Benedetto XVI Forum


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12/13/2012 5:46 PM
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Study on Italian Twitter
questions to the Pope shows
they reflect current biases and
popular notions about the Church


The main gripe about the launch of Pope Benedict XVI’s new Twitter account has been about the way in which his collaborators have decided it will be used: the Pope will not follow any other Twitter user, he will only use his account to send out messages. However, he will respond to questions. [I don't see why anyone should gripe that the Pope should 'follow' other Twitter users! Does anyone demand that Barack Obama do so?]

The announcement that people would be able to send questions to the Pope has attracted all kinds of responses, including a range of mocking comments. But some serious questions have been addressed to Benedict XVI.

Expert System (an Italian company which develops semantic software) carried out a study in order to look into what Twitter users are saying about the Pope. It analysed a sample of about 20,000 tweets with the hashtag #faiunadomandaalpapa (ask the Pope a question).

Tweets were split into four main categories according to the most common topics addressed: religion (41%); art, culture and entertainment (20%), economy and finance (16%) and crime (5%).

The most widely mentioned figure is, of course, the Pope, followed by Jesus, God and the Virgin Mary. The most commonly used verbs after 'be' and 'have' are: do, can, say, know, want, must and go.

“Unfortunately," as some of the study’s researchers pointed out, "most of the messages are irrelevant, ironic and sometimes offensive, but there are some users that ask serious questions and raise important issues, showing an openness to dialogue.”

Recurrent terms include: “church, Vatican, gold, holiness and Sunday.” Italian property tax (IMU) also comes up a lot, usually coupled with the verb “pay”.

By piecing the data together, some links begin to emerge: if the focus of a message is children, correlated terms are linked to poverty (Africa, eat, feed, gold, Third World) and to some extent to paedophilia (rape, molest).

When the subject of homosexuals comes up, there’s often a contrast between the verbs “accept” and “not accept”, but also the terms “discriminate, priests, paedophile, love, annoyance, marry.”

The information gained from the sample of Twitter users therefore seems to confirm a certain perception of the Church, in relation to its finances, the scandals it has been involved in and certain positions it has assumed in the field of sexual ethics.

The Pope aims to change this perception as much as possible through his tweets.

Although the study is technically flawed, i.e., limited, by an inherent selection bias, because the population surveyed (those who tweet and have tweeted about the Pope) hardly represents the Catholic population, it is very likely that the popular perception even among Italian Catholics would probably match that of the tweeters. Which proves that the Church - her bishops and priests - appears to be no match for the all-pervasive secular media in shaping public opinion.

So if Benedict XVI can, through Twitter, extend the unfortunately limited media reach of his own messages on God and Jesus, then the venture is definitely invaluable. I hesitate to say bishops and parish priests should follow his lead, because as in every communications situation, 'garbage in is garbage out', so caveat emptor. Not that what lesser prelates could tweet is necessarily garbage, but if we judge by the overall quality of preaching - and the inherent progressivist biases of prelates who are likely to tweet - it may not be a very good idea.

By the way, I did not bother to check out how the secular media reported on the 'first papal tweet' after I picked up and posted AP's brief unvarnished account and then saw the Reuters report which led off quite cruelly and deliberately by devoting its first few paragraphs to the technical difficulty that apparently attended the Pope's first attempt to post the tweet... Aqua has now called my attention to an equally cruel and derogatory piece by the odious Rachel
Donadio(us) of the New York Times, which reads exactly as if she and Philip Pulella of Reuters had conspired to say, "Let's get him on this!":

P.S. Wonders will not end... The system that surveyed the Italian Tweeterworld before the Pope's first tweet resurveyed after the first tweets and found a sea change...

Is it too soon to say 'It works'?
In Italy's Twitter universe,
poverty, children and homosexuality are unseated
by the topics of Jesus, faith and prayer
after the Pope's first official tweet

MODENA, ITALY, Dec. 13 (Marketwire) - Expert System, the semantic technology company, conducted a semantic analysis to understand the reaction of Twitter users after the activation of @pontifex, and the response to the first tweets by Pope Benedict XVI on December 12.

Using the Cogito semantic software, Expert System analyzed a sample of more than 20,000 tweets to the Pope''s Twitter accounts and hashtags related to #askpontifex.

[There follows a recitation of the pre-papal tweet stas cited in Tornielli's article.]

Expert System ten analyzed a sample of over 15,000 tweets that followed the Pope's first official tweet on December 12.

The responses on Twitter seemed to echo the sentiment of the Pope's message, where the topic of Jesus was most mentioned, followed by faith and prayer, as well as hope, family, life, love, work and the gospel.

Compared to the original sample of tweets, in this sample, there was less talk of children, homosexuality, pedophilia and Christmas, and more conversation around the concepts of blessing, joy and heart. Also present were the concepts of pay, IMU (related to taxes), gold and money

"The results of the semantic analysis of the most relevant themes and concepts present in the tweets so far highlight many of the problems facing the world we live in, as well as the legacy issues facing the church. For the Vatican, Twitter can be not only a channel for spreading the message of faith, but also an important listening platform from which to collect opinions about important issues," said Marco Varone, President and CTO, Expert System.

Expert System is the semantic software company that specializes in helping organizations gain insight and intelligence from information. Worldwide customers include Chevron, Eni Group, ANSA, Telecom Italia, Microsoft and Raytheon.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 3:24 AM]
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12/13/2012 6:15 PM
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I haven't used much from Damian Thompson since the Pope/s visit to the UK in 2010, but here he gives some new statistics on the state of religion (or non-religion) in the UK....
Christianity is fading away in Britain
as Islam surges and agnosticism spreads

December 12, 2012

Poor Rowan Williams: wrong to the end. Christianity is not "fading away" in Britain, he says. Yes it is, as the census figures clearly illustrate.

Since the last census in 2001, the number of Britons identifying themselves, however loosely, as Christians, is down 13 percentage points to 59 per cent.

The number of respondents who say they have no religious faith is up 10 points to 25 per cent. Meanwhile, staggeringly, the Muslim population has grown from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15 million from 2001 to 2011.

The surge in Islamic belief is entirely a consequence of immigration. The spread of agnosticism and atheism is (though I haven't yet seen the breakdown by age) largely generational.

It cannot be said too often: the default position of people born since 1980 is agnosticism or atheism. Meanwhile, as a commenter points out below, net migration from the UK consists largely of people who would probably have ticked the Christian or C of E box. That hadn't occurred to me, but it's an important factor.

A quick thought: these figures confirm that, saddled with shrinking congregations and (so far) dreadful leadership from Archbishops Williams and Nichols, the Churches haven't a hope in hell of stopping gay marriage.

I must admit to not having posted enough on this thread of the ongoing battles - losing, it seems - against legalized same-sex 'marriage' in France and the UK. I will post a suitable update when I can find one that doesn't get too much into the weeds and undergrowth!

A related post - not limited to the SSM (same-sex marriage) issue - came from the Catholic Herald's William Oddie two days ago:

Why is there in the Church,
on both sides of the Atlantic,
such a failure of leadership?

by William Oddie

December 11, 2012

Since the presidential election, I haven’t been watching the American news channels much, I haven’t had the heart. The US appears to be about to go over something they are calling the fiscal cliff because of Obama’s triumphalistic behaviour: he won, so he’s not compromising with congressional Republicans who want much-needed public spending cuts, and he’ll blame them if they do all go over this cliff (there are, I understand, other analyses of what is happening, but I like this one best). This cliff may not seem like our business, but it is: if they do go over it, it will have a very severe effect on the American economy and therefore on everyone else’s, including ours.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about: watching, for old time’s sake, the wondrous Megyn Kelly on Fox News the other day (she comes on at the most convenient time for English observers), I came across an interview with a Fox anchor called Bill O’Reilly, who seemed like a good egg, so I had a look at his own more primetime show, The O’Reilly Factor. This, according to Wikipedia, is “the most watched cable news television program on American television”.

I found, interestingly, that he is not only currently running a campaign in defence of Christmas against the atheists who want any mention of it banned in all public places and institutions, but also one more broadly in defence of Christianity itself, against the increasingly aggressive secularism more and more endemic in American culture.

Inter alia, he protested last week at having to lead such a campaign himself because of the total failure of leadership in all the mainline churches. He didn’t say so, but he sounded like a Catholic to me (Wikipedia confirms this). This is what he said: “There’s a lack of will and a lack of leadership in the Christian communities generally speaking. I have to lead this campaign. The biggest sinner in the world is leading this campaign. What God’s saying is, is there anyone else who can lead this campaign? Anybody except O’Reilly? Anybody? I have to lead this campaign. We don’t get, what we’re not getting, is organised leadership from any of the churches. They just don’t engage.”

[As a US resident, I agree that the leadership of the Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, has remained inexplicably passive, if not actually inactive, all these years about the worsening and widening secular war against Christmas and other things Christian. The US Church leadership has been surprisingly militant about the religious fredom issue and must certainly be commended for it, but they ought to be able to mount a similarly vigorous, ongoing and media-intensive campaign to defend Christian values in general. To their credit, the anchors and commentators of Fox News, many of them Catholic, have been consistently vocal about this and have never let an occasion of blatant anti-Christianity pass uncommented. But then, Fox News remains the only 'politically incorrect' secular news outlet in the USA, and although it has been the top-rated TV news source for the past 12 years, it is a cable show, and theoretically, network shows like ABC, CBS and NBC - advocates and purveyors of the 'ueber-politically correct', i.e., anti-Catholic viewpoint, command a wider audience because they also get to all those who do not subscribe to cable TV.]

Sound familiar, dear English readers? The day after I saw that I read this, on Fr Ray Blake’s admirable website.

I have rarely seen Fr Blake more passionate:

I cannot help but feel very angry that since the letter from the Archbishops of the four Provinces of England and Wales we have heard nothing officially from the Bishops or the Bishops’ Conference on ‘gay-marriage’.

In the last few days I have received communications from several individual priests urging me to write to my MP or to the Prime Minister, I have also received emails from a few non-Catholic Ministers of Religion and a local rabbi, and as it is Brighton [[where Fr.Blake's parish is],from a group of gay Christians who recognise the redefinition of marriage as an attack on the stability of the family. But from the hierarchy there is only continuous silence.”

What’s interesting here is Fr Blake’s analysis of exactly why this is so, which is one I have more than once argued myself: it’s the existence of the bishops’ conference as a bureaucratic entity (rather than as a spiritual body). It’s the bureaucratisation of our hierarchy — so that only the official episcopal spokesman in a particular area, as chairman of some board or other run from Eccleston Square, with its own lay secretary (probably an ex-priest or laicised nun), or on the other hand the archbishops speaking collectively (an extreme rarity) — may speak for the other bishops: this means that individual bishops have their own prophetic voice if not silenced then severely weakened.

As Fr Blake interestingly says: “A Curial Bishop once told me that a few Episcopal Conferences in the world give leadership, but most frustrate it. In our case the bishops’ conference certainly frustrates the accountability of individual bishops to their presbyterates and their people, an accountability which was in the vision of Vatican II, in its strengthening of the bond between a bishop and his diocese.”

Fr Blake goes on to quote the present Pope, who over two decades ago said: “

The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organised, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures.

We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function. (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

The fact is, however, that since episcopal conferences have no theological basis, individual bishops could still say exactly what they want to say at any time, whether the conference bureaucrats like it or not: and one or two have actually started to do just that.

There was, you will remember, the great Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster, now alas retired; and more recently and repeatedly, there has been (guess who) Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, who spoke on the subject currently exercising Fr Blake to the Daily Telegraph in June:

Bishop Davies said: “The Deputy Prime Minister was recently reported as saying he could not understand why Christians and other people of faith saw a legal redefinition of marriage as a matter of conscience: it would not, he claimed, impinge on religious freedoms.

“Experience, of course, might make us cautious of such assurances, even those given by a Deputy Prime Minister, that this agenda will not threaten religious freedom.”

He said that concerns were not solely about religious freedoms but also the attack on marriage as the foundation of family life.

“Today we see a government, without mandate, disposing of any credible consultation, seeking to impose one of the greatest acts of ‘social engineering’ in our history in uprooting the legal definition of marriage. Marriage lies at the very foundation of the family.

“For all generations to come one generation of politicians sets out to demolish in the name of an ‘equality agenda’ the understanding of marriage that has served as the timeless foundation for the family.

“The Government is seeking to do this at the very moment when marriage as an institution has been more weakened than ever before. Yet it asks: why are people of faith concerned?”

Bishop Davies added: “So far from weakening and confusing the foundation of the family we invite our political leaders to give back to the institution of marriage and the family the recognition and confidence it deserves.”

So, it’s not entirely true that there is no leadership from our hierarchy. There is, we see reported here, at least one voice speaking out in words not vetted and emasculated by Eccleston Square.

But it’s not enough: we need them all to speak out, we need an episcopal cacophony. [But when has that ever happened? Most bishops seem happy to be seen but not heard!]

So, anyone else? Well yes: again, guess who: “The Rt Rev Philip Egan, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth”, reports the Bicester Advertiser, “has said the plans to extend the right to marry would have catastrophic consequences… Such a change is of immense significance. By this change, [the Prime Minister] is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.”

That’s what we need now: bishops who will speak out, in and to their dioceses and therefore directly to the wider world; and we need many more of them.

Archbishop Mennini [Apostolic Nuncio to the UK, who therefore recommends the final short list for any nominations for an episcopal seat in the UK churches], please note.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/13/2012 6:50 PM]
12/15/2012 9:20 AM
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12/15/2012 9:21 AM
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Wednesday, December 14, Third Week of Advent

ST. JUAN DE LA CRUZ (John of the Cross) (Spain, 1541-1591)
Carmelite, Reformer, Mystic, Theologian, Poet, Doctor of the Church
Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis on February 16, 2011, to this towering figure from 16th century Spain.
There is probably no spiritual partnership as blessed and endowed with grace as that of the two great mystics and writers who flowered in the Spain of the Counter-Reformation - Teresa de Jesus and Juan de la Cruz, both sprung from the soil of Castile, the female and male faces of 16th century spirituality. Contemporaries and friends, they worked together to reform the Carmelite Order and experienced the fate of all reformers who are rejected by the establishment. Juan's life was a true identification with the Cross from which he took his name, producing his best poems and writings while languishing in prison, turning his 'dark night of the soul' into luminous prose and verse that continue to be models of mystical theology as well as undying literature.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father began his official day by attending the second Advent sermon of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa,
Preacher of the Pontifical Household, at the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace, with officials
and members of the Roman Curia.

Afterwards, he met with
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops (weekly meeting)

- The delegation from Pescopennataro in Isernia province (central Italy) for the commune's donation
of this year's Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square. Address in Italian.

The Holy Father's message for World Peace Day on January 1, 2012, was presented at a Vatican news conference.
The theme for 2013 is 'Blessed are the peacemakers'.

Forgive me for re-posting the following item from one year ago as almost a template for the media's ever-smoldering hostility to the Church, ever ready to generate a forest fire of controversy at the slightest pretext. Of course, the eventual overwhelming popular success of Benedict XVI's apostolic visit to Mexico in March this year was the best rebuttal ever to the mean-spirited hoping-to-be-self-fulfilling prognostications of the AP writer - and his/her editors who allowed the reporter to get away unedited with such biased reporting. But then editors no longer 'edit' - they simply allow anything to be said in news reports, any way the reporter pleases, without regard for facts or skewing the presentation of facts to reinforce and perpetrate the particular outlet's ideological position and biases.

December 14, 2011

A most unpleasant shock in reviewing the papacy-and-Vatican headline summaries online yesterday was the alacrity with which the Anglophone media played up an AP story whose headline every outlet adapted verbatim: "Mexican worshippers underwhelmed by papal visit".

The Daylife roundup had no less than seven pages of summaries like the above, purveying a mean-spirited story in which the AP writer extrapolates the comments elicited from a couple of pilgrims and a storekeeper to draw the fallacious conclusion that all the millions of pilgrims who came to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe at her shrine outside Mexico City on Monday were all 'underwhelmed' by the news that the Pope would visit Mexico; and on the testimony of the aforementioned shopkeeper, that no one is interested in Benedict XVI compared to his predecessor, whose merchandise are bestsellers whereas the interest in Benedict XVI is so insignificant there are even no Benedict items for sale.

The story is in the same denigratory vein as preparatory stories from Lourdes before the Pope visited in September 2008 - so negative that one almost feared there would only be a scattering of pilgrims to welcome Benedict XVI! Yet how can one forget the fervent pilgrims who thronged the Marian procession and the two papal Masses in Lourdes... The Schadenfreude dripping from the AP story on the Mexico visit is so patent it is disgusting. And it is very sad, indeed, when any Catholic takes the kind of partisan favoritism regarding Popes as the AP writer describes. As if devotion to one Pope means disregard or dismissal of any other Pope, who is as much the Vicar of Christ as the 'favorite', and in the case of Benedict XVI, he is, of course, the only Vicar of Christ on earth at this time. To disregard or dismiss him is to disregard or dismiss Christ - or at the very least, not to understand what the role of the Pope is.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2012 3:27 PM]
12/15/2012 10:56 AM
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'Blessed are the peacemakers'
Abridged from

December 14, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Peace Day 2013 was presented to journalists at a press conference in the Vatican on Friday by the president, secretary and under-secretary of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council.

Entitled ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’, the message looks at both the theological and practical foundations for promoting justice and peace in today’s world,

Here is the official English text of the Pope's message:

1. EACH NEW YEAR brings the expectation of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved.

Fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which helped to strengthen the Church’s mission in the world, it is heartening to realize that Christians, as the People of God in fellowship with him and sojourning among mankind, are committed within history to sharing humanity’s joys and hopes, grief and anguish, [1] as they proclaim the salvation of Christ and promote peace for all.

In effect, our times, marked by globalization with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man.

It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.

In addition to the varied forms of terrorism and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.

All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life.

In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.

All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).

Gospel beatitude
2. The beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed (cf. Mt 5:3-12 and Lk 6:20-23) are promises. In the biblical tradition, the beatitude is a literary genre which always involves some good news, a “gospel”, which culminates in a promise.

Therefore, the beatitudes are not only moral exhortations whose observance foresees in due time – ordinarily in the next life – a reward or a situation of future happiness. Rather, the blessedness of which the beatitudes speak consists in the fulfilment of a promise made to all those who allow themselves to be guided by the requirements of truth, justice and love.

In the eyes of the world, those who trust in God and his promises often appear naïve or far from reality. Yet Jesus tells them that not only in the next life, but already in this life, they will discover that they are children of God, and that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on their side. They will understand that they are not alone, because he is on the side of those committed to truth, justice and love.

Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God.

Jesus’s beatitude tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort. In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others.

The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing. It is indispensable, then, that the various cultures in our day overcome forms of anthropology and ethics based on technical and practical suppositions which are merely subjectivistic and pragmatic, in virtue of which relationships of coexistence are inspired by criteria of power or profit, means become ends and vice versa, and culture and education are centred on instruments, technique and efficiency alone.

The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman.

Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God. As Psalm 29 puts it: “May the Lord give strength to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace” (v. 11).

Peace: God’s gift
and the fruit of human effort

3. Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation.

Above all, as Blessed John XXIII wrote in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will fall in a few months, it entails the building up of a coexistence based on truth, freedom, love and justice. [2]

The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God himself, jeopardizes peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise.

To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.

The attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family. This family is structured, as the Encyclical Pacem in Terris taught, by interpersonal relations and institutions supported and animated by a communitarian “we”, which entails an internal and external moral order in which, in accordance with truth and justice, reciprocal rights and mutual duties are sincerely recognized.

Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values. It is an order achieved in freedom, that is, in a way consistent with the dignity of persons who, by their very nature as rational beings, take responsibility for their own actions. [3]

Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world.

God himself, through the incarnation of his Son and his work of redemption, has entered into history and has brought about a new creation and a new covenant between God and man (cf. Jer 31:31-34), thus enabling us to have a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (cf. Ez 36:26).

For this very reason the Church is convinced of the urgency of a new proclamation of Jesus Christ, the first and fundamental factor of the integral development of peoples and also of peace. Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.

From this teaching one can infer that each person and every community, whether religious, civil, educational or cultural, is called to work for peace. Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global. Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.

Peacemakers are those who love,
defend and promote life in its fullness

4. The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end.

True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.

Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace.

The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so, the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn?

Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.

There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.

These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation.

Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.

Consequently, another important way of helping to build peace is for legal systems and the administration of justice to recognize the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.

One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom.

At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from – for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one’s religion – but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for – for example, bearing witness to one’s religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each.

Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.

Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realization of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.

One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labour and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely free markets. Labour is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms.

In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors, demand that we continue “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” [4]

If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.

Building the good of peace through
a new model of development and economics

5. In many quarters it is now recognized that a new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. Both integral, sustainable development in solidarity and the common good require a correct scale of goods and values which can be structured with God as the ultimate point of reference.

It is not enough to have many different means and choices at one’s disposal, however good these may be. Both the wide variety of goods fostering development and the presence of a wide range of choices must be employed against the horizon of a good life, an upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.

In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model.

The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness.

Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a “livable” or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift. [5]

Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.

In the economic sector, states in particular need to articulate policies of industrial and agricultural development concerned with social progress and the growth everywhere of constitutional and democratic states.

The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable; these must be stabilized and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor.

With greater resolve than has hitherto been the case, the concern of peacemakers must also focus upon the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis. The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda, as a result of interrelated crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behaviour by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments and the international community.

To face this crisis, peacemakers are called to work together in a spirit of solidarity, from the local to the international level, with the aim of enabling farmers, especially in small rural holdings, to carry out their activity in a dignified and sustainable way from the social, environmental and economic points of view.

Education for a culture of peace:
the role of the family and institutions

6. I wish to reaffirm forcefully that the various peacemakers are called to cultivate a passion for the common good of the family and for social justice, and a commitment to effective social education.

No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing.

The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured. [6]

Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new evangelization, which is centred on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.

Cultural institutions, schools and universities have a special mission of peace. They are called to make a notable contribution not only to the formation of new generations of leaders, but also to the renewal of public institutions, both national and international. They can also contribute to a scientific reflection which will ground economic and financial activities on a solid anthropological and ethical basis.

Today’s world, especially the world of politics, needs to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonize the various political currents with a view to the common good.

The latter, seen as an ensemble of positive interpersonal and institutional relationships at the service of the integral growth of individuals and groups, is at the basis of all true education for peace.

A pedagogy for peacemakers
7. In the end, we see clearly the need to propose and promote a pedagogy of peace. This calls for a rich interior life, clear and valid moral points of reference, and appropriate attitudes and lifestyles. Acts of peacemaking converge for the achievement of the common good; they create interest in peace and cultivate peace.

Thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere. There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance.

A fundamental encouragement to this is “to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive”, [7] in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. This requires the growth of a pedagogy of pardon. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father who loves all his children (cf. Mt 5:21-48).

This is a slow process, for it presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history. There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference. The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.

Jesus embodied all these attitudes in his own life, even to the complete gift of himself, even to “losing his life” (cf. Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25). He promises his disciples that sooner or later they will make the extraordinary discovery to which I originally alluded, namely that God is in the world, the God of Jesus, fully on the side of man.

Here I would recall the prayer asking God to make us instruments of his peace, to be able to bring his love wherever there is hatred, his mercy wherever there is hurt, and true faith wherever there is doubt.

For our part, let us join Blessed John XXIII in asking God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by his power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them.[8]

With this prayer I express my hope that all will be true peacemakers, so that the city of man may grow in fraternal harmony, prosperity and peace.

From the Vatican
8 December 2012

[1] Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 1.
[2] Cf. Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963): AAS 55 (1963), 265-266.
[3] Cf. ibid.: AAS 55 (1963), 266.
[4] BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666-667.
[5] Cf. ibid, 34 and 36: AAS 101 (2009), 668-670 and 671-672.
[6] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Message for the 1994 World Day of Peace (8 December 1993): AAS 86 (1994), 156-162]
[7] BENEDICT XVI, Address at the Meeting with Members of the Government, Institutions of the Republic, the Diplomatic Corps, Religious Leaders and Representatives of the World of Culture, Baabda-Lebanon (15 September 2012): L’Osservatore Romano, 16 September 2012, p. 7.
[8] Cf. Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963): AAS 55 (1963), 304.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/15/2012 11:10 AM]
12/15/2012 12:08 PM
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For a change, the Anglophone press appear benign compared to the outright malice and downright (or down-wrong) misrepresentation of some of the Holy Father's general words in the 2013 WD of Peace message by some Italian media outlets, including the notoriously anti-Church and anti-Pope La Repubblica. In which what the Pope says about same-sex unions in the message was shamelessly extrapolated to him expressing support for a Uganda law [not yet a law, but proposed legislation] that purportedly prescribes the death penalty for homosexuality! Francesco Colafemmina in his blog Fides et Forma has presented a factual account of this outrageous claim, how it originated, and the actual facts that were falsely used to make the claim (I hope I can translate it later).... Meanwhile, Reuters's usually pugnacious Philip Pullella has this comparably benign report which constitutes a model of objectivity compared to the vicious misrepresentations in the Italian media.

Pope calls for new economic model
and more ethical markets

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 14 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Friday called for a new economic model and ethical regulations for markets, saying the global financial crisis was proof that capitalism does not protect the weakest members of society.

In his message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace, which is marked on January 1, Benedict also warned that a food insecurity was a threat to peace in some parts of the world.

He also strongly reaffirmed the Church's opposition to gay marriage, saying heterosexual marriage had an indispensable role in society.

The annual message, which traditionally centres on how to promote peace and how to reduce threats to peace, is sent to heads of state, government and institutions such as the United Nations and non-governmental organisations.

In it the pope said economic models that seek maximum profit and consumption and encourage competition at all costs had failed to look after the basic needs of many and could sow social unrest.

"It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism," he said.

The pope said people, groups and institutions were needed to foster human creativity, to draw lessons from the crisis and to create a new economic model.

The message had echoes of his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), in which he called for a world political authority to manage the global economy and for more government regulation of national economies.

"The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable," the pope said in Friday's message. "These must be stabilised and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor."

He said food insecurity was becoming an ever-increasing threat to peace and social stability, calling the food crisis even greater than the financial crisis.

Ensuring people have access to sufficient nutrition should be central to the international political agenda because of inter-related crises, sudden shifts in prices of basic foodstuffs, and unethical practices, he said.

There had been insufficient control of food security by governments and the international community and he called for more help for poor rural farmers.

In a report in October, the United Nations food agencies said one out of every eight people in the world is chronically undernourished.

In his message, the Pope also attacked moves to liberalise abortion and euthanasia, saying they posed a threat to the fundamental right to life and again denounced gay marriage.

The Vatican has recently stepped up its attack against moves to make gay marriage legal following gains in the United States, France and Spain.

Like Colafemmina, our friend Lella (Raffaella) has been fulminating, as she does every now and then on her much=followed blog when the occasion presents itself, against the failure of the Vatican communications phalanx to immediately protest the outrageous claims about the Pope made by the usual culprits in Italian media.

The fact is those who are responsible (more often, irresponsible) for Vatican communications have no hard and fast rule for when to react to media outrages against the Pope. More often than not, the Vatican simply allows such outrages to build and peak and then deflate and fizzle out after the proverbial nine days. Yet they will react with rare promptness to some attack against anyone else in the hierarchy but the Pope. As though they think there is no need to defend the Pope against outright falsehoods and malicious misrepresentations!

Don't they realize that they are behaving exactly like the dominant secular mentality which considers the Church and the Pope fair game for any and all attacks - and open season all the time - though they quake in fear of their lives to say or do anything that might offend Islam or Judaism in any way? They are worse, however, because not only is there zero risk in defending the Pope but that it is their fundamental duty to do so, but they do not seem to think it is, at all!

Why can't a policy be set about how and when the Vatican communications behemoth (as massive, lumbering and retarded as that prehistoric creature) should and must respond to such outrages. Where to draw the line between respecting freedom of expression by journalists and commentators, and promptly denouncing irresponsible lie-mongering (to the point of calumny) about the Pope himself! Is Greg Burke helping in this in any way, or is he butting his head against a schizoid in-house establishment that, as Lella points out, rushes to embrace Twitter but neglects the ABCs of basic traditional communications?

However, I would not be so quick to disparage the Twitter initiative, if only because 1) it should be a fairly easy routine that can be the work of one person rather than a committee and several levels of hierarchy, and 2) it reaches a much wider audience than the parochial and provincial reach of, say, Italian news media. And 3) it has the precise advantage of the Pope speaking himself, minus a media filter, and in brief statements that are more likely to be remembered than any of the statements issued in labored bureaucratese by the Vatican - and therefore, 4) to have an impact that is both subliminal and overt (witness the overnight sea change in the content of Italian Twitter talk about the Church after the Pope's first three responses to @ask Pontifex).

12/15/2012 11:39 PM
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The Pope's message on
the Connecticut massacre

December 14, 2012

The following telegram was sent to the Diocese of Bridgeport on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI when he was informed of the horrific shooting attack on Friday, December 14, in Connecticut in which a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.

Monsignor Jerald A. Doyle
Diocesan Administrator
Diocese of Bridgeport

The Holy Father was promptly informed of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and he has asked me to convey his heartfelt grief and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the victims and their families, and to all affected by the shocking event. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy he asks God our Father to console all those who mourn and to sustain the entire community with the spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

Apropos, here is a commentary on the Connecticut tragedy that places it in Biblical context - from one of America's most insightful political commentators today, John Podhoretz, a Jew. Commentary has been one of America's leading opinion journals since it was founded in 1945 by Podhoretz's father, Norman, an outstanding American intellectual in the 20th century:

Gehenna in Connecticut
by John Podhoret

December 14, 2012

Gehenna, a synonym for Hell, is a real place, or so the Bible tells us. You can see it today. It is a valley outside Jerusalem, the valley of the son of Hinnom, and it was where worshippers of the idol Moloch sacrificed children to sate their god’s hungers.

Gehenna was revived today in Newtown, Connecticut, where as many as 20 children at last report were slaughtered in an elementary school this morning.

We learn in the book of Kings that in the seventh century BCE, the prophet Jeremiah demanded that King Josiah destroy the idolator’s temple in Gehenna to prevent more sacrifices to Moloch. We can presume from the 'newsworthiness' of this act that child sacrifice was once a relatively common practice in the ancient Middle East, as we know it to have been in other pagan cultures.

The connection between the protection of children and the practice of monotheism dates back to the beginning. After Abraham becomes the first Jew, the first monotheist, he is tasked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the miracle child of his and his wife Sarah’s old age, and he takes up the task without complaint until God stays his hand.

The story of Isaac’s binding, the akedah, is one of the most challenging of the Bible and is often taken to mean God was testing Abraham’s faith with the ultimate demand. But one might also say that at the very dawn of the worship of the One God, the Bible was placing the sacrifice of children outside the realm of the thinkable for the first time.

The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West.

One cannot conceive of anything more monstrous than a person or persons who could look small children in the eye and systematically shoot them dead. Which is why this crime, among the worst crimes in American history, is not just an assault on the children, or their families, or the town of Newtown — though it is all those things.

What the killer(s) did today was nothing less than a contemporary sacrifice to Moloch, in whatever form Moloch manifests himself today —the appeasement of a voice in the head, most likely.

Evil, even if it is loosed due to mental illness, is an effort to destroy the common good by making good appear powerless, ineffectual, weak. Today saw a horrifically effective effort to give evil a victory. It has opened a portal and brought Hell to earth.

Gehenna is real again.

And worse, it is recurring more and more frequently in more and more places in these United States. Surely, such aberrations in more and more individuals - even if they are statistically insignificant compared to the total US population - is an indication of the Hell that has invaded more and more hearts and minds in an age of schizophrenic secularism where government invokes 'the common good' to justify acts of intrinsic evil meant to subjugate the individual, even as the dominant culture relentlessly exalts and promotes narcissism, the ultimate selfishness in which the only 'god' is me-myself-I.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2012 4:22 PM]
12/15/2012 11:59 PM
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My apologies for not having posted this in a timely manner...

The likelihood of Paul VI's beatification
by next year advances significantly


December 13, 2012

Paul V - born Giovanni Battista Montini - the Pope who reigned from 1963 to 1978 and led three of the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, guiding the Church through the difficult post-conciliar period, could be proclaimed a saint in 2013. {The article shows, however, that the likely event is beatification, not canonization yet, which would require a second miracle.]

After examining the “Positio” with the documents of the canonical process, in recent weeks, theologians of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted in favour of the late Pope’s beatification, without raising any objections.

Next 11 December (2013?), cardinals and bishops of the Congregation will also vote. Having overcome the theologian hurdle, the final “yes” from cardinals looks highly likely.

Benedict XVI could formally recognize Papa Montini’s “heroic virtues” in the next consistory for the promulgation of the decrees on beatifications and canonizations, expected to take place next Christmas. This will conclude the beatification process.

Then, before the beatification ceremony takes place all that remains is for the official recognition of a miracle that occurred through the intercession of the candidate to be declared Blessed.

In Paul VI’s case, Antonio Mazzaro, the Postulator promoting his cause, has already chosen a healing case which initial analyses proved “unexplainable”, out of the suggestions put forward. The alleged miracle involves the healing of an unborn child which took place sixteen years ago in California.

During the pregnancy, doctors found a serious problem in the foetus and because of its consequences on the brain, they advised the young mother that the only solution was to abort. The woman wished to proeed with the pregnancy and entrusted herself to the intercession of Paul VI, who had written the enclycical Humanae Vitae in 1968.

The child was born without problems but the family would have to wait until the age of 16 to have full confirmation perfect healing. Although the Vatican’s examination of the miracle will formally begin after the announcement of the candidate’s heroic virtues, this could all be over and done with quite quickly.

Benedict XVI has followed developments in his predecessor’s cause for beatification closely. Paul VI appointed Ratzinger Archbishop of Munich and cardinal. After beatifying John Paul II - the Pope with whom he collaborated for a quarter of a century - in record breaking time last year, Ratzinger expects to do the same for the late Brescian P.

After leading the Council and concluding it with almost complete unanimity, Montini was a suffering witness at the time of the student protests of 1968 in Italy and continued to highlight the Church’s Credo through speeches and encyclicals, without ever taking any steps back in relation to the path marked out by the Second Vatican Council.

The beatification cause for John Paul I (renowned for his holiness throughout the world) is also being deliberated on alongside Paul VI’s, while Pius XII’s was approved in 2009 with the promulgation of the decree of heroic values, but a miracle is yet to be selected to be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the Vatican dicastery led by Cardinal Angelo Amato who deals with new sainthood causes.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/16/2012 2:42 AM]
12/16/2012 4:30 AM
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Christmas comes to the Vatican

First, L'Osservatore Romano has reported, for the first time that I can remember, on Benedict XVI's Christmas card for the year.

Veritas de terra orta est! (“Truth shall spring out of the earth”).

Benedict XVI chose these words from Psalm 85:12 for this year’s Christmas card, which will be given to the Roman Curia, Vatican employees and all the faithful present at the audiences and celebrations in the upcoming days.

The card, produced by the Vatican Printing Press, features the Holy Father’s hand-written message and this painting by Leandro Bassano (1557-1622), entitled: “The Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds”, located in the private apartment of the Apostolic Palace.

Benedict XVI continues the tradition — begun by Paul VI in 1963 — of printing cards for Christmas, Easter and other solemnities, with a hand-written phrase taken from Scripture, the Church Fathers or the lectionary with a depiction of the theme of the liturgical feast.

Unfortunately, OR has failed to share those cards with us, except for one Easter card early in the Pontificate....It's hard to explain why the OR editors would not consider it SOP to share the Pope's greeting cards with the wider public, who will probably never receive a papal greeting card in their lifetime but who would certainly like to see how their Pope greets the more fortunate ones who are on the Vatican's mailing list!

By now, we ought to have seen eight Christmas cards and seven Easter cards for this Pontificate, but we've probably seen four Christmas cards and certainly no more than two Easter cards at most.

Last year, we had to make do with a faultily cropped picture of the 2011 card from the German tabloid BILD, and the year before that, I think, from a Barcelona website, since the illustration chosen by the Pope was the Nativity scene from one of the portals of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Basilica.

Earlier Friday, the Holy Father addressed a delegation from the town in central Italy that contributed this year's Christmas tree for St. Peter's Square, hours before the tree was lit for the first time at sundown...

'Christmas trees shine
God's light on the world',
Pope Benedict says

“Christmas trees are a sign of God's light which continues to shine despite attempts to put it out," said Pope Benedict XVI Friday, receiving a delegation from the Italian Molise Region which donated this year's Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square.

At sundown, in a festive ceremony of Christmas carols and readings from Gospel passages narrating the birth of Christ, to the joy of many young children gathered beneath its bows, the Christmas lights were officially switched on by a small boy named Mario, illuminating the evening sky.

In his address earlier Friday morning, the Pope thanked the delegation for the silver fir, and eight smaller trees destined for the Apostolic Palace and various other locations around the Vatican....

Here is a translation of the Pope's remarks:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to welcome you on the day on which the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square will be presented - a fir that this year comes from Pescopennataro, in the province of Isernia in the Molise region. It seems to me that today the entire town is here!

My cordial greeting to each of you, starting with Mayor Popilio Sciulli, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me in behalf of all who are present. I also greet the other civilian authorities, with a special thought for the President of the Region. And with fraternal affection, I am happy to greet the Bishop of Trivento, Mons. Domenico Scotti, and the parish priest of Pescopennataro.

This evening, after the official rite consigning the tree, the lights adorning it will be lit. The tree will remain next to the creche till the end of the Christmas festivities and will be admired by numerous pilgrims coming from every part of the world.

Thank you for this homage of devotion, as well as for the other smaller trees meant for the Apostolic Palace and the major halls of the Vatican.

This silver fir that you have given me, dear Pescolani and inhabitants of Molise, manifests the faith and religiosity of the Molisans who through the centuries, have safeguarded an important spiritual treasure expressed in culture, art and local traditions.

It is the task of each of you and your fellow residents of Molise to constantly draw from this patrimony and to increase it, in order to face the new social emergencies and today's cultural challenges by staying within your consolidated and fruitful fidelity to Christianity.

With all my heart, I wish that everyone present, your fellow townmates, and all the inhabitants of your region, may experience the Nativity of the Lord with serenity as well as intensity.

According to the famous oracle of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord would "appear like a great light upon those who lived in a land of gloom"
(cfr Is 9,1). God became man and came among us, to dissipate the shadows of error and sin, bringing to mankind his divine light.

This supreme light - of which the Christmas tree is a sign and reminder - not only has failed to lose any of its intensity with the passing of centuries and millennia, but continues to shine upon us and to illuminate every man who comes into the world, especially when we must go through moments of uncertainty and difficulty.

Jesus himself would say about himself: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”
(Jn 8,12).

And in various epochs, attempts to extinguish the light of God in order to light up illusory and deceptive flashes have led to times marked by tragic violences committed on man. This is because whenever it is sought to wipe out the name of God from the pages of history, it results in crooked lines in which even the most beautiful and noble words lose their true meaning.

Let us think of terms like 'freedom', 'the common good', 'justice': Deprived of their rootedness in God and his love - the God who showed his face in Jesus Christ - these realities have often remained at the mercy of human interests, losing their connection to the demands of truth and of civil responsibility.

Dear friends, I thank you once again from the heart for your gesture, for your tree - that of the Year of Faith. May the Lord recompense you for your offering by strengthening your faith and that of your communities. I ask this through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, she who was the first to accept and follow the Word of God made man, even as I bestow the Apostolic Blessing upon all of you and your families.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 3:19 AM]
12/16/2012 3:25 PM
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I inadvertently erased this post some time in the past few hours, and it is particularly important because Fr. Lombardi did react - almost immediately, i.e., the next day - to the downright lies told by some Italian media outlets, including La Repubblica, seeking to extrapolate from the Pope's general statements against same-sex 'marriage' in his 2013 Message for the World Day of Peace, to disseminate the canard that he supports a proposed Uganda law that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality - all because a Ugandan official known to support the proposal was among those who were presented to him in the usual 'baciamano' after the General Audience last Wednesday. [Which simply means one has enough clout somehow to pull the right strings that get you a 'privileged' section ticket at the GA, and is by no means, a sign of papal favor, much less, of endorsement.]

Anyway, the story is so ludicrous prima facie - the Church opposes the death penalty under any circumstance, to begin with - and it was only sheer unadulterated malice on the part of the usual hate-the-Church/crucify-the-Pope rabble in the Italian media that made them peddle the outright lie, if only for a day. Because it is completely unfounded, it had a very short shelf life (so I hope, and so I think, since there have been no new volleys or even repercussions from that extremely long shot).

Fr. Lombardi used his weekly editorial for Vatican Radio as the vehicle for his reply, of which the more important point is how the media tend to miss the main messages in their single-minded obsession to find something 'headline-worthy' (read 'scandalous' and 'controversial') in anything the Pope says or writes:

Benedict XVI's World Peace Day
message deserves to be read
in full and objectively

December 15, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has given us a rich and important document in his Message for the 2013 World Day of Peace – a message that many voices within the Italian media, in particular, have presented in an extremely partial and distorted way.

This has happened because the Pope, in a short passage, returns to the vision of marriage between a man and a woman as profoundly different from radically other forms of union, and states that this difference is recognizable by human reason.

Along with other fundamental principles of a correct view of person and society, primarily the dignity of all human life, we need to defend the institution of marriage if we would build peace on solid foundations and seek the good of human society with foresight.

This is the view that the Church never tires of stressing, at a time when this point is being challenged and even attacked from several quarters in many different countries. This is all well known. It is not in the least surprising.

The reaction is therefore lacking in decent composure and sense of proportion: it consists in shouting [AND LYING SHAMELESSLY!], not in reasoning; it is intended to intimidate those who want to support this view freely in the public arena.

Not only that: such a reaction is meant to obscure many of the aspects of the Papal Message, which are of an extraordinary relevance and strength. These merit careful consideration and rather deserve to have our attention called to them.

In times of rampant unemployment, the clear statement by the Pope of the right to work as essential to the dignity of the human person sounds like a cry of alarm, calling for a much deeper and more serious reflection on the transformation of “models of development” that have brought us to where we are – models from which those principles of fraternity and solidarity, are conspicuous by their absence, along with that spirit of grateful generosity, which alone can ensure that the economic, social and political spheres of life are ordered to the authentic human good.

The Pope also forcefully recalls that the food crisis is far more serious than the financial crisis: hunger continues to spread in the world and we forget too easily. Too many people are dying of hunger.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical letter, Caritas in veritate, and John XXIII’s famous Pacem in terris, which will have its fiftieth anniversary soon, already guided us to engage in these directions.

In essence, the message says something urgent and essential for contemporary humanity, which should not be forgotten just because it also makes a reasonable case against and calls for opposition to “legal equivalence” between marriage – always and of its nature a union of one man and one woman – and “radically different forms of union”.

We invite everyone to read the document in full, and objectively.

IMHO, Fr. Lombardi's response is appropriate and relatively prompt by Vatican standards. He is not polemical and does not lock horns or get into any name-calling of the risible and pathetic but pernicious opposition. He does not threaten the Pope-haters' freedom of expression, only their facts and their motivation.

However, the Vatican should have an effective system in place for responding to the many categories and levels of vicious unfair attacks against the Pope and the Church, and not just depend on ad-hoc reactions like Fr. Lombardi's editorial. The Vatican communications people should define the trigger points for immediate response and how to calibrate such responses, so that we the faithful are not left perplexed and wondering if anyone in the Vatican will speak up for the Pope at all, and worse, why the Pope is left out there in the open with no one even trying to shield him from these periodic and too frequent assaults on his person.

The 12/15/12 issue of L'Osservatore Romano carried this editorial on the Message itself:

The Pope's peace message:
Almost a mini-encyclical

by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from the 12/14/12 issue of

For the breadth of its outlook, one is tempted to call Benedict XVI's Message for the World Day of Peace in 2013 a mini-encyclical.

The background for the text is provided by two events half a century ago: the start of the Second Vatican Council which opened on October 11, 1962, and Pacem in terris from 1963, the last encyclical by John XXIII which defined the four fundamentals for peaceful coexistence - truth, freedom, love and justice.

The global picture today is marked by conflicts and winds of war, caused and reinforced by phenomena that have been denounced countless times, not just by the Holy See, and which are underscored once more in the Message: from unregulated financial capitalism to terrorism, and the forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism that disfigure the true face of religion.

Nonetheless, the Pope underscores yet again, one must not be resigned to the hardships arising from the criteria of power and profit, as he relaunches one of the most effective 'slogans' coined by Paul VI, which makes for a perfect tweet: "Peace is not a dream. It is not utopia. It is possible".

A precondition for peace is an acknowledgment of the natural moral law, undermined by current tendencies that would codify arbitrary novelties such as the claimed 'rights' to abortion and to euthanasia which are clearly threats to the fundamental right to life.

In the same way, the attempts to grant juridical equivalence to forms of union that are not the natural structure of matrimony actually destabilize the institution of marriage and damage its irreplaceable social function. [Not to mention its natural function to bring children to the world!]

Explicitly, the Pope's message says that these principles are not truths of faith nor do they derive from the primordial right to religious freedom, but they are inscribed in human nature, and are recognizable by human reason and common to all mankind.

Thus, the action of the Church in promoting these principles is not 'confessional', but "it is addressed to all persons, regardless of their religious affiliation".

The Pope's emphasis is certainly nothing new, but it is very significant today as an evident confirmation of the line taken by those Catholics in some countries who have been and are capable of encoluraging - in this cultural battle in defense of principles common to all men - the convergence of believers and non-believers with diverse religious or ideological affiliations.

That is happening in France, where orthodox Christians and Protestants, Jews, Muslims and lay intellectuals have rallied to the Catholic Church position against same=sex 'marriage' [which President Hollande's government is determined to push through by next year].

Likewise, constructing peace is also aided by acknowledging the principle of conscientious objection to laws that directly threaten human dignity, like abortion and euthanasia, even as religious freedom - a theme especially dear to our sister Churches in the Orthodox world, as Patriarch Bartholomew underscored during the recent Feast of St. Andrew - must be promoted not just as freedom from constraint of any sort, but from a positive viewpoint, as the freedom to publicly express one's religion.

Alongside biopolitical issues and those that have to do with the inseparable social dimension of faith, Benedict also criticizes radical liberalism and the primacy of technocrats, while defending the right to work.

In the hope that issues like an ethical structure for markets and the global food crisis can be the focus of the international political agenda. And in the belief that the role of the family and of education must remain fundamental for peace, which truly concerns everyone.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 5:15 AM]
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December 16, Third Sunday 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:


Pastoral visit and Mass at the parish of San Patrizio in Colle Fenestino in the eastern sector of Rome.

Sunday Angelus - The Holy Father reflected on the continuing relevance and actuality of John the Baptist's
replies to the people who asked him what they ought to do in preparation for the coming of the Lord.

I failed to post yesterday's Forum almanac (fortunately, there were no events announced for the Holy Father) but here is the note on the saint of the day for December 15:

Saturday, December 15, Second 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.

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The third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, is one of two occasions during the liturgical year when the liturgical color is pink. The other is the fourth Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday. Both 'gaudete' and 'laetare' mean 'rejoice' - which are the first words, respectively, in the Introit for those Sundays - hence, pink for joy. Otherwise, during both Lent and Advent, the liturgical color is violet for penitence, the dominant theme in both seasons.

San Patrizio in Colle Prenestino

December 16, 2012

The Pope used his 'wheels' for the processional from the sacristy up to the church entrance.

Gaudete Mass at Roman parish

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass today at the parish church of San Patrizio in Colle Prenestino, on the eastern outskirts of Rome.

In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the certainty we have in faith that the Lord is present - that regardless of how circumstance might appear to give cause for mistrust, sadness, and even despair. the presence of the Lord is by itself enough to brighten and gladden hearts.

He reminded the faithful that it is Jesus, who brings salvation to humanity, and with it, a new relationship with God that triumphs over evil and death, and therefore, true joy, “for this presence of the Lord who comes to enlighten our path, though this is often overwhelmed at present by the darkness of selfishness.”

The Pope also reminded the gathered parishioners that the Lord always listens to us, even when we turn away from Him through sin - He never rejects our prayers.

“Although He does not always respond as we might want,” said Pope Benedict, “God nevertheless responds.” Pope Benedict spoke of God not as distant, but as Emmanuel - God with us - a God with us in the Holy Eucharist, with us in the living Church. We must be carriers of this presence of God, and we must respond to His gifts with grateful love.

Pope Benedict went on to say that whoever "welcomes the gifts of God in a selfish way, does not find true joy. Rather, it is the one who takes occasion by the gifts received from God to love Him with sincere gratitude and to communicate to others his love, who has a heart full of joy.”

The Pope at San Patrizio
Translated from

At 9 o'clock this morning, the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), the Holy Father left the Vatican to make a pastoral visit to the parish of San Patrizio in Colle Prenestino, in the eastern sector of Rome.

Upon his arrival, the Pope greeted all the parish priests of the Prefecture, their ministrants, as well as the children who were baptized in the past year, with their parents.

At 10:00 a.m., he presided at Holy Mass, which was preceded by a greeting from the parish priest, Don Fabio Fazziani.

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

Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Patrizio:

I am very happy to be among you and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with you and for you. I would like, first of all, to offer you some thoughts in the light of the Word of God that we just heard.

On this third Sunday of Advent called Gaudete Sunday, the liturgy invites us to rejoice. Advent is a time of commitment and conversion to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, but today, the Church gives us a foretaste of the joy of the Nativity which is fast approaching.

Indeed, Advent is also a time of joy, because it awakens in the hearts of believers that expectation of the Savior, and looking forward to the arrival of a much beloved person is always reason for joy.

This aspect of joy is present in the first Biblical reading this Sunday, whereas the Gospel corresponds to the other characteristic dimension of Advent - namely, conversion, in preparation for the manifestation of the Savior as announced by John the Baptist in his time.

The first reading we heard is an insistent invitation to rejoice. The passage begins with the expression, "Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!"
(Zep 3,15-17) which is similar to the annunciation of the angel to Mary: "Rejoice, [you who are] full of grace!" (Lk 1,26) [The NAB translates this famous and familiar greeting incorporated in the 'Hail Mary' as "Hail, favored one!"]

The essential reason why the daughter of Zion could rejoice is expressed in the affirmation that we just heard: "The Lord is with you". Literally, it means "the Lord is in your womb", with a clear reference to God's dwelling in the Ark of the Covenant that has a place of honor among the people of Israel.

But the prophet wanted to tell us that there no longer is any reason for distrust, for discouragement, for sadness, whatever the situation that one must confront, because we are sure of the presence of the Lord, who alone suffices to reassure and bring joy to hearts.

The prophet Sofonias
[referred to in English Bibles as Zephaniah] also makes us understand that this joy is reciprocal: We are invited to rejoice, but even the Lord rejoices because of his relationship with us.

Indeed, the prophet writes: "The LORD, your God,... will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, (and) sing joyfully because of you"
(v 17). The joy promised in this prophetic text finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who is in the womb of Mary - daughter of Zion - and thus sets up his dwelling among us (cfr Jn 1,14).

In fact, by coming to the world, he gives us his joy, as he himself confided to his disciples: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete" (Jn 15,11).

Jesus brings salvation to man, a new relationship with God who conquers evil and death, and brings true joy by his very presence, who has come to illuminate our journey which is often oppressed by shadows and selfishness.

We can reflect on whether we are truly conscious of the fact of the Lord's presence among us, one who is not a distant God, but God with us, God among us, who is with us here in the Holy Eucharist, who is with us in the living Church.

That is why God rejoices for us and why we can be joyful: God exists, he is good and he is near.

In the second reading we heard today, St. Paul calls on the Christians of Philippi to rejoice in the Lord. Why must we rejoice? And why is it necessary to rejoice? St. Paul's answer is: because "The Lord is near"
(Phi 4,5)..

Very shortly, we shall celebrate the Nativity, the feast of the coming of God, who became a baby and our brother to be with us in order to share our human condition. We must rejoice for his nearness, for his presence, and seek to understand even more that he truly is near, and thus, we may be penetrated by the reality of God's goodness, the joy that Christ is with us.

St. Paul says forcefully in another letter that nothing can separate us from the love of God who manifested himself in Christ. Only sin keeps us distant from him, but this is a factor of separation that we ourselves introduce into our relationship with God.

But even when we have drifted away, he does not stop loving us and to continue to be near to us with his mercy, with his readiness to forgive us and to welcome us back into his love.

That is why, St. Paul continues, we must never be anxious, because we can always make known our requests to God, our needs, our concerns, "by prayer and petition"
(v 6). This is a great reason for joy: to know that it is always possible to pray to the Lord, and that the Lord hears us - God is not far and he truly listen -, he knows us, and will never reject our prayers, and even if he does not always respond according to our desire, he answers.

The Apostle adds: "Pray with thanksgiving"
(ibid.). The joy that the Lord communicates to us must find in us an acknowledging love. Indeed, joy is full when we acknowledge God's mercy, when we are attentive to the signs of his goodness, if we truly perceive that this goodness of God is with us, and we thank him for what we receive from him every day.

Whoever accepts the gifts of God selfishly will not find true joy. But he who takes the opportunity of the gifts received from God in order to love him with sincere gratitude and to communicate his love to others, his heart is truly full of joy. Let us remember this.

After the two readings, we come to the Gospel. Today's Gospel tells us that to welcome the Lord who is coming we must prepare ourselves by examining how we live our life. To those who asked him what they ought to do to be ready for the coming of the Messiah
(cfr Lk 3,10.12.14), John the Baptist responds that God does not require anything extraordinary, only that everyone live according to criteria of fraternal sharing and justice - without which one cannot prepare oneself well to meet the Lord.

So let us ask the Lord what he expects of us and what he wants us to do, and we will begin to understand that he demands nothing extraordinary but only that we live our normal life in rectitude and goodness.

Finally, John the Baptist tells us whom we should follow with faithfulness and courage. First of all, he denies that he is the Messiah, and then declares firmly: "I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals"
(v 16).

Here we note the great humility of John in recognizing that his mission was to prepare the way for Jesus. Saying "I baptize you with water", he wanted it understood that his was merely a symbolic action. In fact, he himself could not eliminate and forgive sins. Baptizing with water can only indicate that there is a need to change one's life.

At the same time, John announces the coming of a 'mightier' one who will "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire"
(ibid.). As we heard, this great prophet used strong images to urge conversion, but he does not do so to instill fear, but rather to urge us to accept well the love of God which alone can truly purify our life.

God became man like us to give us hope that is a certainty: if we follow him, if we live our Christian life consistently, He will draw us to himself, he will lead us to communion with him, and there will be true joy and true peace in our hearts, even in difficulties, even in times of weakness.

Dear friends, I am happy to pray with you to the Lord who is present in the Eucharist, that he may always be with us. I greet the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishop of this sector, your parish priest Don Fabio Fasciani, whom I thank for his words explaining the situation of the parish, and the spiritual richness of your parish life, and I greet all the priests who are present.

I greet all those who are active in parish work: catechists, choir members, and those who belong to various parochial work groups, as well as the followers of the Neo-Catechumenal Way who are engaged in mission work here.

With great joy I see the number of children who are following the Word of God at various levels, preparing themselves for Communion, Confirmation and post-Confirmation - preparing themselves for life. Welcome! I am happy to see a living Church here.

I also offer a special thought for the Oblates of Our Lady of the Rosary who are present in the parish, and to all the residents of the district, especially the old, the sick, those who live alone, and those who are in difficulty. For each and everyone, I pray this Holy Mass.

Your parish, which was formed in Colle Prenestino between the end of the 1960s and the mid-1980s, now has, after initial difficulties due to the lack of structures and services, a beautiful new church, inaugurated in 2007 after a long wait.

May this sacred edifice be a privileged space for persons to grow in the knowledge and love of Him whom, in a few days, we shall welcome in the joy of Christmas as the Redeemer of the world and our Savior.

Do not fail to seek him out often, in order to increasingly feel his presence which gives strength. I am happy at the sense of belonging to the parish community that has matured and consolidated through the years.

I encourage you so that pastoral co-responsibility may grow in the spirit of true communion among all the groups present who are called to live complementarily in their diversity.

I especially wish to call your attention to the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in personal and community life. Let the Holy Mass be at the center of your Sunday, which must be rediscovered and lived as a a day of God and of the community, a day on which to praise and celebrate him who died and resurrected for our salvation, and who asks us to live together in the joy of an open community that is ready to welcome every person who is alone or in difficulty. At the same time, I call on you to regularly avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially during this season of Advent.

I am aware how much you are doing to prepare children and young people for the Sacraments of Christian life. The Year of Faith, which we are living, must become an occasion to grow and consolidate the experience of cate3chesis, in a way that will allow everyone in the district to know and deepen their understanding of the Church's Creed and to encounter the Lord as a living Person.

I have a special thought for families, with the wish that they may fully realize their own vocation of love with generosity and perseverance.

The Pope also wishes to address a special word of affection and friendship to you, dearest children and young people, who are listening to me, along with others of your age who live in this parish. You must feel yourselves to be true actors in the new evangelization, placing your fresh energies, your enthusiasm and your abilities in the service of God and others in the community.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we said at the start of this celebration, today's liturgy calls us to joy and to conversion. Let us open up our spirits to this invitation. Let us hasten towards the Lord who is coming, invoking and imitating San Patrizio, a great evangelizer, and the Virgin Mary, who waited and prepared, silent and praying, for the birth of the Redeemer. Amen!

After the Mass, the Pope changed from his liturgical garments to choir dress and mozzetta, to greet old people and ailing ones who were assembled in the church's main chapel. (No photos available) After greeting the crowd assembled outside the Church, he returned to the Vatican to make it in time for the noon Angelus.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 1:39 AM]
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Pope Benedict XVI today reflected on the practical advice given by John the Baptist when his followers asked him what they ought to do to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

It's also 'Bambinelli Sunday' in Italy when families bring the Christ Child figure (the Bambinello, little baby) from the family creche to be blessed by the parish priest, and in Rome, by the Pope.

Particularly well=represented for the blessing of the Bambinelli this year were children from the Centro Oratori Romani, the diocesan center coordinating the various oratories (multi-purpose community centers) found in parishes and schools.

Later, in his English message, the Pope once again expressed his sorrow at the shooting massacre in a Connecticut schoolroom last Friday:

I was deeply saddened by Friday’s senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut. I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain.

During this Advent Season, let us dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and to acts of peace. Upon those affected by this tragedy, and upon each of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

Here is a translation of the Pope's Angelus reflection:

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Gospel for this Sunday of Advent once again presents the figure of John the Baptist, as he speaks to the people who have come to him by the river Jordan to have themselves baptized.

Since John, with forceful words, calls on everyone to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah, some of them asked him: "What must we do?"
(Lk 3,10.12.14). These dialogs are very interesting and prove to be of great actuality.

The first answer is addressed to the crowd in general. The Baptist says: "Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise"
(v 11).

Here we can see a criterion of justice that is inspired by love. Justice demands overcoming the disequilibrium between those who have superfluous things and those who lack necessities. Charity urges us to be attentive to others and to meet his need, instead of finding justifications to defend our own self-interests.

Justice and charity are not contradictory - they are both necessary and complement each other. "Love — caritas — will always prove necessary, even in the most just society... (because) there will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable"
(Enc. Deus caritas est, 28).

Let us look at his second answer which was addressed to some 'publicans', the tax collectors for the Romans. Because of this, they were despised [by their fellow Jews], and also because they often took advantage of their position to rob others. The Baptist does not ask them to find another jog, but only not to demand more than the required amount (cfr v 13).

The prophet, in the name of God, does not ask for exceptional gestures, only for the honest fulfillment of one's duty. The fist step to eternal life is always observance of the commandments - in this case, the seventh, "Thou shall not steal" (cfr Ex 20,15).

The third answer had to do with soldiers, another category endowed with certain powers, and therefore, tempted to abuse them. He tells them: "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages" (v 14).

Even in this case, conversion begins with honesty and respect for others: an indication that is good for everyone, especially for those with greater responsibilities.

Considering these exchanges together, we are struck by the great concreteness of John's words: Since God will judge us according to our actions, it is there in our behavior, that we must show we are following his will.

That is precisely why the Baptist's injunctions are always actual. Even in our very complex world, thins would go so much better if everyone obeyed these rules of conduct.

Let us pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary, so he may help us prepare for Christmas by bearinG good fruits of conversion
(cfr Lk 3,8).

After the prayers, he said:
The European Encounter for Young People organized by the Community of Taize will be held in Rome from December 28 to January 2. I thank the families who, following the Roman tradition of hospitality, have made themselves available to be hosts to this young people.

But because, thank God, the requests for participation have been greater than expected, I renew the appeal, already made in the parishes, so that, in all simplicity, other families may also have this beautiful experience of Christian friendship.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 2:59 AM]
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This week's reflection from my 'adopted' parish priest. I live 40 street blocks away on the West Side of Manhattan from Fr. Rutler's church in the East Side), but I attend his church, which offers the traditional Mass every Sunday at 9 a.m.

Why Gaudete Sunday
Weekly Column by
December 16, 2012

Saint Luke, with his eye for detail, is the patron saint of historians and artists. It is ironic that he was martyred, according to tradition, in Boeotia — a humid and swampy part of Greece whose people were not interested in much of anything beyond their uneventful daily lives.

Homer mocked them, and they became the butt of jokes, especially among the Athenians who disdained their lack of interest in philosophy and the great questions of life, rather like the hapless people today who spend their time “tweeting” and ignoring what is going on around them.

If Luke died in Boeotia, he certainly was not Boeotian in outlook. His vibrant Acts of the Apostles record how some of the people of Thessalonika objected to what Paul and Silas had been preaching: they “have turned the world upside down” by “acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7).

This is exactly what is said in our own culture as Christianity is proscribed as politically incorrect.

In the next chapter, Luke describes Paul on trial before Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeus, proconsul of Achaia. Gallio, representing the best in Roman jurisprudence, threw out the case brought against Paul because it had nothing to do with Roman civil law.

Gallio was the brother of the most revered Stoic philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Like Paul, the two brothers would die under Nero, but in their cases by forced suicide.

Stoicism was a grin-and-bear it philosophy: there is no point in expecting happiness in a future life, and therefore the only satisfaction to be had consists in a stiff-upper-lip attitude to suffering.

Stoics did not perfectly practice what they preached, however, and Seneca himself indulged in a luxurious life. They did pride themselves on inner discipline. Seneca taught that if you fear losing something, you should practice doing without it while you have it.

For instance, if you fear losing comforts, “set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘This is the condition that I feared.’” They called this “the premeditation of evils.”

Some mistakenly have thought that St. Paul exchanged letters with Seneca and was something of a Stoic himself. He does say: “We rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3).

But unlike the Stoics, Paul believed that hardships and spiritual disciplines serve to prepare the soul for the joys of heaven.

So on Gaudete Sunday in penitential Advent, a little unearthly light seeps into earthly darkness, and the Church chants: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 2:37 AM]
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Although any sensible Catholic would and should be outraged at all the lies being told about Benedict XVI and the vituperation that goes with them, I would not call the frequent bouts of anti-Pope and anti-Church propaganda in the media a hate campaign, exactly, only because it is not organized nor general. Not all the MSM are party to it, at least not all the time.

But there is an obvious tacit consensus among seculars and liberals who disagree with Church teaching about their most 'sacrosanct' social causes, to use every opportunity they can to hit back at the Pope, even if they have to make up stories or distort available facts, as they often do, in their opportunistic attacks.

Of course, we feel for Benedict XVI, but he is not naive, and he has experienced this hate-filled bias against his person for many decades. Besides, as the Vicar of Christ, he has spiritual resources to help him bear with human folly and error that we ordinary mortals don't have... Let the Vatican and Catholic media unmask lies promptly - that is the best that can be done, since hatred never responds to reason. For the rest, the Christian way is to pray for the haters and the hate-mongers.

A hate campaign against the Pope
by Ricardo Cascioli
Translated from

December 16, 2012

Recentl we said that in Europe there is a very serious confrontation between some European governments that are rushing to recognize same-sex unions as 'marriage' and the Church, which is defending human dignity and natural law. Events in recent days do not just confirm this but also reveal quite clearly the content of the campaign.

The confused reactions and accusations against the Pope after the publication of his Message for the 2013 World Day for Peace - merely because he reiterated that abortion and euthanasia are the greatest threats to peace and that recognition of same-sex 'marriage' (SSM) would be harmful to justice - show clearly that Benedict XVI has touched raw nerves on some crucial issues.

Moreover, the distance between the Church and the dominant elites could not be wider than in these days. A few hours before the Pope's peace message was released, the European Parliament approved a resolution pro-abortion and pro-SSM introduced by a socialist member, Monika Benova.

This resolution expresses "concern for recent restrictions of access to sexual and reproductive health services in some member states, with special reference to legalized abortion and sexual education, and for financial cuts in (programs involving) family policy".

On the other hand, it expresses satisfaction for "the fact that more and more member states have introduced and/or updated their laws on cohabitation, civil unions and matrimony in order to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation in same-sex couples and their children [not their natural children, obviously, except for lesbian women who choose to conceive using some sperm in order to have a child that is at least biologically half theirs], and calls on other states to introduce similar laws".

This is Europe today, and ironically, this week the European Union was given the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize - singularly remarkable since the EU, along with the Obama administration in the USA, have been the strongest supporters of abortion on demand anywhere in the world.

It is a Europe that, in having transformed individual desires into 'rights', has become ever more intolerant, especially against Catholics.

The enemies of the Church gladly use lies as a weapon, as in the episode in which the Pope was accused of having given his blessing to a proposed Ugandan law that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals.

What happened was that Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, was part of an Ugandan delegation who came to Rome for the 7th Assembly of Parliamentarians on the International Criminal Court. The delegation attended the Pope's General Audience last Wednesday, and was presented briefly to the Pope after the audience. Which meant, as is traditional in this 'baciamano' ritual, a brief greeting, a handshake, and certainly, no blessing.

But the masters of falsehood then turned on a torrent of insults against the Pope with the worst accusation one can make in Europe these days - instigating 'homophobia'.

On the contrary. In Uganda, the Church had immediately expressed itself forcefully against the proposed law [not to mention that the Church has long campaigned for aboliton of the death penalty for any reason whatsoever], and as for the Peace Day Message, there was obviously no intention to discriminate, since the issue is that marriage has nothing to do with human rights which are already safeguarded by national Constitutions.

And yet, all the hatred that is being turned against Benedict XVI must make all Catholics understand what is at stake here - including Catholic politicians, since the Pope's Peace message is a strong declaration in favor of non-negotiable principles as a precondition to every authentic effort for the common good.

But instead, there was absolute silence from politicians, along with rather embarassed reporting by Catholic media which sought to underscore instead that the Pope's Message did speak much more about the ethics of the economy and the human demand for employment. Not a good sign at all.

P.S. In view of the hundreds of insults sent directly to the Pope on Twitter, was it really a good idea to keep abreast of modern technology and expose the Pope to this kind of communications?

The answer was given earlier by the man in charge of the Twitter initiative at the Vatican, in the CNS article below. Cascioli seems to think that the Pope himself would be reading any of the garbage that comes in. He will only get to read whatever questions will be forwarded to him to answer. And it's not as if going on Twitter had triggered the phenomenon - anti-Benedict hate messages have been around on the Internet all along. The haters have just found a new dump for their odium.

The point is, why should we bother reading what they have to say? I don't know of anyone who would trawl the Web simply to look for hate messages against the Pope (or anyone else, for that matter) - what a stupid waste of time. There's little enough time to look up positive things.

The good, the bad, and the ugly:
The Church cannot shy away
from Twitterworld's Wild West

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 13 (CNS) -- With Pope Benedict XVI's new presence on Twitter, people from all over the world can now post papal messages with just the push of an on-screen button.

While many have welcomed the Pope's foray into the virtual world, his @Pontifex handles and "reply-able" posts have also meant that rude and crude comments have come with the mix.

Twitter is "an open communications platform," and the Vatican has readily embraced what the full-fledged exercise of freedom of speech entails, said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which organized and runs the Pope's eight language-based Twitter accounts.

"We knew there would be negative stuff," he told Catholic News Service Dec. 13, the day after the Pope first tweeted more than 1 million "followers." The number of followers of the pope's multi-language accounts nearly doubled to more than 1.7 million just 24 hours later.

The Irish-born Msgr. Tighe said that in sifting through the feedback, "what stuck with me most was all the lovely stuff," the positive and genuine comments and queries in the midst of the ugly.

Just because there is a negative side to new media doesn't mean the Church should shy away, he said.

Social media has allowed people to be "very honest and even more than honest at times" in a very public way, he said. "But you can't abandon it and leave it at that. We have to see its potential to do good" as a tool for evangelization and as a global forum for respectful dialogue and debate.

The wrong approach would be to "chase after all the negative, and then let it define who you are," he said. [As I am an alien to Twitterworld, I have no idea what can be done = or what is to be done - with the bad stuff, nor whether it actually comes into the Pope's Twitter accounts or remains elsewhere. If they do get into the Pope's accounts, can they be censored out as in blogs - in which you acknowledge the message was sent and by whom, but you can delete the offensive message and say so.]

Pope Benedict, instead, has called on Catholics to engage online with respect and with a genuine and earnest spirit, the monsignor said.

He said the Pope has even called on priests to do the digital dive, saying, "Let's give a soul to the Internet, not just content."

Msgr. Tighe suggested priests, religious and other Catholics "jump right in and answer people's questions" that have been submitted using the @Pontifex and #Pontifex tags. Sometimes, veiled under the sarcasm or criticism, there are signs of "a genuine searching," he said.

"Just seeing what's being said can help you think through how to engage with people more positively," and it can offer insight into what prejudices or misunderstandings need addressing, he said.

"The Church is more than Rome and the Pope," he said, so people should feel free to pitch in, lend a hand with the outreach and help "raise the level of discussion."

The Pope's new Twitter accounts also are the Pope's way of encouraging people to engage, he said, and take part in the new evangelization in new ways.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 9:12 PM]
12/17/2012 1:51 PM
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The 'right' to happiness:
An entitlement society promotes this fallacy

by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.

December 16, 2012

An amusing citation from Margaret Thatcher reads: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” The socialists, however, were not the only ones who would run out of other people’s money. Democracies are quite capable of duplicating this feat.

The question is this: What entitles us to acquire other people’s money in the first place? Do other people have any money that is not ours if we “need” it? Taxation, with or without representation, is about this issue. Who decides what we need? Who gets what is taken from us? On what grounds do they deserve it?

C. S. Lewis said that no one has a right to happiness. Our Declaration only says that we have a right to pursue it. Whether we attain it is not something that falls under the perplexing language of “rights.” If someone else guarantees my right to be happy, what am I? Surely not a human being, whose happiness, as Aristotle said, includes his own activity, not someone else’s.

In a world of rights, everything is owed to me if I do not already have it. If I am not happy, I am a victim of someone else’s negligence. A “rights society” is litigious. If I am unhappy, it has nothing to do with me; my unhappiness is caused by someone else who has violated my rights.

Unhappy people witness the violation of their rights by someone else; their unhappiness does not involve them. Their mode is not, “What can I do for others?” but, “What must they do for me to make me happy?”

In his Ethics, Aristotle remarked that, if happiness were a gift of the gods, surely they would give it to us. No Christian can read such a line without pause. Is not the whole essence of our faith that we have no “right” either to existence itself or to a happy existence? Some things must first be given to us, no doubt — including our very selves, which we do not cause.

Indeed, the whole essence of revelation is that we do not have a right to the eternal life that God has promised to us. We cannot achieve it by ourselves, because it is not a product of our own making or thinking. God does not violate our “rights” by not giving us either existence or happiness; creation is not an act of justice.

The doctrine of grace opposes the notion that we have a right to happiness. It is not even something that we deserve or can work for. At first sight, this primacy of gift and grace seems to lessen our dignity, which surely ought to include some input on our part.

Christianity says that indeed this “givenness” is the case. We are given what we have no right to receive. This givenness should make us like the Giver, should incite us to something more than our own “rights.” Happiness evidently lies beyond rights. We can only speak of a “right” to happiness with many distinctions.

What was the point of Margaret Thatcher’s quip about running out of someone else’s money? Some do demand someone else’s money. From whence does this demand arise? From those who claim that they have a right to happiness. If they do not have what others have, it is a sign, not of one’s own failure to embrace the habits and ways to produce what is needed, but of someone unjustly having what I think I need. Thus, I do not have to earn what I need.

The mere fact that I do not have it is enough to suggest that someone else is preventing me from enjoying my “right” to be happy.

Much of the world is filled with what I call “gap-ism.” The so-called gap between the rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots, is a sign, not of the natural order in which some know more and work more, but of a dire conspiracy to deprive me of what is my right. So the purpose of “rights” is to correct the world’s “wrongs.”

A divine mission flashes in the eyes of those who would presume to make us happy by giving us our “rights.” People lacking the “right” justify the takers.

So we do not have a right to be happy. The assumption that we do lies behind the utopian turmoil of our times. The attempt to guarantee our right to be happy invariably leads to economic bankruptcy and societal coercion.

By misunderstanding happiness and its gift-response condition, we impose on the political order a mission it cannot fulfill. We undermine that limited temporal happiness we might achieve if we are virtuous, prudent, and sensible in this finite world.

Unfortunately, one cannot use rational arguments against democratic governments and officials who dole out entitlements freely and promote false 'rights' - all in the name of do-goodism = as a means of acquiring and retaining power by ensuring an increasingly wider political base composed of their 'entitled' beneficiaries.

12/17/2012 2:10 PM
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Monday, 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

- H.E. Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen", President of the Palestinian Authority, with his delegation.

- Cardinals Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi (three-man commission that conducted
an administrative investigation of Vatileaks for the Pope)

- Delegation of athletes and officials from the Italian national Olympic committee.

- In Vatican Insider, Andrea Tornielli follows up with his recent report on the status of Paul Vi's cause for beatification to say that on December 10, the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood unanimously approved the late Pope's 'heroic virtues' based on the positio presented by his postulator, and that Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make this formal on December 20, when he approves the list of candidates for sainthood whose respective causes have advanced. Paul VI's postulators already have a 'beatification miracle' to present which, if certified by the medical and theological experts of the Congregation, would lead to his beatification perhaps as early as next year. [My hope is that something similar will soon happen for John Paul I, whose 'heroic virtues' have yet to be voted on, and for Pius XII, whose 'heroic virtues' have been formally proclaimed but awaits certification of a 'beatification miracle'.]
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 2:36 PM]
12/17/2012 10:40 PM
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Here is a helpful and relatively rare reflection on the Holy Family of Nazareth that provides a relevant sidebar to the Holy Father's book on the infancy of Jesus...

The eternal presence of the House of Nazareth
The family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth
is an ever-present revelation of God’s purposes and work in the world,
inviting families of the 21st century to holiness

By Kathleen Curran Sweeney

December 2012

Does the household of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the small village of Nazareth, whose historical existence was two millennia ago, bear any relevance to a modern urban family of the third millennium?

Considering all the pressures that families are under these days, how can they possibly relate to the quiet and hidden life of the Holy Family?

To claim the continued relevance of the Holy Family for families today can mean more than proposing the Holy Family as a model for families to imitate, although it can be that as well.

More profoundly, we can recognize that every moment of Christ’s life —from his conception, to his ascension, and reign at the right hand of the Father - partakes in the divine infinity of the Second Person of the Trinity.

Therefore, the efficacy of the particulars of Christ’s life are not limited by either place nor time. They are eternally present to us, inviting us to live his life in our own time and place. Whatever the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we can bring these circumstances into the grace and presence of Christ’s infinite divine life incarnated both historically and in an eternal reality available for us today.

The family life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, we can say then, is an ever-present revelation of God’s purposes and work in the world, inviting to holiness families of the 21st century.

The witness of holy Christian families made possible by this infinite fount of grace is especially critical to the evangelization of contemporary culture which is anti-family in so many ways. The particular mission of the Holy Family to guard and nurture the Christ Child as the One who would save his people is also a mission for all families who are called through baptism to spiritually support Christ’s mission in the world.

To open up this reality, we can explore several particular aspects of the Holy Family’s life, and its relevance to this deeper Christian vocation for modern families. A few of these are as follows: the centrality of Christ; contemplation and silence; Joseph as “just man” and father; the dignity of work and ordinary life; personal presence among family members; the family as a domestic church. [1]

The first obvious aspect of the Holy Family is that the Christ Child is the central focus of this family. At the Annunciation, when she accepts her calling to be the mother of God’s Son, Mary gives her whole being over to his life with both its joys and sorrows. Joseph accepts his vocation from the angel to be the guardian of Jesus and his mother.

We often consider the vocations of Mary and Joseph as exceptional, rather than as God’s revelation to us of the universal human vocation to holiness made possible by the divine presence of Christ in every age. Like Mary and Joseph, each and every family is called to make Christ the center of their life together, so that the personal life of each member can be an incarnation of Jesuss’ life through grace.

Since “only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light,” (Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes, § 22), and since a person’s development begins in the family, the nurturing of each member of the family needs the presence of Christ, and his daily grace, so that each can be directed toward the true destiny of human life. This implies that the first responsibility of a family is to pray, worship and study the Scriptures together, reflecting on the significance of Christ’s mission for their family’s life together, and for each person’s development.

However, there is another important lesson to be learned from the Holy Family in Nazareth. Childhood is given a distinct value by the amount of time Christ spent in the simplicity, humility and dependence of his childhood years. When he later told his disciples: “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God,” he had already lived the model of what he asks of us.

What is it about the state of childhood that is so important for Christian disciples? The child is open, receptive, full of love to give to those who care for him, easily delighted in the littlest bits of the world presented to him, content to while away his time in play by which he contemplates the reality of things, trusting in the persons in his life, vulnerable in his dependence upon them. A child lives in the present, as God does.

This state of childhood is given its greatest depth when we recall that Christ exists eternally as a child of the Father. The whole of the Son’s life is one of docile obedience and trusting love in relationship to the Father. “The Son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” (Jn 5:19)

When we live in Christ, therefore, we are living as a child before the Father, called to the same trust and obedience, the responsive love of a son in the Son, the contemplative receptivity to what is given, a life in the presence of God. Parents who are given the gift of a child have a precious time set before them to contemplate this state of childhood in the life of their own child, and within themselves, before the Father.

Contemplation and silence
A pastor once began his homily by reversing a common saying: “Don’t do something, just stand there.” He then spoke of Mary who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) as her response to the revelations about her child, Jesus.

Silence and contemplation are an appropriate response to the awesome realities of the Incarnate Word made flesh. Pope Paul VI spoke beautifully of this, saying:

The school of the Holy Family…teaches us silence. Oh! That there would be reborn in us the esteem for silence, that wonderful and indispensable atmosphere of the spirit: while we are deafened by so many noises, sounds, and clamorous voices in the frantic and tumultuous times of modern life. Oh! Silence of Nazareth, teach us to be resolute in good thoughts, intent upon the interior life, ready to listen well to the secret inspirations of God, and the exhortations of the true masters. (Address at Nazareth, 1/5/64)

Mary is our model in this. From the moment of the Annunciation, during the months of her pregnancy, and on the day of Christ’s birth, she knew the presence of the Son, and contemplated this astounding reality with her mind and heart.

In the home at Nazareth, she lived, gazing at the Christ, and pondering his words. Her entire life was, and is, a contemplation of the mystery of the incarnation, and redemption through her Son. She gives us the supreme example of interiority and prayer, proceeding from the fullness of the Holy Spirit given her.

St. Joseph’s silence in the Gospel reveals a priority of faithful obedience to God’s direction, without drawing attention to himself. He lives humbly in the presence of the divine, simply carrying out the challenging vocation given him.

The virginity of both Mary and Joseph provides a freedom for spiritually-grounded love that bears fruit in contemplative growth. Living in the presence of the Second Person of the Trinity, we can only imagine how enraptured they could be with the Child Jesus, as in the holy joy Simeon expressed when holding the infant Jesus in the temple.

Infused with the sanctity of the Holy Spirit, and submitted to the Father, the Holy Family opens into the image of the Trinity. Here again, we should not consider this an anthropological exception, but rather the supreme model for all families. Man is made in the image of God, the Trinity, so all are called to follow the example of the Holy Family in contemplating Christ, pondering his words, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, and carrying on the Father’s work in the world. Moreover, the human family, in which the love of two bears fruit in a third person, is in itself an image of the Trinity, even though an imperfect one.

The example of the virginity of Mary and Joseph in no way subtracts from the goodness of the bodily conjugal act that is the vocation of the married couple, but points to the spiritual aspect of marital love, reminding us that the spirit in man is meant to direct the physical, and raise it to the human dignity God has meant it to have.

The grace of the Holy Spirit gives the strength to resist sin that can disturb this right order. The virginity of Mary and Joseph elevates marital love to a sacred level, pointing to the eschatological perspective that the human body’s ultimate destiny is resurrected life.

The example of their marriage highlights the deep spiritual potential of marital love, and the possibility of personal affectionate devotion that is pure, without self-centered indulgence. The marriage of Mary and Joseph was a true marriage, even without conjugal relations since, as St. Augustine pointed out, it had the three requisites of marriage: offspring, fidelity, and sacrament (indissolubility).

This marriage, which receives at its beginning the saving grace of Christ’s presence, is the first sacramental marriage of the New Covenant, renewing what the first couple, Adam and Eve, had tainted with original sin, and restoring the centrality of pure love.

The “just man” Joseph
The scriptural description of Joseph as a “just man” means more than acting justly. It is the highest compliment that can be given: that a man is righteous before God in all his being.

St. Joseph is considered by the Church to have the greatest dignity after Mary. God entrusted him with the most crucial task any man has been given, that of ensuring that the Savior of the world would be safe from harm, and nurtured within the fullness of the teaching and practice of Israel, God’s people, to whom the promise of the Messiah is given.

His prompt and obedient response to this call reveals a life that had been lived in consistent faithfulness to all God required of him. He becomes then the second person of faith who “has believed that what the Lord has promised will be accomplished,” the principal cooperator with Mary in the mystery of salvation.

St. Joseph is of central importance as witness to the divinity of Christ. In service to the mystery of the Incarnation, he makes the gift of his own virginity in support of Mary’s sacred motherhood and immaculate virginity as handmaid of the Father, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. The truth of his marriage to Mary gave Joseph the legal, earthly fatherhood of Jesus. He is told to name the child, an important duty of a father in Israel, and being of the house of David, Joseph bequeaths to Jesus his ancestry.

His fatherhood is a model for all fathers. His role in dedication to the Redeemer, to God’s plan of salvation, to the traditions of God’s chosen people in prayer, celebration and fidelity to God’s commandments, is a calling for all fathers.

St. Joseph’s example as a man of prayer is revealed to us in his actions, which demonstrate a consciousness of the purpose given his life as revealed to him by the angel, the fruit of an interior readiness to hear the word of God and to obey it in concrete situations. His active response of energetic implementation required courage, faith, self-denial, and zeal for God’s work.

Work and ordinary life dignified
Jesus spent 30 years, out of his life of 33 years, in the quiet village of Nazareth, learning to work beside Joseph and Mary, carrying on this work as a young adult from the age of 18 to 30 years, with no public notice that here was the Son of God, the Messiah.

Why? Does this seem to us to be a waste of divine energy? All that God does, however, has infinite meaning. The Son of God comes humbly to share our ordinary human life in all its mundane detail. At 12 years of age, Luke’s gospel tells us, Jesus spoke with wisdom and insight to the elders of Israel, and clearly knew who his Father was. Could he not have been tempted to stay in his Father’s house, the Temple, to be “about his Father’s work?”

Yet, he returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph, living in obedience to his legal Jewish father, and in loving consideration for his mother. These 30 years of Jesus’s family life can remind us that the greatest part of evangelization in the good news of the gospel happens through sanctifying the ordinary life of families.

Christ’s divine dedication to life in a family, supported by the work of both father and mother, reveals the dignity and significance he attributes to our simple family-centered labors.

Modern society tells us we are only important if we achieve something of note in the public world, and tends to ignore what is accomplished in a family home dedicated to nurturing growing persons in the true depth of a full humanity, with its spiritual, as well as physical, development.

Mothering and fathering is often not considered “work” with value because a dollar sign cannot be attached to it. Yet, it requires a great deal of time and energy, investment of money, dedication and reflection.

Moreover, the work of the child in learning how to be in the world, under the guidance of parents, is crucial to society as well as to the child. It must not be shortened by pushing the child out into the wider world too soon in the haste to produce independent little adults.

Sometimes, work by hand, manual labor, and domestic chores are demeaned. It must have been a very deliberate choice for the “Son of Man” to work as a carpenter, respecting the qualities of wood, the purposefulness of tools, dedication to excellence in what is produced, the service to community needs.

Jesus learns the particulars of all of this from Joseph, who is the model of a father’s vocation to teach his child the specific knowledge needed to live productively in the world. One can imagine him learning from Joseph how to be a good tradesman, developing positive relationships in his community, visiting nearby towns, developing insight into ordinary people’s lives.

In the meantime, Mary is quietly working in the background to provide well-prepared food, clean clothes, a peaceful, beautiful, and holy environment in which work can proceed in an orderly manner, the fruit of a contemplative attitude.

Young women of today, sadly, are too often taught to disdain the work of wife and mother in the home, and exchange this important work in order to be the paid employee in an environment which may be sterile of spiritual and deeply human qualities.

The lofty goal of imitating Mary, the Mother of God, is not held up because it requires too much selfless humility. Yet, our society desperately needs precisely this selfless dedication to home and family in order to bring order, beauty, health, and secure love into human relationships.

Those who are selflessly following this vocation need to be supported with our esteem, recognized for their critical contribution to the human and spiritual development of persons who contribute to society, and to the growth of God’s kingdom in the world.

At the same time, the men and women who are working at jobs outside the home, can also draw on the values modeled by the Holy Family in order to contribute to a truly human and spiritually-grounded work environment, knowing that the life of the Holy Family is made eternally present to them in Christ.

Personal presence
Blessed John Paul II said, “Families, become what you are” (Familiaris Consortio, §17),. W must not lose the particular gift of family life which is the personal, bodily presence of family members to each other.

Families have a particular calling to live the incarnate life of Christ, giving flesh to love in a direct bodily response to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of spouses and children. Intentional love expressed externally to the other affirms a healthy integration of body and soul.

Psychologists have testified to the importance of touch for a person’s emotional and social development. This is particularly crucial for infants and toddlers, but for all ages the warmth and compassion of an affection hug or touch brings peace, relaxation, and love that strengthens relationships, emotional security, and sexual development.

There is power in bodily presence at the physical, psychic and spiritual levels. The personal communion thus established between parents and children helps develop the full possession of self that is needed to lead an integrated human life. Mothers, who breastfeed their child, provide the comfort of human touch, as well as face to face contemplation that is an irreplaceable gift of emotional-spiritual health, as well as physical nourishment, benefiting the mother as well.

Images of Mary breast-feeding Jesus were common in Christian art until the time when nannies replaced the mother in upper-class families. In these paintings, one can contemplate Jesus gazing upon Mary’s face turned to him in adoration. Here, there is silent bodily communication of giving and receiving in the presence of the Word of God.

The particular charism of Mary and Joseph, living in the presence of Christ in their house in Nazareth, is available to the Christian family through the graces of baptism and matrimony. Each member of the family can bring the presence of Christ to the other in receiving the other’s presence with openness and love.

The reduction of bodily presence, brought about by industrialization and technology, poses a challenge for modern families. There is nothing that can replace direct face-to-face communication in the physical presence of a beloved family member.

Throughout the Scriptures, man expresses longing to see the face of the Father. “Your face do I seek;” “Make your face smile upon me.” Such a longing is implicit in family life, and is a call to family members to image the smile of God to each other.

If the life of the Holy Family appears to us to be too far removed from reality, there is probably something amiss in our life, not in the family of Nazareth. This will take reflection to perceive the underlying values and qualities of the Holy Family.

Our families, struggling to overcome sin, will not be any perfect mirror of the Holy Family, but nevertheless they can deepen and enrich their family life with this reflection.

As members of Christ’s mystical body, each one is present to the Lord reigning at the right hand of the Father, and can, therefore, live in his light, and relive his life at all moments. This radical presence of Christ with us is the strength needed for us to be more present to each other. Awareness of this will develop a sense of reverence for each other, for a spouse, child, or parent, as known by God.

The domestic church
These reflections can lead us to realize that the family is a sanctuary of God’s life and, therefore, the church at its most basic level. The family as domestic church is at the heart of the mission of the Church, and its task of evangelization.

It has its first roots in the covenant God made with the people of Israel, whose mission of faithfulness was passed from family to family in descent from Abraham to the Son of David, Jesus Christ.

A remote preparation for the family as domestic church can be found in Jewish traditional, religious practice lived primarily within the family. The family was considered a blessing from God, the carrier of the covenant. The holiness code of Jewish life purifies the family to be capable of worship, to set it apart from surrounding pagan cultures, to distinguish between life and death, to give thanks for creation, and the covenant God made with his people. Time is made holy through a rhythm of life marked by the Sabbath, the purification rituals, and the festivals.

Husband and wife honor the sacredness of sexuality by remaining apart for 12 days during, and following, the menstrual period, after which the wife enters the mikvah bath, to purify her body in holiness for the marital act. This raises their one-flesh unity to a spiritual level, requiring self-control, and reverence for each other.

Space is made holy with practices such as the mark of blood on the doorpost, the building of the mikvah bath, the blessings of food and household. The father of the family is responsible to lead the family in prayer, to educate them in the Scriptures, to ensure the appropriate rituals are followed.

One of the first rituals is the redemption of the first-born, based on the Exodus. At the birth of the first child, who opens the womb, the father must offer the child to God, after which he is asked: “Do you redeem him?” The father’s acceptance of the child through redemption by an offering (such as a dove for poor families) has a psychological/spiritual effect, drawing the father into acting on behalf of God, teaching the Torah, and the responsibilities of the covenant.

All sons are circumcised, which connects them to the saving event of the Passover. The feast of the Passover is carried out in a family household, sometimes with a group of small families. The father leads his family spiritually out of slavery into the freedom and protection of being God’s people. The people of God is constituted through families.

Mary and Joseph, a faithful God-fearing Jewish couple, lived this life, giving it the fullness of their dedication to the Father, their union with the Holy Spirit, and their love for the Son. Luke’s gospel tells us that they went to the Temple for the presentation of Jesus to Yahweh at the time of the purification of Mary.

They could have questioned the necessity of these practices since they knew Jesus was directly from God, and Mary was full of the Holy Spirit, a virgin and sinless. Yet, they did all that was required in honor of the holiness of their people. They went up to Jerusalem for the Passover every year, even though this was only required for those who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem, and only for the men of the family. Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth regularly “as his custom was on the sabbath day” (Luke 4:16).

The Holy Family of Nazareth is a source of holiness for all families. The presence of Christ, and the proleptic application of his redemptive grace, means that the Holy Family is already the domestic church in its reality as the first basic cell of the Church.

Mary, mother of the Church, is already mediating Christ to the world. Joseph, patron of the Church, protects Christ’s life in faithfulness to the Father, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are intimately present in the domestic church of the Holy Family, the first realization on earth of perfect communion.

Salvation passes through the Holy Family to us, revealing what God intended “in the beginning.” The Holy Family is, therefore, not an exception, but is a revelation and renewal of God’s original plan for all.

However, the fullness is yet to come. There is birth of a new family at the Cross, when Jesus gives John to Mary as a new son. She gives her son, Jesus, back to the Father, and is now recognized as Mother of the Church, the new people of God.

After Christ sends the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Pentecost, and 3,000 are baptized, this inaugurates the visible Church, the new Christians. They were primarily Jewish, and would likely have continued their traditional family life in its sacred practices, now deepened in light of the Resurrection.

They were now a new creation through baptism and the Eucharist, living in the new covenant established by Christ. The Christian families of the early Church would have found it natural to live family holiness as the domestic church.

According to the theological reflection of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the ecclesial dimension of the Christian family is founded upon its existence as the created image of the Trinity, and its calling to be an extension of the mission of the Trinity, to the world.

The Christian family exists, in fact, as a sacrament of the Trinity. It makes present the communion, distinction of persons, and unity that exists in the Trinity in the created world. .The Holy Spirit, as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, is also the bond of indissoluble fidelity of Christian sacramental marriage. He is the Third Person of the fruitfulness of the Father and Son’s love that gives life.

The sacramental character of the Christian family proceeds from the inmost being of the couple, not as something imposed externally. As baptized persons, the spouses are the object of Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, and in their sacramental marriage they image this faithful love of Christ for the Church.

But more than an image, marriage is the living reality and visible sign of God’s love operating in the world, and a sanctuary of life given by God. The couple’s openness to life is not only in bodily fecundity, but also in spiritual fecundity, through the gift of the divine Third Person.

The personhood of each is grounded in Christ’s union of his divine Person with his humanity, and, therefore, includes the mission which is an intrinsic part of personhood, predestined to Christ, through his grace.

The family, therefore, is at the heart of the mission of the Trinity in the world, and of the Church, which exists as a sacramental sign of Christ’s presence in the world. The family participates in the Trinity’s continuous exchange of communion in self-gift to the other, which brings forth life in new sons and daughters of God. This is the fulfillment of persons in the truth of love, and the delight of self-gift to the other.

The deepest desires of man meet and cooperate with the desire of his Creator. The reality of sin with which the family struggles, finds its response in Christ’s grace made available to them by the Church, most particularly in the Eucharist, which is essential to this life.

The Holy Family, as the first domestic church, with its concrete actualization of the life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is for the Christian family, the model and source of grace for their own cooperation in Christ’s mission.

These are some basic insights into the importance of the Holy Family for the life of today’s Christian families. Specific religious practices in the home will be deepened by meditating on the Holy Family, and the contemplative richness of the home in Nazareth, as ordinary, sacred, and eternally present to us.

Stratford Caldecott, “The Family at the heart of a Culture of Life,” Communio 23, Spring 1996.

Joseph F. Chorpenning, “John Paul II”s Theology of the Mystery of the Holy Family,” Communio 28, Spring 2000, 140-166.

John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos (1989); Familiaris Consortio (1981); Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), Letter to Families (1994).

Pope Leo XIII, Quamquam Pluries, Encyclical On Devotion to St. Joseph (1889).

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Divine Likeness: Toward a Trinitarian Anthropology of the Family, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006).

John Saward, Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993); Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002).

Cardinal Angelo Scola, The Nuptial Mystery, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2005).

Hans urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1991).

Dr. Mary Shivanandan addressed these topics in a course, The Holy Family: New Perspectives for Theology, at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family, Washington, D.C. ↩
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/17/2012 10:42 PM]
12/18/2012 12:00 PM
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Pope welcomes new Palestinian status
as an observer state at the UN
and hopes for Mideast solution

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 17 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday the Vatican hoped the recent de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations would spur the international community to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Abbas, who is on a tour of Europe to thank countries that supported the November 29 resolution by the U.N. General Assembly recognising Palestine, held private talks with the pope for about 25 minutes in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

"It is hoped that (the resolution) will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both," a Vatican statement said.

The 193-nation General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member state," the same status as the Vatican.

The Vatican welcomed the resolution, which amounted to an implicit recognition of a Palestinian state.

But at the time the Holy See also renewed its call for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something which Israel rejects.

Israel captured East Jerusalem - along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip - in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it in a move not recognised internationally. The Jewish state now regards Jerusalem as its "united and eternal" capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza and agree with the Vatican that the city needs international guarantees.

Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees Jerusalem's special nature as sacred to the three great monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but is steadily expanding settlement in the larger West Bank.

The Vatican said the Pope and Abbas also discussed the "situation in the region, troubled by numerous conflicts," which was seen as a clear reference to the civil war in Syria.

Abbas later met Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who expressed the Italian government's support for the construction of a Palestinian state, his office said in a statement.

Abbas was also due to meet Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of the Democratic Party, which is widely expected to win national elections early next year.

Italy's centre-left has traditionally supported Palestinians while the centre-right has been closer to Israel.
12/18/2012 1:11 PM
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'This language is too harsh':
When the Pope speaks Christian truth

Translated from

December 18, 2012

AS if it were a law inscribed in nature, the moments of recognition and success (by human measure) achieved by the Successor of Peter are soon followed by some brutal attacks by the powers of the world [i.e., the media].

This has happened hundreds of times, and once again last week because of a few sentences in his Message for the 2013 World Day of Peace. Of course, many factors contribnuted: the presence of themes that are taboo for the dominant culture; the anti=Catholic virus which writer Peter Viereck has called 'the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals'; and, why not say it?, the lack of an adequate and foresighted presentation of the Holy Father's texts which would present, at least to some degree, the malevolent manipulations to which they become subjected in the media.

[There was the usual Vatican news conference to 'present' the Pope's text, but the presentors always come in with set pieces to deliver which simpoly assume that whatever text they present will not provide any occasion for equivcation. In this case, however, only the deliberately malicious could have manipulated the Pope's general re-statement of age-old Catholic teaching into the perversion that he supports the death penalty for homosexuals!]

What's certain is that following the success of the Twitter initiative (followers have now exceeded the two-million mark), which has so annoyed the fastidious on both left and right, there came the new hammerblows from media.

The grotesque tends towards the infinite when it comes to attacking the Pope, who has been presented as a warrior on a crusade against homosexuals. At least, a media outlet that can hardly be called pro-Church as the British Guardian has noted that the Pope remains Catholic - i.e., he continues to urge the teachings of the Church - but that in no case has he ever said that homosexuals are a threat to humanity. [Restan appears to have taken the cue from the recent reproduction on Lella's blog of an applicable January 2012 blogpost by the Guardian's Andrew Brown - no defender of the Church by any means - who had made the argument in reference to the Pope's statements to the Vatican diplomatic corps in what amounts to his yearly state-of-the-world address. Andrew Brown's opinion, however, remains his personal opinion and is not necessarily the editorial position of the Guardian - though would it were so in this case!.]

The paragraph of discord from the World Peace Day message says: "There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society".

It goes on to say that the Church does not promote this and other principles as truths of the faith, but that these are inscribed in human nature and are accessible to reason. It explains the action of the Church (as much enforced as it is badly receoved) from the perspective that when such principles are denied or misunderstood, grave danger is inflicted on justice, which along with truth and freedom, is the foundation of true peace.

In fact, it seems to me that the nucleus of the Message is in its affirmation that "The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God".

And one seems to hear from the editorial rooms of the global village that same grumbling that Jesus heard more than once said about him: "This language is too harsh".

Benedict XVI says that equiparating marriage to other types of human union does harm to justice, but in no case that he judge the conscience or the heart of anyone, least of all, of homosexuals who are not even mentioned in the message.

What the Pope said is exactly what the Spanish bishops have been saying [about the secular assault on teaditional marriage], as have the French opponents to President Hollande's proposed same-sex 'marriage' law and the North Americans against Obama's latest moves.

It is the Church's secular doctrine expressed in the context in which many Western nations are rushing suicidally to dissolve the very substance of matrimony.

One can debate the Church's increasingly lonely position, it can be criticized (with some reason, one must beg), and it is understandable that it could hurt liberal sensibilities.

But the media cannot lie about what the Pope has said [or in this case, make up a story that he supports something odious to any reasonable person, let alone to a Christian!] - Or is it that when it comes to the Catholic Church, and especially the Pope, lying is allowed?

The Church speaks to the human heart and offers something good that corresponds to the heart's aspirations. That is why she continues to be followed by men and women in all times and places, and it is necessary that she strives to bear witness to the truth it transmits with wisdom, transparency and love.

But it is also true - and will be to the very end - that she is to many men 'the stranger', as the great T.S. Eliot once said. Because she is severe when men would rather look the other way but is tolerant and benevolent when they are rigid and intansignet.

In a very beautiful way, Benedict XVI affirms in his new Peace Message that "peace is not a dream nor a utopia - it is possible" [actually, he was quoting Paul VI].

But peace cannot be achieved merely by proclaiming generic tolerance but through patient reconstruction of what is human. To which the witness of Peter contributes amidst the torrent of words without sense into which much of public debate has become.

A more direct angle of attack is taken by an Anglophone commentator:

The gay intimidation campaign
is now targeting the Pope

By Phil Lawler

December 17, 2012

In his annual message for the World Day of Peace—a statement of nearly 3,600 words—Pope Benedict XVI devotes one sentence to the campaign to redefine marriage. And what happens? Thousands of headlines announce that the Pope has condemned same-sex marriage as a threat to world peace.

This spectacular over-reaction to a tangential remark is, as the director of the Vatican press office observed, “lacking in decent composure and sense of proportion: it consists in shouting, not in reasoning; it is intended to intimidate those who want to support this view freely in the public arena.”

All too true. But here’s another factor. By focusing obsessively on the issue of same-sex marriage, the mass media obscured the remainder of the papal message. People who might have profited from the Pope’s insights have heard nothing about what he wrote, apart from that one sentence. The main thrust of the message is nearly lost. [But that is the corollary objective of the anti-Pope attacks: make so much ado about an anthill magnified into a mountain that no one will pay attention to anything else said!]

Just last week, as the controversy over the papal message began, Roger Scruton wrote in the London Times about the singular success that gay activists have achieved in demonizing their opponents:

If we ask ourselves how it is that the advocacy of gay marriage has become an orthodoxy to which all our political leaders subscribe, we must surely acknowledge that intimidation has some part to play in the matter. Express the slightest hesitation on this score and someone will accuse you of “homophobia”, while others will organise to ensure that, even if nothing else is known about your views, this at least will be notorious.

Isn’t that precisely what has happened to the Pope’s message? A few months ago Ross Douthat commented on the same phenomenon in the New York Times. The gay-rights movement has advanced because of changes in public opinion, he conceded.

But it has also advanced, and will probably continue to advance, through social pressure, ideological enforcement, and legal restriction. Indeed, the very language of the movement is explicitly designed to exert this kind of pressure: By redefining yesterday’s consensus view of marriage as “bigotry,” and expanding the term “homophobia” to cover support for that older consensus as well as personal discomfort with/animus toward gays.

Douthat linked to stories about the gay-activist web site that advertised the names and addresses of California residents who signed a petition to stop same-sex marriage, thus making them candidates for reprisals; the successful campaign to close down Catholic adoption agencies in Illinois because they would not cater to same-sex couples; and, most ominously, the attempt to ruin the academic career of Mark Regnerus, a sociologist who dared to question the studies that have been used to claim that children flourish in homosexual households.

Regnerus has survived the fraudulent attempt to censure him for “scholarly misconduct.” But his standing in the academic world has unquestionably been damaged — only a brave conference organizer would invite him to deliver a paper on any topic today — and younger scholars who might be considering research on homosexuality have seen what could happen to them if they go ahead with their plans.

And now the campaign of intimidation has reached the Pope. The next time the Holy Father prepares a statement, and uses the argument on same-sex marriage to illustrate a point, Vatican officials will read the draft and ask him: “Your Holiness, do you really need to include this sentence? Do you want to run the risk that no one will ever notice the rest of the statement?” Even if that argument for caution is ultimately rejected, the fact that it will be raised — as surely it will — illustrates how successful gay activists have been in restricting public discussion.

What most commentators fail to point out about all this secular activism that happens to be anti-Church - whether it is pro-abortion, pro-SSM, anti-Christmas, or whatnot - is that what they all have in common is a virtual tyranny of the minority these days - in which the views of a fairly small sector of society are made to prevail over the rights and prerogatives of the majority. But that happens to be the objectionable and unconscionable principle that governs what is 'politically correct' today - PC has become the ultimate criterion of behavior, rather than common sense and those "values inscribed in the human heart that are part of the natural law" as the Church points out.The dictatorship of the unelected minority is a most odious offshoot of the dictatorship of relativism.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/31/2013 10:57 PM]
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