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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.
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