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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.
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