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Monday, December 30, 2013


Vatican City, 30 December 2013 (VIS) – A letter was published today, dated 28 December, by which the Holy Father Francis appointed Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all'Jonio, Italy, as secretary general “ad interim” of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

In relation to this appointment, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, published the following communique:

“The appointment of the new secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference has become urgent to the ordinary functioning of the General Secretariat, and for a series of duties that require his presence.

The appointment is on an 'ad interim' basis: Bishop Galantino will have all the faculties of the secretary general, but the duration of his mandate has not yet been established.

Bishop Galantino will transfer to Rome for a good part of the week, but for the time being will remain Bishop of Cassano all'Jonio”.

Pope Francis addressed a letter to the priests, consecrated persons and faithful of the diocese, explaining that, for a period of time at least, it will be necessary for Bishop Galantino to work in Rome for an important mission for the Church in Italy. In his letter, Pope Francis gives his assurance that Bishop Galantino will travel regularly to his diocese to accompany them “on the path of faith”.


Vatican City, 30 December 2013 (VIS) – The Pope's universal prayer intention for January 2014 is “that all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples”.

His prayer intention for evangelization is “that Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ”.


Vatican City, 28 December 2013 (VIS) – This morning the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., issued the following declaration:

“This morning the secretary of State of the Holy See, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, and the secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, have received a delegation from the Syrian government, composed of Joseph Sweid, minister of State, accompanied by Hussam Eddin Aala, assistant minister and director for Europe from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and current Syrian ambassador to the Holy See.

“The delegation brought a message from President Assad for the Holy Father and explained the position of the Syrian government”.


Vatican City, 29 December 2013 (VIS) – The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas; during the Angelus prayer at midday Pope Francis recalled that Jesus had wanted to be born into “a human family, and he wanted to have a mother and a father”.

“Today's Gospel tells the story of the Holy Family's painful flight to Egypt in search of exile” said Pope Francis to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. "Joseph, Mary and Jesus experience the dramatic condition of life as refugees, full of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort. Unfortunately, in our times, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Nearly every day, television and newspapers provide news about refugees fleeing hunger, war, and other serious dangers in search of security and a decent life for themselves and their families. In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed, nor do they find respect and appreciation for the values they bring. Their legitimate expectations clash with complex situations and problems that at times appear insurmountable”.

The Holy Father urged those present to contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth when forced to seek refuge, and to consider “the tragedy of migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation … of human trafficking and forced labour", as well as “those who are exiled inside families: the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as a cumbersome presence”.

"Jesus wanted to belong to a family that experienced these difficulties, so that no one may be excluded from God's loving closeness. The flight into Egypt due to Herod's threats shows us that God is present wherever man is in danger, where man suffers, where he flees, where he experiences rejection and neglect. But he is also present where man dreams, hopes to return to his homeland in freedom, makes plans for his life and dignity and for that of his family".

Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff noted, "Today our gaze on the Holy Family is also drawn by the simplicity of its life in Nazareth. It is an example that does a lot of good to our families, helping them to become a community of love and reconciliation, in which we experience tenderness, mutual help, and mutual forgiveness".

Pope Francis reminded those present of the “three key words for peace and joy in family life: 'excuse me, thank you, sorry'”, explaining that “when we do not want to be intrusive in our family and say 'excuse me!', when we are not selfish and say 'thank you', and when we make mistakes and apologise, then there is peace and joy within a family”.

Finally he encouraged families to “become aware of their importance in the Church and in society”, because “the Gospel is proclaimed first within the family, and then in the different spheres of everyday life”. He invoked Mary, Joseph and Jesus, to “enlighten, comfort, and guide every family in the world, so that they may fulfil with dignity and serenity the mission God has entrusted to them."

Following the Angelus prayer Pope Francis commented that the next Consistory and the next Synod of Bishops will address the theme of the family and therefore recited the prayer to the Holy Family he had composed, inviting all to join with him spiritually, especially those linked to St. Peter's Square from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the shrine of Loreto:

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen”.


Vatican City, 28 December 2013 (VIS) – Archbishop Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, has sent a message on behalf of the Holy Father to the participants in the 36th European Meeting organised by the Taize community, which will take place in Strasbourg, France from 28 December to 1 January 2014.

The archbishop reminds the young of the need for commitment, faith and courage in this difficult moment that Europe is currently experiencing. “You are aware that the division among Christians is a formidable obstacle to the accomplishment of the mission entrusted to the Church, and that the credibility of the Christian proclamation would be much greater if Christians were to overcome their divisions. The Pope shares with you the conviction that we can learn so much from each other, because the realities that unite us are many.

“The Pope counts on you so that, by means of your faith and your witness, the spirit of peace and reconciliation of the Gospel may shine forth among your contemporaries”.

The message concludes with the Holy Father's blessing to the young participants in the meeting and the brothers of Taize, along with the pastors and all those who welcome them in Alsace and Ortenau.


Vatican City, 27 December 2013 (VIS) – This morning Pope emeritus Benedict XVI visited the Sanctae Martae guesthouse, where he lunched with Pope Francis. They were accompanied by their respective secretaries, and by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, and Msgr. Peter Brian Wells, assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

At around 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon the Holy Father Francis visited Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to wish him a happy Christmas.

Benedict XVI received Francis at the door of his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, and after praying together in the chapel, the two popes retired to a room in the residence where they spoke together in private for half an hour. At the end of the meeting, Pope Francis, accompanied by his personal secretaries, also greeted the other members of the Pope emeritus' “family”, Archbishop Georg Ganswein and the “Memores Domini”, before leaving at around 5.45 p.m.


Vatican City, 27 December 2013 (VIS) – From January 2014, the priests and 25 faithful from the various parishes in the diocese of Rome will be able to attend the Mass celebrated every day by Pope Francis in the Sanctae Martae Chapel, according to an announcement today by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.

The parishes will be informed on how to apply by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of Rome. Since the Holy Father cannot visit all the parishes in his diocese at the moment, this initiative will ensure that at least some of the faithful of Rome will be able to participate in Mass celebrated by their bishop.


Vatican City, 26 December 2013 (VIS) – At midday today, the feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square despite the rain. After commending their courage in facing the bad weather, he narrated the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the deacon who was stoned to death after a speech which provoked the enmity of members of the Sanhedrin, and who died asking forgiveness for his executioners.

“In the joyous Christmas season, this commemoration may seem out of place. Christmas in fact is the feast of life and infuses us with feelings of serenity and peace; why break the spell with the memory of such atrocious violence? In fact, in the eyes of faith, the Feast of St. Stephen is in full harmony with the profound significance of Christmas. Indeed, in martyrdom, violence is conquered by love, death by life. The Church sees, in the sacrifice of the martyrs, their 'birth in heaven'. Therefore, today we celebrate the 'nativity' of St. Stephen, which springs fundamentally from the Nativity of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who live Him into the dawn of a new life!”

In the martyrdom of St. Stephen we see the reproduction of “the same confrontation between good and evil, between hate and forgiveness, between meekness and violence, that culminated in the Cross of Christ. The memory of the first martyr immediately dispels the false image of Christmas: the mawkish fairytale image that does not exist in the Gospel! The liturgy restores to us the authentic meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary and reminding us that divine salvation implies the struggle against sin, passing through the narrow door of the Cross. This is the path that Jesus clearly showed to His disciples”.

“Therefore, today we pray in particular for Christians who suffer discrimination for their witness to Christ and the Gospel. We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen are unjustly accused and subjected to violence in various forms. I am certain that, unfortunately, there are more of them now today than in the early days of the Church. This occurs above all where religious freedom is not yet guaranteed or fully developed. However, it also takes place in countries and regions where, although freedom and human rights are formally protected, in practice believers, and especially Christians, encounter limitations and discrimination. I would like to ask you all to pray for a moment in silence for these brothers and sisters. … And let us entrust them to Our Lady”.

Following the recitation of the Marian prayer, Pope Francis commented, “This is not surprising for a Christian, as Jesus foretold it as an opportunity to give witness. However, on a civil level, injustice must be denounced and eliminated”.


Vatican City, 25 December 2013 (VIS) – “Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the whole world, greetings and happy Christmas!” said Pope Francis, who appeared at the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to impart to all Christianity his first “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours. I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people”, continued the Holy Father, asking all to “share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty”.

“Glory to God! Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him. May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters”.

“Peace to mankind. True peace - we know this well - is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely 'facade' which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, but making peace is an art, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ”.

“Looking at the Child in the manger, Child of peace, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick… Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!” the Bishop of Rome exclaimed, who went on to recall those countries devastated by wars and conflicts, as well as natural disasters, and to dedicate some special words for refugees, asylum-seekers and victims of human trafficking.

Pope Francis first mentioned Syria: “Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world. And I also invite non-believers to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace”.

“Grant peace, dear Child, to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused too many victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state”.

“Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, riven by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenceless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence”.

“Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!”

“Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realise the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers”.

“Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us not fear this. Let us not fear that our hearts be moved. We need this! Let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God’s caresses do not harm us. They give us peace and strength. We need his caresses. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness”.

Before imparting his blessing, the Holy Father said: “To you, dear brothers and sisters, gathered from throughout the world in this Square, and to all those from different countries who join us through the communications media, I offer my cordial best wishes for a merry Christmas!”

“On this day illumined by the Gospel hope which springs from the humble stable of Bethlehem, I invoke the Christmas gift of joy and peace upon all: upon children and the elderly, upon young people and families, the poor and the marginalised. May Jesus, who was born for us, console all those afflicted by illness and suffering; may he sustain those who devote themselves to serving our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Happy Christmas to all!”


Vatican City, 24 December 2013 (VIS) – “Our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land”, remarked Pope Francis during his homily during his first midnight mass as Pope, in a crowded St. Peter's Basilica. The celebration was proceded by the ancient Christmas Proclamation which announces the nativity of Christ, and the prayer of the faithful was also recited in Aramaic and Chinese. The Pope began by quoting Isaiah: “'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light'”, a prophecy that “never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night”.

“This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing”.

“Walking”, he exclaimed: “this verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, 'God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all'. Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift”.

Francis emphasised that also in our personal history, “there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. 'Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes'. A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray”.

On this night, “like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: 'God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race'. The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst”.

“The shepherds were the first to see this 'tent', to receive the news of Jesus’ birth … because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable”.

“On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: 'Do not be afraid!'. As the angels said to the shepherds: 'Do not be afraid!'. And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen”.


Vatican City, 30 December 2013 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father:

- appointed Bishop Marlo M. Peralta of Alaminos as metropolitan archbishop of Nueva Segovia (area 2,570, population 718,000, Catholics 605,000, priests 73, religious 101), Philippines. Msgr. Peralta was born in San Carlos, Philippines in 1950, was ordained a priest in 1975, and received episcopal ordination in 2006. He succeeds Archbishop Ernesto A. Salgado, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese upon having reached the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Rev. Timothy Yu Gyoung-Chon as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Seoul (area 606, population 10,528,774, Catholics 1,434,874, priests 32, religious 111), Korea. The bishop-elect was born in Jung-gu, Korea in 1962 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a licentiate in theology from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany and has served in the following pastoral and academic roles: vicar of the parish of Mok-Dong, professor at the Catholic University of Seoul, and director of the Institute for Integral Pastoral Ministry in Seoul. He is currently priest of the parish of Myeong-dong, Seoul.

- appointed Fr. Peter Chung Soon-taek, O.C.D., as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Seoul, Korea. The bishop-elect was born in Daegu, Korea in 1961, and received priestly ordination in 1992. He studied chemical engineering at the State University of Seoul, and philosophy and theology at the Catholic University of Seoul. He took his perpetual vows in 1992 and has served in the following roles within the Order of Descalced Carmelites: master of novices, master of students, provincial definitor of the Order of Descalced Carmelites of Korea, and first definitor of the Order of Descalced Carmelites of Korea. He is currently definitor general in Rome for the Far East and Oceania.

On Saturday, 28 December the Holy Father erected the new diocese of Sultanpet (area 4,446, population 4,260,435, Catholics 30,975, priests 32, religious 111) India, with territory taken from the dioceses of Coimbatore and Calicut, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Verapoly.

He appointed Rev. Peter Abir Antonisamy as first bishop of the new diocese. The bishop-elect was born in Sathipattu, India in 1951, and was ordained a priest in 1979. He holds a master's degree in biblical theology from St. Peter's Pontifical Institute, Bangalore, India, a master's degree in literature and history from the University of Titrupathy, India, a licentiate in sacred scriptures from the Biblicum in Rome, and a doctorate in sacred scriptures from the Gregorian Pontifical University, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including secretary to the archbishop of Bangalore and the chancellor of the Curia, professor of sacred scriptures at the Good Shepherd seminary, Coimbatore, parish priest of Kurumbagaram, director of St. Paul's Bible Institute, Poonamelle, deputy secretary of the Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council, co-ordinator of the Catholic Biblical Federation of South Asia, and director of the Tamil Nadu Biblical, Catechetical and Liturgical Centre. Since 2004 he is the director of the Emmaus Spirituality Centre, Sithanagur, which he founded in 2004.

On Tuesday, 24 December the Holy Father appointed Fr. Gabriel Enrique Montero Umana, O.F.M. as bishop of San Isidro de El General (area 10,346, population 380,000, Catholics 369,000, priests 60, permanent deacons 1, religious 60), Costa Rica. The bishop-elect was born in Moravia, Costa Rica in 1945 and was ordained a priest in 1973. He studied philosophy in the central major seminary of San Jose, Costa Rica, and theology in the Higher Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies in Mexico. He specialised in sacred scriptures in Mexico and obtained a master's degree in Franciscan studies in New York, U.S.A. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including: deputy priest in the parish of Golfito, San Jose, Costa Rica, master of novices and postulants in Alajuela, Costa Rica, provincial custodian in Costa Rica, head of formation of postulants in Costa Rica, director of St. Francis College, Costa Rica, master of novices in Honduras, head of formation of post-novices in Costa Rica, head of formation of postulants in Africa, general assistant of the Order for Africa, Asia and Australia in Rome, rector of the International College of Conventual Franciscans in Rome, provincial guardian in the Philippines, and rector of the Interafrican House of Formation in Nairobi, Kenya. Since 2013 he has served as a member of the community of Conventual Friars in Moravia, Costa Rica, and local collaborator with the apostolic nunciature in Costa Rica.


Vatican City, 30 December 2013 (VIS) – The staff of the Vatican Information Service wishes all its readers a Happy New Year. The next VIS bulletin will be transmitted on Thursday 2 January 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Vatican City, 23 December 2013 (VIS) – At midday the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, and reflected on the Gospel reading of this fourth Sunday of Advent, which relates the events preceding the birth of Jesus from the point of view of St. Joseph.

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth but they did not live together, as they had not yet celebrated marriage. However Mary, after receiving the annunciation from the Angel, was with child through the work of the Holy Spirit, and when Joseph discovered this, he was perplexed.

The Gospel does not explain his thoughts, but it tells us the basics: he seeks to do God's will and is ready to make a radical renunciation. Instead of defending himself and asserting his rights, Joseph chooses a solution that represents, for him, a great sacrifice. And the Gospel tells us that Joseph, 'being a righteous man and unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her secretly'. This short sentence encapsulates a real inner drama, if we consider Joseph's love for Mary. But, as in the case of Abraham, the Lord intervenes: 'Joseph, son of David', he said, 'don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit'.”

The text, continued the Pope, “shows us the greatness of St. Joseph's soul. He was leading a good life and had plans, but God had other plans for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to God's voice … attentive to the messages that came from the heart and from on high. He did not insist on pursuing his life's plans, or to allow resentment to poison his soul, but rather was willing to place himself at the service of the novelty presented to him in this troubling way. He did not hate, and he did not allow resentment to poison his soul”.

But how often do hate, antipathy and resentment contaminate our souls! Never allow this to happen!” exclaimed the Holy Father. “Joseph is an example of this. And in this way, he became even freer and greater. Accepting himself in accordance with the Lord's plan, Joseph finds himself fully, and goes beyond himself. This freedom of his, to give up all that he has and to renounce his own existence, and his full inner openness to the will of God, challenges us and shows us the way”.

We therefore celebrate Christmas contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself totally to God's word; Joseph, the faithful and just man who preferred to believe in the Lord instead of listening to the voices of doubt and human pride. With them, we walk together towards Bethlehem”.


Vatican City, 22 December 2013 (VIS) – A group of demonstrators protesting to the Italian authorities about the difficult current economic situation was also present in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis noticed the large banner they were carrying, and commented, following the Angelus prayer, “I see there, written in large letters, 'The poor cannot wait'. That's nice! And this makes me think that Jesus was born in a stable, not in a house. Afterwards he had to flee to Egypt to save his life. At the end, he returned to his own home, in Nazareth”.

And I also think, today, reading this banner, of the many families who are without a home, either because they have never had one, or because they have lost it, for various reasons. Family and home go hand in hand. It is very difficult to raise a family without a home. In this Christmas period I invite all – individuals, social organisations, authorities – to do everything possible to enable every family to have a home”.

To those from Italy who are gathered today to demonstrate their social commitment, may you offer a constructive contribution, rejecting the temptations of conflict and violence, and may you always choose the path of dialogue, in defending rights”.

I wish you all a good Sunday and a Christmas of hope, justice and fraternity”, concluded the Pontiff.


Vatican City, 22 December 2013 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon the Holy Father visited the patients of the Bambin Gesu Paediatric Hospital, situated on the Roman Janiculum Hill. Part of the patrimony of the Holy See, it is the largest paediatric hospital and paediatric research centre in Europe. It employs almost 2,600 staff, including doctors, researchers, nurses, hospital technicians and other employees. Each year more than a million patients are treated in clinic, and it manages 27 thousand hospitalisations, 25 thousand surgical procedures, and 71 thousand emergency room cases.

Italy's first paediatric hospital, it was founded in 1869 upon the initiative of the Salviati dukes and donated to the Holy See in 1924. It is commonly known to families as “the Pope's hospital”, and Pope Francis' visit follows a tradition dear to his predecessors, inaugurated by Pope John XXIII at Christmas 1958.

Four thousand people awaited the arrival of the Holy Father, accompanied by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, and his predecessor Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B. The Pope spent three hours with the children and their families, and chose not to deliver the address he had prepared in favour of spending more time with the young patients and visiting all the departments in the hospital, such as neonatal intensive care, reanimation and nephrology.

Shortly before 5 p.m. the Pope arrived at the chapel where around thirty children affected with cancer were gathered with their relatives. A basket had been placed in the chapel, containing pieces of paper upon which the patients in the hospital had written their “dreams and prayers”.

Dear children, thank you for the dreams and your prayers you have gathered in this basket and offered to me”, said the Holy Father. “Many thanks. We will present them together to Jesus; He knows them best of all. He knows what resides in the depths of our hearts. Jesus has a special bond with you children in particular, and He is always close to you. Now, let us pray together to Our Lady before this beautiful statue of the Virgin with Jesus”.

After praying the “Hail Mary”, the Pope blessed all those present and, instead of pronouncing the planned address, continued his visit of the hospital, stopping to speak to all those who crowded the rooms and hallways. He also spoke with the parents of the group “Children in Heaven”, who have lost their young sons and daughters. One of the mothers gave the Pope a figure of an angel in memory of those children, and the president of the Bambin Gesu Hospital, Giuseppe Profitti, dedicated to the Bishop of Rome a new structure, a project for the assistance of mothers and children in difficulty, organised in collaboration with the diocesan branch of Caritas.


Vatican City, 21 December 2013 (VIS) – During the final days of Advent, the Holy Father traditionally meets with the cardinals, superiors and officials of the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings. Today this took place for the first time during the pontificate of Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome, who warmly thanked all his collaborators and in particular Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who “recently began his service as Secretary of State, and who needs our prayers”.

The Holy Father thanked the Curia for “the work which you do each day: for the care, diligence and creativity which you display; and for your effort – I know it is not always easy – to work together in the office, both to listen to and challenge one another, and to bring out the best in all your different personalities and gifts, in a spirit of mutual respect”. He also expressed his particular gratitude those now concluding their service and approaching retirement.

As priests and bishops, we know full well that we never really retire, but we do leave the office, and rightly so, not least to devote ourselves a little more to prayer and the care of souls, starting with our own!” he remarked. So a very special and heartfelt 'thank you' goes to those of you who have worked here for so many years with immense dedication, hidden from the eyes of the world. ... I have such high regard for these 'Monsignori' who are cut from the same mould as the curiales of olden times, exemplary persons … We need them today, too! People who work with competence, precision and self-sacrifice in the fulfilment of their daily duties. Here I would like to mention some of them by name, as a way of expressing my esteem and my gratitude, but we know that, in any list, the first names people notice are the ones that are missing! Besides, I would also risk overlooking someone and thus committing an injustice and a lack of charity. But I want to say to these brothers of ours that they offer a very important witness in the Church’s journey through history”.

Based on this model and this witness, Pope Francis went on to speak about the two crucial qualities that should characterise the curial official, and, in particular, curial superiors: professionalism and service.

Professionalism, a “basic requisite for working in the Curia”, means “competence, study, keeping abreast of things. … Naturally, professionalism is something which develops, and is in part acquired; but I think that, precisely for it to develop and to be acquired, there has to be a good foundation from the outset”.

The second hallmark is “service to the Pope and to the bishops, to the universal Church and to the particular Churches. In the Roman Curia, one learns – in a real way, 'one breathes in' – this twofold aspect of the Church, this interplay of the universal and the particular. I think that this is one of the finest experiences of those who live and work in Rome: 'to sense' the Church in this way. When professionalism is lacking, there is a slow drift downwards towards mediocrity. Dossiers become full of trite and lifeless information, and incapable of opening up lofty perspectives. Then too, when the attitude is no longer one of service to the particular Churches and their bishops, the structure of the Curia turns into a ponderous, bureaucratic customs house, constantly inspecting and questioning, hindering the working of the Holy Spirit and the growth of God’s people”.

To these two qualities, the Pope added a third: “holiness of life”, which is “in the hierarchy of values, … the most important” as it provides the basis for “the quality of our work, our service. And I would like to say that here, in the Curia, there have been and there are holy men. I have said this publicly on more than one occasion, to give thanks to God. Holiness means a life immersed in the Spirit, a heart open to God, constant prayer, deep humility and fraternal charity in our relationships with our fellow workers. It also means apostleship, discreet and faithful pastoral service, zealously carried out in direct contact with God’s people. For priests, this is indispensable”.

Holiness, in the Curia, also means conscientious objection to gossip! We rightfully insist on the importance of conscientious objection, but perhaps we too need to exercise it as a means of defending ourselves from an unwritten law of our surroundings, which unfortunately is that of gossip. So let us all be conscientious objectors; and mind you, I am not simply preaching! Gossip is harmful to people, our work and our surroundings.

Dear brothers and sisters”, concluded Pope Francis, “let us feel close to one another on this final stretch of the road to Bethlehem. We would do well to meditate on Saint Joseph, who was so silent yet so necessary at the side of Our Lady. Let us think about him and his loving concern for his Spouse and for the Baby Jesus. This can tell us a lot about our own service to the Church! So let us experience this Christmas in spiritual closeness to Saint Joseph. I thank you most heartily for your work and especially for your prayers. Truly I feel 'borne aloft' by your prayers and I ask you to continue to support me in this way. I too remember you before the Lord, and I impart my blessing as I offer my best wishes for a Christmas filled with light and peace for each of you and for all your dear ones”.


Vatican City, 23 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Rodney Alejandro Lopez, the new ambassador of Cuba to the Holy See, presenting his letters of credence.

- Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

- Msgr. Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, prelate of the personal Prelature of Opus Dei.

- Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy, with a delegation for the presentation of the Nativity display offered in St. Peter's Square.

- Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, apostolic nuncio.

On Saturday, 21 December, the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.


Vatican City, 23 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father appointed Bishop Vicente Bokalic Iglic, C.M., as bishop of Santiago Del Estero (area 81,969, population 699,500, Catholics 628,000, priests 76, permanent deacons 13, religious 83), Argentina. Bishop Bokalic Iglic, previously auxiliary of Buenos Aires, was born in Lanus, Argentina in 1970, was ordained to the priesthood in 1978, and received episcopal ordination in 2010. He succeeds Bishop Francisco Polti Santillan, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon having reached the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

On Saturday, 21 December, the Holy Father:

- appointed Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo as apostolic nuncio to South Sudan. Archbishop Balvo is apostolic nuncio to Kenya.

- appointed Bishop Gustavo Gabriel Zurbriggen as bishop of the territorial prelature of Dean Funes (area 28,700, population 62,600, Catholics 58,261, priests 17, permanent deacons 1, religious 16), Argentina. Bishop Zurbriggen, previously coadjutor of the same territorial prelature, succeeds Bishop Aurelio Jose Kuhn O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same prelature, upon having reached the age limit, was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Msgr. Wieslaw Szlachetka as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Gdansk (area , population , Catholics , priests , permanent deacons , religious ), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Mala Komorza, Poland in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He holds a doctorate in biblical theology from the Catholic Academy of Theology in Warsaw, now the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. He has served as vicar in the parish of Christ Saviour in Gdansk-Osowa, and is currently lecturer in biblical theology at the major seminary of Gdansk and in the theological college of Gdansk, and priest in the parish of St. Polycarp, Gdansk.


Vatican City, 23 December 2013 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a holy and happy Christmas. During the Christmas holiday there will be no VIS bulletin from Tuesday 24 December to Saturday 28 December. The next bulletin will be transmitted on Monday 30 December.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Vatican City, 20 December 2013 (VIS) – This morning, the Pope received the ceremonial diplomatic staff of the Italian Republic and the Italian Embassy to the Holy See, to exchange Christmas greetings.

Francis thanked them for the help, often not easily recognised, that they offer to his ministry, recalling in particular the diplomatic activity behind the ceremony that took place on 19 March 2013, when the Holy Father began his Petrine ministry with a solemn Mass in St. Peter's Square in the presence of heads of State from all over the world.

Through your service, you are in a position to promote the culture of encounter. You are diplomatic functionaries and all of your work is orientated towards ensuring that the representatives of countries, international organisations and institutions may encounter one another fruitfully. How important this service is! The most specifically ceremonial, most visible element is aimed towards that which is not immediately apparent: to the growth of positive relationships, based on mutual knowledge, respect, and the common search for pathways to development and peace”.

The Holy Father underlined that the Italian diplomats have “an extra card to play: Italian cultural heritage. Italy has always been a synonym, throughout the world, for culture, art and civilisation. You contribute to ensuring that its value is recognised for the culture of encounter, that this heritage is put to the service of the common good, for that which Paul VI called the civilisation of love”.

Christmas, which is now close, is the celebration of the encounter between God and man. We are given the gift of a Child in Whom this encounter is fully achieved. The message of Christ's birth calls out even to those who are not Christians. I hope that each one of you may live intensely this mystery of love, and that it profoundly inspires your service”.


Vatican City, 20 December 2013 (VIS) - “There is no play without You” is the slogan adopted by the children of Italian Catholic Action, who met with the Holy Father this morning in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The children exchanged Christmas greetings with the Pope, who encouraged them always to be “living stones united with Jesus” within the Church.

Christmas is the celebration of the presence of God who came among us to save us”, said the Pontiff. “The birth of Jesus is not a fairytale! It is the story of a real event, which occurred in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Faith allows us to recognise in the Child born to the Virgin Mary the true Son of God, made man for our love. In the face of the child Jesus we contemplate the face of God, who did not show Himself to us in strength, in power, but in the weakness and fragility of a newborn. This is our God, who comes so close to us, as a child. This Child shows the trust and tenderness of the boundless love with which God surrounds each one of us. This is why we celebrate Christmas, reliving the same experience of the shepherds of Bethlehem. Along with many fathers and mothers who work hard every day, making many sacrifices; along with the young, the sick and the poor, we celebrate, because it is the celebration of our encounter with God in Jesus”.

Pope Francis asked them if they were aware of how much Jesus loves them and wants to be their friend. “If you are convinced of this, you will certainly be able to transmit the joy of this friendship everywhere: at home, in Church, at school, with friends … and for your enemies, pray that they might be closer to God. And in this way you will be able to bear witness, like true Christians: ready to lend a hand to those in need … and also to those who don't like you ... without judging others, without speaking badly of them”, he concluded. “Those who speak ill of others are not good … because gossiping is not Christian … and we should not do it”.


Vatican City, 20 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to India and Nepal.

- Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, territorial prelate of Loreto, pontifical delegate for the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto.

- James K. Bebaako-Mensah, the new ambassador of Ghana to the Holy See, presenting his credential letters.

- Professor Ilaria Morali.


Vatican City, 20 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father appointed Fr. Alfredo Espinoza Mateus as bishop of Loja (area 11,476, population 621,000, Catholics 574,000, priests 218, permanent deacons 1, religious 362), Ecuador. The bishop-elect was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1988. He holds a licentiate in science of education from the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. He has served in the following roles in the field of education: administrator of several Salesian colleges in Guayaquil, Manta and Riobamba, member of the Permanent Commission of the Salesian National Council for Education, and of the Economic Council of the Salesian Polytechnic University of Ecuador. He is currently director of the Inspectorial House in Quito and Inspectorial delegate of the Vocational Fund of Ecuador. In 2008 he was appointed as delegate of the Salesian Fathers in Ecuador in the 26th General Capital of the Salesians of St. John Bosco.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Pope Francis received in audience the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Everard Gonsalves, who subsequently went on to meet with the secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The colloquial discussions focused on matters of common interest such as the defence of life and the family, education and interreligious dialogue.

Finally, mention was made of various issues regarding the countries in the area and collaboration within the ambit of regional organisations.


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) - “Educating in intercultural dialogue in the Catholic school. Living together for a civilisation of love” is the title of a document from the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions), presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office. Speakers in the press conference were Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, respectively prefect and secretary of the dicastery, and Professor Itali Fiorin, of the LUMSA University, Rome.

A child, a teacher, a book, and a pen can change the world. Education is the only solution” said Cardinal Grocholewski, quoting Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl injured by the Taliban for attending school, along with other girls. He mentioned that, according to data provided by UNICEF in 2013, over 70 million children worldwide do not go to school, that 75% of students in the poorest countries may attend lessons for two or three years without learning to read or write, and that around 1.7 million teachers are needed to meet the aim of a qualified primary education at a global level.

The Congregation for Catholic Education shares the concerns of the international community, convinced of the pivotal role of education for the future of humanity, peace, sustainable development and the dignity of populations, and throughout the years has contributed to deepening the understanding of various issues, which have subsequently found expression in the documents offered to the local Churches, the Religious Congregations of an educational charism, and to other entities and associations in the sector”.

This time the theme under consideration, educating in intercultural dialogue, is very current, if not new. “The male and female religious congregations know a lot about this”, observed Cardinal Grocholewski; “for years they have worked in multicultural and multi-religious contexts, with laudable experience of education and training. However, today the significant phenomenon of migration has globalised multi-culturalism and multi-religious co-existence, with the consequent need for adequate cultural education. In such a context, the Catholic school is called to provide younger generations with the necessary elements to develop an intercultural vision of living together”.

The document is intended primarily for parents, “naturally the first responsible for the education of their children”, as well as the “entities representing the family and schools and those occupied with education in the pastoral field. “Given its vastness, it was decided to present the issue of education in intercultural dialogue within a broader context. For this reason it was extended, for example, to reflection on the relationship between culture and religion, Catholic religion and other religions; space was given for the presentation of the theological foundations and to the identity of the Catholic school and educational community is based on Christ. This identity is supported by the teaching of the Catholic religion, which connects well with respect for personal freedom, as well as the continuing professional education of administrators and teachers. The key world that draws together all the aspects considered in the document is “dialogue”. Dialogue is fervently promoted by Pope Francis as the attitude with which the Church must face every situation in today's world. … And for the Catholic school to fulfil a constructive role, it must not weaken its identity, but instead must strengthen it, and must certainly not allow its mission to be separated from evangelisation”.

The final aim of education in intercultural dialogue”, the cardinal concluded, “is the construction of a civilisation based on love. The civilisation of love, for Christians, does nto mean a vague solidarity, but rather an expression of Christ's charity. This is the service through which Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelisation of culture, even in those countries and cities where hostile situations challenge us to greater creativity in our search for suitable methods”.

Archbishop Zani explained that in the drafting of the document, numerous entities, religious institutes and dioceses were consulted in order to gather concrete experience of education in intercultural dialogue promoted by Catholic institutions in various parts of the world. For example, the educational approaches taken in Africa, Amazonia and Peru “include a dimension of assistance to development, and several initiatives are directed at girls, who are often more easily excluded from the school system”. The archbishop also went on to mention the experience of 'Schools for Europe', initiated in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, following the war in the Balkans, where the diocese of Sarajevo had decided to open a Catholic school to welcome children of diverse ethnic origins and religious beliefs. This 'multi-ethnic' school project was reproduced throughout the country and contributed to the reconstruction of unity in society by means of the development of a peaceful mentality and a rounded education that includes knowledge of religious heritage and education in values”.

In the Middle East, too, “Forty-five Catholic schools of the Latin Patriarchate, not allowing themselves to be discouraged by bombs and violence, carry out patient and tireless work with students of various nations and religions, who learn about one another and discover how to build relationships of respect and friendship”.

Each of these experiences enables us to understand, in a concrete way, how diversity of religion, language and tradition can be treated with care and respect, with true evangelical charity, and become an authentic asset for every group and individual. In each of these schools we see an approach which enables each person to contribute his or her own gifts in the construction of 'bridges of understanding and peace' and a destiny based on love as an ideal to be achieved”.


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) – In view of the forthcoming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the theme “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation”, some prayer initiatives have been indicated.

On Sunday, 22 December, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia will preside over the Holy Mass at the Basilica of the "Sagrada Familia" in Barcelona, and on Sunday, 29 December, Feast of the Holy Family, at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, will celebrate Mass with the aforementioned prayer intention. On the same day, in the Sanctuary of the Holy House of Loreto, the Pontifical Delegate Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci will celebrate Mass with the same intention.

On Sunday, 29 December, at the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father will deliver a special prayer he has composed for the family; the Basilicas of Loreto and Nazareth will be connected via live television.


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) – The Holy See Press Office today published the following communiqué:

On 18 December, upon an initiative of the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, following a formal bidding and selection procedure, an advisory role has been entrusted to McKinsey & Company for the development – in close collaboration with the heads of the relevant offices – of an integrated plan to render the organisation of means of communication within the Holy See more functional, effective and modern.

The consultancy project will aim to provide the Commission with the information needed to make appropriate recommendations to the Holy Father.

At the same time, in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organisation of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, the necessary action is being taken to align the accounting procedures of all agencies of the Holy See with international standards.

Collaboration on this project has been entrusted, following a bidding and selection process, to the KPMG international network.”


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Archbishop Adriano Bernardini, apostolic nuncio to Italy and the Republic of San Marino.

- Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, apostolic nuncio to Haiti.

- Fr. Edmund Power, O.S.B., Abbot of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Rome.


Vatican City, 19 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father:

- appointed Msgr. Gabriele as bishop of Gregorio de Laferrere (area 1,393, population 756,000, Catholics 682,000, priests 46, permanent deacons 15, religious 86), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Moron, Argentina in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1989. He holds a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Catholic University, Argentina. He has served in a number of pastoral and administrative roles, including vicar in the parishes of “San Judas Tadeo” and “San Francisco de Asis”, parish administrator and subsequently priest of “Cristo del Perdon”, secretary of the Episcopal Vicariate of Youth, chancellor of the diocesan Curia and the presbyteral council, instructor of the diocesan Judicial Commission and the Commission for priestly causes, director of the diaconal school and head of formation of permanent deacons, vice president of Caritas in the diocese, pro-vicar general, vicar general and moderator of the Curia. He is also professor of canon law at the Pontifical Catholic University, Argentina. He succeeds Bishop Juan Horacio Suarez, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- appointed Msgr. Jean-Marc Aveline as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Marseille (area 650, population 1,042,000, Catholics 711,000, priests 298, permanent deacons 26, religious 728), France. The bishop-elect was born in Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria in 1958 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Institut Catholique, Paris, a licentiate in philosophy from the University of Paris I and IV Sorbonne, and a doctorate in theology. He has served in a number of pastoral and academic roles, including professor of theology and director of studies in the interdiocesan seminary of Marseille, founder and director of the Institut de sciences e des religions in (ISTR) Marseille, head of the diocesan service for vocations and diocesan delegate for seminarians, director of the Institut Saint-Jean, later the Institut Catholique de la Mediterranee, and Episcopal Vicar responsible for formation. Since 2007 he has been the vicar general of Marseille. He is also the founder and chief editor of the magazin “Chemins de dialogue”, and member of the editorial boards of “Editions de l'Atelier' and “Recherches de sciences religieuses”. He has also served as consultor for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

- confirmed Cardinal Angelo Amato “donec aliter provideatur” in the role of prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints;

- confirmed Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci as secretary of the same dicastery;

- confirmed the following as members of the same dicastery: Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Cardinal Paolo Sardi, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, Cardinal James Michael Harvey, Archbishop Felix del Blanco Prieto, Archbishop Fabio Berardo D'Onorio, Archbishop Giovanni Paolo Benotto, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, Archbishop Renato Boccardo, Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, Bishop Lino Fumagalli, Bishop Paolino Schiavon, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Bishop Ambrogio Spreafico, Bishop Raffaello Martinelli;

- confirmed the following as Consultors of the same dicastery: Bishop Sergio Pagano, Bishop Joaquin Alonso Pacheco, Rev. Francesco Asti, Rev. Nicola Bux, Rev. Alfonso C. Chacon Oreja, Msgr. Lorenzo Dattrino, Rev. Miguel De Salis Amaral, Rev. Antonio Escudero Cabello, S.D.B., Fr. Maurizio Pietro Faggioni, O.F.M., Msgr. Jair Ferreira Pena, Rev. Jesús Manuel García Gutiérrez, S.D.B., Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P., Fr. François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., Fr. Mieczys_aw Lubomirski, S.J., Fr. Sabatino Majorano, C.SS.R., Fr. Germano Marani, S.J., Msgr. Guido Mazzotta, Rev. Aimable Musoni, S.D.B., Fr. Stéphane Oppes, O.F.M., Fr. Adam Owczarski, C.SS.R., Msgr. Mario Pangallo, Fr. Szczepan T. Pralkiewicz, O.C.D., Fr. Marek Adam Rostkowski, O.M.I., Fr. Felice Ruffini, M.I., Msgr. Erich Schmid, Fr. Zbigniew Suchecki, O.F.M. Conv.; Fr. Damian Jan Synowiec, O.F.M. Conv., Fr. Mihály Szentmártoni, S.J., Msgr. Francesco Maria Tasciotti; Fr. Angelo Giuseppe Urru, O.P., Rev. Filippo Urso; Fr. Alberto Valentini, S.M.M., Fr. Adam Wolanin, S.J., Fr. Alfonso Amarante, C.SS.R., Sister Albarosa Ines Bassani, S.D.V.I., Professor Pietro Borzomati, Fr. Marcel Chappin, S.J., Msgr. Luis Manuel Cuña Ramos, Fr. Fidel González Fernández, M.C.C.J., Johan Ickx; Msgr. Wilhelm Imkamp, Fr. Gabriele Ingegneri, O.F.M. Cap., Fr. Marek Inglot, S.J., Fr. Carlo Longo, O.P., Sister Grazia Loparco, F.M.A., Christoph Ludwig, Fr. Luigi Nuovo, C.M., Professor Ulderico Parente, Gaetano Passarelli, Professor Francesco Ricciardi Celsi, Rev. Giorgio Rossi, S.D.B. and Msgr. Mario Sensi.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Vatican City, 18 December 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis dedicated the final general audience of 2013 to the birth of Jesus, “celebration of trust and hope, which overcome uncertainty and pessimism”. “And the reason for our hope is this: God is with us, and still trusts in us! … He comes to live with mankind, he chooses to dwell on earth in order to stay with man, and to be found there where man passes his days in joy or in pain. Therefore, earth is no longer merely a 'vale of tears' but rather the place where God Himself has pitched His tent, it is the meeting place of God and mankind, of God's solidarity with humanity”.

But in sharing in our human condition, there is something even more surprising. “God's presence among mankind did not take place in an ideal, idyllic world, but rather in this real world, characterised by good and bad things, marked by divisions, evil, poverty, abuse of power, and wars. He chose to take part in our history as it is, with all the weight of its limits and its dramas. … He is God-with-us … Jesus has always been God-with-us, and is always with us in all the suffering and pain of history. The birth of Jesus is the demonstration that God placed Himself once and for all on the side of mankind, to save us, to lift us up from the dust of our misery, of our difficulties, and of our sins”.

The great “gift” of Bethlehem is, therefore, “the spiritual energy that helps us not to collapse under the weight of our labours, our desperation, our sorrows. … The birth of Jesus brings us the good news that God loves us immensely and individually”. Two considerations may be drawn from the joyful contemplation of the mystery of the Son of God, born for us.

The first is that in His Nativity God shows Himself to be not as one who remains on high and dominates the universe, but rather He Who bows down, Who descends to our small and poor earth … if we want to be like Him we must not place ourselves above others, but instead lower ourselves, place ourselves in service, be small with the small and poor with the poor. It is sad to see a Christian who does not want to bow down, who does not want to serve. A Christian who parades around is not Christian – this is pagan! … Let us ensure that our brothers and sisters never feel alone”.

The second consequence is that God, through Jesus, became involved with mankind to the point of becoming one of us, which means that whatever we would do to our brother or our sister, we would do to Him. Jesus Himself reminds us of this: whoever nourishes, welcomes, visits or loves one of the smallest and poorest among man, does so also to the Son of God.

As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, now approaching, the Pope encouraged us to pray to Mary “to help us … recognise in the face of our neighbour, especially in the weakest and most marginalised, the image of the Son of God made man”.

As indicated above, this was the final general audience of 2013, as it is the last Wednesday before Christmas. Since his election to the pontificate, Pope Francis has celebrated 30 general audiences for which the Prefecture of the Papal Household has distributed 1,548,500 entry tickets, although there have been at times more than one hundred thousand attendees and the crowds have often exceeded the capacity of the Square. On these occasions, maxi-screens have been installed in the adjacent Piazza Pio XII, and Via della Conciliazione has been transformed into a pedestrian zone.


Vatican City, 18 December 2013 (VIS) - Among the participants in today's general audience there was a delegation from the Buenos Aires football team “San Lorenzo de Almagro”, of whom Archbishop Bergoglio was an official supporter, the holder of card no. 88235N-0, and who won this year's league championship in Argentina, a trophy they have not held since 2007.

The “crows”, as they are called by the members and fans of San Lorenzo, brought the Pope a replica of the Inicial Championship Cup and the vice-president of the club Marcelo Tinelli, brought a team shirt, as a gift for Francis who celebrated his 77th birthday yesterday, 17 December.

The young Jorge Mario Bergoglio attended the San Lorenzo grounds with his father, and during his period of office as archbishop of Buenos Aires he continued to be a member and to visit to the club to celebrate Mass and to confess the players. The team was founded by a Salesian, Fr. Lorenzo Massa, who following ordination was sent to the troubled Almagro quarter and, seeing the enthusiasm of many young people for football, decided to gather them together in a team, saving some of them from a life of delinquency. The nickname “crows” was given to them by their neighbours in the quarter, who used to exclaim “Here come the crows!”, alluding to the cassock worn by Fr. Massa when he accompanied them in training.

Today, in the general audience, Pope Francis said, “I especially greet the San Lorenzo football team, who won the Championship last Sunday and have brought the Cup here. Thank you very much”.


Vatican City, 18 December 2013 (VIS) – Today the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he extended the liturgical cult of Blessed Pietro Favre, professed priest of the Society of Jesus (1506-1546) to the universal Church, inscribing him in the catalogue of saints. He also authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:


- Venerable Servant of God Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, American professed nun of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth (1901-1927).


- Servant of God Emanuele Herranz Estables, Spanish diocesan priest and founder of the Religious Handmaids of Our Lady of Sorrows (1880-1968).

- Servant of God Jerzy Ciesielski, Polish layperson and father (1929-1970).


Vatican City, 18 December 2013 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father:

- appointed Bishop Robert P. Deeley as bishop of Portland (area 85,541, population 1,379,000, Catholics 207,300, priests 168, permanent deacons 42, religious 347), U.S.A. Bishop Deeley was previously auxiliary of the archdiocese of Boston, U.S.A.

- appointed Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi as apostolic nuncio to Canada. Archbishop Bonazzi was previously apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Vatican City, 17 December 2013 (VIS) – Today Pope Francis celebrates his 77th birthday, and congratulations have arrived in the Vatican from all over the world. However, also in his city of birth, Buenos Aires, citizens are celebrating the birthday of their former archbishop: the parishioners of the diaconate of Boca-Barrajas, one of the most popular and troubled areas of the city, will spend the day in Plaza Constitucion where a “missionary tent” has been erected to welcome the “invisible” inhabitants of the capital. The area hosts a large railway station and the principal bus terminal, where the “street people” of the city gather - migrants, the unemployed, the homeless, prostitutes – and where every year the then Archbishop Bergoglio used to celebrate Mass for the victims of human trafficking.

In Italy, the Constitutional Court sent a telegram to the Pope, through the secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, congratulating him for his “profound and intense pastoral work in the defence of the dignity of the human person and for peace in the world”. The Episcopal Conference sent him a message referring to his “tireless apostolic ministry which offers words of life and mercy, opening up paths and spreading hope”. Today, or later, on Wednesday morning, Pope Francis will receive a special gift: a visit from a delegation from the football team San Lorenzo de Buenos Aires, which the Pope supports, and who will bring with them the Cup of the “Inicial” Championship, which they won last Sunday. In the Roman parish of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre – very close to the Vatican – various groups of young people will offer twenty-four hours of Eucharistic adoration in homage to Pope Francis, in shifts throughout the day and the night, joined by the Catholic Knights Templar.

The birthday celebrations will not end today. On Friday, 20 December, the Roman Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs will offer a concert in honour of the Pope, with the participation of numerous Italian and foreign artists who, as well as performing musical pieces, will also read significant passages from the Pope's work. The repertory will include the “Misa Criolla”, by the Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez, one of the Pope's favourite works, which will be performed by the Basilica's Schola Cantorum choir using popular Argentine instruments, and with the participation of the Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela.

This morning, Pope Francis requested that Mass be celebrated in the Santa Marta chapel with the staff of the guesthouse, in order to celebrate in a “family” environment. Today's Gospel, rich in the names of Jesus' ancestors, offered the Pope the opportunity to mention the names of several of the staff present during his homily. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, representing the College of Cardinals, concelebrated with the Pope, who also received congratulations from Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin on behalf of all his collaborators at the Secretariat of State.

The Almoner of His Holiness, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, when offering his congratulations to the Pope, was accompanied by four homeless people from the area near the Vatican. The Holy Father invited them all to dine with him in the Domus Santa Maria refectory.

All those who wish to congratulate the Pope by Internet are invited to do so at:


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