" on the Church in the American continent was inaugurated with a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica. The congress was organised by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus in collaboration with the Institute for Guadalupan Studies, and will be inspired by the work of the Synodal Assembly, convoked by Blessed John Paul II in November and December 1987, entitled "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: The way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America".

The Holy Father, who arrived at the Basilica at 7 p.m., greeted the participants, first recalling that "Blessed John Paul II had the foresight and intuition to improve the relationships of cooperation between the particular Churches throughout North, Central and South America, at the same time facilitating greater solidarity among the nations of the continent. Today these themes merit review in order to put Christ's redeeming message into practice with greater diligence, in the hope of reaping abundant rewards of sanctity and ecclesial renewal. The theme that guided the reflections of the Synodal Assembly can also serve as an inspiration for your work during these days. ... In effect, Jesus Christ's love and the power of His grace must take root ever more intensely in the hearts of the people, families and Christian communities of your nations, to allow them to progress with dynamism along the paths of harmony and fair progress".

The Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America" focuses on "current challenges and difficulties which present specific and complex characteristics. Indeed, secularism and various religious groups are spreading throughout the continent, giving rise to numerous problems. Education and the promotion of a culture of life are matters of fundamental urgency in view of a widespread mentality that tends to attack the dignity of the person and damage the institution of marriage and family. How can one fail to be concerned about painful situations of emigration, displacement or violence, especially when linked to organised crime, narcotrafficking, corruption and arms dealing? And how should we face the painful inequalities and areas of poverty caused by questionable economic, political and social measures?"

The Pope emphasised that all these important questions require careful study, "yet in addition to their technical evaluation, the Catholic Church is convinced that the light for an adequate solution can only come from the encounter with the living Christ, which gives rise to attitudes and ways of acting based on love and truth. This is the decisive force which will transform the American continent. ... The love of Christ impels us to devote ourselves without reserve to proclaiming His name throughout America, bringing it freely and enthusiastically to the hearts of all its inhabitants. ... For this reason we ought to take up this commitment, ... encouraging priests, deacons and consecrated men and women and pastoral agents to purify and strengthen their interior lives ever more fully through a sincere relationship with the Lord and a worthy and frequent reception of the sacraments. This will be encouraged by suitable catechesis and a correct and ongoing doctrinal formation marked by complete fidelity to the Word of God and the Church's Magisterium and aimed at offering a response to the deepest questions and aspirations of the human heart. ... A renewed missionary spirit and zealous generosity in your commitment will be an irreplaceable contribution to what the universal Church expects and needs from the Church in America", concluded the Pope.


Vatican City, 9 December 2012 (VIS) - At midday today, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square. The Pope, in the Gospel of this second Sunday of Advent, commented on the figure of St. John the Baptist, who is presented by all four Gospels at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, as his precursor, while St. Luke offers us a posterior reading.

"John, as the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, both of priestly families, is not only the last of the prophets, but also represents the whole priesthood of the Old Covenant and therefore prepares mankind for the spiritual worship of the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus", explained the Pope. "John the Baptist is defined as the 'voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'. The voice proclaims the word, but in this case the Word of God precedes, as it comes to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness".

"Thus he plays an important role, but always in relation to Christ", said the Pope, recalling the words of St. Augustine: 'John is the voice that passes away, Christ is the eternal Word'. Our task today is to listen to that voice, to give space to Jesus and to welcome Him, the Word that saves us, into our hearts. In this time of Advent, let us prepare to see, through the eyes of faith, God's salvation in the humble stable in Bethlehem. In our consumerist society, where we seek joy in material things, the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is not only experienced externally as a superficial holiday, but rather as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to mankind".


Vatican City, 8 December 2012 (VIS) - At 3.45 p.m., on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI made his way to Piazza di Spagna in Rome for the traditional act of veneration of the image of the Virgin Mary on the column situated in front of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See.

During his journey, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, where he greeted the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, the Pope began by offering a prayer, followed by a reading from the Apocalypse of St. John, a homily and the offering of a floral tribute to the image of the Virgin. In his address, the Pope reflected on the Gospel of this solemnity, the Gospel of the Annunciation.

Benedict XVI began by explaining that the encounter between the angel and Mary, the decisive moment in which God became Man, "was enveloped in a great silence. ... That which is truly great often goes unnoticed and calm silence is more fruitful than the frenzy that characterises our cities, and which, in due proportion, was also present in the important cities of those times, such as Jerusalem. All this action prevents us from pausing, allowing ourselves to be calm and listening to the silence in which the Lord makes his discreet voice heard."

On the day of the Annunciation, Mary was "deep in thought and yet ready to listen to God. There was no obstacle within her, no barrier, nothing that would separate her from God. This is the meaning of her being without original sin. Her relationship with God is free from even the slightest rift; there is no separation, no shadow of selfishness, but rather perfect harmony. Her little human heart was perfectly 'centred' in the great heart of God. ... Coming here, before this monument to Mary, in the centre of Rome, reminds us first that the voice of God is not recognised amid noise and turmoil; his plan for our life as individuals and as a society are not visible on the surface; we need to descend to a deeper level where the forces at work are not economic or political but moral and spiritual. It is at this deeper level that Mary invites us to enter into harmony with God's action."

Secondly, Mary Immaculate teaches us that "the salvation of the world is not the work of man - of science, technology or ideology - but of Grace. ... Grace means love in its purity and beauty. It is God Himself as revealed in the salvific narrative of the Bible and fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Mary is called the 'favoured one' and this identity recalls to us God's primacy in our life and in the history of the world. She reminds us that the power of God's love is stronger than evil, and that it fills the void that selfishness creates in the history of people, families, nations and the world. Such emptiness can become a form of hell, where human life is dragged to its lowest depths and towards emptiness, losing meaning and light. The false remedies the world offers to fill the void ... in fact widen the abyss. Only love can save us from falling, but not merely any love. It must have the purity of Grace, which God transforms and renews to fill intoxicated lungs with fresh, clean air and new vital energy. Mary tells us that, however far a man may fall, he never falls beyond the reach of God, who has descended even into hell. However far astray our heart may be led, God is always 'greater than our heart'. The soft breath of Grace can disperse the darkest clouds, and make life beautiful and rich in meaning even in the most inhumane situations."

Finally, Mary Immaculate speaks to us of joy, "the true joy that emanates from a heart freed from sin. Sin carries a negative sadness that induces us to close up. Grace brings true joy, which does not depend on possessing things, but is rooted in the innermost, deepest part of the self, and which nothing and no one can take away. Even though some believe that Christianity is an obstacle to joy because they see it as an ensemble of prohibitions and rules, it is essentially a 'Gospel', a 'good tiding'. In fact, Christianity is the proclamation of the victory of Grace over sin, of life over death. Even if it entails sacrifice and a discipline of the mind, heart and behaviour, it is because in man we find the poisonous root of selfishness that causes harm to the self and to others. We must therefore learn to say 'no' to the voice of selfishness and 'yes' to that of real love. Mary's joy is complete because in her heart sin casts no shadow. This joy coincides with the presence of Jesus in her life".

"In this time of Advent", the Pope concluded, "Mary Immaculate teaches us to listen to the voice of God that speaks to us in silence; to welcome His Grace that frees us from sin and  selfishness, so that we may experience true joy".


Vatican City, 8 December 2012 (VIS) - In the Angelus of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI emphasised that Mary is Immaculate "by a gratuitous gift of the Grace of God, which she accepted, however, with perfect willingness and cooperation. In this respect she is 'blessed' because she 'believed', because of her firm faith in God".

The Holy Father continued, "Mary represents that 'remnant of Israel', the holy root announced by the prophets. The promises of the Old Covenant are welcomed in her. In Mary the Word of God is listened to, and finds acceptance, a response; the Word finds the 'yes' that allows it to take on flesh and to dwell among us. In Mary humanity and history are truly open to God and accept his Grace, in readiness to serve his will. Mary is the genuine expression of Grace. She is the new Israel that the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. ... The Fathers of the Church developed this image and so the doctrine of the Immaculate was born, first with reference to the Church as virgin-mother, and then to Mary".

"The light that emanates from the figure of Mary helps us also to understand the true meaning of original sin. Indeed, in Mary the relationship with God, that may be destroyed by sin, is completely alive and active. There is no opposition within her between God and her being; rather, there is full communion, full understanding. There is a reciprocal 'yes', from God to her and from her to God. ... She is full of His Grace and His love.

"In conclusion, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that the promises of God are realised: that His covenant does not fail, but has produced a holy root, from which has grown the Fruit most blessed of all the universe, Jesus the Saviour. Mary Immaculate demonstrates that Grace is able to bring about a response, that God’s fidelity can generate a true and good faith".

Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father assured his closeness to the people of the Philippines, recently struck by a violent hurricane. "I pray for the victims, for their families and for the many displaced persons. May faith and charity provide the strength to face this difficult trial".

Finally, the Holy Father greeted the members of the Movement of Christian Workers, and in particular the prayer group of the Dermopathic Institute of the Immaculate (IDI-IRCCS) in Rome, which currently faces significant challenges. "I hope that a solution can be found to the difficulties experienced by many Catholic institutions in the health sector", he concluded.


Vatican City,  (VIS) -  The Holy Father:

- Appointed Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, as president of the Court of Appeal of Vatican City State.

- Appointed Bishop Sebastiano Sanguinetti of Tempio-Ampurias, Italy, as apostolic administrator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the diocese of Ozieri, Italy. He accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese presented by Bishop Sergio Pintor, upon having reached the age limit.

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