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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

General audience: learn by observing the life of children

Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning, Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of this year's final general audience to the widespread devotion to the Baby Jesus, which is keenly felt during these days. This tradition, he explained, can be traced back to St. Francis of Assisi and “keeps alive in our hearts the mystery of God made man”. He also mentioned St. Therese of Lisieux, who as a Carmelite nun took on the name of Therese of the Child Jesus and “knew how to live and bear witness to that 'spiritual infancy' that is assimilated by meditating, in the school of the Virgin Mary, on the humility of God Who made Himself small for us”.

“There was a time when in the divine-human person of Christ, God was a child, and this must have a special meaning for our faith. It is true that His death on the Cross and His resurrection are the greatest expression of His redeeming love, but let us not forget that all His earthly life is revelation and teaching. In the Christmas period we remember His infancy. To grow in faith we need to contemplate the Baby Jesus more often. … We know little of Jesus as a child, but we can learn much about Him if we look at the life of children”.

“We discover, first of all, that children want our attention”, continued the Holy Father. “Why do they wish to be at the centre of attention? Because they like to show off? No! Because they need to feel protected. We too need to place Jesus at the centre of our life and to know, although it may seem paradoxical, that we have the responsibility of protecting Him … and of making the Baby Jesus smile to show Him our love and our joy that He is in our midst. His smile is a sign of the love, that gives us the certainty of being loved”.

Francis also emphasised that children love to play, and commented that playing with a child means setting aside our logic as adults and entering into that of a child. “If we want the child to have fun, we must understand what he likes, without being selfish and making them do things that we like instead. This is a teaching for us. Before Jesus we are called upon to abandon our claims to autonomy, to instead welcome the true form of freedom, which consists in knowing Who is before us and serving Him. He, a child, is the Son of God, Who comes to save us. He came among us to show us the face of the Father, full of love and mercy. Let us therefore hold the Baby Jesus in our arms and put ourselves in His service: He is the source of love and serenity”.

Francis: pray for the victims of natural disasters

Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) – Following today's general audience, the Pope appealed for prayers for the victims of the natural disasters that have afflicted the United States, Great Britain and South America, especially Paraguay in recent days, causing fatalities, loss of homes and major material damage.

“May the Lord console these populations and may fraternal solidarity come to their aid”, he added.

Pope Francis' prayer intentions for January

Vatican City, 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father's universal prayer intention for January 2016 is: “That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions”.

Participation of the faithful in encounters with Pope Francis during 2015

Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) – The Prefecture of the Papal Household today published a communique reporting that during the year 2015 a total of 3,210,860 faithful attended the various encounters with Pope Francis: general audiences (704,100), special audiences (408,760), liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and in St. Peter's Square (513,000), and the Angelus and Regina Coeli prayers (1,585,000). These data refer only to events held in the Vatican and do not include others attended often by large numbers of faithful, for instance during the apostolic trips to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sarajevo, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States of America, Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, or during trips within Italy and pastoral visits in the diocese of Rome.

These are approximate data calculated on the basis of requests to participate in encounters with the Pope and invitations distributed by the Prefecture, which also specifies that estimates are given for attendance at events such as the Angelus or Regina Coeli and for celebrations in St. Peter's Square.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has:

- appointed Fr. Jose Fortunato Alvarez Valdez as bishop of Gomez Palacio (area 27,405, population 585,000, Catholics 468,000, priests 51, religious 76) Mexico. The bishop-elect was born in Mexicali, Mexico in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1998. He holds a degree in theology and patristic sciences from the Agostinian Patristic Institute, Rome, and has served in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Mexicali, including diocesan coordinator of vocational pastoral ministry, vicar of the cathedral, chancellor, parish priest and dean. He is currently pastor of the Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro, defender of the bond of the diocesan tribunal, and member of the presbyteral college, the college of consultors and the economic board.

- accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia presented by Bishop Brian Finnegan upon reaching the age limit.

- appointed Fr. Aparecido Donizete de Souza as auxiliary of Porto Alegre (area 13,530, population 3,395,000, Catholics 2,527,000, priests 362, permanent deacons 58, religious 1,487), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Primeiro de Maio, Brazil in 1964 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a licentiate in spirituality from the “Teresianum” Pontifical Institute of Spirituality and has served as parish in a number of pastoral roles in the diocese of Cornelio Procopio, Brazil, including parish vicar of the cathedral, parish priest, rector of the “Menino Deus” seminary and of the “Sao Jose” major seminary. He is currently pastor of the “Sao Francisco de Assis” parish, spiritual director of the seminary and diocesan assessor for liturgical pastoral ministry.


Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service wishes all its readers a Happy New Year. The next VIS bulletin will be transmitted on Monday 4 January 2016.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rome welcomes the Pueri Cantores

Vatican City, 29 December 2015 (VIS) – In the morning of Thursday 31 December the Holy Father will receive in audience the participants in the 40 th International Congress of the International Federation of Pueri Cantores, held in Rome from 28 December to 1 January.

“Cantate Spem vestram” is the motto of the congress, which opened yesterday afternoon with a procession along Via della Conciliazione to the Holy Door, which the participants then passed through, and the inauguration ceremony in the Paul VI Hall, led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation.

During these five days “concerts of hope” will be held in various churches around the capital: at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday 29 December in the Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle, the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles and the Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere; on Wednesday 30 September in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina and in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Christ the King. The same Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. there will be prayers for peace. Finally, the congress will conclude on Friday with a Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 29 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- erected the new diocese of Barisal (area 20,708, population 15,183,927, Catholics 29,685, priests 19, religious 33), Bangladesh, with territory from the diocese of Chittagong, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

- appointed Bishop Subroto Lawrence Howlader, C.S.C., auxiliary of Chittagong, as first bishop of the diocese of Barisal, Bangladesh.

Monday, December 28, 2015

''Family Life: A Pilgrimage for Experiencing the Joy of Forgiveness''

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – At 10:00 this morning, on the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the celebration, attended by Roman and pilgrim families for the Jubilee of Family, he gave the following homily:

''The biblical readings which we just heard presented us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the house of God. Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple of Shiloh and consecrate him to the Lord. In the same way, Joseph and Mary, in the company of Jesus, go as pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.''

''We often see pilgrims journeying to shrines and places dear to popular piety. These days, many of them are making their way to the Holy Door opened in all the cathedrals of the world and in many shrines. But the most beautiful thing which emerges from the word of God today is that the whole family goes on pilgrimage. Fathers, mothers and children together go to the house of the Lord, in order to sanctify the holy day with prayer. It is an important teaching, which is meant for our own families as well. Indeed, we could say that family life is a series of pilgrimages, both small and big.''

''For example, how comforting it is for us to reflect on Mary and Joseph teaching Jesus how to pray! This is a sort of pilgrimage, the pilgrimage of education in prayer. And it is comforting also to know that throughout the day they would pray together, and then go each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly. Certainly, during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they prayed by singing the Psalm: ‘I was glad when they said to me, ''Let us go to the house of the Lord!'' Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem’.''

''How important it is for our families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road along which we encounter difficulties but also enjoy moments of joy and consolation. And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer. What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of each day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross, as they did on the day of their baptism? Is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children? To bless them, that is, to entrust them to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Anna, Joseph and Mary, so that he can be their protection and support throughout the day. In the same way, it is important for families to join in a brief prayer before meals, in order to thank the Lord for these gifts and to learn how to share what we have received with those in greater need. These are all little gestures, yet they point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.''

''At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents. This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little ‘escapade’, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.''

''In the Year of Mercy, every Christian family can become a privileged place on this pilgrimage for experiencing the joy of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them. How miserable we would be if God did not forgive us! Within the family we learn how to forgive, because we are certain that we are understood and supported, whatever the mistakes we make.''

''Let us not lose confidence in the family! It is beautiful when we can always open our hearts to one another, and hide nothing. Where there is love, there is also understanding and forgiveness. To all of you, dear families, I entrust this most important mission – the domestic pilgrimage of daily family life – which the world and the Church need, now more than ever.''

Angelus: The Holy Family: Domestic Church and True School of the Gospel

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – After celebrating the Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pope recalled this past September''s meeting with families in Philadelphia, USA as well as all the families he has met during his apostolic trips and all the families around the world with these words:

''I would like to greet you all with affection and gratitude, especially at this present time when the family is subjected to various kinds of misunderstandings and difficulties that weaken it. Today's Gospel,'' he continued, ''invites families to capture the light of hope coming from the house of Nazareth where Jesus grew up in joyfulness.''

''The family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is, for every believer and especially for families, a true school of the Gospel. Here we admire the fulfillment of God's plan to make the family a special community of life and love. Here we learn that every Christian family is called to be a ‘domestic church'', to make the light of the Gospel virtues shine forth and to become leaven for the good in society. The typical characteristics of the Holy Family are meditation and prayer, mutual understanding and respect, a spirit of sacrifice, labor, and solidarity.''

''Each family can draw valuable guidance for lifestyles and life choices and can draw strength and wisdom for the everyday journey from the example and witness of the Holy Family. Our Lady and St. Joseph teach us how to welcome children as a gift from God, to generate and educate them by cooperating in a wonderful way with the Creator's work; giving the world a new smile with every child. It is in the united family that children bring their existence to maturity, living a meaningful and effective experience of gratuitous love, of tenderness, of reciprocal respect, of mutual understanding, of forgiveness, and of joy.''

''The true joy experienced in the family is not something casual or accidental. It is a joy born of the profound harmony among persons, which gives us a taste of the beauty of being together, of supporting one another along the journey of life. But at the heart of that joy is always God's presence, his welcoming, merciful, and patient love toward all. If the doors of the family are not opened to the presence of God and his love, the family loses its harmony, selfishness prevails, and joy is extinguished. Instead, the family that lives the joy of life, the joy of faith, spontaneously communicating it, is the salt of the earth and light of the world. It is the leaven for all of society.''

Pope Calls Attention to Migrant Cubans in Difficulty

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke on behalf of the ''numerous Cuban migrants who are in difficulty in Central America,'' many of whom are victims of human trafficking. He called on the countries in the region to generously renew the necessary efforts to finding a timely solution to this humanitarian tragedy.

At the same time, the pontiff also greeted the families and the pilgrims from around the world present in the square, thanking them for their witness. He thanked everyone for their well wishes and prayers.

Pope’s Message to Young Adults at the European Meeting of the Taize Community

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through a telegram sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, addressed the participants in the 38th European Meeting of Young Adults organized by the Taize Community, which will take place from Monday, 28 December 2015 until 1 January 2016, in Valencia, Spain.

The Holy Father encouraged the more than 30,000 expected participants to ''have the courage of mercy, which will guide you not only to receive it in your lives but also to be close to those who are in distress. You know that the Church is here for all of humanity and where there are Christians everyone should find an oasis of mercy. This,'' he emphasized, ''particularly applies to the many migrants in such need of your welcome.'' The Pope also expressed his hope that ''during these beautiful days … you might better discover Christ, ‘the face of the Father’s mercy'', and he sent them his blessing.

Telegram on the Attacks in the Philippines

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin sent a telegram of condolences on behalf of the Pope Francis to Msgr. Giuseppe Pinto, apostolic nuncio in Manila, following the attacks on the island of Mindanao, in the south of the country.

''The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the senseless killing of innocent people in Mindanao, and he sends condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His Holiness prays that security and safety will be established for all people in the region, so that dialogue, tolerance and peace may enable each person to live free from fear. He asks all believers to reject violence in the name of God who is love, and invokes abundant divine gifts of consolation, mercy and strength upon those affected by this tragedy.''

Pope’s Condolences on Gas Plant Accident in Nigeria

Vatican City, 27 December 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, has sent the following telegram of condolences to Msgr. Augustine Kasuja, apostolic nuncio in Abuya, following the tragic accident that occurred in the Nigerian city of Nnewi when a truck exploded in a gas plant.

''The Holy Father was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic explosion at a gas plant in Nnewi, in which so many people died or were seriously injured. He sends heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured, to the authorities and to the entire Nation. His Holiness, commending the souls of the departed to the tender mercy of God, invokes the abundant divine gifts of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy.''

Angelus: ''Never Tire of Asking for Divine Forgiveness''

Vatican City, 25 December 2015 (VIS) – ''Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen,'' said the Pope today at noon from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace, when he prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. ''This memorial of the first martyr follows immediately after the Solemnity of Christmas. Yesterday we contemplated the merciful love of God who became man for us. Today we see the consistent response of Jesus’ disciple who gives his life. Yesterday, the Savior was born on earth; now his faithful witness is born in heaven. Yesterday as today, the darkness of the denial of life looms, but the light of love that overcomes hatred and inaugurates a new world shines still stronger.''

''There is a particular aspect in today’s story from the Acts of the Apostles that ties St. Stephen to the Lord. It is the forgiveness he offered before he died from being stoned. Nailed to the cross, Jesus said: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. Likewise, Stephen ‘bent his knees and cried out: ''Lord, do not charge them with this sin''.’ Stephen, therefore, is a martyr, which means witness because he does as Jesus does. In fact, the true witnesses are those who act as does Jesus: those who pray, those who love, those who give, but above all, those who forgive because forgiveness, as the word implies, is the greatest expression of giving.''

''But – we might ask – what is the use of forgiving?'' the pontiff continued. ''Is it just a good deed or does it bring results? We find the answer precisely in Stephen’s martyrdom. Among those for whom he begged forgiveness was a young man named Saul who persecuted the Church and tried to destroy it. Shortly thereafter, Saul became Paul, the great saint, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He had received Stephen’s forgiveness. We can say that Paul was born of God’s grace and Stephen’s forgiveness.''

''We also are born of God’s forgiveness. Not only in Baptism but every time we are forgiven our hearts are reborn, are remade. From the beginning, every step forward in the life of faith is impressed with the seal of divine mercy. Because only when we are loved can we in turn love. It does us good to remind ourselves of this: if we want to move forward in faith, we must first of all receive God’s forgiveness. We must meet the Father who is always ready to forgive everything and who, in forgiving us, heals our hearts and reignites our love. We must never tire of asking God’s forgiveness,'' Pope Francis emphasized, ''because it is only when we are forgiven, when we feel ourselves pardoned, that we can learn to forgive.''

The Holy Father acknowledged that forgiving ''is not easy. It is always very difficult.'' He explained that, in order to imitate Christ and forgive the great and small offenses that we suffer every day, we have to start with prayer like St. Stephen. ''It starts from our hearts. We can deal with the resentment we feel through prayer, entrusting those who have done us wrong to God’s mercy. … Then we discover that this inner struggle to forgive purifies us from evil and that prayer and love set us free from the inner chains of rancor. … Through forgiveness we overcome evil with good, we turn hatred into love, and thus make the world cleaner.''

Before finishing, Pope Francis entrusted to the Virgen Mary all those who, ''like St. Stephen, suffer persecution in the name of the faith, our many martyrs today. Help direct our prayers to receive and to offer forgiveness.''

Christmas Message: ''Only God’s Mercy Can Free Humanity from the Many Forms of Evil''

Vatican City, 25 December 2015 (VIS) – At noon today, the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord, the Pope gave the traditional Christmas message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. On finishing the address, which is given in its entirety below, he imparted the Urbi et Orbi blessing ''to the city [of Rome] and to the world''.

''Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!
Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!''

''Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant ‘day’ which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation. A day of joy: a ‘great joy’ for the poor, the lowly and for all the people.''

''On this day, Jesus, the Savior is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the ‘sign’ which God has given us: ‘a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the ‘sign’ of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he ‘is of the Holy Spirit’. He is truly the Savior, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world. With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!''

''He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.''

''Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds with grave repercussions for the entire region.''

''We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.''

''To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. They are our martyrs of today.''

''We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.''

''May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingess to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.''

''May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.''

''Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.''

''Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.''

''On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many! May he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.''

''Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.''

''Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: ‘for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you’.''

Christmas Eve Mass: ''The Mission of Making Known ''The Prince of Peace'''

Vatican City, 24 December 2015 (VIS) – This evening, beginning at 9:30pm, Pope Francis presided over Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. During the course of the celebration he gave this homily:

''Tonight 'a great light' shines forth; the light of Jesus' birth shines all about us. How true and timely are the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: ''You have brought abundant joy and great rejoicing'! Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled. Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the skeptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.''

''Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Savior of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey's end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Savior lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been ''born to us'; he was ''given to us', as Isaiah proclaims. The people who for two thousand years have traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy are now given the mission of making known ''the Prince of Peace' and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.''

''So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God's glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, ''to reject godless ways' and the richness of the world, in order to live ''temperately, justly and devoutly'.''

''In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God's will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.''

''Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: ''Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation'.''

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 28 December 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Brian McGee as Bishop of Argyll and the Isles (area 31,080, population 77,400, Catholics 10,179, priests 25, permanent deacons 1, religious 32), Scotland. Bishop-elect McGee was born in Greenock, in the Diocese of Paisley, in 1965 and was ordained a priest of the clergy of Paisely in 1989. He has served as a pastor as well as the Scots College’s spiritual director. He was diocesan director of the RCIA program as well as Episcopal Vicar for marriage and the family. Since 2014 he has served as Paisley’s vicar general.

On Thursday, 24 December, the Holy Father appointed Msgr. Wojciech Tomasz Osial as auxiliary bishop of Lowicz (area 5,806, population 609,479, Catholics 607,825, priests 166, religious 390), Poland. Bishop-elect Osial was born in Lowicz in 1970 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He holds a doctorate in catechetics from Rome’s Pontifical Salesian University and has been serving as Lowicz’s diocesan director for catechism and curial notary. He is also a professor in the seminaries of Lowicz and Oltarzew as well as the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw. He has been a canon of the cathedral chapter since 2014.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 23 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Msgr. Pierantonio Pavanello as bishop of Adria-Rovigo (area 1,193, population 204,400, Catholics 198,000, priests 155, permanent deacons 5, religious 207), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Bassano del Grappa, Italy in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University and has served in a number of roles in the diocese of Vicenza, including parish vicar, secretary of the presbyteral council and diocesan pastoral council. He is currently episcopal chancellor, adjunct judicial vicar of the Triveneto Regional Ecclesiastic Tribunal, and lecturer in canon law at the diocesan seminary. In 2005 he was named Chaplain of His Holiness. He succeeds Bishop Lucio Soravito De Franceschi, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Fr. Francois Touvet as bishop of Chalons (area 6,501, population 265,000, Catholics 258,500, priests 76, permanent deacons 17, religious 76), France. The bishop-elect was born in Paris, France in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He holds a licentiate in theology from the Institut Catholique de Lyon, and has served in a number of roles in the dioceses of Dijon - including pastoral vicar, parish priest, diocesan chaplain, dean, and vicar general – and Langres, where he served as pastor of the Cathedral and episcopal vicar for the southern pastoral zone. He is currently vicar general of Langres. He succeeds Bishop Gilbert Louis, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- appointed Fr. Joao Muniz Alves, O.F.M., as bishop prelate of Xingu (area 368,092, population 429,000, Catholics 330,000, priests 30, religious 67), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Carema, Brazil in 1961, gave his religious vows in 1986 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He holds a licentiate and doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical Antonianum University and a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Alphonsianum Academy, and has served in a number of pastoral roles including parish vicar, deputy master of postulants, parish priest, definitor of the Francescan vice-Province “Nossa Senhora da Assuncao” in Bacabal, member of the presbyteral council, provincial minister and visitator general of the Franciscan Province of Mozambique. He is currently guardian of the Franciscan community at Sao Luis do Maranhao, parish vicar, formator and professor of moral theology. He succeeds Bishop Erwin Krautler, C.PP.S., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same territorial prelature upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Justin Mulenga as bishop of Mpika (area 86,135, population 548,000, Catholics 133,511, priests 36, religious 84), Zambia. The bishop-elect was born in Rosa Mission, Kasama, Zambia in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1993. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar, bursar general of the archdiocese of Kasama, parish priest, and episcopal vicar for religious and the deaconry of Mbala. He is currently president of the association of diocesan clergy and pastoral coordinator.


Vatican City, 23 December 2015 (VIS) - During the Christmas holiday there will be no VIS bulletin on Thursday 24 or Friday 25 December. The next bulletin will be transmitted on Monday 28 December. The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a very happy and holy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 22 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Bishop Ruben Antonio Gonzalez Medina, C.M.F., of Caguas, Puerto Rico, as bishop of Ponce (area 2,045, population 628,300, Catholics 489,500, priests 112, permanent deacons 102, religious 257), Puerto Rico. He succeeds Bishop Felix Lazaro Martinez, Sch. P., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

- Fr. Gerard County, C.S.Sp., as bishop of Kingstown (area 388, population 118,060, Catholics 102,000, priests 6, permanent deacons 7, religious 10), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The bishop-elect was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1960, gave his religious vows in 1994 and was ordained a priest in 1996. He has served in a number of offices within his Congregation in Mexico, including bursar and director of youth pastoral care, parish priest of St. David Roldan Lara in the diocese of Tampico, superior provincial of Mexico. He is currently a member of the community of Spiritan Fathers in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

- Fr. Claude Hamelin as auxiliary of the diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil (area 2,075, population 735,941, Catholics 625,500, priests 103, permanent deacons 4, religious 387), Canada. The bishop-elect was born in Sherington, Canada in 1952 and was ordained a priest in 1977. He holds a bachelor's degree in theology and a master's degree in pastoral theology from the University of Montreal, Canada, and a licentiate in moral theology from the Pontifical Alphonsianum Academy, Rome. He has served as chaplain in a private school, parish priest of St. Mark in Candiac, episcopal vicar for the central, northern and western region of the diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, and head of the diocesan office for the clergy. He is currently vicar general of the same diocese.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Pope greets the Roman Curia: return to the essentials

Vatican City, 21 December 2015 (VIS) – Missionary and pastoral spirit, idoneity and sagacity, spirituality and humanity, example and fidelity, reasonableness and gentleness, innocuousness and determination, diligence and attentiveness, charity and truth, openness and maturity, respectfulness and humility, intrepidness and alertness, and finally, accountability and sobriety. These are the qualities Pope Francis highlighted this morning in his greetings to the Roman Curia, as a practical aid to embracing the time of grace of Christmas and the Year of Mercy and ensuring the fruitfulness of service to the Church. “I would ask the Heads of Dicasteries and other superiors to ponder this, to add to it and to complete it”, he said. “It is a list based on an acrostic analysis of the word 'Misericordia' … with the aim of having it serve as our guide and beacon”.

During his traditional exchange of Christmas greetings with the members of the Roman Curia, the Holy Father addressed the prelates recalling their previous meetings: in 2013, when he stressed “two important and inseparable aspects of the work of the Curia: professionalism and service”, offering St. Joseph as a model to be imitated. Then, last year, as a preparation for the sacrament of Reconciliation, he considered “certain temptations or maladies – the catalogue of curial diseases … which could affect any Christian, curia, community, congregation, parish or ecclesial movement. Diseases which call for prevention, vigilance, care and, sadly, in some cases, painful and prolonged interventions”.

“Some of these diseases became evident in the course of the past year”, he continued, “causing no small pain to the entire body and harming many souls, also by scandal. It seems necessary to state what has been – and ever shall be – the object of sincere reflection and decisive provisions. Reform will move forward with determination, clarity and firm resolve, since Ecclesia semper reformanda. Nonetheless, diseases and even scandals cannot obscure the efficiency of the services rendered to the Pope and to the entire Church by the Roman Curia, with great effort, responsibility, commitment and dedication, and this is a real source of consolation. St. Ignatius taught that 'it is typical of the evil spirit to instil remorse, sadness and difficulties, and to cause needless worry so as to prevent us from going forward; instead, it is typical of the good spirit to instil courage and energy, consolations and tears, inspirations and serenity, and to lessen and remove every difficulty so as to make us advance on the path of goodness'”.

Therefore, “it would be a grave injustice not to express heartfelt gratitude and needed encouragement to all those good and honest men and women in the Curia who work with dedication, devotion, fidelity and professionalism, offering to the Church and the Successor of Peter the assurance of their solidarity and obedience, as well as their constant prayers. Moreover, cases of resistance, difficulties and failures on the part of individuals and ministers are so many lessons and opportunities for growth, and never for discouragement. They are opportunities for returning to the essentials, which means being ever more conscious of ourselves, of God and our neighbours, of the sensus Ecclesiae and the sensus fidei”.

Francis turned to the central theme of his discourse: “this return to essentials … just a few days after the Church’s inauguration of the pilgrimage of the Holy Year of Mercy, a Year which represents for her and for all of us a pressing summons to gratitude, conversion, renewal, penance and reconciliation”. At the time of Christmas, the feast of God’s infinite mercy, as St. Augustine of Hippo tells us, and in the context of the Year of Mercy, he presented to the Roman Curia “a practical aid”, beginning with the theme of missionary and pastoral spirit.

“Missionary spirit is what makes the Curia evidently fertile and fruitful; it is proof of the effectiveness, efficiency and authenticity of our activity. Faith is a gift, yet the measure of our faith is also seen by the extent to which we communicate it. All baptised persons are missionaries of the Good News, above all by their lives, their work and their witness of joy and conviction. A sound pastoral spirit is an indispensable virtue for the priest in particular. It is shown in his daily effort to follow the Good Shepherd who cares for the flock and gives his life to save the lives of others. It is the yardstick for our curial and priestly work. Without these two wings we could never take flight, or even enjoy the happiness of the 'faithful servant'”.

With regard to idoneity and sagacity: “Idoneity, or suitability, entails personal effort aimed at acquiring the necessary requisites for exercising as best we can our tasks and duties with intelligence and insight. It does not countenance 'recommendations' and payoffs. Sagacity is the readiness to grasp and confront situations with shrewdness and creativity. Idoneity and sagacity also represent our human response to divine grace, when we let ourselves follow the famous dictum: 'Do everything as if God did not exist and then put it all in God’s hands as if you did not exist'”.

Spirituality and humanity: “Spirituality is the backbone of all service in the Church and in Christian life. It is what nourishes all our activity, sustaining and protecting it from human frailty and daily temptation. Humanity is what embodies the truthfulness of our faith; those who renounce their humanity renounce everything. Humanity is what makes us different from machines and robots which feel nothing and are never moved. Once we find it hard to weep seriously or to laugh heartily – these are just two signs – we have begun our decline and the process of turning from 'humans' into something else. Humanity is knowing how to show tenderness and fidelity and courtesy to all. Spirituality and humanity, while innate qualities, are a potential needing to be activated fully, attained completely and demonstrated daily”.

Example and fidelity: “Blessed Paul VI reminded the Curia – in 1963 – of 'its calling to set an example'. An example of avoiding scandals which harm souls and impair the credibility of our witness. Fidelity to our consecration, to our vocation, always mindful of the words of Christ, 'Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much' and 'If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes”.

Reasonableness and gentleness: “Reasonableness helps avoid emotional excesses, while gentleness helps avoid an excess of bureaucracy, programmes and planning. These qualities are necessary for a balanced personality: 'The enemy – and forgive me for quoting St. Ignatius once again – pays careful heed to whether a soul is coarse or delicate; if it is delicate, he finds a way to make it overly delicate, in order to cause it greater distress and confusion'. Every excess is a symptom of some imbalance”.

Innocuousness and determination: “Innocuousness makes us cautious in our judgements and capable of refraining from impulsive and hasty actions. It is the ability to bring out the best in ourselves, in others and in all kinds of situations by acting carefully and attentively. It consists of doing unto others what we would have them do to us. Determination is acting with a resolute will, clear vision, obedience to God and solely for the supreme law of the salus animarum”.

Charity and truth: “Two inseparable virtues of Christian life, 'speaking the truth in charity and practising charity in truth'. To the point where charity without truth becomes a destructive ideology of complaisance and truth without charity becomes myopic legalism”.

Openness and maturity: “Openness is honesty and rectitude, consistency and absolute sincerity with regard both to ourselves and to God. An honest and open person does not act virtuously only when he or she is being watched; honest persons have no fear of being caught, since they never betray the trust of others. An honest person is never domineering like the 'wicked servant', with regard to the persons or matters entrusted to his or her care. Honesty is the foundation on which all other qualities rest. Maturity is the quest to achieve balance and harmony in our physical, mental and spiritual gifts. It is the goal and outcome of a never-ending process of development which has nothing to do with age”.

Respectfulness and humility: “Respectfulness is an endowment of those noble and tactful souls who always try to show genuine respect for others, for their own work, for their superiors and subordinates, for dossiers and papers, for confidentiality and privacy, who can listen carefully and speak politely. Humility is the virtue of the saints and those godly persons who become all the more important as they come to realise that they are nothing, and can do nothing, apart from God’s grace”.

“Diligence and attentiveness: “The more we trust in God and his providence, the more we grow in diligence and readiness to give of ourselves, in the knowledge that the more we give the more we receive. What good would it do to open all the Holy Doors of all the basilicas in the world if the doors of our own heart are closed to love, if our hands are closed to giving, if our homes are closed to hospitality and our churches to welcome and acceptance. Attentiveness is concern for the little things, for doing our best and never yielding to our vices and failings. St. Vincent de Paul used to pray: “Lord, help me to be always aware of those around me, those who are worried or dismayed, those suffering in silence, and those who feel alone and abandoned”.

Intrepidness and alertness: “Being intrepid means fearlessness in the face of troubles, like Daniel in the den of lions, or David before Goliath. It means acting with boldness, determination and resolve, 'as a good soldier'. It means being immediately ready to take the first step, like Abraham, or Mary. Alertness, on the other hand, is the ability to act freely and easily, without being attached to fleeting material things. The Psalm says: 'if riches increase, set not your heart on them'. To be alert means to be always on the go, and never being burdened by the accumulation of needless things, caught up in our own concerns and driven by ambition”.

Accountability and sobriety: “Accountable and trustworthy persons are those who honour their commitments with seriousness and responsibility when they are being observed, but above all when they are alone; they radiate a sense of tranquillity because they never betray a trust. Sobriety – the last virtue on this list, but not because it is least important – is the ability to renounce what is superfluous and to resist the dominant consumerist mentality. Sobriety is prudence, simplicity, straightforwardness, balance and temperance. Sobriety is seeing the world through God’s eyes and from the side of the poor. Sobriety is a style of life which points to the primacy of others as a hierarchical principle and is shown in a life of concern and service towards others. The sober person is consistent and straightforward in all things, because he or she can reduce, recover, recycle, repair, and live a life of moderation”.

Following this list of qualities, Francis went on to remind the prelates that “mercy is no fleeting sentiment, but rather the synthesis of the joyful Good News, a choice and decision on the part of all who desire to assume the 'Heart of Jesus' and to be serious followers of the Lord who has asked us to 'be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful'. In the words of Father Ermes Ronchi, 'Mercy is a scandal for justice, a folly for intelligence, a consolation for us who are debtors. The debt for being alive, the debt for being loved is only repayable by mercy'.

“And so”, he emphasised, “may mercy guide our steps, inspire our reforms and enlighten our decisions. May it be the basis of all our efforts. May it teach us when to move forward and when to step back. May it also enable us to understand the littleness of all that we do in God’s greater plan of salvation and his majestic and mysterious working”.

To conclude, the Holy Father invited those present to savour the magnificent prayer, commonly attributed to Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero, but pronounced for the first time by Cardinal John Dearden:

“Every now and then it helps us to take a step back
and to see things from a distance.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is also beyond our visions.
In our lives, we manage to achieve only a small part
of the marvellous plan that is God’s work.
Nothing that we do is complete,
which is to say that the Kingdom is greater than ourselves.
No statement says everything that can be said.
No prayer completely expresses the faith.
No Creed brings perfection.
No pastoral visit solves every problem.
No programme fully accomplishes the mission of the Church.
No goal or purpose ever reaches completion.
This is what it is about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that others will watch over them.
We lay the foundations of something that will develop.
We add the yeast which will multiply our possibilities.
We cannot do everything,
yet it is liberating to begin.
This gives us the strength to do something and to do it well.
It may remain incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way.
It is an opportunity for the grace of God to enter
and to do the rest.
It may be that we will never see its completion,
but that is the difference between the master and the labourer.
We are labourers, not master builders,
servants, not the Messiah.
We are prophets of a future that does not belong to us”.

The Pope receives Vatican employees: live the Jubilee in the domestic church too

Vatican City, 21 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis exchanged Christmas greetings with the employees of the Holy See and Vatican City State, and their families.

Francis thanked all present for their work and for their efforts in doing all things well, even when there is no recognition. He addressed in particular those who have carried out the same type of work for many years, acknowledging that routine is not always easy to accept as “we are not machines … at times we need an incentive, or to change a little. … Thank you! Let us continue to go ahead, in our various workplaces, collaborating with patience and endeavouring to help each other.”

The Holy Father also apologised for the scandals that have taken place in the Vatican. “But I would like my and your attitude, especially in these days, to be that of prayer: praying for those involved so that they may repent and return to a righteous path”.

“There is another thing I wish to say to you, possibly the most important: I encourage you to take care of your marriage and your children. Look after them, do not neglect them. Marriage is like a plant. It is not like a cupboard that you put in a room and perhaps dust every now and then. A plant is living and must be cared for every day. ... Marriage is a living reality: the life of a couple must never be taken for granted, in any phase during the progress of a family. Let us remember that the most valuable gift for children … is their parents' love. And I do not mean only the love of parents for their children, but also the love between parents themselves, that is, the conjugal bond. This is good for you and for your children”.

“Therefore, first and foremost cultivate the plant of marriage, as spouses, and at the same time take care of the relationship with your children; here too, focus on the human relationship rather than material things. Focus on mercy in your daily relations, between husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters; and take care of grandparents. The Jubilee must be lived also in the domestic church, not only in major events! The Lord love those who practice mercy in ordinary situations. This is my wish for you: to experience the joy of mercy, starting with your family. Happy Christmas!”.

Christmas: encounter Jesus in places of wonder

Vatican City, 20 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace at midday today to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Among those present there was a large group of children from the Oratories who eagerly awaited the blessing of their figurines of the Baby Jesus for their nativity displays. On the fourth Sunday of Advent the Pope explained that, for celebrate Christmas in a fruitful way, we must stop in places of 'wonder'.

“The first place is the 'other', whom we recognise as our brother or sister, as since the birth of Jesus, every face bears a resemblance to the Son of God, and especially when it is the face of a poor person, because God entered the world in poverty and allowed Himself to be approached first by the poor”. The second place of wonder is history. “Very often we think we see things in the right way, and instead we risk reading things backwards. This happens, for instance, when history seems to us to be determined by the market economy, regulated by finance and business, dominated by the powers that be. The God of Christmas is instead a God who 'shuffles the deck'.

“The third place of wonder is the Church”, he continued. “To look on her with the wonder of faith means considering the Church not merely as a religious institution – which the Church is – but to feel that she is also a mother in whom, despite her warts and wrinkles – there are so many! – the contours of the bride beloved of and purified by Christ the Lord shine through. A Church who knows how to recognise the many signs of faithful love that God continuously sends her. A Church for whom the Lord Jesus will never be a possession to be zealously defended; those who do this are mistaken. The Lord Jesus will always be the One who comes to meet her, Whom she knows to await with trust and joy, giving a voice to the hopes of the world. The Church who calls to the Lord, 'Come Lord Jesus'. The Mother Church whose doors are always open, whose arms are open to welcome everyone. The Mother Church goes out from her own doors to seek, with a mother's smile, all of those who are far away to bring them to God's mercy. This is the wonder of Christmas”.

He emphasised that “At Christmas, God gives Himself to us fully by giving His one and only Son, Who is all his joy. It is only with the heart of Mary, the humble and poor daughter of Zion, who become the Mother of the Son of the Most High, that we can rejoice and be glad for the great gift of God and for His unexpected surprise. … The encounter with Jesus will let us too feel this great wonder. But we cannot have this wonder and we cannot meet Jesus, if we do not meet Him in the other, in history and in the Church”, he concluded.

The path to ending violence in the Middle East

Vatican City, 20 December 2015 (VIS) – After today's Angelus prayer, the Pope spoke about the recent agreements regarding the Middle East reached by the international community. “I encourage everyone to continue, with a generosity and dedication, towards a cessation of violence and a negotiated settlement leading to peace”. Similarly, he mentioned the situation in Libya, where “the recent working agreement among the parties for a government of national unity invites hope for the future”. He also commented on the commitment to collaboration between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, expressing his hope that “a renewed spirit of fraternity will further strengthen dialogue and mutual cooperation between them and among the countries of the region”.

He also mentioned the populations of India, recently stricken by a major flood, and asked those present to pray a Hail Mary for these afflicted brothers and sisters. Finally, he greeted all, and especially the many children in St. Peter's Square who had brought figurines of the Baby Jesus from their Nativity displays to be blessed by the Pope. “Dear children, when you pray before your Nativity, remember me, as I will remember you”.

Francis praises the Italian Rail service for its solidarity with the poor

Vatican City, 19 December 2015 (VIS) - “The history of the Italian rail service (Ferrovie dello Stato shows its special attention to the poorest, with different initiatives of solidarity, both in the past and in the present”, said Pope Francis this morning, as he received in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall seven thousand employees in the sector. He also commemorated the workers who lost their lives during the construction of the country's rail network, expressing his hope that accidents of this type may never be repeated.

The initiatives of solidarity Francis mentioned include the Help Centres present in many Italian cities, which as well as offering help and advice to those who find themselves in difficulty, also function as “antennae”, which “enable us to grasp the signs of what is happening around us, to perceive the suffering of others, without remaining insensible to this. These centres are way in which the rail service contributes to keeping the country united, not only in a geographical sense, but also at a social level”. Another important initiative is the Termini Station hostel, dedicated to Don Luigi Di Liegro, founder of Caritas Roma, renovated by the Ferrovie dello Stato in collaboration with Caritas. A structure that welcomes hundreds of visitors on a daily basis, and which is preparing a day service to receive people seeking shelter.

“May the Holy Year, which began just a few days ago, teach us this, above all, and impress it in our mind and our heart that mercy is the first and truest medicine for humanity, that every one of us urgently needs. It flows continuously and in superabundance from God, but we must become able to give it in turn, so that each person can live fully his or her humanity. This is what is communicated to us by the Holy Doors, which are opened in all the dioceses of the world in these days. That of the Termini Station Hostel has become the Holy Door of Charity: those who pass through with love will find forgiveness and consolation, and will be driven to give and give themselves with greater generosity, for their salvation and that of their brothers. Let us allow ourselves to be renewed by passing through this spiritual door, so that it marks our inner life. Let us get involved in the Jubilee of Mercy, so as to renew the fabric of all our society, to make it fairer and more fraternal.

At the end of the audience the Bishop of Rome referred to the last monograph in the series “L'Italia del Treno”, a collection of photographs depicting the Pontiffs' journeys by train, and expressed his hope that “the esteem that links us, of which this day is a sign, may be strengthened during this Holy Year, so that Italy and all the countries of the world may become places of fraternal, more truly human networks, increasingly capable of rejoicing in God's love and mutual communion”.

The Pope opens the Holy Door of Charity and repeats that Heaven cannot be bought with money or honours

Vatican City, 19 December 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis another Holy Door, that was not however located in a church or cathedral. It was the entrance to the Caritas hostel at Termini Station, Rome, where the frailest members of society receive welcome and assistance. This door, in the hostel named after its founder Don Luigi Di Liegro, is now called the Door of Charity and, passing through it, the Pope entered the refectory dedicated to St. John Paul II, where he was awaited by two hundred men and women, accompanied by the volunteers from the Centre. He celebrated Holy Mass and pronounced a homily in which he reaffirmed that power is not the path of salvation and the Heaven cannot be bought with money.

“God comes to save us, and He finds no better way to do so than to walk with us, to make our life His”, said Francis.”And the moment of choosing the path, He did not choose a great city of a great empire; He did not choose as a mother a princess, a countess, an important person; He did not choose a luxurious mansion. It seems that all of this was done intentionally almost in secret. Mary was a girl aged just sixteen or seventeen, in a remote village in the outskirts of the Roman Empire, that nobody knew of. Joseph was boy who loved her and who wished to marry her, a carpenter who worked for a living. In total simplicity … And when he repudiated her – because they were engaged, and in such a small village, you know how gossip circulates. All in secret, in spite of slander and gossip. And Joseph realised that she was pregnant, but he was righteous. All hidden, despite the slander and gossip. And the Angel explains the mystery to Joseph: “'This Son that your fiancee carries in her womb is the work of God, the work of the Holy Spirit. When Joseph awoke from his dream, he did what the Angel of the Lord had ordered him to do: he went to Mary and took her as his wife. But all in secret, all humbly. The great cities of the world knew nothing of this. In this way God came in our midst. If you want to find God, seek in in humility, in poverty, look for Him where He is hidden: in those most in need, in the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned”.

“When Jesus speaks about life, He also tells us know we will be judged. He will not say, come to me because you … are a benefactor of the Church. … No. You do not pay your way to Heaven. He will not say, you are very important, you have studied a lot and have many honours, come to Heaven. No. Honours do not open the door to Heaven. What will Jesus say to open to us the door to Heaven? 'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me'. Jesus is in humility”.

“Jesus' love is great”, the Pope exclaimed. “Therefore today as I open this door, I would like the Holy Spirit to open the heart of all Romans, and let them see the way to salvation! It is not luxury, it is not the way of great riches, it is not the route of power. It is the road of humility. The poorest, the sick, the imprisoned – Jesus says even more – the greatest sinners, if they repent, will precede us in Heaven. They have the key. He who acts in charity is the one who allows himself to be embraced by God's mercy”.

“Today we open this Door and we ask for two things. First, that the Lord open the door of our heart. We are all in need of this as we are all sinners; we all need to hear the Word of the Lord. … Second, may the Lord help us understand that the path of presumptuousness, the road of wealth, the road of vanity, the road of pride, are not roads to salvation. May the Lord let us understand that in His caress as a Father, there is His mercy, His forgiveness, and when we draw close to those who suffer, those who are discarded by society: there we find Jesus. This Door, that is the Door of Charity, the Door where may people are helped, many who are discarded, shows us that it would be good if all of us, all Romans, to know what it means to be discarded, and to feel the need for God's help. Today let us pray for Rome, for all the inhabitants of Rome, starting with me, that the Lord may give us the grace to feel discarded, that we have no worth; only He can give us mercy and grace. To approach that grace we must draw closer to the rejected, the poor, those who are most in need, because it is on this closeness that we will be judged”.

May the Lord today, opening this door, give this grace to all of Rome, to every inhabitant of Rome, so as to move forward in that embrace of mercy, in which the father takes his wounded son, but the wounded one is the father: God is wounded by love, and for this reason He is able to save all of us. May the Lord grant us this grace”.

After the Mass, the Pope greeted the participants and commented that Christmas is drawing hear and the Lord is now close. “But when he was born, in that manger, no-one realised that He was God. This Christmas, I would like the Lord to be born in the heart of every one of us … hidden, as if nobody knew it, but He was there. This is what I would like, this close of the Lord. Pray for me, and I will pray for you”.


Vatican City, 21 December 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience Bishop Vincenzo Pisanello of Oria, Italy.

On Saturday 19 December the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops;

- Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio in India and Nepal;

- Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, apostolic nuncio in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 21 December 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:

- Stefano D'Agostini, Italy, technical head of the Vatican Television (CTV), as director of the CTV.

- Gregory Burke, communications adviser at the Secretariat of State, as deputy director of the Holy See Press Office.

On Sunday 20 December, the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the diocese of Orange, United States of America, presented by Bishop Dominic Mai Luong upon reaching the age limit.

On Saturday 19 December the Holy Father appointed:

- Fr. Joseph Raja Rao Thelegathoti, S.M.M., as bishop of Vijayawada (area 8,374, population 5,898,011, Catholics 283,062, priests 229, 1,132 religious), India. The bishop-elect was born in Peddautapally, India in 1952, gave his religious vows in 1980 and was ordained a priest in the same year. He holds a licentiate in biblical theology from the Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram in Bangalore, India and a doctorate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. He has served in a number of roles, including rector of the minor seminary and of the Montfort Theologate in Bangalore, provincial counsellor, provincial superior, deputy president of the Conference of Religious of India, director of the Anugraha Institute for Poor Girls, director of the Montfort Marian Centre, Bangalore, and procurator general and postulator of the Congregation of Montfort Fathers in Rome. He is currently provincial of his congregation in Rome.

- Msgr. Leszek Leszkiewicz as auxiliary of Tarnow (area 7,566, population 1,097,479, Catholics 1.091,829, priests 1,455, religious 1.145), Poland. The bishop-elect was born in Gorlice, Poland in 1970 and was ordained a priest in 1996. He holds a licentiate in missiology from the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome, and has served in a number of roles including parish vicar, missionary in Ecuador, deputy director of the department for missions of the diocese of Tarnow, and prefect of discipline in the major seminary of Tarnow. He is currently vicar forane and pastor of the parish of St. Nicholas, and custodian of the shrine to the Blessed Virgin in Bochnia.

- Cardinal Vinko Puljic, archbishop of Vrhbosna, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as his special envoy to the celebrations to be held on 3 February 2016 to commemorate the 17th centenary of the martyrdom of St. Blaise, patron of the diocese of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and the 600th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the Republic of Ragusa.

- Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) as his special envoy to the celebration of the 24th World Day of the Sick, to be held in Nazareth on 11 February 2016.

- Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, as adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, elevating him to the dignity of bishop.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Nativity shows us that the Lord never imposes

Vatican City, 18 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall Pope Francis received seven hundred people from the Bavarian municipalities of Hirschau, Schanaittenbach and Freudenberg, who donated the Christmas tree adorning St. Peter's Square this year, and representatives from the Italian province of Trento who, along with the archdiocese, created the Nativity display. The decorations on the tree are from the Lene Thun Foundation of Bolzano and, as the Holy Father commented, represent the dreams of the children who decorated it, whom he thanked.

“These wishes that we carry in our heart are now in the most suitable place, because they are close to the child of Bethlehem: they are entrusted to Him, He Who came to live in our midst. Indeed, Jesus did not simply appear on earth, and did not dedicate just a little of His time to us, but rather came to share our life and to receive our desires, as He wanted and still wants to live here, along with us and for us. Our world, which at Christmas became His world, is important to Him. The creche reminds us of this: God, in his great mercy, descended to us to stay with us”.

The Nativity also tells us that the Lord “never imposes upon us with force. To save us, He did not change history by performing a grand miracle. Instead, He lived with simplicity, humility and meekness. God does not like the dramatic revolutions of the powerful of history, and does not use a magic wand to change situations. Instead He makes Himself small, He becomes a child, to attract us with love, to touch our hearts with His humble goodness, to draw attention through His poverty to those who worry about accumulating the false treasures of this world”.

The Holy Father recalled that this was the intention of St. Francis when he invented the creche – to pay homage to the Child who was born in Bethlehem so as to be able to in some way perceive with the eyes of the body the hardships He suffered for the lack of the basic necessities for a newborn. Indeed, the scene honours and praises simplicity, poverty and humility. “I invite you, then, to pause before the Nativity scene, for there God's tenderness speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, made flesh so that we gaze tenderly upon it. Above all, it wishes to move our hearts”.

In this regard, Francis indicated that in the creche there is a figure who reveals the mystery of the Nativity. “It is a character who performs a good act, stooping to assist an elderly person. He not only looks to God but also imitates Him, as, like God, he inclines mercifully to one in need. May these gifts of yours, which will be lit up this evening, attract the gaze of many and above all revive in our life the true light of Christmas”.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta to be canonised

Vatican City, 18 December 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, 17 December, the Holy Father Francis received in a private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:


- Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (nee Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), Albanian foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity (1910-1997).


- Servant of God Giuseppe Ambrosoli, Italian professed priest of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (1923-1987).

- Servant of God Adolfo (ne Leonardo Lanzuela Martinez), Spanish professed religious of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (1894-1976).

- Servant of God Heinrich Hahn, Italian layman (1800-1882).

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