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BENEDICT XVI: NEWS, PAPAL TEXTS, PHOTOS AND COMMENTARY

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VATICAN STATEMENT ON
POPE PIUS XII

Translated from
the Italian service of

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December 23, 2009


Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press director, released this statement today in response to hostile reactions from Jewish circles to Benedict XVI's decision to promulgate the heroic virtues of Pius XII:


The signing by Pope Benedict XVI of the decree on the heroic virtues of Pius XII has drawn a number of reactions in the Jewish world, probably because it has to do with an act whose significance is clear to the Catholic world and those who are familiar with it, but requires some explanatios for the greater public, particularly those Jews who are understandably very sensitive to everything that has to do with the historical period of the Second World War and the Holocaust.

When the Pope signs a decree on the heroic virtues of a Servant of God - namely, a person for whom a cause for beatification has been introduced - he confirms the positive valuation that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has voted, after careful examination of all the person's writings and testimonies about him, to approve the fact that the candidate has lived the Christian virtues eminently and has shown his faith, his hope and his charity in a manner superior to what is normally expected of the faithful.

Therefore, he may be proposed as a model of Christian life to the People of God.

Naturally the evaluation takes into account the circumstances in which the person lived, and therefore this also requires a historical examination. But the overall evaluation is concerned essentially with the testimony of Christian life that the candidate showed - his intense relationship with God and the continuous quest for evangelical perfection,- as Pope Benedict XVI said last Saturday in his address to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints - not the evaluation of the historical weight of all his operative choices.

Even an eventual beatification is framed in the same context, namely to propose to the People of God - with the further comfort of a sign of extraordinary grace given by God through the intercession of the Servant of God - a model of eminent Christian life.

On the occasion of the beatification rites for John XXIII and Pius IX, John Paul II stated: "Sainthood is lived within history, and no saint is exempt from the limitationss and conditioning inherent to our humanity. In beatifying one of her children, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical choices he has carried out, but rather proposes him to be imitated and venerated for his virtues in praise of the divine grace that shines in him" (March 9, 200).

Therefore, this (decree) is not intended to limit the discussion on concrete choices made by Pius XII in the (historical) situation that he was.

For her part, the Church affirms that such choices were made with the pure intention of carrying out as best as possible the Pontiff's service of supremely dramatic responsibility.

In every way, the attention and concern of Pius XII for the fate of the Jews - something that was certainly relevant in evaluating his virtues - have been largely testified to, and acknowledged event by many Jews.

Therefore, the research and evaluation of historians in their own field remains open. In this case, the request to open up all the possibilities for research on [Vatican] documents is understandable.

Previously, Paul VI wished to facilitate such a research with the publication of the (twelve) volumes of Acts and Documents. The complete opening of the Archives - it has been said several times - requires the ordering and cataloguing of an enormous mass of documents, a technical task that still requires a few years. [Five more years, Lombardi said last Saturday.]

As for the fact that the decrees on the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II and Pius XII were promulgated on the same day, it does not mean that the two causes are 'coupled' from hereon. The two causes are completely independent, and each will follow its own course. There is no reason, therefore, to hypothesize an eventual contemporaneous beatification.

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI's great friendship and respect for the Jewish people have been manifested many times and find irrefutable testimony even in his theological work.

It is therefore clear that his recent signing of the Decree on Pius XII must not be read in any way as a hostile act against the Jewish people, and it is hoped that it will not be considered an obstacle to the dialog between Judaism and the Catholic Church.

Rather, it is hoped that the Pope's coming visit to the Synagogue of Rome may be an occasion to reaffirm and reinforce, with great cordiality, these bonds of friendship and esteem.




Vatican defends move
on Pope Pius XII

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 23 (AP) – The Vatican said Tuesday that moving Pope Pius XII closer to sainthood is not a hostile act against Jews, even though the wartime Pontiff has been criticized for not speaking out enough against the Holocaust.

A Vatican statement said Tuesday that the move should not be an obstacle to dialogue between Jews and the Catholic Church, and insisted Pope Benedict XVI has sentiments of "great friendship and respect" for the Jews.

The statement sought to quell the outrage sparked among many Jewish groups after Benedict signed a decree on Pius's virtues. The decree means that Pius can be beatified — the first major step toward sainthood — once a miracle attributed to his intercession has been recognized.

The Vatican reaffirmed what it said was Pius' "attention and preoccupation" with the fate of Jews, saying that this is well established and recognized even by many Jews.

But it said the process toward beatification was not intended to limit historical discussion on the pontiff, as the decree concerns Pius's faith and Christian virtues.

The Pope signed the decree Saturday along with a similar decree recognizing the virtues of his immediate predecessor, John Paul II. This led many to believe the two causes would proceed together — and caused further outcry since John Paul was admired by many Jews.

The statement said there was no reason to believe that any possible beatification would take place at the same time.

Some Jews and historians have argued Pius should have done more to prevent the deaths of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.

The Vatican insists Pius used quiet diplomacy to try to save Jews and that speaking out more forcefully would have resulted in more deaths.

Pius, a Vatican diplomat in Germany and the Vatican's secretary of state before being elected Pope, did denounce in general terms the extermination of people based on race and opened Vatican City to refugees, including Jews, after Hitler occupied Rome in 1943.

But he didn't issue public indictments of Jewish deportations, and some historians say he cared more about bilateral relations with Nazi Germany, and the rights of the Catholic church there, than saving Jewish lives.



Today, Tempi published this as an Opinion article, not under Mastroianni's personal rubric. It confirms my admiration for him as a master of brevity and a congenial mind.


The heroism of Pius XII and
Benedict XVI's friendship for the Jews

by Bruno Mastroianni
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Dec. 23, 2009


The recognition of Pius XII's heroic virtues cannot be reduced to a move that is tinged in any way with anti-Jewish sentiment.

The entire career of Joseph Ratzinger should immediately sweep away any such suggestions, especially in the media, as he was always in the forefront of dialog with the Jews.

Think alone of the support that he provided for the gestures of John Paul II in elaborating a veritable doctrine of Christian reconciliation with the People of Israel.

His theological awareness has made him say countless times, "The faith testified to in the Bible of the Jews is not another religion, but the foundation of our faith".

And think of all his efforts as Pope in the journey to reciprocal comprehension.

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In fact, his decision in behalf of Pius XII reflects that preoccupation with the truth that has guided Joseph Ratzinger's actions.

His very attention to this case shows it: The decree on the late Pope's heroic virtues was approved some time ago (May 2007), but this Pope orderd a supplementary investigation to exclude any doubts [about Pius's wartime record].

His promulgation of the decree on Saturday was unpleasant only to those puffballs of political expediency predictably blown up by the media.

But there is nothing to fear: Pius XII's heroic virtues - ascertained by all the required investigations with full respect for the truth - should not compromise the Jewish-Catholic dialog nor should it influence the historical debate.

If anything, they should help to cast out a false bugbear of the 20th century that has created division for too long. And every effort to research and investigate the true Eugenio Pacelli can only contribute to this.

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GENERAL AUDIENCE TODAY

The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis today to the significance of Christmas, taking off from St. Francis's re-creation of the Nativity Scene in Greccio which started the tradition of the Christmas creche.

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Here is what he said to English-speaking pilgrims:

In these last days before Christmas, the Church invites us to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s Birth and to experience the joy and hope which the newborn Saviour brings into our world. Gazing on the Christ Child lying in the manger, we contemplate the love of a God who humbly asks us to welcome him into our hearts and into our world.

By coming among us as a helpless Child, God conquers our hearts not by force, but by love, and thus teaches us the way to authentic freedom, peace and fulfilment.

This Christmas, may the Lord grant us simplicity of heart, so that we may recognize his presence and love in the lowly Babe of Bethlehem, and, like the shepherds, return to our homes filled with ineffable joy and gladness.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the groups from the Philippines and the United States. In these holy days, may you and your families draw ever closer to the Lord and experience his heavenly gifts of love, joy and peace. Merry Christmas!



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Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

With the Novena of Christmas which we have been celebrating these days, the Church invites us to live intensely and profoundly the preparation for the Birth of the Savior, which is now imminent.

The wish that we all have at heart is that the coming Christmas may give us, in the midst of the frenetic activity of our days, a serene and profound joy for being able to touch with our hand the goodness of our God and thereby draw new courage.

To better understand the significance of the Nativity of the Lord, I wish to make a brief reference to the historical origin of this solemnity. Indeed, the liturgical year of the Church as it developed does not start with the birth of Christ, but from faith in his resurrection.

That is why the oldest feast of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of Christian faith, it is the basis for the announcement of the Gospel, and it gave birth to the Church.

Therefore, to be a Christian means to live in the Paschal way, becoming involved in the dynamism that begins with Baptism and leads to our dying to sin in order to live with God (cfr Rm 6,4).

The first to state firmly that Jesus was born on December 25 was Hippolytus of Rome, in his commentary to the Book of the prophet Daniel, written around 204.

Some exegete later noted that that day was also the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C. The coincidence would be taken to signify that with Jesus, who appeared in the night as the light of God, the consecration of the temple was truly realized in God's Advent on earth.

In Christianity, the feast of Christmas took a definite form in the fourth century when it took the place of the Roman feast of Sol invictus - the invincible sun. This highlighted the fact that the birth of Christ is the victory of true light over the shadows of evil and sin.

Nonetheless, the particularly intense spiritual atmosphere surrounding Christmas developed during the Middle Ages, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi, who was profoundly enamored of the man Jesus, the God-with-us.

His first biographer, Tommaso da Celano, recounts that St. Francis, "above every other solemnity, celebrated with ineffable attentiveness the Birth of the Baby Jesus, calling the day on which God, as a little baby, first suckled on a human breast, the feast of feasts" (Fonti Francescane, n. 199, p. 492).

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Giotto, Francis Insituting the Crib in Greccio, 1297. Fresco.

The famous Christmas celebration in Greccio (1223) arose from this special devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation. It was probably inspired by Francis's pilgrimage to the Holy Land and by the manger in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

What animated the Poverello of Assisi was the desire to experience in a concrete, living and actual manner the humble grandeur of the event of Christ's birth and to communicate its joy to everyone.

In his first biography of Francis, Tommaso da Celano describes the night of the creche in Greccio in a vivid and touching manner, making a decisive contribution to the dissemination of the most beautiful of Christmas traditions, the Christmas Nativity Scene.

The night in Greccio, in fact, gave back to Christianity the intensity and beauty of Christmas, and educated the People of God to grasp its most authentic message, its special warmth, to love and adore the humanity of Christ.

Such an approach to Christmas gave the Christian faith a new dimension. Easter had focused attention on the power of God who conquers death, inaugurates new life, and teaches hope for the world to come.

With St. Francis and his Christmas manger, what comes forth is the helpless love of the infant God, his humility and his goodness, who, in the Incarnation of the Word, shows himself to men to teach them a new way to live and to love.

Celano recounts that on that Christmas night in Greccio, a miraculous vision was granted to Francis. He saw a small baby lying in the manger who awoke from sleep when Francis came near.

Celano adds: "Nor was this vision in discord with the facts because, through the divine grace that acted through his holy servant Francis, the Baby Jesus re-awakened, in the hearts of many who had forgotten him and was profoundly impressed in their loving memory" (Vita prima, op. cit., n. 86, p. 307).

This picture describes precisely how much Francis's living faith and love for the humanity of Christ contributed to the Christian feast of the Lord's Nativity - the discovery that God revealed himself in the tender body of the Baby Jesus.

Thanks to St.Francis, Christians have been able to perceive at Christmas that God truly became 'Emmanuel', God-with-us, from whom no barrier and no distance separates us.

In that Baby, God has become so near to each of us, so close, that we can talk to him familiarly and undertake with him a confidential relationship of profound affection such as we have for a newborn baby.

Indeed, God-Love manifests himself in that Baby. God comes without weapons, without force, because he does not intend to conquer externally, so to speak, but wishes to be accepted freely by man.

God became a helpless baby to conquer pride, violence, and man's desire for possession. In Jesus, God took on this poor and disarming condition to win us over with love and lead us to our true identity.

We must not forget that the greatest title of Jesus Christ is precisely that of 'Son', Son of God. Divine dignity is described with a word that extends the memory of the humble condition of the manger in Bethlehem, even as it corresponds in a unique way to his divinity, which is the divinity of the Son.

His condition as a baby also shows us how we can encounter God and enjoy his presence. It is in the light of Christmas that we can understand the words of Jesus: "Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18,3).

He who has not understood the mystery of Christmas has not understood the decisive element of Christian existence. He who who does not receive Jesus with the heart of a child cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. This is what Francis wanted to remind the Christians in his time and of all times, up to the present.

Let us pray to the Father so that he may grant to our hearts that simplicity which recognizes the Lord in the Baby, just as Francis did in Greccio. Then we too may experience what Tommaso da Celano - recallingthe experience of the shepherds on that Holy Night (cfr Lk 2,20) - tells us about those who were present in Greccio: "Everyone went home filled with ineffable joy" (Vita prima, op. cit., n. 86, p. 479).

This is the wish that I express with affection to all of you, your families and others dear to you. A merry Christmas to all!


What a singularly beautiful catechesis! Very much like the Holy Father's best homilies. It should serve priests around the world as the very model of a Christmas homily in its sinple but literally wonder-full beauty! And look how he himself embodies the ineffable joy he speaks of.

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Well, God be thanked! It seems the fairly moderate initial reactions from the Italian Jews to the advent of Venerable Pius XII were probably ritual noises of protest more than anything. They will go on making these noises from time to time, but they know in their hearts Eugenio Pacelli was a good man, a holy man, and one they should not hesitate to call 'righteous among men' - and that Benedict XVI has a pure heart incapable of anything but honesty... Anyway, Shalom, Rabbi di Segni!


Rome's chief rabbi satisfied
after Vatican note

Translated from
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Dec. 23, 2009


The Vatican's note on Benedict XVI's promulgation of Venerable Pius XII's heroic virtues was "a timely and conciliatory signal", the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni said today.

"I appreciate the prompt attention of the Vatican, which, through its press director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, responded today with a note to some essential questions on the part of the Jews regarding the decree on the heroic virtues of Pius XII," Di Segni said.

"Equally important in the statement was distinguishing the religious aspect from the historical, as well as the assurance that (Pius XII's) cause for beatification will have an independent course [from that of John Paul II].

"Of course, the historical verdict [on Pius XII] will remain open and controversial, but it is important that the Vatican expressed understanding of 'the request to keep open all the possibilities for research'."


As Bruno Mastroianni said, the more new information about Pius XII comes to light, the better the world will learn about a holy man who has been relentlessly calumniated for more than half a century.

I have purposely refrained from posting the hateful and hate-filled Pavlov-dog reactions from various Jewish representatives such as some American Jews and the leader of the German Jews because they are rabid ideologues of the Shoah, which is a human tragedy but not a cult, and are incapable of seeing reason, much less of being fair, with respect to both Pius XII and Benedict XVI.

They do not see that in their malicious sanctimony, they are harboring a hatred akin to that which caused the Nazi contempt for the Jews and people who believe in God.




Thanks to Beatrice, on her site
benoit-et-moi.fr
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for finding this blog entry from a Rome correspondent of
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for a refreshingly congenial and unexpected opinion...


ECCE HOMO!
Translated from
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by Frederic Mounier
Dec. 23, 2009


The reaction to the news that the way is open for the beatification process of Pius XII to proceed perplexes and afflicts me.

This Pope, whose death had inspired mourning comparable to that of John Paul II, and who until the 1960s was considreed by everyone as a remarkable figure, whom the Israelis had thought at one time worthy to be a hero to be honored by them, whose beatification was envisioned by both John XXIII then Paul VI, had suddenly become, because of a hateful and ahistorical book (The Deputy) and film (Amen), veritable dung, a figure of derision ['Papon'].

[On a personal note, since Pius XII was the Pope of my early childhood, the veneration with which he was held in the Catholic world at the time is very vivid to me, especially for someone who grew up in a Catholic school run by very orthodox Sisters of St. Paul and under the close tutelage of the college's spiritual director, a Belgian missionary.

It was shocking for me that at the time the Black Legend was taking hold, many Catholics either had forgotten or never knew the extraordinary stature Pius XII had in the world pre-Deputy - and I thank Mounier for re-creating it so well in just a few lines.]


I am flabbergasted, old professor that I am, by the peremptory statements, completely lacking critical discrimination, by people whose knowledge of history is most tenuous but who think they possess 'the truth' - without bothering to verify all the muck dragged up by the media.

And I am most flabbergasted by the 'trial' to which Benedict XVI is subjected without ever hearing any arguments 'for' him alongside the 'against' - this Pope whom his detractors seem to think acts only out of masochism (he delights in criticism?}, stupidity [he never checks out things!), and hastiness.

In short, they see him as the perfect whipping boy for media manipulation - someone who has somehow reawakened an anti-German sentiment one had thought defunct - all in the name of the sensational, and even of religious hatred that is so characteristic of our dear France.

I am no less saddened by hearing an important rabbi saying to a Pope to open his archives 'and justify himself' [on Pius XII] or risk the blackmail, "If you don't, we have nothing more to say to each other!"

But what is most painful in hearing this particular knell which is unique for being suspect, is the hue and cry from 'Catholics' (if there are still any left) who were never 'papists', and certainly not for this 'non-performing Pope' [the Vatican seen from a stadium seat!].

They 'know', from reading La Croix, that Benedict XVI is not 'charismatic' (meaning, not 'mediatic'), that he is afflicted by 'timidity', and above all, the unforgivable sin, that he is 'an intellectual'.

So there you have an intellectual [arguably the leading intellect in the world today, pilloried by those who love cockiness and glitter - as bumbling, limited, unable to 'understand' the modern world, well-deserving of anathema, curses and contemptuous spit.

One can only expect from his critics more variations on his 'autism', as though he were an imbecile gardener who would do better to just gaze at his flowerbeds.

And what if the Pope was really an honest man? That he acts as the Holy Spirit moves him? That he wishes, despite probable opprobrium, to follow his conscience and stand up for another scapegoat?

As for me, I swear - by all my Jewish ancestors, once and not long ago thrown to the dogs of unanimous hatred - that I feel compassion for this aged man, vilified so happily by his own.

ECCE HOMO!


Beatrice comments that she objects to the last sentence: in the first place because she - nor any Benaddict, one might add - would never think of the Holy Father as 'aged'; and because 'solidarity' rather than 'compassion' is the more appropriate word.

Of course, the most appropriate word of all, for us Benaddicts, is 'love' - a great and overwhelming and tender love for this holy man in whom we cannot find fault.



P.S. Mounier had an earlier blog entry dated Dec. 21 entitled 'Pius XII - the Incomprehension', which deserves translation as well.

Ironically, Mounier has the same last name as the French intellectual who first accused Pius XII of 'keeping silent against aggression' as early as 1939, in connection with the Italian attack on Albania. (See Sandro Magister's flashback to this, posted in the CHURCH&VATICAN thread two days ago.)

The brief biodata on Mounier's blog says he was Religion editor for La Croix before he was assigned to Rome to cover the Vatican and the Church from that vantage .



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What a pleasant Christmas surprise to find Amy Welborn writing for the Christmas issue of
the Catholic Herald! She has not completely given up blogging and you may follow her at

amywelborn.com.

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Among the things that have kept her busy is a new book coming out in January. Her article
for the Herald ties in directly to the Holy Father's catechesis today...



Benedict XVI and the Christ Child
by AMY WELBORN
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From the issue for
Dec. 25, 2009


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The sentiment of the secular Christmas season might provoke a few mixed feelings. Although it seems ungrateful not to be, well... grateful that despite the unrelenting merchandising and secularisation, the basic points of love and giving seem to hold.

On the other hand, Love who? Why? How? We know how even words about the highest truths can be drained of meaning and manipulated for base or even evil ends.

So we do sense the truth and promise of Christmas. But mired in postmodern vacuity and scepticism, we wonder, indeed, what we really could possibly mean as we sing: "Holy Infant, so tender and mild..."

And what does that long-ago event it have to do with my life, right now?

Enter Pope Benedict and the Child.

The Holy Father, we all know very well, is a brilliant theologian, but that is not as intimidating as it sounds. For with theologian Joseph Ratzinger, whose writing is consistently lucid, humble and even charming, the line between "theology" and "spiritual writing" frequently slips and even disappears.

So in a meditation composed during his time as Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger, beginning as he often does from something quite concrete, reflected on the devotion to an image of the Christ Child still preserved in a tree in Christkindl, placed there in the 17th century by a man suffering from epilepsy or, as the chronicler terms it, "the sickness where one falls down".

A church was eventually built around the tree, and devotion grew. Sweet, but is there anything more than sentimental piety here?

Well, yes. Ratzinger, in just a few words, links this tree with the tree of paradise, with Mary, the life-giving tree who gives us the fruit, Jesus, with the circular shape of the church, recalling the womb and baptism, our call to be born again as children, which is possible because God became a child.

For, as he writes, in a passage that never ceases to prompt me to pause in recognition, "we are all suffering from 'the sickness where one falls down'".

How true. How very true.

"Again and again, we find ourselves unable interiorly to walk upright and to stand. Again and again, we fall down; we are not masters of our own lives; we are alienated; we are not free."

What is the answer? God's love - and there is nothing vague about this. God's love so very real and concrete that it is enfleshed and God himself comes to earth in the most startling of ways - as a baby.

We need not look far for the "tree" holding the baby, Ratzinger says, the One who heals us from the sickness where we fall down: "Jesus, who is himself the fruit of the tree of life, and life itself, has becomes so small that our hands can enclose him", we can know him - and be redeemed.

In another meditation, then-Archbishop Ratzinger highlights St Francis of Assisi's role in shaping Christmas devotion in his creation of the original crèche at Greccio.

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He points to the radical implications of the Word-Made-Flesh as a Child, that this is not about mere sentiment, but about how we must be: "his existence as a child shows us how we come to God and to deification ... One who has not grasped the mystery of Christmas has failed to grasp the decisive element in Christianity" - that to enter the Kingdom we must become like Him. Like a child.

As we continue to read what the Holy Father writes about the Christ Child in his homilies as Pope, the same idea emerges again and again: if we want to know who God is, look at the Child.

If we, in our emptiness, sin and hopelessness, want to know if our lives have meaning and if we are loved, look to the Child.

If we want to know how to love, look to the Child.

Most important of all, if we want to not just have the right ideas, but to actually live in love now and forever, know and love the Child. At Midnight Mass in 2006, the Holy Father's words bring the Good News about God, us and this broken world:

"God's sign is simplicity. God's sign is the baby. God's sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby - defenceless and in need of our help.

He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will - we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him."

My own favourite object of Christmas meditation is a real, actual baby. Now that I have none of my own, I must seek one out - at a Catholic Mass that is not too hard - and consider the tiny thing, eyes wide open staring at me and the rest of the world, or closed in blissful sleep, nestled against its mother's neck.

"God is so great that he can become small," Pope Benedict said at Midnight Mass in 2005. "God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendour and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: 'You are my son, this day I have begotten you'. God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know him."

Real. Concrete. Flesh and blood. In such loving helplessness, helping us walk, because we have, indeed, all fallen down.

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The photos I used to illustrate this article are from the Holy Father's visit to the Nativity scene at the Piazza on 12/23/08.

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Second Irish bishops submits
resignation to Pope Benedict

By PATRICK ROBERTS
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Dec. 23, 2009


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Irish Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty resigned to Pope Benedict XVI today following revelations in the Murphy Report into child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese published last month.

Moriarty was an auxiliary bishop in Dublin between 1991 and 1993. The report said that in that role, he had received a complaint about a priest known by the pseudonym Father Edmondus, regarding the priest’s contact with young children.

According to the report, youth workers were concerned that young girls, and especially very poor children, seemed to spend time at Edmondus’ house.

Moriarty discussed the matter with local priests and with Archbishop Desmond Connell, and warned "Edmondus" about his behavior, but he did not consult others for more information about Edmondus.

“No attempt was made by the archdiocesan authorities to check the archives or other files relating to 'Edmondus' when these complaints were received,” the Murphy Report says.

In a radio interview last week, Moriarty said he should not have to resign.

“I stand by my statement that I should not resign for my partial involvement in the Edmondus case, but I want to add that no bishop can put his own position before the good of the Church.”

Moriarty was due to retire in two years’ time. But following a meeting between Moriarty and diocesan priests and staff in County Laois, Moriarty has said he is willing to leave his post early, according to Irish TV broadcaster RTE.



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Pope's Christmas Card
Teresa: Where did you find the Pope's Christmas card? I notice you have incorporated it into your banner, but that is too small for me to see it properly. I can't find it on the Holy See website.

Thanks as always for all the news and photos! Mary xxxx


Mary, I found it in BILD - and I posted it first as large as it could be done with good resolution on page 52 of this thread:
benedettoxviforum.freeforumzone.leonardo.it/discussione.aspx?idd=8527207&...

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Notes on the papal liturgies
of the Christmas season
December 24 - January 12

by Mons. Guido Marini
Translated from
the 12/24/09 issue of

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The liturgical celebrations in the Christmas season, starting from the Christmas Eve Mass, lead the faithful to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation, which manifests the beauty of the Lord and his Love that is rich with infinite mercy.

Mons. Guido Marini, master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies, explains this in a note on the Christmas celebrations to be presided over by Benedict XVI at St. Peter's basilica.



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The Holy Father at Christmas Eve Mass, 2008.

Liturgical celebrations are able to transmit the joyful news of the faith through words, gestures, silences, symbols, music, singing, the rite as a whole.

What is important is that the rite shines forth luminously and is capable of expressing what it contains.

It is not about making new things, but about making new what the Church asks to fulfilled in the rite.

In the Vatican Basilica this year, the wooden polychrome statue showing the Virgin on a throne with the Infant Jesus giving a blessing, has been installed next to the Altar of the Confession starting with the first Vespers of Advent, and will stay there until Epiphany, to underscore that even Advent and the Christmas season are also Marian seasons.

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The image belongs to the Umbro-Lazial school of the first half of tHE 14th century. It has been in the Vatican since 1967, and under the responsibility of the Vatican Museums since 1978. It is missing the crown on the Virgin's head. The statue is hollow, so it is presumed it used to be carried in procession.

As has now become usual in papal liturgies, every celebration is preceded by a time of preparation. About 15-20 minutes before the start of the actual rite, readings from various texts and musical passages help prepare the spirit of those present for prayer and meditation. The texts are largely taken from Benedict XVI's homilies in the past year. Then there is a prayer of preparation which is taken from prayers that are part of Church tradition.

The librettos also provide, among the rubrics for the rite, indications for the brief silences after the Pope's homily and after Communion. These are pauses that help the Massgoer to pray and meditate - above all, to assimilate the gift of the Word of God that has been heard, or the Eucharist that one has just received.

The languages chosen for the readings and for the intentions expressed in the prayer of the faithful underscore the participation in the papal liturgy of people coming from different parts of the world. Everyone can listen and pray in their own language, just as in the other parts of the Mass, everyone listens and prays in Latin, the language of the Church, which expresses its unity and catholicity, despite diversity of origins.

In some circumstances, when concelebration is not intended, then there will be two cardinal deacons assisting the Pope. Historically, papal deacons guaranteed administration of the city of Rome and liturgical service to the Pope.

Therefore, this is a historical and liturgical tradition that is proper to the Pope and papal liturgy. In terms of vestments, the cardinal deacons use the dalmatic when they serve the Pontiff. Moreover, they do not concelebrate the Mass, which is an exterior manifestation of their function as servants and collaborators.

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On Christmas Eve, as in previous years, there will be a brief vigil in preparation for the Mass. Last year, for the first time, the Vigil was enhanced with the chanting of the Kalenda, which is no longer sung within the Christmas Eve Mass as before.

The Roman Martyrology provides for it to be sung in the daytime on Christmas Eve, after Lauds or during a minor hour of the Liturgy of the Hours. In this sense, placing the Kalenda at the end of the prayer vigil seems to be more appropriate to its nature.

For the same reason, when the Gloria is sung, right after the Pope intones it, the bells will ring, accompanied by organ music.

Also since last year, the floral tribute by the children to the Infant Jesus now comes at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, when the Holy Father brings the Baby Jesus to lay it down on the manger.

The liturgical attendants for the Christmas Eve Mass will be seminarians of the Legion of Christ.

On Christmas Day, just like last year, the Pope will not wear a cope when he delivers the Urbi et Orbi message. He will be in choir dress, with mozzetta and stole, since this involves a solemn benediction that is not part of a liturgical rite. Serving him will be two students from the Collegio Mater Ecclesiae.



On Dec. 31, eve of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the Pope will preside at Vespers, followed by the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a Te Deum of thanksgiving, and a Eucharistic Benediction, to signify the centrality of adoration in the life of the Church and the disciples of the Lord, and to accompany the start of the New Year with the blessing of the Lord. Assisting in this service will be students of the Congregazione San Michele Arcangelo.

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In the Mass of the Solemnity itself on New Year's Day, the prayers of the faithful will be inspired by the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace, celebrated on that day. Passages from the message are printed at the start of the libretto and will be read during the preparation before the Mass, along with St. Bernard's famous prayer to the Virgin, the Memorare.

Some children and adults from Lebanon will take part in the offering of gifts and in the reading of intentions in the prayers for the faithful.

At the end of the Mass, Benedict XVI will venerate the image of the Madonna. Assisting in these services will be students of St. Mark's Seminary in Erie, New York.

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On the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6), the Pope will wear a Roman chasuble instead of the post-Conciliar flowing chasuble, to underscore once more the continuity between past and present, manifested through liturgical vestments.

After the proclamation of the Gospel, the deacon will chant the 'Announcement of Easter'. The Epiphany is a feast of redemption, pointing forward to the fullness of God's manifestation which will take place in the events of Easter.

In this sense, the Epiphany of the Magi is seen as the first act of epiphany-manifestations that form the fabric of Christ's entire terrestrial life. He, the light of the world, is the final goal of history, the point of arrival for an exodus in a providential journey of redemption, culminating in his death and resurrection,

That is why the liturgy of the Epiphany includes an announcement of Easter. The liturgical year summarizes the entire trajectory of the history of salvation, in the center of which is the triduum of the Lord who is crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Epiphany service will be assisted by the students of the Propaganda Fide College.



Finally, for the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, on Sunday, January 10, 14 babies will receive the sacrament from the Pope. For the fourth time in his Pontificate, Benedict XVI will administer the first sacrament of Christian life in the stupendous setting of the Sistine Chapel.

The babies are children of Vatican employees and will be accompanied by their parents, godfathers and godmothers, and their families. The older siblings of the babies to be baptized will bring the gifts at teh Offertory. Thus, it will be a feast of life and of the family.

The Baptism rite will take place within the Mass that the Pope will celebrate at the built-in altar of the Sistine Chapel, and therefore ad orientem. This decision was taken two years ago in order to preserve the architectonic harmony of the Sistine Chapel. In the decades after Vatican II, a mobile altar was wheeled into the chapel so that the Mass could be celebrated 'ad populum'.

The babies will be baptized at a metal font sculptured in the time of John Paul II by the Italian Toffetti. The Pope will be using a golden shell to pour the water. The scalloped shell is a symbol of pilgrimage, and therefore, of the journey that the newly baptized will begin as soon as they become part of the Christian community.

Assisting at the service will be students from the Vatican's St. Pius X pre-seminary.

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Thursday, December 24
A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE!
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CHRISTMAS IN GRECCIO
The Holy Father anticipated today's observance in his catechesis yesterday. The two paintings are from Giotto's frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi: second from left, the Institution of the Crib in Greccio, and second from right, the Nativity scene.



OR today.
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At the General Audience, the Pope recalls that Christmas
is the triumph of love over pride and violence:
'God comes without weapons nor force to be welcomed by man in freedom'
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At the GA yesterday, the Pope met the editors of the Spanish newspaper La Razon which will carry the Spanish weekly
edition of OR as a Sunday supplement (photo, bottom left). Other Page 1 stories: Moscow reports progress in talks for
a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with the USA; two are killed and three wounded in a new terrorist attack against
a church in Mosul, Iraq.




THE POPE'S DAY
10 P.M. Christmas Eve Mass
St. Peter's Basilica
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Thanks to Lella's blog, which she has re-baptised to
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for pointing me to this excellent article.


Analysis:
Where is Benedict XVI's
Pontificated headed?


The chief religion editor of Le Figaro says the Pope opens
a true space for debate in meeting sensitive issues head-on.


by Jean-Marie Guénois
Translated from
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December 22, 2009


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This a-mediatic Pope knows exactly where he wants to go.


Is 2009 the worst year so far of Benedict XVI's Pontificate? Not according to the Pope, who on Monday morning, calmly reported to the Roman Curia on a year that was loaded with controversy.

Around Christmas time every year, the Pope and his closest co-workers meet to exchange Christmas greetings. It has become an occasion for him to speak about Church policy in general, a report he prepares himself, writing it out by hand.

And the meeting is never anodyne! It was the setting he chose to announce in December 2005 his interpretation of the Second Vatican Council - not one of 'rupture' but reconciled with the Tradition of the Church.

He made no reference Monday to the successive media storms that marked this year for the Pope: the Williamson case in January; the AIDS controversy as he began his first trip to Africa in March; and this weekend, his go-ahead for the beatification process of Pius XII. Without forgetting the excommunication of persons connected to an abortion performed on a 9-year-old rape victim in Brazil [strangely, this made media 'waves' only in Brazil and France - although the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith eventually had to step in to straighten out the controversy generated in the Vatican newspaper itself, due to the hasty condemnation of the local Brazilian bishops by the new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the OR's refusal to give equal space to the bishops to respond.]

Without dealing with these matters, Benedict XVI chose to look at the pastoral implications of his three trips abroad in 2009 - to Africa, the Holy Land and the Czech Republic.

Far from stirring up confrontation, he dwelt on the spirit of 'reconciliation' that should animate the Church and every Christian. A spirit of reconciliation which, he says, can bring peace [because it is a pre-condition for true peace]. And it can change the world because it has 'political' consequences.

The problem is that many, both within and outside the Catholic Church, do not share this peaceable state of mind.

During the past twelve months that have darkened [I am not sure the term is objective or appropriate!] the image of the Church, Catholics continue to be troubled. Some are angry or disappointed. Some are uneasy even if there are many who faithfully support the Pope.

[How can any individual make such judgments using the terms 'some' and 'many' to refer to a Church with 1.2 billion members? No one is in a position to quantify who among those 1.2 billion are angry, disappointed, and uneasy - or how many faithfully 'support the Pope'. And any such judgments only reflect the journalist's subjective extrapolation of his own state of mind and that of the circles he moves in. Just as I choose to believe there are hundreds of millions of 'simple faithful' like me who believe and follow the Church, however imperfectly with our human limitations, but nonetheless with true faith']

In any case, it must be noted, once and for all, that this Pope charts his own course. [which, as he said in his Inaugural Mass homily, is to do as God wills.]. He will never allow himself to be influenced by media pressure. [Nor by other pressures, such as the militant Jews, from the outside, and dissident prelates and Catholic lobbies on the inside.]

Proof was his surprise decision on Saturday, to open the way for Pius XII's beatification along with that of John Paul II.

The historical debate over Pius's Pontificate has been head-on, and ultra-sensitive, in the context of Catholic relations with the Jews. But Benedict XVI knows what he needs to do.

After sufficient reflection [and an internal supplementary investigation into the historical record available at the Vatican], the German Pope decided to go ahead in the matter of Pius XII - when everyone had thought he would simply leave it to his eventual successor to deal with the problem!

Rome has a colorful expression to describe this kind of a problem: 'patata bollente', which is weakly translated in French [and in English as well] as 'hot potato', since it is in fact, a boiling issue.

But this decision to place Pius XII"s cause back on track shows above all that this a-mediatic Pope knows very well where he wants to go.

The Pius XII 'case'. like the other 'cases' or 'affairs' (Regensburg, the opening to the Lefebvrians, the approach to AIDS) - is not just the stuff of sporadic headlines. They stir up real social debates which are fundamental, serious and even violent.

In this sense, Benedict XVI obliges his interlocutors to intellectual honesty. And that is, without a doubt, his best asset.

Of course, everyone has the right to disagree with him, but his position is always clear. And he presents these positions himself before the tribunal of the public - without demagogery, without ambiguity, and without any false diplomacy.


Three years since the crisis that followed the Regensburg lecture, the perception is that relations between the Church and Islam have never been so good - because the controversy had led to a dialog of truth.

Might it be that the virtue of this demanding and disquieting Pontificate is to provoke a clear and well-reasoned debate which obliges a review of a priori positions that are often too simplistic?



Guenois has captured the gist of Benedict's singular leadership, and has spelled it out with what I find to be surprising intellectual honesty on his part, something I have stopped trying to expect from the media in general. May there be more like him!

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In Christmas letter, Berlusconi
thanks Pope for support over attack

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Rome, 24 Dec. (AKI) - Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has written a letter to Pope Benedict XVI thanking him for his support after the bloody attack against him by a mentally unstable man in the northern city of Milan this month.

In the letter, Berlusconi said Christian principles guided his government and that it would work for "social cohesion" in the country.

"I can confirm that the Christian values exemplified by Your Holinesss always guide my government's actions. It will take all the necessary action to ensure calm and social cohesion," wrote Berlusconi.

The letter thanked Benedict for the "closeness" the pontiff had shown him in a telegram he sent to Berlusconi in hospital while the premier was recovering from a fractured nose, two broken teeth, blood loss and other facial injuries sustained during the attack against him on 13 December.

A 42-year-old man, Massimo Tartaglia, was arrested after the attack during which he allegedly hurled an alabaster replica of the city's Gothic cathedral into Berlusconi's face.

Tartaglia, who has a history of mental illness, is being held in preventive custody in a Milan jail. He told police he carried out the attack alone out of hatred for Berlusconi.

"Christmas is an important time for reflection for all men of good will. Christ's message of peace and brotherhood is often forgotten when the strength of ideas are met with verbal or physical violence," said Berlusconi's letter, delivered to Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Berlusconi said earlier this week he forgave Tartaglia but wants him to serve time in detention and said such attacks against high-ranking Italian officials must be prevented in future.

His letter to the Pope is another apparent sign that Berlusconi is taking an increasingly pious tone as he eyes Catholic voters in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country.

The premier has been hit by sex scandals this year including alleged dalliances with a prostitute which have strained his relations with the Catholic Church.

His letter to the Pontiff also comes amid talk of a new centrist party to challenge Berlusconi made up of pro-Vatican politicians.

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Pope inaugurates
Christmas creche at St. Peter's

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 24 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday appeared at a window of his Vatican apartment to mark the unveiling of the traditional Christmas creche in St Peter's Square below.

About 1,000 people gathered in the famous piazza applauded as the pope lit a candle, symbol of peace.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul II began the tradition of setting up the creche in St Peter's Square in 1982 in a tribute to the rich Italian tradition of creche-building and the zeal and artistry involved.

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Flanked by a giant Christmas tree, the illuminated structure 25 metres (yards) wide depicts the nativity of Jesus Christ, believed by Christians to be the son of God, whose birth is commemorated on Christmas Day.

Some of the figurines in this year's creche date from the mid-19th century.

The sundown event came a few hours before the Pontiff was to celebrate Christmas Eve mass in the basilica.

As children put on a pageant and the Vatican orchestra performed, a long line of pilgrims waited to enter the basilica for the mass.

In a Vatican first, the traditional "midnight mass" was to begin two hours early this year in view of Pope Benedict's advanced age of 82.

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The Pope's own creche

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The Nativity scene in the Pope's apartment this year is set in the market area of a 15th-century Roman neighborhood, and was the work of the Vatican florist service as usual. The statuettes are in plaster and terracotta.


Vatican newspaper to debut
as Sunday supplement to
Spanish paper La Razon


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After the General Audience yesterday, executives of the Madrid-based Spanish newspaper La Razon, were thanked by the Holy Father for being the first newspaper in Spain to carry the Spanish weekly edition of L'Osservatore Romano as a free supplement to their Sunday issue, which has a present circulation of 200,000.

OR editor Giovanni Maria Vian (in photo, center) says this triples the OR's circulation overnight. At present, its daily edition and its weekly editions in seven languages have a total print order of 100,000.

The La Razon project was suggested by the Spanish bishops' conference and favorably welcomed by the newspaper which is also undertaking the cost of printing the supplement.

The Spanish weekly OR was already the widest circulated of its foreign editions, since it has been carried in Peru since 1997, in Mexico since 1998, and in Argentina since 2005, but none with a major newspaper like La Razon.


Pope is presented formally
with the 'Alma Mater' CD


Other than a brief mention in the 12/24/09 OR that this took place, I have not seen any story with it. But the first three photographs from the OR catalog are rather unusual - they seem to show the Pope covering his face as if in mock dismay over something, as the persons around him enjoy a laugh.

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The Mass is still going on at St. Peter's but I have to post this 'bulletin' quickly. If you were watching the telecast, you would have noted that shortly after the entrance procession started, the lead acolytes suddenly stopped midway, and plainclothes security started running from the front part of the Basilica towards the back.
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The TV commentator had no idea why - and I had an anxious several seconds wondering "Oh please, dear God, don't let it be anything awful!"....Happily, the procession re-started (probably only a minute or so was lost), and soon there was our beloved Pope walking down the aisle appearing well and unruffled.....It turns out it could have been bad, as this AP bulletin makes clear....




Pope knocked down by
woman before Christmas Mass

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 24 (AP) – A Vatican spokesman says a woman jumped the barriers in St. Peter's Basilica and knocked down Pope Benedict XVI as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass.

The Rev. Ciro Benedettini said the Pope quickly got up and was unhurt. Benedict, 82, calmly resumed his walk to the basilica's main altar and began the Mass late Thursday.

Benedettini said the woman who pushed the Pope appeared to be mentally unstable and had been arrested by Vatican police.

He said she also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, who was taken to the hospital for a check up.


I certainly hope Dr. Polisca puts the Pope through appropriate tests to make sure he did not hit his head nor suffer any bone damage of the kind that does not immediately make itself felt... even if he seemed perfectly OK during the Mass. !

One of the first photos taken after the Holy Father resumed the entry procession - nothing to indicate he had just been knocked down. And it couldn't have been pleasant at all for anyone, even for someone half his age, to be knocked down by a madwoman.
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However, the newsphoto agemcies went out of their way to take as many snaps as they could of the Pope being assisted or anything that would seem to suggest weakness or injury, as below:

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The Pope was in fine form throughout - and I will post the rest of the'regular' pictures in the Mass coverage.
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P.S. AP has filed two frames taken from an amateur video - the first two as the person was rushing towards the Pope, the other no longer showing their figures nor those of the security men around the Pope.
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An AP videoclip carries the amateur footage shot above, and it clearly shows someone in a red shirt leaping over the barrier to the right of th Pope, and he does disappear from view... Sorry it comes with a movie commercial at the start.
link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid42806360001?bctid=590...
An isolated report later said he was not knocked down, but the video appears to show he was, and the Vatican's own spokesman said so.


AFP has more details now:

Woman rushes at Pope, pulls him down
just before the Christmas Mass

By Gina Doggett
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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 24 (AFPO) — Papal bodyguards overpowered a woman who rushed at Pope Benedict XVI, yanking him to the ground Thursday as he entered St Peter's Basilica to celebrate Christmas Eve mass.

Video footage showed the woman, dressed in a red sweatshirt, jumping over a security barricade and rushing at the 82-year-old Pope as he began leading the traditional procession of about 30 cardinals to the vast basilica's altar.

She was immediately tackled by a security guard, but succeeded in grabbing Benedict's vestments near the neck and yanking him to the ground, according to video footage taken by a pilgrim broadcast on Sky News.

Several others fell over in the melee.

Prominent French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, broke a leg in the incident though he was "several metres (yards)" from the pope, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP, adding that the prelate was rushed to hospital.

The woman is in the custody of the Vatican police, the ANSA news agency reported, adding that she said she wanted to hug the Pontiff.

Lombardi said she may have been the same woman who tried to approach Benedict on the same occasion a year ago without getting past the security barrier.

After the incident, Benedict quickly recovered, and bore a gold cross in a solemn procession to the altar as the mass began at 10:00 pm (2100 GMT).

Dressed in gold and white vestments and mitre, the Pope showed no discomfort as he read out his Christmas Eve homily, decrying selfishness, which he said "makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another.

"Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world," the spiritual leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics said in Italian.

Thursday's incident occurred amid concern over the Pope's health prompted by a Vatican decision to schedule the Mass two hours early this year instead of the traditional midnight hour due to the Pontiff's advanced age.

Lombardi insisted earlier that the change, a Vatican first, was only a "sensible precaution" for the octogenarian Pontiff.

The decision was taken several weeks ago. Lombardi said the change was "no cause for alarm," adding that the German Pontiff's condition was "absolutely normal" for a man of his age.

Lombardi said the move was aimed at making Christmas "a little less tiring for the Pope, who has many engagements during this time".

On Friday, Pope Benedict is to deliver his traditional "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) message broadcast to dozens of countries at noon on Friday.

Benedict has had no notable health problems since his 2005 election apart from a fractured wrist from a fall in July while holidaying in northern Italy.

Four years before he became Pope however, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spent nearly a month [???I always had the impression it was just a few days!] in hospital following a brain haemorrhage, according to the German daily Bild. It said he has suffered from fainting spells. [Where does that come from???? BILD is a tabloid that always tends to sensationalize bad news!]

Pope Benedict's long-serving predecessor John Paul II insisted on observing the tradition of beginning the Mass at midnight despite years of ill health, notably the ravages of Parkinson's disease, at the end of his life. He died in April 2005 aged 84.

{What is that meant to imply? That Benedict XVI is somehow to be reproached because he chooses to start Mass two hours earlier even if he is stil two years younger than his predecessor was and does not suffer from a degenerative disease? That's petty and mean faultfinding.]

P.S. I hope it is not true Cardinal Etchegaray broke his leg - a major fracture can really be bad at his age.


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Libretto illustrations from the GRANDES HEURES for Anne of Brittany, Tours 1503-1508. Bibliotheque Nationale de France.
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MASS OF CHRISTMAS EVE

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'ET INCARNATUS EST'
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Here is the English translation of the Pope's homily, from the English service of
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5).

What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly “God with us”. No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us.

The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds.

It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there.

The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch – they could hear the message precisely because they were awake.

We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His “self” is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others.

To wake up means to leave that private world of one’s own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world.

Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another.

Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence.

There are people who describe themselves as “religiously tone deaf”. The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed – our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today’s world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us “tone deaf” towards him.

And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear “tone deaf” and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself.

The great theologian Origen said this: if I had the grace to see as Paul saw, I could even now (during the Liturgy) contemplate a great host of angels (cf. in Lk 23:9).

And indeed, in the sacred liturgy, we are surrounded by the angels of God and the saints. The Lord himself is present in our midst. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may become vigilant and clear-sighted, in this way bringing you close to others as well!

Let us return to the Christmas Gospel. It tells us that after listening to the Angel’s message, the shepherds said one to another: “‘Let us go over to Bethlehem’ … they went at once” (Lk 2:15f.).

“They made haste” is literally what the Greek text says. What had been announced to them was so important that they had to go immediately.

In fact, what had been said to them was utterly out of the ordinary. It changed the world. The Saviour is born. The long-awaited Son of David has come into the world in his own city. What could be more important?

No doubt they were partly driven by curiosity, but first and foremost it was their excitement at the wonderful news that had been conveyed to them, of all people, to the little ones, to the seemingly unimportant.

They made haste – they went at once. In our daily life, it is not like that. For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly. And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them.

First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority.

If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: “Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)”.

For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives.

The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place – however important they may be – so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time.

Time given to God and, in his name, to our neighbour is never time lost. It is the time when we are most truly alive, when we live our humanity to the full.

Some commentators point out that the shepherds, the simple souls, were the first to come to Jesus in the manger and to encounter the Redeemer of the world. The wise men from the East, representing those with social standing and fame, arrived much later.

The commentators go on to say: this is quite natural. The shepherds lived nearby. They only needed to “come over” (cf. Lk 2:15), as we do when we go to visit our neighbours. The wise men, however, lived far away. They had to undertake a long and arduous journey in order to arrive in Bethlehem. And they needed guidance and direction.

Today too there are simple and lowly souls who live very close to the Lord. They are, so to speak, his neighbours and they can easily go to see him. But most of us in the world today live far from Jesus Christ, the incarnate God who came to dwell amongst us.

We live our lives by philosophies, amid worldly affairs and occupations that totally absorb us and are a great distance from the manger. In all kinds of ways, God has to prod us and reach out to us again and again, so that we can manage to escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to him.

But a path exists for all of us. The Lord provides everyone with tailor-made signals. He calls each one of us, so that we too can say: “Come on, ‘let us go over’ to Bethlehem – to the God who has come to meet us.

Yes indeed, God has set out towards us. Left to ourselves we could not reach him. The path is too much for our strength. But God has come down. He comes towards us. He has travelled the longer part of the journey.

Now he invites us: come and see how much I love you. Come and see that I am here. Transeamus usque Bethlehem, the Latin Bible says. Let us go there! Let us surpass ourselves!

Let us journey towards God in all sorts of ways: along our interior path towards him, but also along very concrete paths – the Liturgy of the Church, the service of our neighbour, in whom Christ awaits us.

Let us once again listen directly to the Gospel. The shepherds tell one another the reason why they are setting off: “Let us see this thing that has happened.” Literally the Greek text says: “Let us see this Word that has occurred there.”

Yes indeed, such is the radical newness of this night: the Word can be seen. For it has become flesh. The God of whom no image may be made – because any image would only diminish, or rather distort him – this God has himself become visible in the One who is his true image, as Saint Paul puts it (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15).

In the figure of Jesus Christ, in the whole of his life and ministry, in his dying and rising, we can see the Word of God and hence the mystery of the living God himself. This is what God is like.

The Angel had said to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12; cf. 2:16).

God’s sign, the sign given to the shepherds and to us, is not an astonishing miracle. God’s sign is his humility. God’s sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love.

How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him.

Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love.

Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood” (in Lk 22:9).

Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human.

Let us listen once again to Origen: “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)” (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.



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Friday, December 25
THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

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OR today.
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The Nativity scene - in the Pope's apartment, in a 13th-century icon from a Syrian evangelarium, and in two Rome neigborhoods.
Page 1 stories today: An essay on the Nativity in the Syriac Occidental tradition, "He who rides the heavens now crawls as a child'; and L'Osservatore Romano becomes a Sunday supplement to the Spanish newspaper La Razon. International news is on the increasing refugee problem in the Great lakes region of the Congo; India becomes the second country after China to announce it expects an 8% growth in GDP next year; and teh US Senate approves its version of a health care bill.


THE POPE'S DAY
The Christmas blessing Urbi et Orbi




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Pope fine for Christmas blessing
after Chritmas Eve incident

by NICOLE WINFIELD
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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 25 (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI is fine and will appear as planned for his traditional Christmas Day blessing hours after being knocked down by a woman who jumped the barrier at the start of Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican said Friday.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, an 87-year-old Vatican diplomat, fractured his hip in the fall and will be operated on at Rome's Gemelli hospital, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Lombardi identified the woman as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems. He said Maiolo, who was not armed, was taken to a clinic for necessary treatment.

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Videocaps from amateur film.

The woman jumped the barricade and lunged for the Pope as he processed down the aisle toward the altar. As security guards brought her down, she grabbed Benedict's vestments and pulled him down with her, according to witness video obtained by The Associated Press.

With the help of attendants, Benedict stood up and continued to process down the aisle, to the cheers of "Viva il Papa!" ("Long live the Pope"). He continued to celebrate the Mass without incident. Lombardi said Benedict's busy Christmas schedule would proceed without change.

Etchegaray's condition was good, he added.

It was the second year in a row that there had been a security breach at the Christmas Eve service and was the first time a potential attacker came into direct contact with Benedict during his five-year papacy. Security analysts have frequently warned the Pope is too exposed in his public appearances.

At the end of last year's Mass, a woman who had jumped the barriers got close to the Pope but was quickly blocked on the ground by security.

That woman too wore a red hooded sweat shirt, but Benedettini said it was not immediately known if the same person was behind Thursday's incident.

Benedict lost his miter and his staff in the fall. He remained on the ground for a few seconds before being helped back up by attendants.

After getting up, Benedict, flanked by tense bodyguards, resumed his walk to the basilica's main altar to start the Mass. The Pope, who broke his right wrist in a fall this summer, appeared unharmed but somewhat shaken and leaned heavily on aides and an armrest as he sat down in his chair. [The woman is imagining things!]

Benedict made no reference to the disturbance after the service started. As a choir sang, he sprinkled incense on the altar before opening the Mass with the traditional wish for peace in Latin.

There have been other security breaches at the Vatican.

In 2007, during an open-air audience in St. Peter's Square, a mentally unstable German man jumped a security barrier and grabbed the back of the pope's open car before being swarmed by security guards.

Then there was the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in 1981. John Paul suffered a severe abdominal wound as he rode in an open jeep at the start of his weekly audience in the Vatican piazza.

The Pope is protected by a combination of Swiss Guards, Vatican police and Italian police.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., the Vatican has tightened security at events where the Pope is present. All visitors must pass by police to get into the square, with those entering the basilica going through metal detectors or being scanned by metal-detecting wands.

However, Sister Samira, an Indian aide to Vatican officials who attended the service and saw the incident, said she is never searched by security when she attends papal Masses, and said the same holds true for other people in religious garb.

In a similar incident, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was attacked as he was greeting the crowd at a political rally earlier this month. A man with a history of psychological problems hurled a souvenir statuette at the politician, fracturing his nose and breaking two of his teeth.

Benedict celebrated this year's Christmas Eve Mass two hours earlier than the usual midnight starting time in a move by the Vatican to ease the pontiff's busy holiday schedule.

Benedict has been remarkably healthy during his pontificate, keeping to a busy schedule and traveling around the world.

But in July, he broke his wrist during a late-night fall while vacationing in an Alpine chalet and had to have minor surgery and wear a cast for a month — an episode that highlights the risk he ran in Thursday's tumble.

In his homily, delivered unflappably after the incident, the Pope urged the world to "wake up" from selfishness and petty affairs, and find time for God and spiritual matters.

In Bethlehem, thousands of pilgrims from around the world descended on the traditional birthplace of Jesus, for the most upbeat Christmas celebrations the Palestinian town has seen in years.

Hundreds of worshippers packed St. Catherine's Church on Manger Square for morning mass. Most were local Palestinian Christians, and the mass was celebrated in Arabic.



P.S. The latest amateur video I just saw on Fox News shows very clearly that the Pope was not knocked down but actually pulled down to the floor by the woman, who grabbed his garments around the neck and pulled backwards - he appeared to simply fall forward instantly - so her body may have cushioned his fall.

The video is on YouTube now - the'attack' comes at around 0:50 seconds into the clip.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcP_00cPnZc&feature=player_embedded


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THE POPE'S CHRISTMAS DAY
MESSAGE AND BLESSING
'URBI ET ORBI'

English translation from
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NB: The epigram at the start of the Holy Father's message is the citation that appears on his 2009 Christmas card.

Dear Brothers and Sisters
in Rome and throughout the world,
and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

"Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,
quia natus est nobis Dominus.

A light will shine on us this day,
the Lord is born for us"

(Roman Missal, Christmas,
Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)


The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”.

This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels.

The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history.

God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light.

Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity.

Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin.

Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace.

Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence.

The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour.

The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace.

On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them.

In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn.

In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome.

In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!


[This was followed by his Christmas greeting in 65 languages, and then finally with the Apostolic Blessing to the City and to teh World.]


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And just as they did last night, the news agencies made much of the standard assists that the Pope gets, with snaps like these:
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Consider, for instance, how the AP led its second story on the Urbi et Orbi event - with a headline carried by most of those who used the story, if one goes by the Yahoo catalog...


Pope delivers Christmas blessing
'looking tired and unsteady' after his fall

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VATICAN CITY, Dec. 25 )AP) - Pope Benedict XVI delivered his traditional Christmas Day blessing Friday, looking tired and unsteady but otherwise fine hours after being knocked down by a woman who jumped the barrier at the start of Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican said the 82-year-old Benedict was unhurt in the fall and that his busy Christmas schedule would remain unchanged.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, an 87-year-old Vatican diplomat, fractured his hip in the commotion and will be operated on at Rome's Gemelli hospital, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Benedict appeared a bit unsteady as he approached his chair on the loggia overlooking St. Peter's Square to deliver his traditional Christmas blessing and was steadied by an attendant.

[That chair is elevated on a platform whose steps the Pope has to mount from the side at a sharp angle, because there is no space in front of it. Last year - I think it was at the New Year Urbi et Orbi - I remember distinctly that he actually stumbled when getting up that step. If that stumble had happened today instead of the slight trip today, God knows what the morbid, ambulance-chasing Cassandras of the media would have said it was!]

But he then spread open his arms, blessed the crowd and delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" speech, Latin for "To the city and the world," without any problem. He followed with Christmas greetings in 65 different languages that drew sustained cheers and chants from the crowd.

In the speech, the Pope decried the effects of the world financial crisis, conflicts in the Holy Land and Africa, and the plight of the "tiny flock" of Christians in Iraq.

"At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one's neighbor," he said.

Lombardi identified the woman who toppled Benedict as Susanna Maiolo, 25, a Swiss-Italian national with psychiatric problems. He said Maiolo, who was not armed, was taken to a clinic for necessary treatment.

She was the same woman involved in a similar incident at last year's Midnight Mass, Vatican officials said. In that case, Maiolo jumped the barricade but never managed to reach the pope and was quietly tackled by security.

In both cases she wore a red sweat shirt.

During Thursday night's service, Maiolo jumped the barricade and lunged for the Pope as he processed down the aisle toward the altar. As security guards brought her down, she grabbed Benedict's vestments and pulled him down with her, according to witness video obtained by The Associated Press.

After a few seconds on the floor, Benedict stood up with the help of attendants, put his miter back on and took hold of his staff, and continued to process down the aisle to the cheers of "Viva il Papa!" ("Long live the pope"). He continued to celebrate the Mass without incident.

It was the first time a potential attacker came into direct contact with Benedict during his nearly five-year papacy. Security analysts have frequently warned the Pope is too exposed in his public appearances.

After getting up, Benedict, flanked by tense bodyguards, reached the basilica's main altar to start the Mass. The Pope, who broke his right wrist in a fall this summer, appeared unharmed but somewhat shaken and leaned heavily on aides and an armrest as he sat down in his chair. [It didn't seem to be anything other than him allowing them to assist him as he usually does! Thank God we have been able to watch all these ourselves - if we had to rely on these reports, we'd be half off our minds with worry!]

Benedict made no reference to the disturbance after the service started or on Friday.

His next major appearance is scheduled for Sunday, when he joins homeless people at a Rome soup kitchen for lunch. In addition, he is due to preside over a vespers service on Dec. 31, celebrate Mass on New Year's Day and another one to mark Epiphany on Jan. 6, and then baptize babies in the Sistine Chapel on Jan. 10.

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THE CHRISTMAS EVE VATICAN INCIDENT:
The Pope was not knocked down -
he was yanked forward and down!


The initial reports that made all the newspapers of the world on Christmas Day were unanimous in saying the Pope was 'knocked down', when he was really pulled forward before falling. It all happens in just a few seconds. I believe only AFP's Gina Doggett reported it correctly - as she based her account on a video that showed the incident.

From the clearest amateur video I've seen so far - the 'attack' starts at 0:48 seconds into the clip.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcP_00cPnZc&feature=player_embedded

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I got this sequence of stills from the few seconds of the video that shows the Pope's attacker grab his pallium and pull him forward - the Holy Father actually takes a couple of steps (or is dragged) before he falls forward. Mons. Marini is unable to get close fast enough to keep him up.

God be thanked nothing worse happened to the Holy Father, but let us say a prayer for Cardinal Etchegaray, 87, who fractured his hip in the melee and will have to undergo surgery.

As the most senior cardinal present, he must have been processing just a few steps in front of the Holy Father with the most senior cardinals, then took a tumble from the domino effect of the Pope's fall, or in the rush of the security people to get to the attacker and to the Pope. A hip or spine fracture is one of the most serious accidents that can happen to any person over 60.


BENEDICT THE UNFLAPPABLE - The following picture was taken barely a minute after the Holy Father got back to his feet.
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Watching the Mass live on TV - and not learning exactly what had caused the momentary delay in the procession and the security men rushing happened until well into the Mass - no one would have thought the Holy Father had just been through such a scare. One imagines the Vicar of Christ is never really unprotected... God be with him always! And AD MULTOS ANNOS!

DOLCE CRISTO IN TERRA
After giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing today.
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Damian Thompson's is the only Anglophone reaction I have seen so far - an a most congenial one to which we can all say AMEN! Most commentators are on Christmas Day leave, it seems.


The assault on Pope Benedict reminds us
how much we need this brave man

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Dec. 25, 2009


The assault on Pope Benedict XVI is very disturbing to watch on video. It makes the stomach lurch. For an 82-year-old man to have to preside over a service watched by millions is daunting enough – and, remember, Joseph Ratzinger is not a natural showman, unlike his predecessor. He does not find these things easy.

Imagine the horror of being suddenly knocked to the ground at such a nerve-wracking moment. That he was unharmed is a small miracle. If the Pope had broken his hip, which could so easily have happened, then his health might have been seriously damaged: Many old people are never quite the same again after a fall. As it was, he carried on bravely, as if nothing had happened.

The Catholic Church really needs Benedict XVI: his health (which seems fine, thank God) is a matter of concern, and not just because his visit to Britain depends on it.

This Holy Father is an adventurous and radical leader. In 2007, he issued a historic apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, that brought closer together the older and newer forms of the Roman Rite; it will take years for it to “bed in” properly, though the transformation has begun.

Who now regards the celebration of the Tridentine Rite as something dangerously exotic, as was the case a few years ago? Yes, certain bishops continue to disregard the Pope’s wishes, but the Vatican knows who they are, thanks in part to the internet.

Then there is the Apostolic Constitution for ex-Anglicans. This is a personal initiative of Pope Benedict; the Ordinariates will take shape next year, but because the Pope has brushed aside the Church’s lazy liberal consensus – as he did with Summorum Pontificum – the scheme requires constant pressure from the Holy See to make sure it is implemented properly. Get it right, and there will be a mighty crossing of the Tiber. (I think we can trust Archbishop Vincent Nichols on this one; his colleagues, not so much.)

Most of all, Pope Benedict XVI needs time to ensure that all his initiatives are incorporated into the fundamental renewal of worship that he has dreamed of for decades, one which properly fulfils the vision of Vatican II, outlaws the abuses permitted by Archbishop Bugnini, and restores the unbroken tradition of the Church. Ad multos annos!

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ignatiusinsight.com/features2009/schall_christmas09_dec09.asp
December 24, 2009



Christmas is, as I have said, one of numberless old European feasts of which the essence is the combination of religion with merry-making... For the character of Christmas (as distinct, for instance, from the continental Easter) lies chiefly in two things: first on the terrestrial side of the note of comfort rather than the note of brightness; and on the spiritual side, Christian charity rather than Christian ecstasy."
- G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens, 1908. [1]

There is in every person the desire to be accepted as a person and considered as a sacred reality, for every human history is a sacred history and demands the utmost respect.
- Benedict XVI, Rome, Spanish Steps, December 8, 2009




I.

The second chapter of the Gospel of Luke begins: "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was Governor of Syria...."

I find surprisingly few students in class have ever heard of this incident, or even the names or the occasion. Why bring it up? Why would Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, or Syria be of interest? Why are they mentioned together? Was the name of everyone in the world written down someplace?

Caught up in the mechanics of this Roman political enrollment or census, however, was a man by the name of Joseph. To comply with this registration, he had to take his wife, Mary, who was with child, from his own town of Nazareth, where he seems to have been a carpenter, to Bethlehem. He was, we are told in explanation, of the "house and lineage of David."

You need to know something of Jewish history to see why that heritage is important and why it is mentioned. Apparently, the Romans allowed no absentee registrations. One had to enroll where he was born. That's how they kept track.

These short passages, nonetheless, tell us much. We know of Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. We know of his famous relative, Julius Caesar, who had been murdered in the Senate in 44 B.C. Indeed, only because of this murder, said to be committed in the name of the Republic by Brutus and Cassius, did young Octavian become the Augustus. Quirinius is known. There must have been a second census.

We know what Syria meant in those days of Roman domination. Roman rule was relatively well-organized. As rulers go, the Romans were among the best. They promulgated laws, kept records, and made particular decrees. They had troops about, just in case; I believe it was the Tenth Legion that was stationed in Palestine.

This Joseph was a Jew, from the City of David. This origin, in Jewish terms, was of considerable significance. It was rumored someone called the "Messiah" might come from there. It was thus pretty high level stuff.

Political decrees make people do things they would otherwise not do. This Joseph certainly would not have taken his pregnant wife on the road that time of year unless he had to. He seems to have been led to where he "ought" to have been by this very decree with which he had nothing to do but obey it.

Was there something going on here, something more than meets the eye? Speaking of Luke's later reference to Augustus' successor, Tiberius Caesar, who was in command at the time when one Pontius Pilate was Governor in Jerusalem, Benedict said:

"The Evangelist (Luke) evidently wanted to warn those who read or heard about it that the Gospel is not a legend but the account of a true story, that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure who fits into that precise context." [2]

It is this same Jesus who is evidently being carried in the womb of Joseph's wife as the couple travels to Bethlehem, the City of David. The point seems to be that this Child is connected with King David, and through him with David's own heritage. The two genealogies recorded in the Gospels themselves also indicate this concrete background of Jesus.

Jesus was not a legend or a myth. He did dwell amongst us, as Luke is at pains to tell us. He was seen and heard by witnesses who recorded what they saw and heard and, as John even says, touched. No phantom here, no figment of some scholarly imagination.

We are told here that this Child of Mary is connected with everything else in our world. When the Emperor Augustus decided to take a census, he had no idea that, in a far off corner of his Empire, it would facilitate some event that had been being prepared from the foundations of the world.

Human acts are not outside of divine providence, even if we do not know how they fit in at the time they are put into effect. They also remain at the same time the human acts that they are.


II.

What was going on here? The Vatican II constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) states, "God, who through the Word creates all things and keeps them in being, provides men with unfailing testimony to himself in creation."

The world was "created." It did not just "happen" to burst forth from its own nothingness, though indeed, it was created "from nothing." Unfailing, testimony is provided.

Moreover, the world was created "through the Word." The Word was God. Nothing that is created causes itself in being.

We are also told that, over the ages, God actually provides us with witnesses to Himself; they are about if we look. We read books in the Old Testament in which these claims are recorded. There were also first parents.

Human beings "began," but they "fell." Yet, they were given a "hope" both of salvation and redemption from the consequences of this Fall. The "hope," Eve was told, would have something to do with another woman. This other woman seems to come up in this census account. Things, however, were going to get worse before they got better.

God still intended to give "eternal life" to men, just as He planned to do from the beginning. This "eternal life" is the reason of their creation. It was a life that, while keeping them human, gave them the inner life of the Godhead.

Of course, men needed to do "good works." They needed to "seek" salvation. They were not to be slothful, uninterested in who they are, what they could know. God gave them brains to use.

He was not particularly interested in inert beings unless they were rocks or stars, and then only for the sake of the being who was free and finite.

Things happen according to chance and according to choice, sometimes according to both. God seems to have had a plan. We catch glimpses of it, if we look.

We begin to hear of Abraham, a Chaldean. He was told he was going to be the father of many, yet he was to sacrifice his son. But God, we learn, "provided." The "sacrificial Lamb" came to be associated with the Word made flesh.

In a line of people, we find prophets, then Moses. God was insistent that He alone was Holy. A Savior was to be sent. He evidently came into the world when Caesar Augustus was Emperor.

So something was going on. "Through the ages, He (God) prepared a way for the Gospel. Finally, God appears. He speaks through His Son. This Son turns out to be "the eternal Word."

God from God, Light from Light. He will enlighten men, make known "the innermost things of God." This Word is "Jesus Christ, the word made flesh." He did what the "Father gave him to do." The Evangelist Luke recounts these things. They actually happened.

This Christ completed God's intended revelation. He did this making known what He wanted to make known in all his words and deeds, in the principal events of His life.

The dramatic event of His Crucifixion was carried out under the authority of Tiberius Caesar by a Roman Governor by the name Pontius Pilate. But the event seemed to concern the Jews more than the Romans, at least initially.

Pilate wanted to "wash his hands" of the whole mess. Many leading Jews just wanted this troublemaker out of the way. Pilate asked the crowd what to do with Him. They shouted "Crucify him."

But no one can crucify a man who does not exist. The message of all these events was "that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to eternal life."


III.

Chesterton tells us that this event of Christ's birth is one of comfort and really of making merry, of rejoicing. The two go together. The metaphysics and the brightness are there.

But the birth of Christ into this world is a comfort, something ordinary folks can understand. Such ordinary folk have always suspected their lives mean something. No one has told them why.

If Christ is born as a Child and if He is the Son of God, does this not tell us something about ourselves, about each son of man and woman (there are, as Chesterton said, no sons of man and man, though there is a Son of Man, born of woman)?

Revelation tells us first that we are not God. We are men, finite beings. Yet, we are not to have strange gods before us. The only God we want before us is the one who is testified to here, the one born of Mary in Bethlehem. She is evidently there because of a decree of Caesar Augustus. Her husband, Joseph, was of the house of David.

The angel has said to her, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord be with you." She said, "Be it done unto me." She said this after she inquired "how."

Is there really any other way? Maybe God will figure out that the way He chose from the beginning was not "working." Maybe He will send a Mohammed or a Nietzsche, or a Grand Inquisitor, to explain things differently? No, it did not and will not happen.

Robert Hugh Benson spoke of The Lord of the World. This Lord was present at the Fall.

Dei Verbum says: "The Christian dispensation, because it is the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and no new public revelation is any longer to be looked for before the manifestation in glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I find this rather comforting. It is a reason for making merry. We have already been given all we need to know. The light has shone in the darkness, even if the darkness did not comprehend it.

But I am intrigued by Benedict's phrase "every human being is a salvation history." The Pope says "is" a salvation history, not "has" one.

That phrase "salvation history" is usually used of the way that God reveals Himself and His purposes in history, the history of the world from Creation to final Judgment. It includes the rise and fall of nations.

Yet it is here singular, as if the rise and fall of nations passes through our own souls. Well, of course it does. Plato said this. Solzhenitsyn said this. It is obvious. There is no collective salvation that bypasses what each of us is, destined to eternal life.

Chesterton tells of comfort rather than brightness, of charity rather than ecstasy. There is nothing wrong with brightness. Our problem with God's revelation is not that it is obscure, but that it is too bright for our finite intellects to grasp. We are men, not gods. We are thankful that we are, for what we are.

There are those who seek God in mysticism, and those who find Him in their neighbor. Both know, both find. This is Christmas. Joseph and Mary made it to Bethlehem, to the inn where there was no room. The Child was born who is "Christ the Lord."

The angels on high rejoiced. The shepherds heard. Away in a manger, there is the little Lord Jesus. This is our comfort. Our feast is not that we have first loved God, but that He has first loved us.

We are each of us a salvation history, because of what happened when the decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world be enrolled, and Quirinius was Governor of Syria.

ENDNOTES:

[1] G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men (New York: Press of the Readers Club, [1908] 1942), 117-18.
[2] Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 6, 2009. L'Osservatore Romano, English, December 9, 2009. The introductory citation is in the same edition.



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Saturday, December 26
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ST. STEPHEN (d. 36 AD), Archdeacon and First Christian Martyr (Proto-Martyr)
The Acts of the Apostles tell us all that is known of this young Hellenized Jew who was chosen by the Twelve as someone 'filled with grace and the Holy Spirit' to administer charity to widows and the needy. He was also a powerful preacher for early Christianity, and ended up being condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin for blasphemy against Moses and God, and speaking against the Temple and the Law. He was stoned to death by a mob as the future St. Paul looked 0n ('Saul entirely approved of putting him to death'). Before he died, Stephen spoke out to accuse the Jews of persecuting those who spoke out against their sins, further angering the crowd. He experienced a theophany, saying ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....’. His dying words were: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. Pope Benedict XVI dedicated a catechesis to him on January 10, 2007.



No OR today.


THE POPE'S DAY
Noontime Angelus - The Holy Father spoke on St. Stephen as a model of faith and charity for all Christians.

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ANGELUS TODAY

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The Holy Father led the noontime Angelus at St. Peter's Square today looking well after the Christmas Eve assault in St. Peter's Basilica by a 25-year-old Swiss-Italian woman with psychiatric problems.

He spoke about St. Stephen whose feast is celebrated today. Here is what he said in English:

As we continue our celebration of this joyful Christmas season, I warmly greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims gathered here in Saint Peter’s Square.

Together with Christians across the globe, we rejoice at the birth of our Saviour, Prince of Peace and light of the world.

Today we honour the Church’s first martyr, Saint Stephen, who was fearless in bearing witness to Christ and who shed his blood for love of him.

We pray for those Christians who suffer persecution today. And we commend to the intercession of their heavenly patron, Saint Stephen, all deacons and altar servers. May God bless all of you!


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Here is a full translation of the Pope's words today:


Dear brothers and sisters,

With ort spirits still full of wonder and inundated by the light that shone forth from the cave in Bethlehem, where with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, we adored our Savior, today we remember the deacon St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

His example helps us to better penetrate the mystery of the Nativity and testifies to the wonderful grandeur of the birth of the Baby in whom the grace of God is manifest, bearing salvation for all men (cfr Tt 2,11).

The baby wailing in the manger is indeed the Son of God made man, who asks us to bear witness to his Gospel with courage, as St. Stephen did, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, did not hesitate to give his life for love of his Lord.

Like his Master, he died forgiving his persecutors, and makes us understand that the entry of the Son of God into the world gave birth to a new civilization, the civilization of love, which does not yield in the face of evil and violence, and brings down the barrers between men, making them brothers in the great family of the children of God.

Stephen was also the first deacon of the Church, who, by making himself the servant of the poor for love of Christ, entered progressively into full harmony with him and followed him up to the final gift of himself.

Stephen's testimony, like that of all the Christian martyrs, shows contemporary men, often distracted and disoriented, in whom to place our trust in order to give sense to life.

The martyr is, in fact, one who dies in the certainty that he is loved by God, and without placing anything ahead of Christ's love, knows he has made the better choice.

By configuring himself fully to the death of Christ, he is aware that he is a fertile seed of life who opens paths of peace and hope for the world.

Today, by presenting the deacon St. Stephen as a model for us, the Church also shows us, among other things, that caring and love for the poor is one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and bear witness credibly to men of the coming Kingdom of God.

The feast of St. Stephen also reminds us of so many believers in many parts of the world who are undergoing trials and suffering because of their faith.

Entrusting them to his celestial protection, let us also commit ourselves to sustaining them with prayers, and never to fall short of our Christian calling, always placing Jesus Christ in the center of our life, whom we contemplate these days in the simplicity and humility of the manger.

For this, let us ask the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Queen of Martyrs, as we pray the Angelus.


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I went back to bring up the photos of Benedict XVI leading his first Angelus on May 1, 2005 -
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and enlarged as best as I could two of the frames
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and they might as well have been taken today!




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