Benedetto XVI Forum


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12/15/2011 6:18 PM
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See preceding page for earlier posts today, 12/15/11.

Thursday, December 15, Third Week of Advent

BLESSED MARIA FRANZISKA [Mary Frances] SCHERVIER (Germany, 1819-1875)
Born to a wealth family in Aachen, she was cured of asthma after a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
As a teenager, she ran the household when her mother died, and after losing two sisters to
tuberculosis, she became a lay Franciscan renowned for her generosity to the poor. In 1851,
she founded the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, which set up hospitals and homes for
the aged to serve the indigent. By 1858, the order had a branch in the United States, and
in 1863, Mother Mary Frances herself went to the US to help nurse Civil War wounded, making
a second trip to the order in 1868. By the time she died, her order had 2500 members in many
countries. She was beatified by Paul VI in 1974.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy father received the credentials today of the new ambassadors to the Holy See from the governments of
Trinidad-Tobago, Guinea Bissau, Switzerland, Burundi, Thailand, Pakistan, Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, Andorra,
Sri Lanka, and Burkina Faso.

He then met with

- Mons, James Patrick Green, Apostolic Nuncio to Peru

- Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, and president of the French bishops' conference, with
the conference's two vice-presidents and secretary-general.

- H.E. Yves Gazzo, chief of the European Community Commission delegation to the Holy See, on farewell visit.

This evening, the Holy Father presides at Vespers with university students of Rome, a traditional pre-Christmas
event at the Vatican.


Left, not a good reproduction at all, but the only one I can find online so far, from BILD, whose page layout person was so sloppy that he/she cropped the bottom of the card that usually shows the year of the card, e.g., Weihnachte 2011, in the Pope's script, only the top of which we can see, followed by a fine-print caption about the illustration used. Anyway, the brief BILD item with the card says that the illustration is the Nativity scene from a bas-relief on the Fountain of St. Joseph in the Vatican Gardens, while the quotation "Komm und erlöse uns!“ (Come and save us) is taken from the Liturgy of the Hours. Last year (right photo), the illustration was a detail from the Nativity facade of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

I really don't know why the Vatican Press Office does not provide the public with photos of the Pope's Christmas and Easter cards which, after all, belong to the annals of his Pontificate .

OR today.

The Pope views this year's Nativity scene prepared for the main audience hall of Aula Paolo VI by the Mexican state of Puebla.
At the General Audience, the Pope continues his reflections on Jesus at prayer:
'With heart open to the needs of those around'
Other Page 1 news: A calm after the storm for Europe, as global markets drop on news of reduced economic indicators for Germany in the last quarter of 2011 and the first half of 2012; and South Kordofan in Sudan near recently independent South Sudan shapes up as the next war-and-hunger crisis area, as Sudanese armed forces battle South Sudan guerrillas. In the inside pages, an excellent essay on the universal cultural patronage of Pius IX that led to restorations and commissioned art works all over Italy after the loss of the papal states in 1861.

- Remember the item in the preceding page about the 87 orthodox Jews arrested by the Brooklyn police for sexual abuse against minors? One newspaper that has not reported any of it so far is America's supposed 'newspaper of record'... And yet, it was hardly a minor scandal as child sex abuse stories go. This is how the Brooklyn district attorney's office reports the numbers busted in the past three years:
* 85 accused predators arrested since January 2009, two female
* 117 victims: 89 under age 17, the rest up to age 23, when the statute of limitations expires
* 47 cases pending; 38 closed
* 14 offenders sentenced to jail, from a month to 10-to-20 years
* 24 free—on probation, after pleading to lesser charges or after cases were dismissed

Curiously, none of the few news items I've seen so far about this mention whether, and if so, how many, Jewish religious were included in the bust. This is not to disparage the Jewish religious in any way, but only to point out how differently the media treat a child sex abuse story when the accused persons are not Catholic priests! And of course, that the New York Times chooses not even to report the news - which by any measure, is a major local news story for New York - is more proof, if anyone needed it, of that newspaper's blatant double standard against Catholics.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2011 12:42 AM]
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12/15/2011 11:21 PM
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Benedict XVI to name Hildegarde von Bingen
a Doctor of the Church in October 2012

by Andrea Tornielli
Translated from

December 15, 2011

He has compared her visions to those of the Old Testament prophets, he cites her often, and he dedicated two Wednesday catecheses on her last year, ponting her out as a model female theologian, and praising her musical compositions, some of which are still being played today, as well as the courage with which she confronted the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa when conveying divine admonitions to him.

Benedict XVI is very connected to the figure of St. Hildegarde von Bingen and intends to proclaim her a Doctor of the Church in October 2012. This is a rare and solemn title given to saints who, through their life and writings, have illuminated Catholic doctrine.

So far, the Church has recognized 33 'doctors', 30 of them male. The three women are Teresa of Avila and Caterina of Siena, proclaimed Doctors of the Church by Paul VI in 1970, and the third one, Therese of Lisieux, proclaimed by John Paul II in 1997.

Now, Papa Ratzinger is adding a fourth one, in what amounts to an invitation for women to follow the example of the mystical nun - who was called the Sybil of the Rhine for her prophetic visions - and to contribute to theological reflection. [I bet the unrepentant Sister Elizabeth Johnson of Fordham University - rebuked by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for a book of questionable theology - will have much to say about this!]

Hildegarde, the youngest of ten children, was born to a noble family, in 1098 in Bermersheim in the Rhineland, and died at age 81 in 1179. The etymology of her name means "she who is daring in battle', a first prophecy that would be fully realized.

Pledged by her parents into the religious life when she was eight years old, she became a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of St. Disiboth, and went on to be the prioress of the community.

Because of the number of applicants seeking to join the order, she decided to separate her community from the Benedictine monks and transferred her nuns to Bingen, where she spent the rest of her life.

She had been having mystical visions since she was a child, which she dictated to another nun. Fearing that those visions were mere illusions, she sought the advice of St. Bernard of Clairvaux who reassured her.

In 1147, she earned the approval of Pope Eugene III, who read a text by Hildegarde at a Bishops' Synodal Assembly in Trier. The Pope authorized her to write down her visions and to speak in public.

Her fame soon became widespread. Her contemporaries called her the Teutonic prophetess and 'Sybil of the Rhine'. Considered a saint even in her day, the mystic nun was never formally canonized.

German director Margarethe von Trotta made the film Vision about Hildegarde, based on the mystic's best known work Scivias ('Know the ways'), which summarizes in 35 visions the events of the history of salvation, from the creation of the world to the end times.

"With the characteristic traits of feminine sensitivity," Benedict XVI said about her, "Hildegard develops at the very heart of her work the theme of the mysterious marriage between God and humanity that is brought about in the Incarnation. On the tree of the Cross take place the nuptials of the Son of God with the Church, his Bride, filled with grace and the ability to give new children to God, in the love of the Holy Spirit".

For Papa Ratzinger who, in recalling her one year ago, encouraged female theologians, it is evident, precisely with examples like Hildegarde, that theology "can receive a special contribution from women, because they are capable of speaking about God and the mysteries of the faith with their special intelligence and sensibility".

Her visions did not lack for short-term prophecies, such as her affirmation of the Catari heresy, but even apocalyptic snatches, such as that of the Anti-Christ who will sow death among the people "when the Chair of Peter will be occupied by a Pope who has taken the names of two Apostles".

Or that which raises the possibility of a Muslim converted to Christianity who would become a cardinal, kill the legitimate Pope because he wants the position for himself, and failing to do so, proclaims himself the anti-Pope.

Hildegarde's story attests to the cultural liveliness of the feminine monasteries of her time and helps to belie many prejudices about the Middle Ages.

She was a nun, a theologian, cosmologist, botanist, and musician. She is considered the first woman composer in Christian history. She could govern, she condemned the immorality of priests who through their sins "keep open the wounds of Christ", and held her own against the German bishops of her time.

As she did against Frederick Barbarossa, to whom she sent a 'message from God', after that Holy Roman Emperor had named an anti-Pope for the second time. "I can beat down the malice of men who offend me. You who are King, if you wish to live, listen to me or my sword will pierce you".

The German nun is also the patron of those who support Esperanto, since she was the author of one of the first artificial languages, the so called 'unknown language', a secret language that she used for mystical purposes and was composed of 23 letters. She described it in a codex which also contains a glossary of 1011 words from this 'unknown language'.

The Congregation for the Causes of Saint, led by Cardinal Angelo Amato, is completing a study of documents about Hildegarde. Although the Popes allowed veneration of her in Germany - the last to do explicitly was Pius XII - the Rhenish mystic was never canonized because the process opened half a century after she died was interrupted.

It is therefore probable that Papa Ratzinger, who has referred to her as St. Hildegarde in many of his speeches, will canonize her officially before inscribing her her into the exclusive album of the Doctors of the Church, the saints whose lives and writings have illuminated the doctrine of the Church.

[I wonder why Tornielli did not ask about the next step for Spain's St. Juan de Avila, whom the Pope announced in Madrid last August would also be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church!]
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/15/2011 11:22 PM]
12/16/2011 1:18 AM
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December 15, 2011

Editor's note: The following essay is the second of two pieces by Fr. Schall on Pope Benedict XVI's historical visit to Germany in late September 2011. The first essay, "No Small Matter", reflected on what the Holy Father said in Germany about Martin Luther, sin, salvation, and the grace of God.

The Church’s mission has its origins in the mystery of the triune God, in the mystery of the creative God, in the mystery of his creative love. And love is not just somehow within God, it is God, he himself is love by nature.

And divine love does not want to exist only for itself, by nature it wants to point itself out. It has come down to humanity, to us, in a particular way through the incarnation and self-offering of God’s Son: by virtue of the fact that Christ, the Son of God, as it were, stepped outside the framework of his divinity, took flesh and became man, not merely to confirm the world in its worldliness and to be its companion, leaving it to carry on just as it is, but in order to change it.
— Pope Benedict XVI
Concert Hall, Freiburg, Germany
September 25, 2011


Many reflections on Benedict XVI’s third German visit are worth particular attention. Benedict is in his home turf in Germany. It is a place to which he hoped to return after his service to the Church in Rome after the death of John Paul II.

Here I want to comment briefly on three of Benedict’s addresses in Freiburg, one to the lay faithful, one to young people, and one to German Catholic leaders.

The pope recalls various “exposure programmes” in which groups of experts are sent to various countries in the world to report back on the conditions found there. Suppose that a similar group would come to Germany to find out what the religious condition of the country might be. What would they find?

“They would find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty, poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.”

We live in an atmosphere of relativism. We notice that this relativism now becomes “aggressive” when it is suggested, against it, that the truth is possible and the “meaning of human life” can be found.

The reason for this aggressiveness is because the denial or critique of relativism undermines the societal and personal justifications for lives based on it as if were beyond criticism about its very validity. The observers would notice the increasing influence of relativism.

“It is reflected in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in the exaggerated individualism.” How does this manifest itself in human lives? “Many no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others.” That is really a devastating consequence.

Besides Christian charity, our culture has had a tradition of “benevolence” or “altruism” which also seems to be dying. “People can hardly find the courage now to promise to be faithful for a whole lifetime; the courage to make decisions and say: now I belong to you, or to take a firm stand for fidelity and truthfulness and sincerely to seek a solution to their problems.”

When it is said that cultures first rot from inside, we sometimes wonder that it means. But the inability to make lifetime decisions is surely the heart of what it means.

The Pope also understands that the German Catholic Church has been very generous to many places in the world though its financial and technical support. On the surface, it might look like all is well.

“The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God?” We all know of the decline in religious attendance and belief in Germany and Europe. What is the problem?

“The real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reforms will remain ineffective.”

Many writers have wondered if the day of the large Church is over. What might be the alternative, at least in outline? People “need places where they can give voice to their inner longing. And here we are called to seek new paths of evangelization. Small communities could be one such path where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God.”

The ways the laws are going in many political society, it may well be that the Church will be legally and forcibly excluded from any direct contact with the civil order. The Pope’s brief suggestion may be more important than we realize.


Benedict, like John Paul II, is very good with audiences of young people. The Pope spoke to the young people at the Freiburg Trade Fair. He spoke of light. The relation of light, intelligence, and the good is an ancient theme, one mindful both of Plato and of the service of the Easter Vigil. Christ says that He is the Light of the world. It is from this light that we ourselves reflect a light that is not simply ours.

The Holy Father does not hesitate to tell the young men and women about what they face. He does not lie to them. “It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our era that brings light into this world. Again and again we experience how our striving to bring about a better and more just world hits against its limits. Innocent suffering and the ultimate fact of death awaiting every single person are an impenetrable darkness which may perhaps, through fresh experience, be lit up for a moment… In the end, though a frightening darkness remains.”

Yet, a light shineth in the darkness. Christ has “conquered death.” No doubt, “those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship.”

Grace is still present. “Nobody can believe unless he is supported by the faith of others, and conversely through my faith, I help to strengthen others in their faith.”

The Pope in recent lectures has often stressed both the witness of saints and the relation of the faith of others to ours. We are not alone. If we believe in Christ, what He did, we can see that He is light. Yet, in spite of technical progress the “world in which we live does not seem to be getting better.”

Almost every rejection of Christianity is proposed in its own terms, as a formula to make the world better by getting rid of the Christian influence.

To this, Benedict responds: “Those figures in our history who saw themselves as ‘bringers of light,’ but without being fired by Christ, the one true light, did not manage to create an earthly paradise, but set up dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of true humanity is choked.”

The consequences of unbelief are not neutral. “We cannot remain silent about the existence of evil.” We see it in many places, including “in our own lives.”

“Truly within our hearts there is a tendency toward evil, there is selfishness, envy, aggression. Perhaps with a certain self-discipline all this to some degree be controlled.” Yet, many of our most unsettling problems are somewhat hidden to us, “sloth and laziness in doing good.”

What is even more sobering is this: “In history keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians.”

There is no doubt from our recent experience, the most damaging blows to the Church have come from within, self-inflicted, from unfaithful clergy and laity, from politicians who claim to be Catholic but make possible basic attacks on human life and dignity.

With all this sober commentary on our disorders, the Pope seems to be telling us that we need to straighten out our lives. And he does cite the word “repent.”

The Pope here reminds us, however, that Christ does not expect the members of the Church to sinless, a people with nothing to confess. God’s presence in the Church is not directly dependent on the exemplary lives of its members. If it were, He would have departed long ago. The very structure of the Church uses sinful men.

Paul calls every baptized person a “saint.” Children and every baptized person are already sanctified. It does not depend on our works. God “does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and he wants to make you his friends. You are the light of the world because Jesus is your light.”

This reflection of Benedict puts a new “light,” as it were, on our weak and unbelieving souls in the Church. The Church does not cease to be the locus of light just because of its members who are unfaithful. It is just the opposite. As Peter said to Christ, “To where else should be go?” We are in the Church in part to rid ourselves of our sins.


In the Freiburg Concert Hall, Benedict frankly told the German leaders: “For some time now we have been experiencing a decline in religious practice and we have been seeing substantial numbers of the baptized drifting away from church life.”

Benedict is a realist. So demands for change arise, changes almost always modeled on secular institutions and not on the sources of the original founding of the Church. Such radical changes would never work. The Church is of divine, not human law, in its essence.

Here, Benedict recalls that someone once asked Mother Teresa this same question about what needs to be changed in the Church. Her answer was “you and I.”

Chesterton was once asked a similar question. “What’s wrong with the world?" He answered with wonderful brevity and profundity, “I am.” Mother Teresa meant by this response that the Church is not “other people.”

“Every Christian and the whole community of the faithful are called to constant change,” change away from sin, change to accept what is revealed, to accept what is true.

What sort of change? “The fundamental motive for change is the apostolic mission of the disciples and the Church herself.” Why is this? It is because ultimately this mission is not of our own making and arises from God’s presence in the world.

The Church is to keep its mission in mind. Christians are told: “You are witnesses.” They are not, at bottom, originators. They are to pass along what is heard, what is witnessed to every age and place.

All nations, all times, and all places are in the original intention of the Church’s founding. This means that we must not think as the world, for something less than what we are. The Church must be rather in a way “unworldly.”

It is here where Benedict cites the passage that I placed at the beginning of these reflection. The Church’s mission to the world does not begin in the Church herself or in the world. It begins in the inner life of the Trinity, in the original intention of creation. It begins in the fact that God is love and in the fact that love is, if it wills, outgoing.

“Divine love does not wait to exist only for itself.” The Second Person is “sent” into the world. This means that the world itself contains this sending. It is still present. Its end is its source, that is, to live eternal life.

“The Christ event included the inconceivable fact of what the Church Fathers call a sacrum convivium, an exchange between God and man.” What might such an exchange include? It obviously implies that something reciprocal is here, not just one-sided.

“The Fathers explain it in this way: We have nothing to give God; we have only our sin to place before him. And this he receives and makes his own, while in return he gives us himself and his glory, a truly unequal exchange, which is brought to completion in the life and passion of Christ.”

The return to the inner life of God thus comes through the life and passion of the Lord. “He becomes, as it were, a ‘sinner,’ he takes sin upon himself, takes what is ours and gives us what is his.” The Church is the locus of this unequal exchange.

“The Church is immersed in the redeemer’s outreach to men. When she is truly herself, she is always on the move.” The Church is not allowed by God Himself to be satisfied, content that it has done enough. Moreover, if the Church is restrained or persecuted, it survives.

“Secularizing trends — whether by expropriation of Church goods, or elimination of privileges or the like - have always meant a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness, or in the process by which she, as it were, sets aside her worldly wealth and once again completely embraces her worldly poverty.”

When the Church is less worldly, she is usually more missionary; in that essential mission she reaches back to her Trinitarian origins.

The Pope concludes by returning to the idea that the faith is always about others, even when it is about ourselves. “Faith always includes as an essential element the fact that it is shared with others. No one can believe alone. We receive the faith — as Saint Paul tells us — ‘through hearing,’ and hearing is part of being together, in spirit and in body. Only within the great assembly of believers of all times, who found Christ and were found by him, am I able to believe.”

Ultimately we thank God for our belief, not our own genius. He first approaches us. Our approach to Him is always first a response to God in His providence. He alone can tell us who we finally are and that to which our souls tend, to that very inner life of the Trinity in which we are initially created by the free love of God. He sent His Son into the world “for us men and for our salvation.”

In the end, Benedict XVI told his countrymen the truth about ultimate things in a way no one else could. The image of a German scholarly Pope speaking about the truth of faith to the Germans is something this world has needed to witness all through the modern age. It is happening among us. We too can listen.

[And we can only pray that enough Germans are listening!]

12/16/2011 3:14 AM
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Pope to new ambassadors to the Vatican:
'Solidarity must be the driving force
for integral human development'

VATICAN CITY, 15 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of eleven new non-resident ambassadors to the Holy See: Margaret Allison King-Rousseau of Trinidad and Tobago, Hilia Garez Gomes Lima Barber of Guinea Bissau, Paul Widmer of Switzerland, Anatole Bacanamwo of Burundi, Arbhorn Manasvanich of Thailand, Muhammad Saleem of Pakistan, Amadeu Paulo Samuel da Conceicao of Mozambique, Tolendy Makeyev of Kyrgyzstan, Jaume Serra Serra of Andorra, Tamara Kunanayakam of Sri Lanka and Joseph Pare of Burkina Faso.

The Holy Father addressed the diplomats as a group, focusing his remarks on the theme of solidarity as a mainstay for the integral development of peoples.

"In our time the unity of the human family is an undeniable fact", the Holy Father explained. "Thanks to the communications media which bring all regions of the planet together, transport which facilitates human contacts, commercial ties which make economies interdependent, and problems of global importance such as environmental protection and mass migration, human beings have become more aware of their shared destiny. ... Mankind must see this interdependency not as a threat but as an opportunity. We are all responsible for one another, therefore it is important to maintain a positive vision of solidarity because it is the driving force of integral human development".

In this context, Benedict XVI highlighted "inter-generational solidarity" which has its roots in the family. Concern for education and for the destiny of future generations is "a significant contribution to the perception of the unity of the human race", he said.

"Shared responsibility" for the good of humankind is not opposed to cultural and religious diversity, the Holy Father went on. "The pluralism of cultures and religions does not contradict the joint search for truth, goodness and beauty. ... The Church, illuminated and upheld by the light of the Revelation, encourages men and women to entrust themselves to a reason which, purified by faith, ... becomes capable of seeing beyond partisan interests in order to discern the universal good necessary to all human beings: social and religious harmony and peace. These are goals for which everyone strives and which require not just an appropriate legislative framework, but also the high moral stature of all citizens, because solidarity has two complementary aspects: social principle and moral virtue".

Solidarity fulfils its role of "social virtue" when it is founded on "structures of subsidiarity and on each individual's firm and unrelenting determination to work for the common good. ... The new challenges your countries are facing require a mobilisation of human intellect and creativity, in order to fight against poverty and to make a more effective and rational use of available resources and energy. ... Increasing people's sense of responsibility also involves protecting human dignity against any attempt to circumscribe it".

"Justice and solidarity", the Pope concluded, "cannot be separated from the concept of the integral development of the person. In this sense, highlighting the primacy of the spirit is not only the responsibility of religions, but also of States which must implement cultural policies that promote universal access to the things of the spirit, emphasise the importance of social relationships and never hinder human beings in their free search for spirituality".

Pope ends practice of individual
speeches to new Vatican ambassadors

By David Kerr

Vatican City, Dec 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will no longer give a speech to each new foreign ambassador to the Holy See as has been is custom up until now, but he will continue to meet them personally when they are appointed.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., explained the changes to the media Dec. 15. He said the move was being made for “reasons of simplicity and consistency with current diplomatic practice,” and that it should not be seen as a reflection of the 84-year-old Pope’s health.

It is diplomatic protocol for new ambassadors to submit a formal “letter of credence” to the head of state asking for diplomatic accreditation. It is at these ceremonies that speeches are sometimes exchanged.

Fr. Lombardi explained that the practice of the Pope addressing new ambassadors is a recent innovation that “did not exist as such, apart from a few exceptional occasions, such as during Second World War,” until the pontificate of Pope Paul VI in 1965-78.

Prior to Pope Paul VI, said Fr. Lombardi, these speeches “were written texts that were exchanged and then published, but were not actually pronounced.” This is still the custom in many countries, he said, describing the Vatican practice as “a peculiarity of the Holy See in recent years.”

He also observed that under Pope Paul VI there were “about 90” ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, whereas “today there are about 180, almost twice that.”

What is essential, he said, is for the new ambassador to meet the Pope in person and present his letters of credence, so that the two are known to each other.

Papal speeches to ambassadors often give the Pontiff an opportunity to address the people of a particular nation. Fr. Lombardi said that will still be done in the future “with specific messages for certain occasions or in circumstances of particular importance,” such as national holidays or major anniversaries.

In fact, Pope Benedict met with 11 new non-resident ambassadors to the Holy See today. He addressed them collectively, which Fr. Lombardi said would be less likely to happen if they were maintaining a mission in Rome. For resident ambassadors, the Pope would most likely meet with them one-on-one, the Vatican spokesman explained.

In his remarks to the new diplomats, the Pope stressed the need for international solidarity.

“We are all responsible for one another,” he told the group gathered in the Apostolic Palace, “therefore it is important to maintain a positive vision of solidarity because it is the driving force of integral human development.” This solidarity, he said, was also “inter-generational,” having its roots in the family.

Today’s changes to ambassadorial audiences with the Pope come at the end of a year in which Pope Benedict also replaced one-on-one meetings with individual bishops on ad-limina visits to Rome with more prolonged group discussions.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2011 4:10 AM]
12/16/2011 4:44 AM
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Irish government now says it would respond positively
if the Pope wishes to visit Ireland next year
for the 50th Eucharistic Congress

By David Kerr

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 15, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Irish government signaled on Wednesday that it would accept a visit next June by Pope Benedict for the Dublin International Eucharistic Congress, giving hope to organizers who feared a papal visit would not be allowed.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore told an Irish parliamentary committee Dec. 14 that “in order to remove any misunderstandings, I would like to make it clear that should the government be informed by the Holy See that Pope Benedict wishes to visit Ireland at a time of mutual convenience – for instance at the occasion of next year’s Eucharistic Congress – I have no doubt that the government will respond positively.”

In October, when asked a similar question, Gilmore told Parliament that “an invitation has not issued nor is one currently under active consideration.”

The organizers of the Eucharist Congress saw his statement as a rebuff to the idea of a papal visit. A month later, Gilmore also closed the Irish embassy to the Holy See in Rome, after 82 years in existence.

Gilmore asserted on Dec. 14 that the decision to close the Vatican embassy was purely a financial one based on “diminishing resources” for his department.

He also sought to clear up any “misunderstandings” about his government’s attitude toward a possible visit by the Pope, explaining that “according to normal diplomatic practice, invitations to heads of state to visit another country are neither sought nor issued in public.”

Instead, he said that “a formal invitation is issued only after notification that the head of state wishes to visit and dates have been agreed.”

The 50th International Eucharistic Congress will take place in Dublin from the June 10 to 17, 2012. Held every four years, the congress brings together Catholics from across the globe to pray and study the meaning of the Eucharist.

The Dublin event is expected to attract about 25,000 visitors per day, with 80,000 attending the final Mass at the city’s Croke Park Stadium. The organizers have issued an invitation to Pope Benedict and are still waiting for a response from the Vatican.

“The primary focus of the Congress is people’s encounter with Jesus Christ, but if the Pope also came, that would be a real bonus. So I obviously welcome Mr. Gilmore’s comments,” congress organizer Fr. Kevin Doran told CNA Dec. 15.

Fr. Doran said that over the past six months he has received nothing both “generous support” from Ireland’s diplomatic staff across the world as he has worked to organize the congress.

In contrast, relations between the Dublin and Rome have been strained since Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny launched a blistering attack on the Catholic Church in July.

He accused the Vatican of attempting to “frustrate an inquiry” into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne, County Cork. The Vatican rejected his accusation and a spokesperson for the Prime Minister later stated that he was not referring to any specific incident. However, Kenny has refused to withdraw his remarks or apologize for them.

Pope Benedict XVI, whose example has been responsible for the unprecedented renewal of the practice of Eucharistic Adoration in the universal Church in the past six years, has attended the two national Eucharistic Congresses held in Italy since he became Pope (Bari in May 2005, Ancona in September this year), but missed the 49th IEC in Quebec, Canada, in 2008, and it was held almost certain that he attend the 50th IEC in Dublin next year.

In fact, it is thought that he chose Ireland to be the site of the next IEC precisely because of the problems of the Irish Church with increasing secularization and the consequent falling away from the faith of increasingly more Catholics.

But the disproportionate scandal in Ireland starting last year because of 'new' reports (most of the facts were previously known) on the offenses of some priests and bishops, mostly in past decades, with respect to sex abuses against minors and children, has created a climate of general hostility in Ireland towards the Church and therefore, towards the Pope, as exemplified by the Irish Prime Minister's vicious attack spoken in Parliament.

Let us pray that something positive comes out of this new development.

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Vespers with Roman university students
December 15, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI prayed Solemn Vespers with Rome’s university students Thursday evening in St Peter’s Basilica.

In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the Christian duty to seek the truth amd to wait with steadfast hope and vigilance, saying, “To seek the face of God is our deepest aspiration, and it is also the answer to the basic question, which is ever more clearly present in and to contemporary society.”

The Advent celebration of Vespers with the students of Rome’s institutions of higher learning has become an annual tradition

Illustration: The Annunciation, miniature from The Golden Book of Hours of Bona Sforza, 1490-1517, British Library, London.

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily:

“Be patient, brothers, until the coming of the Lord” (Jms 5,7).

With these words the Apostle James indicates to us the interior attitude with which to prepare ourselves to heed and accept once more the announcement of the birth of the Redeemer in the cave of Bethlehem, ineffable mystery of light, love and grace.

To you, dear universitarians of Rome, whom I have the joy of meeting on this traditional occasion, I address my greeting with affection: I welcome you, in close proximity to the Holy Nativity, with your desires, Your expectations, your concerns. And I greet the academic communities that you represent.

I thank the Rector Magnificus, Prof. Massimo Egidi, for the kind words he addressed to me in the name of you all, and in which he highlighted the delicate mission of the university professor.

I greet most cordially the Minister for Universities, Prof. Francesco Profumo, and the academic authorities of the various universities.

Dear friends, St. James exhorts us to imitate the farmer who “patiently awaits the precious fruit of the earth”
(Jms 5,7).

To you who now live in the heart of the cultural and social environment of our time, who are experiencing the new and increasingly refined technologies, who are protagonists in a historical dynamism that sometimes seems overwhelming, the Apostle’s invitation may seem anachronistic, almost like an invitation to step out of history, not to want to see the fruits of your work, of your research.

But is it so? Is the invitation to await God out of date? Even more radically we can ask ourselves: What does Christmas mean to me – is it really important for my existence, to build society?

In our time, there are many – especially those that you meet in the halls of universitiea - who are giving voice to the question of whether we should await someone or something, whether we ought to await another Messiah, another god; whether it is worthwhile at all to trust in that Baby whom, on the night of the Nativity, we find in the manger between Mary and Joseph.

The Apostle’s exhortation to constant patience, which could leave many perplexed in our time, is in fact the way to accept profoundly the question of God, the sense that he has in our life and in history, because it is precisely with patience, fidelity and constancy in the search for God, in the openness to him, that he reveals his face.

We do not need a generic, undefined God, but a living and true God, who opens the horizons for man’s future to a perspective of firm and secure hope, a hope rich with eternity which allows us to face the present in all its aspects with courage.

But we should then ask ourselves: Where can I find the true face of this God? Or better yet, where is it that God himself will come to meet me, showing me his true face, revealing his mystery, entering into my story?

Dear friends, St. James’s invitation, “Be patient, brothers, until the coming of the Lord!”, reminds us that the certainty of the great hope for the world is given to us, that we are not alone, and that it is not for us alone to construct history.

God is not far from man, but is bent towards him, and became man
(Jn 1,14) so that man may understand in whom resides the solid foundation of everything, the fulfillment of his most profound aspirations: in Christ (cfr Esort. ap. postsin. Verbum Domini, 10).

Patience is the virtue of those who trust in this presence in history, who do not allow themselves to give in to the temptation to place all their hope in the immediate, in perspectives that are purely horizontal, in initiatives that are technically perfect but far from the most profound reality, but in that which gives the highest dignity to the human being: the transcendent dimension, his being a creature in the image and likeness of God, carrying in his heart the desire to lift himself up to him.

There is, however, another aspect that I wish to underllne this evening. St. James has told us: “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it”

God, in the incarnation of the Word, in the incarnation of his Son, has seen the time of man, of his growth, what he has done in history. That Baby is the sign of God’s patience, who before everything is patient, constant and faithful in his love for us – he is the true ‘farmer’ of history who knows how to wait.

How many times have men attempted to build the world by themselves, without God or against him! The result has been the tragedy of the ideologies which, in the end, have shown themselves to be against man and his profound dignity.

Constant patience in constructing history, on the personal as well as the community level, is not identical to the traditional virtue of prudence, which one certainly needs, but it is something greater and more complex.

To be constant and patient means to construct history together with God, because only by building on him and with him will the construction be well founded, not instrumentalized for ideological ends, but truly worthy of man.

This evening then, let us rekindle in an even more luminous way the hope in our hearts, because the Word of God reminds us that the coming of the Lord is near, OR rather, that the Lord is with us and that it is possible to build together with him.

In the cave of Bethlehem, the solitude of man was defeated, our existence was no longer left to the impersonal forces of natural and historical processes, our home can be built on rock. We can project our own history, the history of mankind, not towards a utopia, but in the certainty that the God of Jesus Christ is present and is with us.

Dear university friends, let us proceed with joy towards Bethlehem. Let us welcome into our arms the Baby that Mary and Joseph will present to us. Let us begin from him and with him, facing all difficulties.

The Lord asks each of us to collaborate in the construction of the city of man, uniting faith and culture seriously and passionately. Therefore I ask you to always seek, with patient constancy, the true face of God, aided by the pastoral way that is proposed to you during this academic year.

To seek the face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and is also the response to the fundamental question that will always emerge anew even in contemporary society. You, dear university friends, know that the Church of Rome, under the wise and considerate leadership of the Cardinal Vicar and his chaplains, is close to you.

Let us thank the Lord because, as we have been reminded, twenty years ago, Blessed John Paul II instituted the Office for University Ministry in the service of Rome’s academic community. The work done so far has promoted the birth and development of the [university] chaplaincies into a well-organized network, where the formative offerings of the various universities – state or private, catholic and pontifical – can contribute to elaborating a culture of service towards man's integral development.

At the end of this liturgy, the icon of Sedes Sapientiae – Seat of Wisdom – will be consigned by a university delegation from Spain to the students of Rome’s La Sapienza University. It will begin its Marian peregrination in the chaplaincies, and I shall be accompanying it in prayer. You know that the Pope trusts you and your testimony of faithfulness and apostolic commitment.

Dear friends, tonight let us hurry forward with trust towards Bethlehem, carrying with us the expectations and hopes of our brothers, so that everyone may encounter the Word of life and put their trust in him. That is the wish that I address to the academic community of Rome: to bring to everyone the announcement that the true face of God is in the Baby of Bethlehem, so near to each of us that no one can feel himself excluded, no one should doubt the likelihood of encounter, because he is the patient and faithful God, who can wait and who respects our freedom.

To him this evening, let us trustfully confess the most profound desire of our heart: “I seek your face, Lord; come in haste”. Amen.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2011 4:36 PM]
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Friday, December 16, Third Week of Advent

Capuchin, Founder of Congregations, Writer
Imprisoned as a teenager for allegedly taking part in a rebellion conspiracy,
he joined the Capuchins, and as a priest in Warsaw, devoted himself to
preaching, confessions, spiritual direction and working with lay Franciscans.
At age 30, he helped Blessed Angela Truszkowska establish the Felician
congregation. In 1864, Polish orders were suppressed after an assassination
plot on the Russian czar, and the clergy were expelled from Warsaw. Exiled
to another city, Zakroczym, he established 26 male and female congregations
who took vows but did not wear habits and lived among the people (17 still exist
today as secular institutes). His life was also marked by extensive writings,
particularly his sermons and letters, and 52 publications on ascetic theology.
In 1895, he was named Commissary-General for the Capuchins of Poland, but
in 1908, diocesan bishops took control over his congregations, whom he told
to obey. A contemporary said of him, "He always walked with God". He was
beatified in 1988.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father attended the third Advent sermon of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher of the Pontifical
Household, at the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Afterwards, the Holy Father met with

- Nine bishops of the Pacific nations (Guam, Palau, Marianas Islands, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Vanatu,
Tahiti and Marquesa Islands) on ad-limina visit

- Delegation from the Ukraine led by their Catholic and Orthodox bishops, who gifted the Vatican with
this year's Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square.

And in the afternoon, with

- Cardinal william Joseph Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (weekly meeting).

A news conference was held to present the Holy Father's message for the World Day of peace on January 1, 2012,
on the theme "Educating the youth for justice and peace'.

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1. THE BEGINNING OF A NEW YEAR, God’s gift to humanity, prompts me to extend to all, with great confidence and affection, my heartfelt good wishes that this time now before us may be marked concretely by justice and peace.

With what attitude should we look to the New Year? We find a very beautiful image in Psalm 130. The Psalmist says that people of faith wait for the Lord "more than those who watch for the morning"
(v. 6); they wait for him with firm hope because they know that he will bring light, mercy, salvation.

This waiting was born of the experience of the Chosen People, who realized that God taught them to look at the world in its truth and not to be overwhelmed by tribulation. I invite you to look to 2012 with this attitude of confident trust.

It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labour and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological. It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day.

In this shadow, however, human hearts continue to wait for the dawn of which the Psalmist speaks. Because this expectation is particularly powerful and evident in young people, my thoughts turn to them and to the contribution which they can and must make to society.

I would like therefore to devote this message for the XLV World Day of Peace to the theme of education: "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace", in the conviction that the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world.

My Message is also addressed to parents, families and all those involved in the area of education and formation, as well as to leaders in the various spheres of religious, social, political, economic and cultural life and in the media.

Attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them, is not merely something expedient; it represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace.

It is a matter of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life and of awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good. This is a task which engages each of us personally.

The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope.

At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face.

It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society. The Church looks to young people with hope and confidence; she encourages them to seek truth, to defend the common good, to be open to the world around them and willing to see "new things"
(Is 42:9; 48:6).


2. Education is the most interesting and difficult adventure in life. Educating – from the Latin educere – means leading young people to move beyond themselves and introducing them to reality, towards a fullness that leads to growth.

This process is fostered by the encounter of two freedoms, that of adults and that of the young. It calls for responsibility on the part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves.

For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader. A witness is someone who first lives the life that he proposes to others.

Where does true education in peace and justice take place? First of all, in the family, since parents are the first educators.

The family is the primary cell of society; "it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others."

The family is the first school in which we are trained in justice and peace. We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented.

Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival – all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents.

This presence makes it possible to share more deeply in the journey of life and thus to pass on experiences and convictions gained with the passing of the years, experiences and convictions which can only be communicated by spending time together.

I would urge parents not to grow disheartened! May they encourage children by the example of their lives to put their hope before all else in God, the one source of authentic justice and peace.

I would also like to address a word to those in charge of educational institutions: with a great sense of responsibility may they ensure that the dignity of each person is always respected and appreciated.

Let them be concerned that every young person be able to discover his or her own vocation and helped to develop his or her God-given gifts. May they reassure families that their children can receive an education that does not conflict with their consciences and their religious principles.

Every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers and sisters.

May young people be taught to savour the joy which comes from the daily exercise of charity and compassion towards others and from taking an active part in the building of a more humane and fraternal society.

I ask political leaders to offer concrete assistance to families and educational institutions in the exercise of their right and duty to educate. Adequate support should never be lacking to parents in their task.

Let them ensure that no one is ever denied access to education and that families are able freely to choose the educational structures they consider most suitable for their children. Let them be committed to reuniting families separated by the need to earn a living. Let them give young people a transparent image of politics as a genuine service to the good of all.

I cannot fail also to appeal to the world of the media to offer its own contribution to education. In today’s society the mass media have a particular role: they not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people.

It is important never to forget that the connection between education and communication is extremely close: education takes place through communication, which influences, for better or worse, the formation of the person.

Young people too need to have the courage to live by the same high standards that they set for others. Theirs is a great responsibility: may they find the strength to make good and wise use of their freedom. They too are responsible for their education, including their education in justice and peace!

Educating in truth and freedom

3. Saint Augustine once asked: "Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem?" – What does man desire more deeply than truth? (2) The human face of a society depends very much on the contribution of education to keep this irrepressible question alive.

Education, indeed, is concerned with the integral formation of the person, including the moral and spiritual dimension, focused upon man’s final end and the good of the society to which he belongs. Therefore, in order to educate in truth, it is necessary first and foremost to know who the human person is, to know human nature.

Contemplating the world around him, the Psalmist reflects: "When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?"
(Ps 8:4-5).

This is the fundamental question that must be asked: who is man? Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth – a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life’s meaning – since he was created in the image and likeness of God.

The grateful recognition that life is an inestimable gift, then, leads to the discovery of one’s own profound dignity and the inviolability of every single person.

Hence the first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator’s image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity.

We must never forget that "authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension",
(3) including the transcendent dimension, and that the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective.

Only in relation to God does man come to understand also the meaning of human freedom. It is the task of education to form people in authentic freedom.

This is not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom.

On the contrary, man is a relational being, who lives in relationship with others and especially with God. Authentic freedom can never be attained independently of God.

Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused. "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common."

In order to exercise his freedom, then, man must move beyond the relativistic horizon and come to know the truth about himself and the truth about good and evil.

Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits.

Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties: consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence.

The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others, including those whose way of being and living differs greatly from one’s own.

This attitude engenders the elements without which peace and justice remain merely words without content: mutual trust, the capacity to hold constructive dialogue, the possibility of forgiveness, which one constantly wishes to receive but finds hard to bestow, mutual charity, compassion towards the weakest, as well as readiness to make sacrifices.

Educating in justice

4. In this world of ours, in which, despite the profession of good intentions, the value of the person, of human dignity and human rights is seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit and material possessions, it is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots.

Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love.

We cannot ignore the fact that some currents of modern culture, built upon rationalist and individualist economic principles, have cut off the concept of justice from its transcendent roots, detaching it from charity and solidarity: "The ‘earthly city’ is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world." (7)

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Mt 5:6). They shall be satisfied because they hunger and thirst for right relations with God, with themselves, with their brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation.

Educating in peace

5. "Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity." (8)

We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in him, by his Cross, God has reconciled the world to himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in him, there is but one family, reconciled in love.

Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God", as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount
(Mt 5:9).

Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility.

To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.

Raising one’s eyes to God

6. Before the difficult challenge of walking the paths of justice and peace, we may be tempted to ask, in the words of the Psalmist: "I lift up my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help?" (Ps 121:1).

To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: "It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true … an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?" (9)

Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).

Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems.

Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication.

Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.

Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future.

Be aware of your potential; never become self-centEred but work for a brighter future for all.

You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace.

All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire.

Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace.

With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of "educating young people in justice and peace".

From the Vatican, 8 December 2011


1 BENEDICT XVI, Address to Administrators of Lazio Region and of the Municipality and Province of Rome (14 January 2011): L’Osservatore Romano, 15 January 2011, p. 7.
2 Commentary on the Gospel of John, 26, 5.
3 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 11: AAS 101 (2009), 648; cf. PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 14: AAS 59 (1967), 264.
4 BENEDICT XVI, Address for the Opening of the Diocesan Ecclesial Meeting in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran (6 June 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 816.
5 Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 16.
6 Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag (Berlin, 22 September 2011): L’Osservatore Romano, 24 September 2011, pp. 6-7.
7 ID., Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 6 (29 June 2009), 6: AAS 101 (2009), 644-645.
8 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2304.
9 BENEDICT XVI, Address at Youth Vigil (Cologne, 20 August 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 885-886.

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The imprint on the Shroud (extreme left and right) is like a photographic negative of the actual image, which is recreated simply by printing the positive image. This is another inexplicable aspect of the Shroud, since imprints are generally direct positive images.

I had intended to post this article two days ago, to parallel my posts on the Guadalupe tilma, but at the time, it was available only in Italian. The following is the INSIDER's own English translation published today, and for a change it's not an automatic translation. It's quite competent except for a few unclear statements that I have accordingly modified to reflect the sense more accurately....

'The Shroud is not a fake' -
Science still cannot explain it

by Marco Tosatti

December 15, 2012

ENEA, the Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, has published a report on five years of experiments conducted in its center in Frascati on the “shroud-like coloring of linen fabrics by far ultraviolet radiation” ['Far' refers to the higher frequencies of UV light, also referred to as VUV, for vacuum ultra-violet.]

“Simply put: we tried to understand how the Shroud of Turin was imprinted by an image so special that it constitutes its fascination, and poses a great and very radical challenge, to identify the physical and chemical processes capable of generating a color similar to that of the image on the Shroud. "

The following article outlines how this research was carried out (the complete version can be found at this link:

Top panel shows the shroud, front and back (enclosed areas are the head part); and bottom panel is the famous 3D reproduction of the figure wrapped by the Shroud carried out by computer experts last year, resulting, among other things, in a 3D representation of the Face of Christ.

Researchers Di Lazzaro, Murra, Santoni, Nichelatti and Baldacchini started from the last (and only) comprehensive interdisciplinary exam of the Shroud of Turin, completed in 1978 by a team of American scientists from STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project).

A starting point which all too often those who write about and dissect the Shroud prefer not to take into account, despitee what is evidenced by available information verified by an accurate control and published in “peer-reviewed” journals, that is, where articles are reviewed and verified by other scientists in objective and independent ways.

The ENEA report, fairly but almost en passant, very clearly refutes the hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin might be the work of a medieval forger. The hypothesis was based – against many weighted arguments – on the disputed and probably biased Carbon-14 da-ting, a test whose credibility has been greatly weakened not only by objective difficulties (it is highly probable that the fabric tested was contaminated, especially since its known historical is incomplete) but also from proven factual errors of calculation, and the inability to obtain “raw data” from the testing lab despite repeated requests, that would have helped check the validity of the results. The unavailability of this data in itself casts major scientific doubt on the results.

The ENEA report notes: “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin, has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory, as discussed in numerous articles listed in the references. This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made”.

In short, science is still not able to explain how the body image was formed on the Shroud. As a partial justification, scientists complain that it is impossible to take direct measurements on the Shroud. In fact, the latest in situ experimental analysis of the physical and chemical properties of the body image of the Shroud was carried out in 1978 by 31 scientists working in STURP.

For this, the scientists used modern equipment worth $2.5 million made available by several manufacturers , to take a number of “non-destructive infrared spectroscopy measurements, visible and ultraviolet, X-ray fluorescence, thermograph, pyrolysis, mass spectrometry, micro-Raman analysis, transmission photograph, microscopy, removal of fibrils and micro-chemical tests”.

The analysis carried out on the Shroud did not find significant amounts of pigments (dyes, paints) nor any design traces. Based on the results of dozens of measurements, the STURP researchers concluded that the body image is not painted nor printed, nor obtained by heating.

Furthermore, the color of the image resides on the outer surface of the fibrils that make up the threads of the cloth, and recent measurements of fragments of the Shroud show that the thickness of staining is extremely thin, around 200 nm = 200 billionths of a meter, or one fifth of a thousandth of a millimeter, which corresponds to the thickness of the primary cell wall of the so-called single linen fiber. (A single linen thread is made up of about 200 fibrils).

Other important information derived from the results of the STURP measurements are as follows:
- The blood is human, and there is no image beneath the bloodstains;
- The gradient color contains three-dimensional information of the body;
- The colored fibers (corresponding to the image) are more fragile than the uncolored fibers;
- Surface staining of the image fibrils derive from an unknown process that caused oxidation, dehydration and conjugation in the structure of the cellulose of the linen;

As previously mentioned, all attempts so far to reproduce an image on linen with the same characteristics as the Shroud have failed. Some researchers have obtained images with a similar appearance to the image of the Shroud, but nobody has been able to simultaneously reproduce all its microscopic and macroscopic characteristics.

“In this sense, the origin of the Shroud image is still unknown. This seems to be the core of the so-called ‘mystery’ of the Shroud: regardless of the age the Shroud, whether it is medieval (1260 - 1390) as the controversial carbon dating seemed to show, or older as indicated by other investigations, and regardless of the actual importance of controversial historical documents on the existence of the Shroud in the years preceding 1260, the most important question, the “question of questions”, remains the same: how did that body image appear on the Shroud?”.

There are two possibilities, the scientists write, on how the sheet of the Shroud was placed around the corpse: placed above and below (not in full contact with the whole body stiffened by rigor mortis), or pressed on the body and tied in order to be in contact with almost the entire body surface.

“The first method is supported by the fact that there is a precise relationship between the intensity (gradient) of the image and the distance between the body and the cloth. Fur-thermore, the image is also present in areas of the body not in contact with the cloth, such as immediately above and below the hands, and around the tip of the nose.

“The second method is less likely because the typical geometric deformations of a three dimension body brought into contact in two dimension sheet are missing. Moreover, there is no imprint of body hips. Consequently, we can deduce that the image was not formed by contact between linen and body”.

It is this observation, “coupled with the extreme superficiality of the coloring and the lack of pigments” that “makes it extremely unlikely that a shroud-like picture was obtained using a chemical contact method, both in a modern laboratory and even more so by a hypothetical medieval forger”.

“There is no image beneath the blood stains. This means that the traces of blood were deposited before the image.. Therefore, the image was formed after the corpse was laid down. Furthermore, all the blood stains have well-defined edges, no burrs, so it can be assumed that the corpse was not removed from the sheet.

“There are no signs of putrefaction near the orifices, which usually occurs around 40 hours after death. Consequently, the image is not the result of putrefaction gases, and the corpse was not left in the sheet for more than two days”. [Which would coincide with the Friday afternoon to Sunday dawn Gospel account of how long the dead Jesus lay in the tomb.]

One of the assumptions related to the formation of the image was that it was produced by some form of electromagnetic energy (such as a flash of light at short wavelength), which could fresult in some of the main features of the Shroud image, such as superficiality of color, color gradient, the imaging even of body areas not in contact with the cloth, and the absence of pigment on the sheet.

The first attempts made to reproduce the face on the Shroud by radiation used a CO2 laser which produced an image on a linen fabric that was similar at a macroscopic level. However, microscopic analysis showed a coloring that was too deep, with many charred linen threads - features that are incompatible with the Shroud image.

Results of similar testing at ENEA “show that a short and intense burst of VUV directional radiation can color a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin, including shades of color, the surface color of the fibrils of the outer linen fabric, and the absence of fluorescence”.

However, ENEA scientists warn, "it should be noted that the total power of VUV radiations required to instantly color the surface of linen that corresponds to a human of average height, for the body surface area in question (17000 sq cm) would be 2000 MW/sq cm, or 34 thousand billion watts. That quantity of radiation makes it impractical even today to re-produce the entire Shroud image using a single laser excimer, since this power cannot be produced by any VUV light source built to date (the most powerful available on the market only comes to several billion watts)”.
Moreover, the Shroud image “has some features that we are not yet able to reproduce: for example, the gradient of the image caused by a different concentration of yellow colored fibrils that alternate with unstained fibrils”.

In short, “We are not at the conclusion - we are still composing pieces of a fascinating and complex scientific puzzle”, and the enigma of the image of the Shroud of Turin is still “a challenge to intelligence”, as John Paul II said.

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I always felt from the start that the heaviest cross Pope Benedict has to bear is the general attitude of MSM towards him and the Church which results not just in unfairness but in unprecedented character attacks. Then along came the new 'revelations' about ex abuses by priests - which were not exactly a secret to anyone, only now, there are formal reports that document the extent of the abuses - and he has since had that added cross to bear. These new facts disclosed about the situation in the Dutch Church only drive more nails into that cross. Thankfully, we can be sure he has the spiritual resources to cope with all that, and we must pray that God keeps him physically able as well.

However, I also see this news development as a much-deserved takedown for the Dutch Church which has been rather hoity-toity-high-and-mighty with respect (without respect, actually) to the Vatican and the Pope all these decades since Vatican-II, almost touting their ultra-liberal anti-orthodox practices as the 'future' of the Catholic Church. Another saint whose bones must be spinning wildly because of what his Dutch Dominicans have been doing to the liturgy is St. Dominic

Here are three reports about this news development, each of them with their own slant...

Church-commissioned report on sex abuses
by Dutch priests from 1945-2010

December 16, 2011

In the Netherlands, bishops and religious superiors have expressed their “shock, shame and sorrow” at the abuse of minors and the practices described in the final report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, published on Friday.

The Commission, known as the Deetman Commission, investigated complaints of abuse between 1945 and 2010. Commissioned by the national bishops conference and directors of the KNR (the Conference of Dutch Religious) investigations revealed that mild, moderate and serious abuse of minors took place.

In a joint statement Church leaders have offered a "heartfelt apology" to victims” and stated: “The perpetrators are not the only ones to blame. Church authorities who did not act correctly and did not give priority to the interests of and care for these victims also share in this blame”.

The commission announced that a new complaints committee will be set up and it has also advised the bishops and the religious to appoint a single portfolio holder for safeguarding children. Conference president, Archbishop Wim Eijk, has assured that there will a group of four people, including at least one bishop, appointed to the committee.

The bishops and religious note in their statement; “Times nor circumstances can excuse the terrible suffering caused to children and their families” adding that the Dutch Catholic Church will “take all measures provided for under church and civil law when there is any suspicion of sexual abuse. The public prosecutor will be informed in accordance with Dutch law when there is any suspicion of a punishable offence”.

They conclude: “shoulder responsibility for providing help, restitution, openness and transparency for and toward the victims of sexual abuse and their families, now and in the future”.

[The main problem with the Vatican Radio report is that it does not mention the number of alleged victims - 20,000 - a figure that dwarfs all other national inquiries into such cases so far. Nor does it mention the number of priests to whom these crimes are attributed - 800 according to the reports below...]

Report slams Dutch
Catholic Church over sex abuse


THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Dec. 16 (AP) — As many as 20,000 children endured sexual abuse at Dutch Catholic institutions over the past 65 years, and church officials failed to adequately address it or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigative report released Friday.

The findings detailed some of the most widespread abuse yet linked to the Roman Catholic Church, which has been under fire for years over abuse allegations in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

Based on a survey of 34,000 people, the report estimated that 1 in 10 Dutch children suffered some form of sexual abuse — a figure that rose to 1 in 5 among children who spent part of their youth in an institution such as a boarding school or children's home, whether Catholic or not.

"Sexual abuse of minors," it said bluntly, "occurs widely in Dutch society."

The findings prompted the archbishop of Utrecht, Wim Eijk, to apologize to victims on behalf of the Dutch Church, saying the report "fills us with shame and sorrow."

The abuse ranged from "unwanted sexual advances" to rape, and abusers numbered in the hundreds and included priests, brothers and lay people who worked in religious orders and congregations. The number of victims who suffered abuse in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to the probe, which went back as far as 1945.

The commission behind the investigation was set up last year by the Catholic Church under the leadership of a former government minister, Wim Deetman, a Protestant, who said there could be no doubt Church leaders knew of the problem. "The idea that people did not know there was a risk ... is untenable," he told a news conference.

Deetman said abuse continued in part because bishops and religious orders sometimes worked autonomously to deal with the abuse and "did not hang out their dirty laundry." However, he said the commission concluded that "it is wrong to talk of a culture of silence" by the Church as a whole.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland and a victim of clergy abuse, criticized the Dutch inquiry because it was established by the Church itself. {O'Gorman - the victim who inspired and inflamed the vicious BBC documentary in 2005 that slandered Cardinal Ratzinger and the Church with absurd lies - is, of course, acting on Pavlov-reflex autopilot, speaking out without thinking: Shouldn't it be a point in favor of the Dutch Church - that it was willing to have the situation investigated by an independent commission. What difference does it make who orders it as long as the investigating commission is verifiably independent? In this case, no one has so far cast any doubt on the commission and its members!]

"It is the Dutch government that should be putting in place a meaningful investigation," O'Gorman said.

Even so, he said the report "highlights widespread abuse on a scale I think would be shocking to most Dutch people."

But O'Gorman added that "the scale of the abuse is in and of itself not the significant issue. It is whether it was covered up and, significantly, this report suggests it was." ['The scale is not an issue'??? The man's statement shows he's really more about pursuing his vendetta against the Church than being concerned for his fellow victims! And it showcases the kind of victims' spokesmen that AP and the rest of MSM favor with 'equal time and space', if not more, than they give the Church whenever they report on this issue.]

Nearly a third of the Netherlands' 16 million people identify themselves as Catholic, making it the largest religion in the country, according to the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics for 2008.

The Dutch probe followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country.

The investigating commission received some 1,800 complaints of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages. It then conducted the broader survey of 34,000 people for a more comprehensive analysis of the scale and nature of sexual abuse of minors in the church and elsewhere.

In one order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, the commission found evidence that "sexually inappropriate behavior" among members "may perhaps have been part of the internal monastic culture." [Don Bosco's mortal remains must have been turning in his grave like a martyr on a spit since his Salesians in the Netherlands began misbehaving so shamefully. And what do the founder-saints in heaven do when the members of the orders they founded bring such shame upon the order? Apart from invoking the Holy Spirit to enlighten and purify the sinners, that is. They can't very well say to God, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" since God will forgive any sinner who sincerely repents, in any case....

Bert Smeets, an abuse victim, said the report did not go far enough in investigating and outlining in precise detail exactly what happened.

"What was happening was sexual abuse, violence, spiritual terror, and that should have been investigated," Smeets told The Associated Press. "It remains vague. All sorts of things happened, but nobody knows exactly what or by whom. This way they avoid responsibility."

The commission said about 800 priests, brothers, pastors or lay people working for the church were identified in the complaints. About 105 of them are still alive, although it is not known if they remain in church positions. Their names were not released.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Deetman's inquiry had referred 11 cases to them — without naming the alleged perpetrators. Prosecutors opened only one investigation, saying the other 10 did not have sufficient details and happened too long ago to prosecute.

The latest findings add to the growing evidence of widespread clergy abuse of children documented in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Belgium and other countries, forcing Pope Benedict XVI to apologize to victims whose trauma was often hidden by church cover-ups.

In September, abuse victims and human rights lawyers, upset that no high-ranking Church officials have yet to be prosecuted, filed a complaint in the United States urging the International Criminal Court to investigate the Pope and top Vatican officials for possible crimes against humanity. The Vatican called the move a "ludicrous publicity stunt." [By journalistic standards of fairness, the AP reporter was dutybound here to point out that the 'case' filed in the ICC does not even meet the minimum requirements for cases over which teh ICC has competence! But no, why would the AP bother mentioning a fact that supports the Vatican reaction that this is all a 'ludicrous publicity stunt'?]

An American advocacy group involved in that case, the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the Dutch findings "yet another example of the widespread and systematic nature of the problem of child sex crimes in the Catholic Church."

"If similar commissions were held in every country, we would undoubtedly be equally appalled by the rates of abuse," it said.

Archbishop Eijk said the victims in the Netherlands would be compensated by a commission the Dutch church set up last month and which has a scale starting at $6,500 (euro5,000), rising to a maximum of $130,000 (euro100,000) depending on the nature of the abuse.

O'Gorman criticized the church-established compensation scheme.

"It is simply not appropriate for the church to be the decider" of compensation, he said. "It is important the Dutch government recognizes its responsibility to ensure access to justice ... to all victims."

The New York Times had a different twist - with the headline 'Dutch Bishops Apologize for Abuse of Thousands', giving more importance to the apology than for the deeds being apologized for. Certainly not their wont when they are having to report on any papal or Vatican involvement in a sex abuse story...

Dutch bishops apologize
for abuse of thousands


December 16, 2011

LONDON — Roman Catholic bishops in the Netherlands said Friday they offered “sincere apologies” to victims of sexual mistreatment, hours after a report by an official commission said church officials had “failed to adequately deal with” abuse affecting as many as 20,000 Dutch children in Catholic institutions.

It remained unclear, however, whether the report broke significant new ground in a tortured debate over the relationship between sexual abuse and Roman Catholic institutions.

Based on a survey of 34,000, people, the report said that 10 percent of Dutch children had suffered from some form of abuse — a proportion that doubled to 20 percent among children who had spent some of their youth in institutions, irrespective of their affiliation.

Referring to the probability of minors being sexually abused in institutions rather than in any other location, the report said, “it emerged that the risk was twice as high as the national average, but with no sufficient difference between Roman Catholic and non-Roman Catholic institutions.”

And, tacitly supporting an argument offered frequently by the Vatican, it said that the impression in media coverage “that sexual abuse of minors occurred primarily within the Roman Catholic church needs to be qualified.

“Sexual abuse of minors,” it said bluntly, “occurs widely in Dutch society.”

Terence McKiernan, the president of, a not-for-profit Web site based in Massachusetts that seeks to collate documentation about the sexual abuse crisis, said the commission’s conclusions seemed puzzling.

“It seems they are saying that there’s no difference in instances” of abuse “between the Catholic situation and other institutions they examine,” he said in a telephone interview.

But anecdotal evidence in the report concerning two Catholic orders — the Brothers of Charity and the Salesians of Don Bosco — suggested “that the Catholic situation was worse than in other denominations.”

In the report, for instance, the commission found that “there is evidence that sexually inappropriate behavior towards members of the order” among the Salesians of Don Bosco “may perhaps have been part of the internal monastic culture.”

The Dutch commission, which described itself as independent, was established at the behest of the Roman Catholic church in the Netherlands in 2010 to investigate accusations of abuse since 1945. Its creation followed incidents at one cloister that inspired a series of accusations of priestly abuse at other institutions.

Its findings showed what some analysts said was one of the highest levels of abuse in a continent that has been forced to confront a steady stream of public disclosures about the behavior of priests and church workers toward minors.

Almost one-third of the Netherlands’ 16 million people profess Catholicism, making their faith the largest in the country, according to the country’s official statistics for 2008. The report said the Church’s response to accusations there in many cases “failed to take adequate action and paid too little attention to victims.”

Sexual abuse, the report said, “was covered up” and measures to prevent or punish it “were not taken in order to avoid any further scandal.”

“The scale of sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church in the period 1945 to 2010 is relatively small in percentage terms, but is a serious problem in absolute numbers,” the report concluded. “Several tens of thousands of minors have experienced mild, serious and very serious forms of inappropriate sexual behavior.”

The report, which was published on the Web in English in summary form, said the commission had received some 1,800 reports of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages as it gathered evidence between March and December, 2010.

The commission then conducted a broader survey among 34,000 Dutch nationals aged 40 and over, finding that from 1945 to 1981 between 10,000 and 20,000 children were sexually abused in church institutions, with offenses ranging from inappropriate touching to “several thousand” cases of “serious abuse.”

The commission identified some 800 clergy and lay church workers named in complaints as perpetrators of abuse. Of them, 105 were still alive, but their status within the church was not clear. It did not identify them by name.

The latest charges added vivid testimony to the disturbing imagery of priestly abuse that have spread in recent years across Europe from Belgium to Ireland and Austria as well as in Canada and the United States, forcing Pope Benedict XVI to apologize to victims whose traumas were often hidden by church cover-ups. [Oh-oh. Doesn't this sound like an almost-verbatim repeat of a paragraph in the AP story above???? Yup! Here's the AP paragraph:

The latest findings add to the growing evidence of widespread clergy abuse of children documented in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Belgium and other countries, forcing Pope Benedict XVI to apologize to victims whose trauma was often hidden by church cover-ups.

Wim Deetman, a Protestant former education minister who led the commission, said the report showed that the extent of abuse could longer be denied. “The idea that people did not know it and administrators did not know it cannot be maintained,” he said, according to Reuters.

In a statement, the conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in the Netherlands said the abuse “fills us with shame and sorrow.” The bishops also said they were “shocked by the sexual abuse of minors and the practices detailed in this report.”

The report was published a month after the Dutch branch of the Roman Catholic Church announced a system to compensate victims with payments of up to $138,000.

The publication of the report could build further pressure on the Vatican.

In September, human rights lawyers and victims of clergy sexual abuse filed a complaint in the United States urging the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three top Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for what they described as abetting and covering up the rape and sexual assault of children by priests.

The formal filing of nearly 80 pages by two American advocacy groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests.

Below is yet another example of media bias:

Left, the start of Google's headline summary of the news about the Dutch report; center and right, a page from Daylife's headline summaries with only one mention of the Dutch story - the rest, along with the three pages that preceded it being about the Christmas-tree lighting at the Vatican. Why do you suppose the Daylife editors chose to play down the Dutch story in favor of the Christmas-tree lighting? The Christmas spirit?

A 23-page English summary of the Deetmann Commission report can be found here:
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2011 8:15 PM]
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Benedict XVI: 'The Christmas tree
reminds us that life endures'

VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation from Ukraine, the country which donated the Christmas tree decorating St. Peter's Square this year.

The tree, a spruce from the Carpathians 30.5 metres high (about 98 feet, the height of a modern ten-story building) and decorated with 2,500 silver- and gold-coloured baubles, was to be lit this evening in the presence of Ukrainian bishops. Other smaller trees have also been donated, which will be set up at other places in Vatican City State.

Photo enlarged from RV thumbnail.

The Pope greeted the bishops accompanying the Ukrainian delegation: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc; Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins, and Bishop Milan Sasik C.M. of the eparchy of Mukachevo of the Byzantine rite, as well as members of the Orthodox Church led by the Archbishop of Poltava and Myrhorod.

The Christmas tree, said the Holy Father, is "a significant symbol of Christ's Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life. The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favouring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to response to this unique vocation".

The Christmas tree and the Nativity scene, Benedict XVI went on, "are elements of that typically Christmas atmosphere which is part of our communities' spiritual heritage; a climate impregnated with religiosity and family intimacy which we must seek to conserve, even in modern societies where consumerism and the search for material goods sometimes seem to prevail. Christmas is a Christian feast and its symbols are important references to the great mystery of the incarnation and birth of Jesus, which the liturgy constantly re-evokes. The Creator of the universe, by becoming a child, came among us to share our journey; He became small to enter the heart of man and renew it with His love. Let us prepare ourselves to welcome Him with faith".

Here is a translation of the Pope's remarks, which he began and ended in Ukrainian (translated to Italian in the Vatican bulletin), and delivering the body of the address in Italian:

In Ukrainian:

Dear brothers and sisters:

I am happy to welcome you here and address a sincere greeting to each of you.

In Italian:

I greet the Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halyč, His Beatitutde Sviatoslav Schevchuk, Archbishop of Leopoli of the Latins; Mons. Mieczysław Mokrzycki; and the Eparch of Mukachevo, Mons. Milan Šašik, along with the other brothers in the Episcopate and priesthood in the Greek Catholic and Latin churches. I extend my affectionate thoughts to all the Ukrainian faithful whom you represent here today.

My deferential greeting to the civilian authorities from the Ukraine, especially the Deputy Prime Minister, Kolesnikov Borys. I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me, and for the gift of the towering Christmas tree which adorns St. Peter's Square, and also for the icon.

I address a special greeting to the distinguished representatives of the Orthodox Church, led by the Archbishop of Poltava and Mykhorod, and express my sincere appreciation for the significance of their presence.

Finally, I greet all Ukrainians, those in their homeland, those who are dispersed around the world, and those who are here in Rome.

This Christmas tree stands beside the Nativity scene which is being set up, and they will remain to the end of the Christmas celebrations to be admired by the residents of Rome as well as pilgrims coming from all parts of the world.

The tree is a significant symbol of the Nativity of Christ, because with its evergreen branches, it reminds us that life endures. The fir is also a sign of the popular religiosity in your land and of the Christian roots of your culture. I hope that these roots may firm up ever more your national unity, favoring the promotion of authentic shared values.

In the course of centuries, your country has been a crossroads of various cultures, a meeting place for the spiritual riches of the East and the West. In your tenacious adherence to the faith, may you continue to respond to this particular calling.

You have also given us, along with this imposing red fir, smaller trees for the Apostolic Palace and other places in the Vatican. These trees, along with your traditional music, your evocative music, and your local products, will make known to Rome the typical elements of your country.

May your pilgrimage inspire in the entire Ukrainian Christian community a renewed desire to live and bear witness to the faith with joy, promoting the values of life, solidarity, and peace, which the Nativity of Christ recalls to us every year.

During this season of Advent, the Church invites us to prepare ourselves for the Birth of the Savior, intensifying our spiritual journey and our relationship with Christ.

Our time requires holy Christians who are enthusiastic about their own faith! The Virgin Mary is our model and guide: in order to understand the will of God on her life, and the meaning of the events that had to do with the Son of God.

She shows us her singular contemplative outlook: she listens, she observes, she 'keeps' her thoughts, she meditates, she prays. And what need there is to recover a taste for prayer! How attentive we ought to be not to allow ourselves to be overcome by the demanding rhythms of life which prevent us from going back into ourselves and to find ourselves once more before the stupendous mystery of God that resides in our heart!

Dear friends, the tree and the creche are elements of the typical atmosphere of Christmas which belongs to the spiritual patrimony of our communities. It is an atmosphere suffused with religiosity as well as familiar intimacy that we must conserve, even in today's society, where consumerism and the quest for material goods often seems to prevail.

Christmas is a Christian feast and its symbols constitute important references to the great mystery of the Incarnation and the Birth of Jesus that the liturgy constantly re-evokes.

The Creator of the Universe, becoming a baby, came among us to share our journey. He made himself tiny to enter into the heart of man and renew it with his love. So let us predispose ourselves to welcome him with faith.

He ended in Ukrainian:

I renew my sincere gratitude to all of you, to your co-workers who have stayed behind, and for those who did wonders to transport the tree to Rome. Thank you for the contribution that each of you have offered with great generosity.

I take this occasion to express my fervent best wishes for the coming Christmas and the Christmas festivities. I assure you I will remember you in in my prayers, along with your families, Ukraine and all Ukrainians, as I impart the Apostolic Blessing. Merry Christmas.

Ukraine flavor at Vatican's
Christmas tree lighting

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 16 (AP) — Ukrainian pilgrims sang folk songs and carols and recalled the late Pope John Paul II's visit to the Ukraine, as the Vatican lit its Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, a 25-meter (82-foot) pine from the Carpathian mountains in their country.

The tree was decorated with 2,500 gold and silver balls and figures of animals and toys. The ceremony Friday evening included a folk choir with children carrying giant pinwheels, a Christmas tradition in Ukraine.

Polish-born John Paul began the tradition of erecting a tall Christmas tree in the square in 1982; the Bavarian-born Pope Benedict XVI has continued it.

Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, who served as a secretary to John Paul[and Benedict XVI, who named him Archbishop of Lviv] before returning to his homeland of Ukraine, said the tree was "to thank John Paul" for his 2001 visit.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2011 2:25 AM]
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Pope Benedict's trustful realism
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from the 12/17/11 issue of

As always, Pope Benedict goes to the root of issues - while keeping, with gentle but firm clarity, an outlook of trustful realism.

This, in fact, is the general tone of his Message for the next World Day for Peace, which was made public several hours after celebrating Vespers with the university students of Rome, to whom he spoke about 'waiting' for God with the same trustful realism.

Benedict XVI cannot ignore the global crisis which is weighing on most societies around the world and which he describes with singular effect: "It almost seem as if a heavy layer of darkness has descended on our time", he says at the start of the message, "that does not allow us to see the light of day clearly".

Most obviously distressed are young people, above all, and one does not need too much analysis to be aware of this disquieting reality which has emerged in this year that is drawing to a close, in various demonstrations and visible signs across many countries.

That is why, considering his responsibility towards the younger generations - who are disoriented and intimidated by a future that appears uncertain and lacking good prospects from any angle - the Pope emphasizes the importance of education which he calls "the most fascinating and difficult adventure in life".

Through his lengthy personal experience as professor and as pastor who has always worked with young people, Benedict XVI knows well that young people do not just need teachers but more importantly, teachers who are also witnesses, as Paul VI used to say, and for this, Benedict XVI addresses parents as well as educators.

What is most striking in the papal message is the appeal to authorities in public life: that they may interrogate themselves well on the decisions they must make in a time of crisis, but even more, that they may offer young people 'a limpid image of politics'.

It is an implicit exhortation towards a new commitment in an area like politics - which in many nations, seems to be increasingly distant from the concerns of the citizenry, and does not attract, or even repels, the younger generations.

Equally strong is the Pope's appeal to the communications media which too often forget that their function is not merely informative. [Unfortunately, the media's 'formative' activity is all too often negative, if not downright 'deformative', by imposing their biases and values on the many - too many - who seem to depend on the media to tell them what and how to think!]

The Pope knows well - and says so once again - that education in justice and peace must pass through education in truth and freedom. That is why in the message, he reiterates his insistence on the question of God, with a critique of contemporary relativism which recognizes nothing as definitive; and on the importance of natural moral law as the basis for all social coexistence that is just and peaceful.

And he reiterates, "It is not ideologies which will save the world, but only turning to the living God". Turning to God means and demands the human being's free commitment to seek not just any god - contemporary society does not lack for idols and false gods - but the Creator God who spoke to Moses and revealed his face in Jesus.

And no, it is not anachronistic to meditate on the words of the Apostle James who called on the faithful to await the coming of Christ with the constant patience of the farmer, as the Pope told the universitarians Thursday evening.

This constancy, he said, is a response to the patience of God himself, who has been faithfully awaiting man's free response, the God near us, who is above all a friend to man, to every human being.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2011 10:35 PM]
12/17/2011 4:40 PM
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Saturday, December 17, Third Week of Advent

The raising of Lazarus from the dead has been a popular subject for painters through the ages, Top panel, from left - Giotto, 1304; Duccio, 1319, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1517; a Greek icon; a Russian icon.
Bottom panel, from left - Caravaggio, 1609; Rembrandt, 1630; Van Gogh, 1898; Ian Pollock, 2000; and the tomb of Lazarus.

ST. LAZARUS OF BETHANY, Friend of Jesus, Brother of Martha and Mary
The Jews said of him, "See how much he loved him", after Jesus raised him back to life in their sight. Legends abound of what happened to Lazarus after the death and resurrection of Christ. most claiming that he and his sisters ended up in Europe (Cyprus or Gaul) where he served as bishop until he died. Today, the 'tomb of Lazarus'(extreme right photo, bottom panel) continues to be a pilgrimage place on the West Bank, on the site of the historical Bethany.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father met with

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (weekly meeting)

- Five bishops from Oceania (South Pacific Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tarawa and Nauru, Tonga)
on ad-limina visit

- All the bishops of New Zealand and Oceania on ad-limina visit. Address in French and English.

The Vatican also released the video-message of the Holy Father yesterday evening for the conclusion
of a special jubilee year in the Archdiocese of Naples. The message was played after the Mass celebrated
in the Cathedral of Naples by Cardinal Crescencio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples.

The Holy Father made a number of membership appointments to various dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and named
two ranking officials:

- Fr. Serge Thomas Bonino, O.P., professor of theology from Toulouse (France) as secretary-general of the
International Theological Commission, He replaces Fr. Charles Morerod, also a Dominican, whom the Holy Father
named last month as Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.

- Sr. Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati of the Adoratrices Sanguinis Christi congregation as under-secretary
of the Congregation for the Institutes of Apostolic Life.


Thanks to Rome Reports, an 'integral' photo of Benedict XVI's 2011 Christmas card, except this is in Italian.
I earlier posted the German version, taken from BILD, which however cropped the message part. The message is,
of course, identical:

'Come to save us!'
(Liturgy of the Hours)
On the Nativity of the Lord 2011

The fine print identifies the illustration as The Nativity from the Fountain of St. Joseph found in the Vatican Gardens.

There may be archeological proof for
what the Bible says about
the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Tell al-Hamman is the archeological site in Jordan where the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah have been excavated.

Father Z, in calling attention to this item, prefaces it with this reading from Genesis:

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. (Gen 19,24-28)

He then goes on to cite a 12/9/11 item written by John Bergsma on the blog THE SACRED PAGE('Blogging and Podcasting about Catholic Biblical Theology"):

Sodom and Gomorrah Excavated

By far the most interesting session at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco was one I wandered into by chance. I am always curious about what is going on in biblical archeology, so one afternoon I decided to...go hear about the excavations at a certain site called Tell-el-Hammam... After about five minutes into the session, I realized that the archeological team assigned to this dig was convinced that they had found the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. After another half-hour, it seemed they had most of the participants convinced as well.

The sites fit the geographical and temporal context into which Sodom and Gomorrah are placed in the biblical texts. The cities at the site were suddenly and completely wiped out in the Late Bronze Age, which makes a reasonably good fit with the biblical accounts of Abraham and Lot. The entire presentation was very convincing, but never once did they deal with the "elephant in the room": what caused the sites to be suddenly abandoned?

As soon as the session was over, I was the first to raise my hand. "Did you find any arrow heads? Signs of invasion? What happened to them?"

The lead archeologist paused for a moment. "I didn't want to go there," he said. Another pause. "I'm preparing material for publication." Pause. "All I want to say on camera is, they appear to have been wiped out in a 'heat event'... If you want to know more, I'll talk after the session off the record."

I wish I could divulge what he said to a small group of us clustered around the podium after the session was over, but it would break confidence. We'll have to wait for the official peer-reviewed publications.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2011 2:26 AM]
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Rebibbia Prison in Rome is Italy's largest penitentiary.

Pope Benedict XVI and
the capacity for mercy

December 17, 2011

Cardinal Martini once observed that a prison is “the reversed mirror of a society, the space where the contradictions and sufferings of a sick society emerge”: the troubles of prisoners and their relatives, the suffering of victims and their relatives, the problems of prison staff, the difficulties for the authorities – and the questions of legislators, who note how most of the problems that prison should be solving in fact remain unsolved, if not worsened.

The condition of a country’s prisons is, in short, one of the essential indicators of that country’s state of civilization.

It is therefore natural for the Church to know it has to be present in prisons – and for Popes too – starting with John XXIII’s historic visit to Rome’s Regina Caeli prison on December 26th, 1958: a visit during which he spent a little time with the inmates and with those who share the burden of their incarceration. He listened to them and gave them a word of comfort.

It is no accident that this happens at Christmas time when we are more in need of stronger acts of solidarity and love.

Concerns for the economic crisis must not be an excuse to forget the plight of those on the margins of society, much less a licence to be pitiless towards those who have done wrong: we can build a fairer and more reasonable society by starting with the least and the last of our fellows: by trying to reconcile and heal the deepest wounds.

Let us remember the conditions of prisoners in different parts of the world. At the end of the Synod for Africa, the Pope mentioned the terrible conditions of many African prisons and reasserted the commitment to fight the death penalty.

For the Jubilee in 2000, John Paul II discreetly but clearly and insistently asked for “a gesture of clemency” towards prisoners. Has there been such a gesture, or are we still waiting for it?

On Sunday 18 December we are all invited to be with the Pope in spirit at Rome’s Rebibbia prison. [He will answer questions from some of the inmates.]

[It is strange Fr. Lombardi fails to mention that John Paul II famously visited Rebibbia in December 1983 to meet with his would-be assassin Ali Agca.]

The Popes and prisons
by Andrea Tornielli

December 17, 2011

Tomorrow, the last Sunday in Advent, Benedict XVI will visit the Nuovo Complesso prison in Rebibbia. He will talk to inmates, answer their questions and he will bless a tree planted to commemorate the event. It isn’t Papa Ratyzinger's first visit to a Roman prison. On 18 March 2007, he visited a detention center for young offenders in Casal del Marmo.

Papal visits to prisons are related to the Gospel account in which Jesus lists this action as one of the 'acts of mercy' that earns forgiveness for sins.

The Pope is also the Successor of Peter who had been a prisoner himself - in Rome, at the ancient Mamertine prison in the Roman Forum, in which according to tradition, the Apostle Paul was also imprisoned. It is now the site of a church. Subsequently, of course, quite a few Popes suffered imprisonment - the last ones having been Pius VI and Pius VII, both taken prisoner by the French (Pius VI was arrested in 1798 but died in 1799, six weeks after reaching his prison destination in Valence; while his successor Pius VII was arrested by Napoleon's forces and kept imprisoned in Genoa until 1813, when Napoleon fell from power).]

More recently, records show many papal visits to prisons. Such visits became opportunities to improve the daily conditions for prisoners. Both Innocent X (in 1650) and Clement XI (in 1704) paid surprise and secret visits to the construction sites of the Carceri Nuove (‘new prisons’) in Via Giulia and the San Michele rehabilitation centre in Porta Portese, and they returned there once construction work was finished to meet the inmates and see how the prisons were managed.

In 1824 and in 1827 Leo XII visited prisoners twice: the first time was a visit to the Carceri Nuove in Via Giulia, and the second was a visit to the young offender’s institute in Via del Gonfalone.

Pius IX, the last Pope-king to rule the Papal States before Rome was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, also made a pastoral visit to convicts, visiting political prisoners held in Rome’s city prisons first, and then, on 26 October 1868, the inmates of Civitavecchia’s jail, which had just been inaugurated.

After that, it would be 90 years before another Pope was to cross the threshold of a prison, even though we shouldn’t forget that Pius XII, during the Christmas of 1951, had dedicated a radio address to all the prisoners in the world, expressing his sympathy for their plight:

"Aware as we are of the fragility and immeasurable weakness that often wears the human spirit down to death, we understand the sad tragedy that may have taken you unawares and swept you up, through an unfortunate combination of circumstances that can’t always be blamed on your own free will… And just as in Heaven, there is greater rejoicing for every sinner who repents, so on Earth every honest man must kneel before those who may have fallen, perhaps in a moment of confusion, and have nevertheless been able to struggle to redeem themselves and rise up once more.’

The first filmed prison visit by a Pope was John XXIII’s historic visit on December 26, 1958. The directors of the Regina Coeli prison had been alerted a week beforehand but they had decided to say nothing about the visit to the prisoners until the day before.

"My name is Giuseppe, I’m your brother", Papa Roncalli introduced himself. The convicts gave him a missal bound in white leather which the Pope used from that day on when saying private masses.

He confessed to the convicts as they tearfully applauded him that one of his relatives had once been arrested for poaching, a statement not reported by L'Osservatore Romano in its report, 'censoring' a disclosure about a past misdemeanour by a papal relative.

John XXIII then asked to visit the prison wards. This hadn’t been planned. After the wardens’ initial hesitation, the gates were opened and the Pope walked past the cells where the prisoners were waiting for him.

His meeting with a convicted murderer, who awaited him on his knees, was particularly touching. The convict didn’t dare raise his tearful eyes. The young man was unable to speak and only sobbed. Papa Roncalli drew close, and gestured that he didn’t understand. The convict asked him: ‘Does what you said apply to me too, though I’ve sinned so much? Can there be any forgiveness for me?’ John XXIII, moved, said nothing, but bent over him and embraced him.

Before leaving the prison he said: ‘When you next write home, be sure to tell your families the Pope has been to see you and spent time with you. When the Pope says holy Mass and recites his daily rosary, he will be thinking of each and every one of you and your loved ones with great affection, all of you…"

Paul VI visited Regina Coeli prison, which isn’t far from the Vatican, on 9 April 1964. He asked the convicts to remain hopeful:
"My sons, always have hope in your hearts. I’d say that the only sin you can commit here is to despair. Remove this bond from your souls, this true imprisonment and let your hearts expand instead and find reasons for hope once again, even in your present situation of constraint where physical, external freedom has been taken from you... It is Christ’s voice that invites you to be good, to start over, to restart your lives and rise up."

Paul VI wrote a prayer specially for prisoners that says: "Lord, you allowed yourself to be put to death in that manner in order to save your executioners, to save all us sinners. And also to save me? If this is so, Lord, it means that one may be good at heart even though the condemnation of the courts of men weighs on one’s shoulders."

From that year on, the Pope sent a Christmas present to each and every one of the inmates of Regina Coeli and Rebibbia prisons, a pack of sweets and a religious image with his greetings.

His secretary, Fr. Pasquale Macchi, later remembered how "On 10 August 1978, while I was standing next to Paul VI’s body lying in state in the Basilica of St Peter, I saw an ex-convict and I asked him why he was there. He answered: 'The Pope came to visit us in prison and I’m here to return the visit'."

John Paul II, who escaped death from the gunshots fired by Alì Agca on 13 May 1981 in St Peter’s Square, crossed the threshold of Rebibbia prison on 27 December 1983 to meet his attacker alone in his cell.

The two sat down opposite each other. For a moment Wojtyla put a hand on Alì’s knee. Then the two of them lowered their heads and began to talk in whispers. Agca, who had already been forgiven by the Pope after the attack, had more to say. Wojtyla bent over with his hand on his forehead, almost brushing against Alì’s head.

As he left the cell, the Pope said: ‘I spoke to him as if he were my brother, a brother I have forgiven and who has all my trust. What we said to each other is our secret.’ Later it emerged that the Turkish would-be assassin had told the Pope he couldn’t understand how he managed to survive after the attempt [i.e., that the security people did not shoot him down].

In 2000, the year of the Great Jubilee, John Paul II, now much older and ailing, visited Regina Coeli. The day before the visit, 100 inmates were transferred elsewhere so as to avoid giving the impression that the prison was overcrowded.

Papa Wojtyla said Mass in Regina Coeli’s ‘rotunda’, the same place where his predecessors had said Mass. The Pope wore vestments sewn by the inmates, he said Mass on an olive-wood altar made by a prison guard, and was given a plaster crucifix made by a group of Albanian inmates.

On that occasion, two prisoners put on white vestments to serve the Pope as altar boys. One of them, 44-year-old Gianfranco Cottarelli, had been given the duty of holding the Pope’s crucifix-shaped papal staff with trembling hands.

Just days after having been filmed by the world’s cameras in this important role, he was found dead in his cell after having swallowed a lethal cocktail of drugs and anti-depressants.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2011 2:31 AM]
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The Pope to Pacific-nation bishops:
The challenge of new evangelization
to combat secularism even in Oceania

December 17, 2011

The New Evangelization was the focus of Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks to the bishops of New Zealand and the Pacific today, as he received them at the end of their ad-limina visits.

Here is the full text of the Pope's address from Vatican Radio which has also translated the French parts of the speech delivered in French and English:

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. This gathering is a tangible sign of our communion in faith and charity in the one Church of Christ.

I wish to thank Archbishop Dew and Bishop Mafi for the kind words offered on your behalf. My cordial greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their growth in holiness and of my affection for them in the Lord.

With gratitude to Almighty God, I note from your reports the many blessings which the Lord has bestowed upon your Jurisdictions. I am also aware of the challenges to the Christian life which are common to all of you, in spite of the many social, economic and cultural contexts in which you work.

You have mentioned in particular the challenge set before you by the secularism characteristic of your societies, a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith.

This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family. In such a context, the struggle to lead a life worthy of the our baptismal calling
(cf. Eph. 4:1) and to abstain from the earthly passions which wage war against ours souls (cf. 1 Pet 2:11) becomes ever more challenging.

Yet we know that, ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision; for “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear”
(Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Thus, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was recently established. Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church.

You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples. By strengthening the visible bonds of ecclesial communion, build among yourselves an ever stronger sense of faith and charity, so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the Church and in the civil arena.

As you face this historic challenge, you must do so under the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who also calls forth, consecrates and sends priests as “co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God”
(Rite of Ordination of Priests).

Dear Brother Bishops, I encourage you to have a special care for your priests. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests and to their sanctification, especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests. Be a father who guides them on the path to holiness, so that their lives may also attract others to follow Christ.

We know that good, wise and holy priests are the best promoters of vocations to the priesthood. With the confidence that comes from faith, we can say that the Lord is still calling men to the priesthood, and you are aware that encouraging them to consider dedicating their lives fully to Christ is among your top priorities.

In our day young people need more assistance with spiritual discernment so that they may know the Lord’s will. In a world affected by a “profound crisis of faith”
(Porta Fidei, 2), ensure too that your seminarians receive a well-rounded formation that will prepare them to serve the Lord and love his flock according to the heart of the Good Shepherd.

In this context, I wish to acknowledge the significant contribution to the spread of the Gospel made by the men and women religious present throughout your region, including those active in pastoral, catechetical, and educational fields.

Together with those living a contemplative life, may they remain faithful to the charisms of their founders, which are always united with the life and discipline of the entire Church, and may their witness to God continue to be a beacon that points towards a life of faith, love and right living.

Likewise, the lay faithful’s role in the well-being of the Church is essential since the Lord does not expect pastors “to undertake by themselves the entire saving mission of the Church”
(Lumen Gentium, 30).

I understand from your reports that your task of spreading the Gospel often depends on the assistance of lay missionaries and catechists. Continue to ensure that a sound and ongoing formation be afforded them, especially within the context of their associations. In so doing, you will equip them for every good work in the building up of the body of Christ (cf. 2 Tim 3:17; Eph 4:12).

Their zeal for the faith under your continued leadership and support will surely bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

My dear Brother Bishops and Priests, as I have had this opportunity to discuss with you the New Evangelization, I do so mindful of the recently proclaimed Year of Faith, which “is intended to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves”
(Homily, 16 October 2011).

May this privileged time serve as an inspiration as you join the entire Church in the ongoing efforts of the New Evangelization, for although you are spread among many islands and we are separated by great distances, together we profess “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Eph 4:5-6).

May you continue to be united among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter. Commending you to the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

One needs a large-scale map, not the little inset above, to fully appreciate the spread and relative smallness of the nations of the Pacific - often referred to collectively as Oceania along with Australia and New Zealand - so the larger map gives an idea of all the aggrupations involved, and the familiar '-nesia' nomenclature into which most of these islands have been generically grouped.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/18/2011 3:02 AM]
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This appears to be AP's idea of good will and good cheer at Christmas. Call me paranoid, but for all the carefully planted superficial perfunctory disclaimers that 'he's really doing better than one would expect', I find more than a touch of Schadenfreude and uncharitably wishful thinking in this type of stories by the MSM. GHere, the reporter marshals all sorts of imagined states of mind and physical conditions for the Pope that would support her belittling hypothesis....

Pope heads into busy Christmas season
tired, weak, raising questions about future


VATICAN CITY, Dec. 17 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI seems worn out.

People who have spent time with him recently say they found him weaker than they'd ever seen him, seemingly too tired to engage with what they were saying.

He no longer meets individually with visiting bishops. A few weeks ago he started using a moving platform to spare him the long walk down St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict turns 85 in the new year, so a slowdown is only natural. Expected. And given his age and continued rigorous work schedule, it's remarkable he does as much as he does and is in such good health overall: Just this past week he confirmed he would travel to Mexico and Cuba next spring.

But a decline has been noted as Benedict prepares for next weekend's grueling Christmas celebrations, which kick off two weeks of intense public appearances. And that raises questions about the future of the papacy given that Benedict himself has said Popes should resign if they can't do the job. [Excuse me!, Ms. Winfield. Did you ever hear of Leo XIII who lived to be 93???? And died with all his faculties intact??? Why should Benedict XVI's age make people like you assume that he is about to become 'incapable' and must therefore resign????]]

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi has said no medical condition prompted the decision to use the moving platform in St. Peter's, and that it's merely designed to spare the pontiff the fatigue of the 100-meter (-yard) walk to and from the main altar.

And Benedict rallied [What was he rallying from, exactly????] during his three-day trip to Benin in west Africa last month, braving temperatures of 32 Celsius (90F) and high humidity to deliver a strong message about the future of the Catholic Church in Africa.

Wiping sweat from his brow, he kissed babies who were handed up to him, delivered a tough speech on the need for Africa's political leaders to clean up their act, and visited one of the continent's most important seminaries. [So? It was all in a day's work for him - those were events that were programmed and which he planned and prepared to undertake!]

Back at home, however, it seems the daily grind of being Pope — the audiences with visiting heads of state, the weekly public catechism lessons, the sessions with visiting bishops — has taken its toll. A spark is gone. He doesn't elaborate off-the-cuff much anymore, and some days he just seems wiped out. [It may be that I refuse to see these 'signs', but the spark is certainly not gone, and he did make some off-the-cuff remarks in his homily at Santa Maria delle Grazie parish last Sunday. This past week, I was able to watch the telecasts of the Sunday Angelus, the Mass for Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the Wednesday audience, and the Vespers with university students, and I thought he was in fine form, as he was throughout the trip in Benin. I occasionally notice some tiredness or effort when he reads his texts, but I have not noticed that lately.]

Take for example his recent visit to Assisi, where he traveled by train with dozens of religious leaders from around the world for a daylong peace pilgrimage. For anyone participating it was a tough, long day; for the aging Pope it was even more so.

"Indeed I was struck by what appeared to me as the decline in Benedict's strength and health over the last half year," said Rabbi David Rosen, who had a place of honor next to the Pope at the Assisi event as head of interfaith relations at the American Jewish Committee.

"He looks thinner and weaker ... which made the effort he put into the Assisi shindig with the extraordinary degree of personal attention to the attendees (especially the next day in Rome) all the more remarkable," Rosen said in an email. [So Winfield solicited opinions to support her hypothesis in this way!]

That Benedict is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 84-year-old, even someone with no known health ailments and a still-agile mind. He has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision. And his older brother, who has a pacemaker for an irregular heartbeat, has expressed concern about Benedict's own heart. [Of course, he would. Just days before the 2005 Conclave, and soon after it, he was already expressing concern that his brother's poor health did not suit him to be Pope.]

But Benedict is not a normal 84-year-old, both in what he is called to do and the implications if he were to stop.

Popes are allowed to resign; Church law specifies only that the resignation be "freely made and properly manifested."

Only a handful have done so, however. The last one was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.

There's good reason why others haven't followed suit: Might the existence of two popes — even when one has stepped down — lead to divisions and instability in the Church? Might a new resignation precedent lead to pressures on future popes to quit at the slightest hint of infirmity?

Yet Benedict himself raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue on, when he was interviewed for the book Light of the World, which was released in November 2010.

"If a Pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign," Benedict said. [It only means he is being realistic, anticipating with common sense all possibilities that he might have to face, but that does not mean any of it is imminent! After all, this is the first time since Leo XIII that the Church has a Pope reach this age without any life-threatening or degenerative ailment. It's more or less uncharted territory, but that does not mean open season for unfounded speculation that is most uncharitable towards Benedict XVI.]

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had an intimate view as Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked closely for nearly a quarter-century, suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy. After John Paul's death at age 84, it was revealed that he had written a letter of resignation to be invoked if he became terminally ill or incapable of continuing on. [A sensible thing to do! When he was unable to speak at that last Angelus appearance in March 2005, he reportedly told those around him, "If I can no longer speak [to the faithful], then it is better that I die". Did he feel then that the end was near and he would not have to resign?]

Winfield seems to be pursuing a needless argument first brought up last September - needlessly and in a rather sensation-mongering manner - by Italian writer Antonio Socci who is generally thoughtful and thought-provoking in his commentaries on the faith, but who can also go overboard with such pet warhorses as a 'fourth secret' of Fatima being withheld by the Vatican for all sorts of conspiratorial reasons... It almost seems as though journalists like Socci and Winfield want to set the scene for what they hope to be self-fulfilling speculation on their part.

And for our part, who love and admire our beloved Benedict, we continue to pray and invoke all of God's graces on him continuously.... AD MULTOS ANNOS, SANCTE PATER!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/18/2011 3:58 AM]
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Pope's video message closes
Naples special jubilee year

December 17, 2011

A solemn Eucharistic celebration presided over by Cardinal Crescencio Sepe at the Cathedral of Naples yesterday evening closed the special Jubilee Year of the Church of Naples marking 10 years since the Great Jubilee of 2000.

The following is the text of the videomessage by Pope Benedict XVI which was broadcast at the Prayer Vigil held on Friday night.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Naples:

I greet you all with great affection, and I am happy to be able to join spiritually in the solemn conclusion of your Special Jubilee Year which has represented for the entire diocesan community a propitious time of hope and an opportunity for new evangelization.

I greet first of all your Archbishop, Cardinal Crescencio Sepe, the priests, deacons, religious, catechists and other pastoral workers, with a special thought for families, young people and the sick.

I am very happy for you because the journey that you have undertaken in the past months has seen the joyous participation and sincere involvement of the entire ecclesial community, as well as civilians and so many other persons of good will. I am pleased that so many have offered their won generous contribution for the spiritual, moral and cultural growth of your city and diocese.

This special jubilee years has been for the Church in Naples a time of immersion in the mystery of God, and therefore, a year of grace. It can be compared to a 'baptism' because, in a certain sense, the Jubilee has opened up heaven over you, and has allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to descend on your life and your community, just as he did over the disciples in the Cenacle at Pentecost.

And it is the Holy Spirit who has made the various events of your Jubilee beautiful and significant. He has inspired holy offerings, generous projects, and above all, a renewed desire to inflame your city with the fire of the Gospel.

Yes, dear friends of Naples, heaven is open above you. And you can proceed with renewed enthusiasm to face - with the power of faith, hope and charity - the many and complex problems encountered in daily life.

Just as the Apostles, after Pentecost, set about to announce the Good News with courage, you, too, after this Jubilee, should renew your hope, allow yourselves to be guided by the power of the Holy Spirit,
and collaborate with renewed impulse in the mission of the Church.

Each one must make fruitful the gifts you have received, placing them in the service of others and in the work of the entire community, without personalism nor rivalry, but in a spirit of sincere humility and joyful brotherhood. Always have, as you already do, special attention for your brothers who are weaker and lesser, the poor and the disadvantaged.

May the Blessed Virgin of Carmel, patroness of Naples, and San Gennaro, watch over you and help you carry forward, with perseverance and faithfulness, the commitments you took on during this jubilee year.

Along with my prayers, may you be accompanied always by the Apostolic Blessing that I impart on all of you from the heart.

12/19/2011 1:33 AM
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December 18, Fourth Sunday of Advent

Left panel: St.Rufus and his tomb in the Catacomb of St. Agnes, Rome. I can't find an online photo of St. Zosimus other than Pope St. Zosimus. Right panel; Blessed Anthony Grassi
ST. RUFUS (and ZOSIMUS)(d 104), Friends of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Martyrs
BLESSED ANTONIO GRASSI (Italy, 1591-1671), Priest
Rufus and Zosimus were citizens of Antioch (or perhaps Philippi) who were brought to Rome with St. Ignatius of Antioch during the reign of Emperor Trajan. They were condemned to death for their Christianity and thrown to wild beasts in the arena two days before the martyrdom of Ignatius.
Blessed Antonio Grassi was born in Fermo, northeast Italy, near Loreto, and was a devotee of Our Lady of Loreto from his childhood. He became an Oratorian father [St. Philip Neri's order] known for his unflappable serenity and his gifts as a father confessor and spiritual counselor in his hometown. In 1621, he was struck by lightning while praying at the Loreto shrine and was electrocuted so badly he was paralyzed and was expected to die. But he survived, and thereafter, he made an annual pilgrimage to Loreto. In 1625, he was named superior of the Oratorians in Fermo. His basic rule for everyone was 'ad litteram', meaning follow orders to the letter. His central passion was the daily Mass and Adoration in a long life that was otherwise unremarkable. In old age, as he lost his physical faculties, his Archbishop came to give him Communion every day. He was beatified in 1900.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father started the day with a pastoral visit to Rome's largest prison in Rebibbia, where he answered
questions from some of the inmates. He decried chronic overcrowding in prisons which, he said, imposes a second
penalty on the inmates.

He came back to the Vatican in time for the noon Angelus. Reflecting on the reiteration of the Annunciation-Incarnation
event in today's Gospel, he pointed out that Mary's intact virginity while conceiving her Divine Son with the grace of
the Holy Spirit is reciprocal to the divinity of Jesus. The Pope also took note of the beatification in Spain of 22 missionary
priests and 1 layman who were martyred in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War; and asked for prayers for the victims of
severe floods in the Philippines.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2011 2:14 AM]
12/19/2011 2:29 AM
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Pope makes emotional visit to Rome prison,
urges dignity for detainees, justice with mercy


ROME, Dec. 18 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI made an emotional visit Sunday to Rome's main prison, meeting with detainees, denouncing prison overcrowding and calling for greater dignity for inmates everywhere.

Benedict spent over an hour at Rome's Rebibbia prison, fielding questions from a half-dozen inmates who spoke of their despair at being kept in overcrowded cells, away from their families, some of them sick with AIDS, and of having repented for their crimes.

The 84-year-old Pope told the 300 men and women gathered in the prison chapel that he loved them and prayed for them. He reminded them that Christ was imprisoned before being sentenced to "the most savage punishment" of all — death.

"Inmates are human beings who, despite their crimes, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity," he told them. "They need our concern."

Benedict decried Italy's overcrowded prisons and urged the government to overhaul the system so that prisoners aren't subjected to a "double punishment" by serving time in insufferable conditions.

And he noted that justice doesn't have to just be about righting a wrong, but also showing mercy. For God, he said, "justice and charity coincide; there's no just action that isn't also an act of mercy and forgiveness, and at the same time there's no merciful action that isn't perfectly just."

The prisoners seemed truly grateful for the visit, with more than one wiping tears from his eyes as Benedict responded to their pleas. And Benedict himself seemed touched by their heartfelt welcome: One inmate gave him a picture he had made of a white dove perched on prison bars; another showed him a photo of his newborn baby girl; another read a prayer he had written about feeling forgotten by God.

Benedict said he hoped his visit to Rebibbia, which houses some 1,700 inmates, would not only give encouragement to the prisoners as Christmas nears, but would draw attention to their plight.

On hand for the visit was Italy's justice minister Paola Severino, who acknowledged the Pope was visiting a "place of profound suffering."

There are an estimated 68,000 inmates in Italian prisoners, 22,500 more than capacity. Just last week, the Cabinet approved measures to ease the overcrowding by making it easier for people to be placed under house arrest, and by requiring judges to confirm arrests within 48 hours.

"For too long we have had data that shows an incredibly difficult and uncomfortable situation" that shows "the terrible condition of people who keep their experiences, sufferings and hope in their heart," Severino said.

So, Ms. Winfield, did you find the Pope 'tired and weak' and 'not able to focus on what others are saying to him' as you claimed in your axe job yesterday? Obviously not, or you would have seized on the littlest pretext to cite signs of what you seem to see as a Pope on the verge of a sudden loss of his faculties that would constrain him to resign if he followed his own criteria!... By the way, what one British tabloid did with Winfield's story, paraphrasing it slightly to make it appear it was the reporter's own original story, was just as blatantly dishonest!

And oh yes, did the 'tired and weak' Pope falter. lag, or give less than his best when it came time to answer questions from the prisoners? Surely, this is the most unusual group that any Pope ever had to dialog with... Thanks to the Italian service of Vatican Radio for promptly posting the transcript - 'non-official', to be sure, but does anyone really think the 'official' translation will be substantially different in any way?


My name is Rocco. First of all, I wish to express to you our and my own personal thanks for this visit which is most welcome, and assumes, at a time that is so 'dramatic' for Italian jails, a great message of solidarity, humanity and comfort. I wish to ask Your Holiness iF your gesture will be understood in its simplicity, even by our politicians and governing authorities, so that the dignity and the hope that ought to be recognized in every living person may also be restored to the very least of men, including those who are jailed. This hope and dignity are indispensable in order to resume our journey to a life that is worthy to be lived.
Thank you for your words. I feel your affection for the Holy Father, and I am moved by this friendship that I feel from all of you. I would like to say that I often think of you and always pray for you because I know your condition is very difficult - one in which, instead of renewing your friendship with God and with mankind, worsens the situation, including the interior one. I came here above all to to show you my personal and intimate nearness in communion with Christ who loves you, as I have said.

But certainly this visit, which I want to be personal for you, is also a public gesture to remind our fellow citizens and our government that there are great problems and difficulties in Italian jails. Of course, the sense of jails is to help dispense justice, and justice implies human dignity as a first condition.

Therefore, jails should be built so that human dignity can grow, that it can be respected, and that you can renew in yourselves the sense of dignity in order to better respond to your intimate calling.

We heard the Minister of Justice, we heard how she feels for you, how she feels the reality you experience, and so we may believe that our government and the responsible authorities will do what is possible to improve your situation, to help you truly find a good realization of justice that can help you to return to society, with all the conviction of your human calling and all the respect that our human condition demands.

For my part, I would like to be able to always indicate how important it is that prisons respond to their objective by renewing human dignity and not to assail this dignity, in fact to improve conditions. Let us hope that the government will have the possibility and all the possibilities to respond to that calling. Thank you.

My name is Omar. Holy Father, I wish to ask you a million things that I have always thought of asking you, but today when I have tghe chance, I find it difficult to ask a question of you. I am very much moved by this event - your visit here to the prison is a very powerful fact for us Catholic detainees, and therefore rather than ask a question, I prefer to ask you to allow us to plug into you with our sufferings and that of our families, like an electric cable to our Lord. I love you.
And I love you too, and I am grateful for these words which touch me to the heart, I think that this visit shows that I wish to follow the words of the Lord which always move me, when he says - as I read in the homily earlier - as he will at the last judgment, "you visited me in jail and it was I who awaited you".

This identification of the Lord with those in prison obliges us deeply and I must ask myself: have I followed the Lord's command? This is one reason why I came, because I know that in you, the Lord awaits me, that you need this human recognition, and that you need the presence of the Lord who at the Last Judgment will ask us about this.

And so I hope that the true purpose of these short-term prisons can be realized, to help you find yourselves, to help you move forward, reconciled to yourselves, with others, with God, in order to re-enter society and help build progress for mankind.

The Lord will help you, and in my prayers, I am always with you. I know that for me, it is a particular obligation to pray for you, almost to draw you towards the Lord on high, because it is a reality that the Lord helps us through our prayer.

I therefore invite everyone to pray in order to create this strong cable, so to speak, to draw you to the Lord and which connects us among ourselves, because in going towards the Lord, we are all linked to each other.

Rest assured of the power of prayer and invite others to join us in prayer so we can all be like a group that is tightly roped together as we go towards the Lord.

My name is Alberto. Holiness, does it seem right to you that after having lost, one after the other, all the components of my family, now that I am a new man - and since a month ago, the father to a splendid baby named Gala - that I am not allowed to go home even if I have amply paid my debt to society?
First of all, congratulations! I am happy that you are a father, that you consider yourself a new man, and that you have a splendid daughter. This is a gift of God. Of course, I do not know the details of your case, but I hope, like you, that you may be able to return as soon as possible to your family.

You know that in Church doctrine, the family is fundamental. And it is important that a father should be able to hold his daughter in his arms. And so, I pray and hope that soon you may be able to actually hold your daughter in your arms. to be with your wife and daughter to build a beautiful family, and this way, to help work for the future of Italy.

Holiness, I am Federico, and I speak in behalf of the persons detained in G14 which is the prison's hospital ward. What can prisoners who are sick with AIDS or are sero-positive for the virus ask from the Pope? From our Pope, who is already weighed down by all the sufferings of the world. Shall they ask him to pray for them? That he pardon them? That he keeps them present in his heart? Yes, this is what we want to ask you, but above all, that you may bring our voice where it is not usually heard. We are absent from our families, but not absent from life. We fell and in our fall we did bad things to others, but we are learning to get up.

Too little is said about us, and often, it is so ferocious, almost as if they want to eliminate us from society. This makes us feel sub-human. You are the Pope of everyone, and we ask you to do what you can so that dignity cannot be stripped from us, along with our freedom. Because it is no longer taken for granted that reclusion means being 'excluded' for always. Your presence here today is for us the highest honor. Our best wishes for a Merry Christmas to everyone.

You have said some truly memorable words - "We have fallen but we are here to raise ourselves up again". This is important, the courage to rise up again, to go forward with the help of the Lord and the help of all our friends.

You also said that people often speak ferociously about you. That is unfortunately true. But I wish to point out that others also speak well about you and think of you. I think of my own small papal family. I am surrounded by four lay sisters and we often discuss this problem. They have friends in prison, who send us gifts, and we in turn send them gifts. So this situation is very much present - positively - in my family, as I think it is in others.

We have to endure the fact that some do speak fiercely, they do so against the Pope also, but still, we must proceed forward. I think it is important to encourage everyone to think well of you, that they may have a sense of your sufferings, to want to help you rise up. I will do my part to call on everyone to think this way, the right way, not disparagingly, but humanely, with the thought that everyone can fall, but God wills that everything comes from him, and we should cooperate in a spirit of brotherhood and recognition of our own weaknesses.

This way, it is possible to rise again and proceed with dignity, that this dignity is always respected, that it can grow, and one is able to find joy in life, which is given to us by the Lord with his idea about us. If we recognize God's idea for us, the God who is with us, then even the darkest passages will have a sense in making us know ourselves better as children of God, and thus be truly happy, even in difficult conditions, to be men created by God. The Lord will help you, and we will be close to you.

My name is Gianni from Division G8. Holiness, I was taught that the Lord sees and reads everything within me, and I wonder why absolution was delegated to priests. If I asked the Lord by myself, on my knees in a room, would he absolve me? Or would it be a different kind of absolution? What would be the difference?
Yes, you have brought up a great question for me. I would say two things. First, of course, if you fall down on your knees and with true love of God, ask him to pardon you, he will. It has always been the doctrine of the Church that if one - with true repentance and not just to avoid penalties and difficulties, but for love of the good, for love of God - seeks forgiveness, then he will receive God's pardon. That's the first part.

If I truly acknowledge that I have done bad, and love for the good has been reborn in me, the will to do good, the repentance that I have not responded to this love, and I ask forgivenes of God who is goodness himself, he he will grant it.

But there is a second element: Sin is not just a 'personal' thing, something individual between me and God. Sin always has a social dimension, one that is horizontal. Through my personal sin, even if no one knows about it, I have damaged my communion with the Church, I would have defiled it and defiled mankind. This social and horizontal dimension of sin demands that it is also absolved at the level of the human community - it requires a sacrament, which is a great gift in which I can, through confession, liberate myself and can receive forgiveness in the sense of a full readmission to the community of the living Church, the Body of Christ.

Thus, in this sense, the necessary absolution from a priest. The sacrament is not an imposition that limits the goodness of God. On the contrary, it is an expression of his goodness because it demonstrates concretely, in communion with the Church, that I have received forgiveness and I can start anew.

So I would say to keep in mind these two dimensions: the vartical one, with God, and the horizontal, with the community of the Church and of all men. The absolution of the priest - sacramental absolution - is necessary so I can truly resolve and be absolved of my link to evil, and reintegrate myself into the will of God, completely within his Church, which gives me a certainty, almost a corporal one - the sacramental certainty - that God forgives me, that he takes me back into the communion of his children,

I think we should learn to understand the sacrament of penance in this sense - that it makes it possible to find, almost corporally, the goodness of the Lord, the certainty of reconciliation.

Holiness, I am Nwaihim, department GII. Holy Father, last month, you made a pastoral visit to Africa, to the small country of Benin, one of the poorest in the world. You saw the faith and passion of its people towards Jesus Christ. You have seen people suffer for different reasons - racism, hunger, child labor... I ask you - they place their hope and faith in God, but they are dying of poverty and violence. Why does God not listen to them? Perhaps he listens only to the rich and powerful who do not have faith? Thank you, Holy Father.
First of all, I wish to say that I was very happy to be in your land: the welcome on the part of Africans was most warm indeed. And I felt this human sincerity which in Europe is rather obscured because we have so many other things in our heart which make it rather hard.

In Africa, there is an exuberant sincerity, so to speak. I felt their joy of life, and this was one of the most beautiful impressions I got: that notwithstanding poverty and all the great suffering which I also saw - I met lepers and people sick with AIDS, for instance - there is a joy in living, the joy of being a human being, in our original awareness that God is good, that he loves me, and to be a man means to be loved by God.

So that was my impression - one might say the preponderant one, a powerful one - which is to see joy and merriment in a suffering nation, much more than in rich nations. This makes me think that in the rich nations, joy is often absent, that we are all so fully occupied with so many problems - how to do this, how to keep this, we need to buy more, etc. With all the great mass of things that we have, we are even more distant from our own selves and from the original experience that God exists and that he is close to me.

And so having many possessions and power does not always make us happy - that is not the greatest gift. It can even be a negative thing which hinders me from really living. The measures of God, his criteria, are different from ours. God gives joy even to the poor, he makes his presence felt to them, he makes them feel that he is near them even in their suffering, in difficulties, and of course, he calls on all of us to do all we can in order to help others emerge from the darkness of disease, of poverty. It is our task, and in trying to do it, we can become happier.

So both sides should complement each other: We should help so that even Africa, its poor nations, can be able to overcome their problems, their poverty, and help them to live, while they can help us understand that material things are not the last word. And we must pray to God to show us, help us, in order that there may be justice, so all may live in the joy of being his children.

Finally, one detainee read a prayer:

Holiness, my name is Stefano, division G 11.

Prayer behind bars
Lord, give me the courage to call you Father.
You know that I do not always succeed in thinking about you as you deserve.
And you have not forgotten me even if I often live far from the light of your face.
Make your presence felt, despite everything, despite my sins, big and small, whether done in secret or in public.
Give me interior peace, that which only you can give.
Give me the strength to be true and sincere; strip off my face the masks that hide my awareness that I am worth something only because I am your child.
Forgive my sins and give me the chance to do good.
Ally my sleepless nights; give me the grace of conversion in the heart.
Remember, Lord, those who are not here and still wish me well, because thinking of them, I know that only love gives life, while hatred destroys, and rancour makes hell of our long interminable days.
Remember me, Lord. Amen.

What an absolutely extraordinary session! I am sorry I missed watching the telecast, and that I have not had the chance to watch the video yet.

Quite apart from being to do any Forum 'work' during the daytime today, it's also one of those days when I can't access the Daylife photogrid, so I've borrowed some of the images from Gloria's usual generous dose of Ratzipix - and for those who haven't yet seen the photos there of today's event, click here:

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2011 3:37 PM]
12/19/2011 3:43 AM
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December 18, 2011

The Pope reflects on Mary and
the mystery of the Incarnation

December 18, 2011

During his Angelus reflections Pope Benedict focused on the Gospel this fourth Sunday of Advent which recounts the Angel’s annunciation to Mary and in particular on the significance of her virginity in salvation history: “the virginity of Mary is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns every Christian. It, in essence, is tied to faith: in fact, those who trust deeply in God, welcome Jesus and His divine life within them, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas”.

Speaking from the window of his study overlooking St Peter’s square, the Holy father spoke of his concern in the aftermath of the Typhoon Washi, which slammed ashore on northern Mindanao island while people slept late on Friday and early Saturday. Rescuers are still searching for more than 800 people missing in the flash floods and landslides that swept houses into rivers and out to sea, killing more than 650 people.

The Pope said : “I want to assure the populations of the southern Philippines, hit by a violent tropical storm, of my closeness. I pray for the victims, mostly children, the homeless and the many missing”.

Below is Vatican Radio's translation of the Pope's words at the Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

In this fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents this year the annunciation to Mary. Contemplating the beautiful icon of the Blessed Virgin, when she receives the divine message and gives her answer, we are internally illuminated by the light of truth which shines, always new, from that mystery.

In particular, I would like to dwell briefly on the importance of the virginity of Mary, that is, the fact that she conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin.

In the background of the event’s at Nazareth is the prophecy of Isaiah. "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call him Emmanuel"
(Is 7,14). This age-old promise found super-abundant fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God.

In fact, not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so through the Holy Spirit, which is God himself. The human being that begins to live in her womb takes his flesh from Mary, but his existence is derived entirely from God. He is 'fully human, made of earth' - to use the biblical symbol - but he comes from above, from heaven.

The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is, therefore, essential for the understanding of Jesus and our faith, because it witnesses that it was God’s initiative and above all it reveals who is conceived.

As the Gospel says: "Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"
(Lk 1,35). in this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus reciprocally guarantee one another.

This is why that one question that Mary, 'very upset', addresses to the Angel- "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"
(Lk 1,34) - is so important.

In her simplicity, Mary is wise: She does not doubt the power of God, but wants to better understand his will, to fully comply with this will. Mary is infinitely overcome by the mystery, yet perfectly occupies the place assigned to her in the very heart of the mystery.

Her heart and mind are fully humble, and, because of her singular humility, God expects the "yes" of this young girl to achieve His purpose. He respects her dignity and freedom. Mary's "yes" means both motherhood and virginity, and her wish that her everything be for the glory of God and that the Son who will be born to Her may be a gift of grace for all.

Dear friends, the virginity of Mary is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns every Christian. It, in essence, is tied to faith: in fact, those who trust deeply in God, welcome Jesus and his divine life within, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas.

After the prayers, he said this:
Yesterday, in Madrid, 22 missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and one layman were proclaimed Blessed. They were killed in 1936 for the mere fact that they were zealous witnesses to the Gospel. With our joy at their beatification comes the hope that their sacrifice may bring even more fruits of conversion and reconciliation.

I wish to assure my closeness to the people of southern Philippines who were struck by a violent tropical storm. I pray for the victims, most of them children, for those who were left homeless, and for the many others who were displaced by the flooding.

In English, he said:
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. The Gospel of today's liturgy recounts the Archangel Gabriel's Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and bear a son to be called Jesus.

Just as the Immaculate Virgin Brought God to us, may we be not afraid to let her bring us to God. In this final week of Advent, let us intensify our efforts to prepare for His coming. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2011 2:42 AM]
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