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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.

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