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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.
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