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Monday, January 7, 2013


Vatican City, 7 January 2013 (VIS) - This morning in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict pronounced his traditional annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Before making his remarks, the Pope was greeted by Ambassador Alejandro Emilio Valladares Lanza of Honduras, dean of the diplomatic corps, then received the greetings of the ambassadors as a whole formulated in a speech delivered by Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel of the Principality of Monaco, vice dean.

The Holy See currently maintains full diplomatic relations with 179 States, as well as the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It also has relations of a special nature with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Furthermore, the Holy See has observer-State status at the United Nations, as well as being a member of seven organisations and agencies of the UN system, observer in eight others, and member or observer in five regional organisations.

Ample extracts of the Holy Father's address follow below:

... "Civil and political authorities before all others have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family, beginning with that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East. I think first and foremost of Syria, torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population. I renew my appeal for a ceasefire and the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins. Your Excellencies, allow me to ask you to continue to make your Governments aware of this, so that essential aid will urgently be made available to face this grave humanitarian situation. I now turn with deep concern towards the Holy Land. Following Palestine’s recognition as a Non-Member Observer State of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace and not of division; a prophecy of the Kingdom of God and not a byword for instability and opposition!".

"As I turn my thoughts towards the beloved Iraqi people, I express my hope that they will pursue the path of reconciliation in order to arrive at the stability for which they long".

"In Lebanon, where last September I met the various groups which make up society, may the many religious traditions there be cultivated by all as a true treasure for the country and for the whole region, and may Christians offer an effective witness for the building of a future of peace, together with all men and women of good will!".

"In North Africa too, cooperation between all the members of society is of primary concern, and each must be guaranteed full citizenship, the liberty publicly to profess their religion and the ability to contribute to the common good. I assure all Egyptians of my closeness and my prayers at this time when new institutions are being set in place".

"Turning to sub-Saharan Africa, I encourage the efforts being made to build peace, especially in those places where the wounds of war remain open and where their grave humanitarian consequences are being felt. I think particularly of the Horn of Africa, and the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where new of acts of violence have erupted, forcing many people to abandon their homes, families and surroundings. Nor can I fail to mention other threats looming on the horizon. Nigeria is regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful gathered in prayer, as if hatred intended to turn temples of prayer and peace into places of fear and division. I was deeply saddened to learn that, even in the days when we celebrated Christmas, some Christians were barbarously put to death. Mali is also torn by violence and marked by a profound institutional and social crisis, one which calls for the effective attention of the international community. In the Central African Republic, I hope that the talks announced as taking place shortly will restore stability and spare the people from reliving the throes of civil war".

"The building of peace always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. This task, even if carried out in many ways and with varying degrees of intensity, challenges all countries and must constantly be inspired by the transcendent dignity of the human person and the principles inscribed in human nature. Foremost among these is respect for human life at every stage. In this regard, I was gratified that a resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in January of last year, called for the prohibition of euthanasia, understood as the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being. At the same time, I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both. In this area, the recent decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilization, which arbitrarily redefines the moment of conception and weakens the defence of unborn life, is also a source of concern".

... "The European Union also requires far-sighted representatives capable of making the difficult choices necessary to rectify its economy and to lay solid foundations for growth. Alone, certain countries may perhaps advance more quickly, but together, all will certainly go further! If the differential index between financial taxes represents a source of concern, the increasing differences between those few who grow ever richer and the many who grow hopelessly poorer, should be a cause for dismay. In a word, it is a question of refusing to be resigned to a 'spread' in social well-being, while at the same time fighting one in the financial sector".

"Investment in education in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America means helping them to overcome poverty and disease, and to create legal systems which are equitable and respectful of human dignity. Certainly, if justice is to be achieved, good economic models, however necessary, are not sufficient. Justice is achieved only when people are just! Consequently, building peace means training individuals to fight corruption, criminal activity, the production and trade in narcotics, as well as abstaining from divisions and tensions which threaten to exhaust society, hindering development and peaceful coexistence".

"Continuing our meeting today, I would like to add that peace in society is also put at risk by certain threats to religious liberty: it is a question sometimes of the marginalization of religion in social life; sometimes of intolerance or even of violence towards individuals, symbols of religious identity and religious institutions. It even happens that believers, and Christians in particular, are prevented from contributing to the common good by their educational and charitable institutions. In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This 'frontier' of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the 'bearing walls' of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity".

"Moreover, in an ever more open world, building peace through dialogue is no longer a choice but a necessity! From this perspective, the joint declaration between the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland and the Patriarch of Moscow, signed last August, is a strong signal given by believers for the improvement of relations between the Russian and Polish peoples. I would also like to mention the peace accord concluded recently in the Philippines and I would like to underline the role of dialogue between religions for a peaceful coexistence in the region of Mindanao".

Benedict XVI concluded by affirming that "peace remains 'an empty word' if it is not nourished and completed by charity" and that charity "is at the heart of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See and, above all, of the concern of the Successor of Peter and of the whole Catholic Church. Charity cannot take the place of justice that has been denied; nor can justice, on the other hand, replace charity that has been refused. The Church daily practises charity in works of social assistance such as hospitals and clinics, her educational institutions such as orphanages, schools, colleges and universities, and through help given to peoples in distress, especially during and after conflicts. In the name of charity, the Church wishes also to be near all those who suffer due to natural disasters. I am thinking of the flood victims in Southeast Asia and of those of the hurricane which struck the East coast of the United States. I am also thinking of those who experienced the earthquake that devastated some regions of Northern Italy. As you know, I wanted to go there personally and see for myself the earnest desire to rebuild what had been destroyed. In this moment of its history, I hope that such a spirit of tenacity and shared commitment will move the entire beloved Italian nation".

"To conclude our encounter, I would like to recall that, at the end of the Second Vatican Council – which started fifty years ago - the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, sent out messages which remain relevant, including one addressed to world leaders. He encouraged them in this way: 'Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: It is God […] who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth'. Today, as I make those sentiments my own, I convey to you, the Ambassadors and other distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, as well as to your families and colleagues, my very best wishes for the New Year. Thank you!".


Vatican City, 7 January 2013 (VIS) - For the national Congress on the Church in Cambodia the Holy Father addressed a message recalling "the faith, courage, and perseverance of your pastors and of your Christian brothers and sisters" during the years of the Khmer Rouge when many Christians were assassinated. The congress, which is taking place in Phnom Penh from 5 to 7 January, has the theme of "Vatican Council II and the Church".

Following is the complete text of Benedict XVI's message:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Cambodia,"

"It is with great pleasure that I join you in prayer these days and through the heart, send you warm greetings while you gather around your pastors to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I hope that the Cambodian language translation of the conciliar documents and the Catechism that you will receive on this occasion will allow you to better understand the teaching of the Church and grow in faith".

"In this Year of Faith, I invite you to keep your eyes fixed on the person of Jesus Christ who is the origin and end of our faith and to reiterate the Good News to the world today. In Him, the examples of faith that have marked our history, find their full light. Also, remembering the period of troubles that precipitated your country in the darkness, I would like to emphasize the faith, courage and perseverance of your pastors and of your Christian brothers and sisters, those so many who have died, is a noble testimony to the truth of the Gospel. And this testimony has become a priceless spiritual strength to rebuild the church community in your country. Today, many catechumens and adult baptisms show your dynamism and is a happy sign of the active presence of God in you".

"Dear brothers and sisters, after the Apostle Paul, I urge you to 'keep the unity of the Spirit by the bond of peace'. Be assured of the prayers of your brothers and sisters whose blood flowed in the rice field! Be a leaven in the dough of your society, witnessing to the love of Christ for all, building bonds of brotherhood with members of other religious traditions, and walking on the paths of justice and mercy".

"Dear young people, my friends who have been baptised in these recent years, do not forget that the Church is your family; she is counting on you to witness the life and the love that you have found in Jesus. I pray for you and I invite you to be generous disciples of Christ".

"Cambodian seminarians, priests and religious, you are a sign of the seeds of the Church that is building up herself. You have offered your life and your prayers are a source of hope. May they be also an invitation to other young people to give their lives as priests and religious in the heart of God".

"Missionaries, religious, consecrated laity from five continents, be the beautiful sign of ecclesial communion around your pastors so that your brotherhood in the diversity of your charismas may lead many people you serve and love with zeal to meet Jesus Christ".

"And all of you, who seek God, persevere and be sure that Christ loves you and offers you His peace!".

"Beloved brothers and sisters, pastors and faithful of Cambodia, may the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Mekong, in her humility and fidelity to the will of the Lord, enlighten you throughout this Year of Faith. Be sure that I keep you in my prayers and from the bottom of my heart I convey upon you all an affectionate Apostolic Blessing!".


Vatican City, 6 January 2013 (VIS) - Today, Sunday the Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica and conferred episcopal ordination on Angelo Vincenzo Zani, elected titular archbishop of Volturno and named secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Fortunato Nwachukwu, elected titular archbishop of Acquaviva and named apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua; Georg Ganswein, private secretary to Benedict XVI, named titular archbishop of Urbisaglia and prefect of the pontifical household; and Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin, elected titular archbishop of Eclano and named apostolic nuncio to Guatemala. Concelebrating with the Holy Father were Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, and the four archbishops-elect. The rite of ordination took place after the proclamation of the Gospel and the announcement of the date of Easter, which will be celebrated on 31 March this year.

During the homily the Holy Father spoke of the Three Wise Men, referring to them as "seekers after God", for whom "the truth meant more than the taunts of the world". Speaking about what it means to be a bishop the Pope affirmed that he "must be courageous" and have "the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset".

Below you will find the complete text of Benedict XVI's words:

"For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history. Thus the liturgy reads the Gospel which relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 71, which depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem. Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied the poor of Israel and more generally those humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the East embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles – the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him. The Church calls this feast “Epiphany” – the appearance of the Godhead. If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place, of every continent, of all the different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity (cf. Tit 3:4).

Following a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord also as the day when episcopal ordination will be conferred on four priests who will now cooperate in different ways in the ministry of the Pope for the unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the multiplicity of the Particular Churches. The connection between this episcopal ordination and the theme of the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jesus Christ is evident. It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way. But in this liturgy I would like to reflect with you on a more concrete question. Based on the account of Matthew, we can gain a certain idea of what sort of men these were, who followed the sign of the star and set off to find that King who would establish not only for Israel but for all mankind a new kind of kingship. What kind of men were they? And we can also ask whether, despite the difference of times and tasks, we can glimpse in them something of what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.

These men who set out towards the unknown were, in any event, men with a restless heart. Men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater. They were no doubt learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things. They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists, and where and how he exists. Whether he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about ourselves and about God and the world. Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts. They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.

Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.

Faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer. Saint Augustine once said that prayer is ultimately nothing more than the realization and radicalization of our yearning for God. Instead of “yearning”, we could also translate the word as “restlessness” and say that prayer would detach us from our false security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities, and would give us a restlessness for God and thus an openness to and concern for one another. The Bishop, as a pilgrim of God, must be above all a man of prayer. He must live be in constant inner contact with God; his soul must be open wide to God. He must bring before God his own needs and the needs of others, as well as his joys and the joys of others, and thus in his own way establish contact between God and the world in communion with Christ, so that Christ’s light can shine in the world.

Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.

How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.

Here I am reminded of an episode at the very beginning of Christianity which Saint Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles. After the speech of Gamaliel, who advised against violence in dealing with the earliest community of believers in Jesus, the Sanhedrin summoned the Apostles and had them flogged. It then forbade them from preaching in the name of Jesus and set them free. Saint Luke continues: “As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus. And every day… they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:40ff.). The successors of the Apostles must also expect to be repeatedly beaten, by contemporary methods, if they continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that can be heard and understood. Then they can rejoice that they have been considered worthy of suffering for him. Like the Apostles, we naturally want to convince people and in this sense to obtain their approval. Naturally, we are not provocative; on the contrary we invite all to enter into the joy of that truth which shows us the way. The approval of the prevailing wisdom, however, is not the criterion to which we submit. Our criterion is the Lord himself. If we defend his cause, we will constantly gain others to the way of the Gospel. But, inevitably, we will also be beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ.

The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, to the great Light which enlightens everyone coming into this world (cf. Jn 1:9). As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history and they show us the way. The saints are God’s true constellations, which light up the nights of this world, serving as our guides. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, told his faithful that they must shine like stars in the world (cf. 2:15).

Dear friends, this holds true for us too. It holds true above all for you who are now to be ordained Bishops of the Church of Jesus Christ. If you live with Christ, bound to him anew in this sacrament, then you too will become wise men. Then you will become stars which go before men and women, pointing out to them the right path in life. All of us here are now praying for you, that the Lord may fill you with the light of faith and love. That that restlessness of God for man may seize you, so that all may experience his closeness and receive the gift of his joy. We are praying for you, that the Lord may always grant you the courage and humility of faith. We ask Mary, who showed to the Wise Men the new King of the world (cf. Mt 2:11), as a loving mother, to show Jesus Christ also to you and to help you to be guides along the way which leads to him. Amen".


Vatican City, 6 January 2013 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Lord's Epiphany, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. The event had been slightly delayed because of the length of the morning's Mass during which the Pope had consecrated four new archbishops, including Msgr. Georg Ganswein, his private secretary.

The Pope began by apologizing to the faithful for the delay: "I ordained four new bishops in St. Peter's Basilica today and the ceremony lasted a little longer than normal. Above all, however, today we celebrate the Lord's Epiphany, his manifestation to the peoples, when many Oriental Churches celebrate His Nativity according to the Julian calendar. This small difference, which superimposes these two events, highlights the fact that the Child, born in a humble grotto in Bethlehem, is the light of the world that guides the paths of all peoples. It is a combination that also makes us think from the perspective of faith: on the one hand, on Christmas, in the presence of Jesus, we see the faith of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; on the other, at Epiphany, we see the faith of the Three Wise Men who have come from the East to adore the King of the Jews".

"The Virgin Mary, along with her husband, represent the 'lineage' of Israel, the 'remnant' foretold by the prophets, from which the Messiah will spring forth. The Three Wise Men, on the other hand, represent the peoplesand we can also say the civilizations, cultures, and religionsthat are, so to speak, on the path to God, in search of His reign of peace, justice, truth, and freedom. There is first a nucleus embodied, above all, by Mary, the 'daughter of Zion': a nucleus of Israel, the people that knew and had faith in that God who had revealed himself to the patriarchs and in the course of history. This faith reaches its fulfilment in Mary, in the fullness of time. In her, who was 'blessed because she believed', the Word was made flesh, God 'appeared' in the world. Mary's faith becomes the first fruits and the model of faith of the Church, the People of the New Covenant. Bur, from the beginning, this people is universal and we see this today in the figures of the Three Wise Men who come to Bethlehem following the light of a star and the indications given in the Sacred Scriptures".

In conclusion, the Pope referred to the episcopal ordinations conferred that morning: "two of the new bishops will remain here in their service of the Holy See and the other two will depart to become papal representatives to two nations. Let us pray for each of them, for their ministry, and that the light of Christ may shine forth throughout the world".


Vatican City, 7 January 2013 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father addressed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See to express his traditional greetings on the new year.

This evening he is scheduled to meet with archbishops Angelo Vincenzo Zani, titular archbishop of Volturno and secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education (of Seminaries and Institutes of Studies) and Georg Ganswein, titular archbishop of Urbisaglia and prefect of the pontifical household, along with members of their families.


Vatican City, 7 January 2013 (VIS) - On Saturday, 5 January, the Holy Father appointed:

- Bishop Jean-Paul Gobel, apostolic nuncio to Iran, as apostolic nuncio to the Arab Republic of Egypt and apostolic delegate to the League of Arab States.

- Archbishop-elect Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin as apostolic nuncio to Guatemala.

- Antonio Chiminello, vice-director of the State Accounting Administration, as director of the same department for a five-year period.
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