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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.
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