Benedetto XVI Forum


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12/18/2012 1:50 PM
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Sorry, taken by surprise again by the page change... Earlier posts on 12/18 are on the precsding page...

Pope Benedict to Italian Olympians:
'Sport is a journey
of authentic human development'

December 17, 2012

This summer the Italian Olympic and Paralympic teams competed at the 2012 Summer Games in London, and brought back a significant medal haul. Team Italy won 28 Olympic medals including 8 Gold and 28 Paralympic medals of which 9 were Gold.

On Monday, in the Vaticna's Clementine Hall, Pope Benedict paid tribute to this sporting excellence when he received tofficails and athletes from the Italian Olympic Committee.

The Pope expressed his understanding of the harsh discipline and preparation needed to get to Olympic level.

The Holy Father also highlighted the fact that every sport. both amateur and competitive, requires fairness in competition, respect for the body, and a sense of solidarity. Sport, he said, is important because it reveals man to himself and gives him a profound understanding of the value of his life.

He said that sports managers and coaches, and sports operators in general, are called to be witnesses of the good of humanity, cooperating with families and educational institutions for the education of young people, in order to achieve the best in sport.

The Pope also noted that the pressure to achieve significant results must never push sports people to take shortcuts as in the case of doping. Team spirit, he said is an incentive to avoid these dead ends, but also to support those who acknowledge a mistake.

In conclusion, the Holy Father emphasized that in this Year of Faith sport can educate a person to 'spiritual "competitiveness" . It can also be considered, he added, a modern "Court of the Gentiles," that is, a valuable opportunity to meet believers and non-believers, to experience joy and to encounter people of different cultures, languages ​​and religions.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/18/2012 3:45 PM]
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Roma-GenoaSenza Padroni Quindi Roma...22 pt.8/26/2019 12:39 AM by lucaDM82
12/18/2012 2:54 PM
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Thanks to Angela Ambrogetti for writing about this, but she will forgive me that I went to her primary source instead of translating the item she wrote about it...

What little Joseph Ratzinger
wrote the Christ Child when he was 7

All his Christmas wishes had to do with Mass

Adapted and translated from

December 15, 2012

ROME – The boy Joseph was seven when he promised the Christ Child in writing that he 'would always be good'. And 78 years later, it was heart-warming for the 85-year-old Pope to be reminded of the note he left on the family creche in Aschau, where the Ratzinger family lived at the time.

The note was discovered among his sister Maria's belongings during the recent renovation of his house in Pentling, outside Regensburg, which has now become a meeting-center for the Institut Papst Benedikt XVI and a small museum with a room dedicated to each of the three Ratzinger siblings.

The Christmas-wish note is now on exhibit at the Pope's birthplace museum in Marktl am Inn.

Found the picture on the Passau diocese site - on the left is Maria Ratzinger's own letter. It must have taken amazing discipline for a 7-year-old boy to write the note so carefully and beautifully!

In sharp Sutterlin-script [an old German style of handwriting], the second-grader writes the "Dear Christ Child" what he wishes for at Christmas:

Dear Christ Child! You will soon come down to earth. You will be bringing joy to children. You will also bring joy to me. I would like a Volks-Schott, a green garment for Mass, and a Heart of Jesus. I will always be good! With best greetings from Joseph Ratzinger.

Joseph grew up with his two older siblings, Maria and Georg, in simple surroundings in Bavaria. Their father (who died in 1059) was a policeman, and their mother, who died in 1963, was a cook.

It was a deeply religious family. "As children, my brothers loved best to pretend they were saying Sunday Mass", their sister Maria (six years older than Joseph, she died in 1990) would recall years later.

That also explains the presents that the little Joseph tells the Christ Child he wants - a 'Volks-Schott', a popular version of the Schott Missal, which contained all the prayers and readings for the Masses during the year; the green Mass garment would be a chasuble to wear when playing Mass; and a Heart of Jesus icon.

Left, the most famous schoolboy photo in the world was taken in Aschau when Joseph was five; left, Joseph in Aschau two years later, around the time he wrote the Christmas note.

In 1934, the Ratzingers lived in the idyllic village of Aschau am Inn. Joseph loved preparing for Christmas, as he recalls in his autobiography: "Every year, our Nativity scene grew by a few figures, and it was always a special joy to go gather moss, juniper and pine branches with Father".

"The Pope was very happy when the note was discovered, and was grinning to himself about what he wrote," Mons. Georg Gaenswein, t Pope's secretary, told BILD. "Even now, the smell of moss reminds him of Christmas".

I was devastated to discover just now that the pictures from the Aschau years (1932-1937) that I had compiled for the ALBUM FOR JOSEPH on the Papa Ratzinger Forum have now 'vanished', most likely taken offline by the Aschau website where they originally appeared. At the time, I did not know enough to copy and save the images in my own PC library - I hope I shall be able to find them elsewhere.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/18/2012 4:07 PM]
12/18/2012 4:35 PM
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Tuesday, December 18, Third Week of Advent

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

No events announced for the Holy Father today.

A news briefing will be held at the Vatican Press Office on Thursday, Dec. 20, to illustrate the role of
the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, in the light of new regulations on financial transparency.
It will be led by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the dicastery.

One year ago...

The Holy Father made a pastoral visit to Rome's largest prison in Rebibbia, where he answered
questions from some of the inmates. He decried chronic overcrowding in prisons which, he said, imposes
a second penalty on the inmates.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 4:27 AM]
12/18/2012 5:34 PM
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CNS came out early with its year-ender on the Pope, so this item is a few days old... I am posting it for now without comment other than one necessary annotation to the use of the word 'popular' to describe the Pope's Jesus books...

The Pope's year in 2012
By Francis X. Rocca

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 13 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI turned 85 in April, and while he certainly showed signs of age -- in March he started walking with a cane on some public occasions -- he kept up a busy schedule throughout 2012, traveling to three foreign countries, presiding over a world Synod of Bishops and turning out yet another bestselling book.

Following are 10 highlights of the Pope's year:

1. At consistories in February and November, the Pope created a total of 28 new members of the College of Cardinals. The first group included Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Edwin F. O'Brien, a former archbishop of Baltimore; and Thomas C. Collins of Toronto. The second group was notable for its global character: new cardinals from Asia, Africa and the Americas, which the Pope said showed the church "speaks in the various cultures of the different continents." Among the second group was Cardinal James M. Harvey, former prefect of the papal household and a native of Milwaukee.

2. Visiting Latin America in March, Pope Benedict told Mexicans that no secular ideology can free the region from poverty, violence and other social problems without faith in Christ. Human rights activists complained about the Pope's decision not to meet with political dissidents in Cuba, but during his visit he appealed for greater religious liberty under the Communist regime and persuaded President Raul Castro to make Good Friday a national holiday.

3. In four speeches from January to May, the Pope told U.S. bishops visiting the Vatican that the church must engage all the more closely with America's increasingly secular society for the benefit of the entire nation, by defending values that include religious liberty, sexual morality and the traditional definition of marriage.

4. The year's biggest public distraction for the Pope and his collaborators was surely the so-called "VatiLeaks" affair, over the publication of private papal correspondence and other documents, some of them alleging mismanagement and corruption within the Vatican. The news became a global story following the May arrest of the Pope's butler, whom a Vatican court in October found guilty of aggravated theft for his role in the leaks.

5. The Vatican made several high-profile moves to reinforce the religious identity of Catholic institutions. In May, it announced a major reform of the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to ensure the group's fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality. The same month, the Vatican tightened its control of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of Catholic aid agencies. In December, the pope issued new rules designed to ensure that the activities of Catholic charities conform to church doctrine.

6. The Pope's September visit to Lebanon came at a moment of heightened tension in the region, with a civil war under way in neighboring Syria and an American-made anti-Islamic film inspiring often-violent protests in several Muslim countries. But the Pope's calls for peace and religious liberty for the region's Christians drew a warm response across sectarian and political lines in Lebanon, turning the risky trip into a clear success for Vatican diplomacy.

7. For three weeks in October, the world Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization brought more than 260 bishops and religious superiors to the Vatican, along with dozens of official observers and experts, to discuss how the Church can revive and spread the faith in increasingly secular societies. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, the synod's relator, expressed the gathering's urgent tone when he decried the "tsunami of secular influence that has swept across the cultural landscape" of the West.

8. Pope Benedict marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the start of a special Year of Faith by celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square Oct. 11. About 400 bishops from around the world, including 15 of the 70 surviving members of the council, attended. In his homily, the Pope called on Catholics to revive the "authentic spirit" of Vatican II by re-proposing the Church's ancient teachings to an increasingly Godless modern world.

9. Just in time for Christmas, publishers released "Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives," the third and final volume in the Pope's popular series [i.e., 'popular' in the sense of best-selling, but otherwise highly exegetical and theological, though in clear accessible terms] on Jesus's life and teachings.

Although some reports portrayed the Pope as a spoilsport for noting that the Gospels do not mention the presence of animals at the Nativity, the book's subject matter and short length help make it one of the most accessible among its scholarly author's more than 60 works.

10. Only a day after Pope Benedict inaugurated his Twitter accounts on Dec. 12, he had already attracted 1.7 million followers. Vatican officials said the show of interest, and the serious questions on faith submitted to the Pope by thousands of users, made his foray into social media worth the inevitable dose of hostile commentary.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2012 6:33 AM]
12/19/2012 1:49 AM
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Mons. Marini describes the papal rites
of the Christmas season in the Year of Faith

An interview by
Gianluca Biccini
Translated from the 12/19/12 issue of

The scheme in Christian history that unites the Holy Land to the tomb of the Apostle Peter will be further enriched furing this Year of Faith by new bonds.

Indeed, one of the figures of the Christ Child that will be on display at St. Peter's Basilica this Christmas season during the liturgies presided over by Benedict XVI comes from Bethlehem.

Even the prayers during he Christmas Eve Mss and on January 1 were prepared by the Franciscan fathers who act as custodians of the Holy Land.

This, according to Mons. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, who spoke to us of the Christmas season rites led by the Holy Father.

Could you briefly illustrate the calendar of holiday celebrations?
The celebrations of the Christmas season begin with the Holy Mass on Christmas Eve at St. Peter's Basilica, and will conclude with the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus on Sunday, January 13, with the administration of the sacrament of Baptism to 22 Vatican babies in the Sistine Chapel.

All told, Benedict XVI will preside at four Masses and one Vespers celebration, besides imparting the Urbi et Orbi blessing on Christmas morning. Also this year, on December 29, the Holy Father will preside at the prayers of the Taize community on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the annual encounter of European youth sponsored by that non-denominational community and its associated movement.

How important is liturgy in the life of the Church?
Liturgy leads us to the heart of Church life: it isits source and the culmination. It is the 'space' in which the mystery of salvation is made present today. In this perspective, the celebrations of Christmas are not just a commemoration or a ceremony that is completed by the performance of exterior gestures.

Rather, as Sacrosanctum concilium reminds us, it is the actualization - for our time and in our life - of the work of redemption.

The external signs are nonetheless important since they are the vehicle for bringing grace and they promote authentic participation in Christ's action on the Church. That is why, before dwelling on details which do have their importance and are of great interest, one must start out with the idea that liturgy is the life of the Church. The perennial vitality and newness of the experience of faith derives from liturgy.

With regard to such gestures and details, could you tell us what to expect at the Christmas Eve Mass?
The Mass will be preceded by a time for preparation and vigil which, as we did the year before, will consist of the celebration of the Office of Readings. At the end of this, the solemn chant of the Kalenda will be intoned - it has a beautiful text which makes us understand how Christian faith is intimately bound to history, to our history. The Son of God becomes man, he enters into human affairs to save mankind and to introduce them to the intimacy of life as children of God.

In the opening procession of the Mass, some children will take part and lay flowers around the image of the Baby Jesus which will be unveiled by the deacon at the end of the Kalenda.

The same children, at the endof the Mass, will proceed to the creche set up as usual at the Chapel of the Presentation, at the altar of St. Pius X, to bring flowers around the Baby's manger crib. There will be ten of them, representing the five continents. Two of them will be Brazilians representing the country that will play host next year to World Youth Day.

After the Baby Jesus that was the center of the Christmas Eve Mass is transferred and deposited in his manger crib in the creche, another image of the Baby Jesus will be placed at the foot of the Altar of Confession for all the subesequent celebrations of the season. This particular figure was sculpted by Christian artists in Bethelehem, a copy of that which is deposited every year in the traditional birth spot of Christ in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

So when shall we see this 'new' Bambinello?
It will be 'introduced' at the Mass of January 1. But this will have been preceded the previous afternoon by the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, which will end with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the traditional Te Deum in thanksgiving for the end of the civilian year, and the Eucharistic Benediction.

This is an occasion for the Church to recollect herself in prayer before her Lord as she relives the calendar year that is about to conclude, considering it a time guided by Providence for which we must give thanks. At the same time, through the Most Blessed Mother, we also entrust the new year about to commence, to the goodness of the Lord.

And this celebration is prolonged somehow in the succeeding days with the Mass on the first day of the year?
Yes, in efect, With the First Vespers, we are already in the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, at which time we also observe the World Day for Peace, as we have done in the past 46 years.

The Marian solemnity and the prayer for peace are linked providentially. The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the Prince of Peace. And so, the Blessed Virgin prays to her Son to obtain the gift of peace for us and for the entire world.

Then, let's get to the celebration of Epiphany, which this year will be particularly significant because the Pope will condfer episcopal orders on some of his closest co-workers.
With the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the manifestation of the Lord to the Gentiles. In this way, the universality of the salvation given by God through his Son made man shines forth. All mankind is called to gather at the Redeemer's bifrthplace. The presence of the Magi, wise men from the East, underscores the catholicity of the salvific event that took place on Christmas night.

The ordination of some new bishops also underscores this universality. The episcopate was intended by the Lord for the entire Church and the whole world.

Finally, the Pope will celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus in the splendid setting of the Sistine Chapel...
Liturgically, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, which is a reproposal of the mystery of Christ shaing our human condition. At the same time, the Lord's manifestation to mankind is renewed through the solemn words that the Father addresses to all who were present at the Jordan.

On this day traditionally, the Holy Father administers Baptism to some babies, to whom the inestimable gift of faith is given which will accopmany them all their life, and which should, thanks to the family, be guarded, cultivated and brought to maturity. From the ritual point of view, next to the new baptismal font introduced last year, there will be a new candelabrum.

One last word on liturgical vestments. At the canonization Mass last October 21, Benedict XVI wore the fanon, a simple and light capelet which was used by Popes as an exclusively papal vestment. Will he use it again?
He will, during the two great Solemnities on Christmas Eve and the Epiphany. The term 'fanon' comes from Latin and means 'a cloth'. It has been used by Popes up to John Paul II, and Benedict XVI intends to preserve the use of this simple but significant liturgical vestment.

Over time, a symbology has developed with respect to this accessory. It is said to represent the shield of faith that protects the Church. In this symbolic reading, the vertical stripes in gold and silver express the unity and indissolubility of the Latin and oriental Churches which both rest on the shoulders of the Successor of Peter. I think it is a very beautiful symbology, one that should be remembered during the Year of Faith.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2012 1:59 AM]
12/19/2012 7:19 PM
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Wednesday, December 19, Third Week of Advent[

BLESSED URBAN V (France, 1310-1370), Benedictine monk and Pope (1360-1370)
A native of Provence, Guillaume Grimoard was abbot of a monastery in Marseilles when he was elected Pope, in the century when the Popes reigned from Avignon not Rome (1305-1378). The ascendancy of the French monarchy and its Frankish empire at the time also meant that French cardinals dominated. Urban V brought his Benedictine culture to his papacy, setting the example for austere living, initiating reforms in the clergy and the Church, and liberally patronizing institutions of learning and culture. He tried hard to return the Papacy to Rome but died shortly after returning from Rome where he was received triumphally by the people and by the imperial court of Charles IV. Fighting among imperial and papal supporters in the papal states of Italy continued, and the Papacy would not return to Rome till 1377, with Gregory XI, famously urged on by Catherine of Siena and Bridget of Sweden. Urban's canonization was promised by Gregory XI as early as 1375 but was stalled by the troubles of the time. His cultus was not officially declared until 1870. Today, there is a an association in France promoting the cause for his canonization. He is the only one of the Avignon Popes, the second to the last among them, to be recognized for his holiness.
Readings for today's Mass:


General Audience - In his catechesis, the Holy Father said that Mary's example reminds us that faith, while fully obedient to the Lord’s will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will.

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel II Delly, 85,
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (Iraq), from pastoral administration of the Chaldean Church.

The Pope has named Mons. Jacques Ishaq, a bishop in the Baghdad Curia, to be the apostolic
administrator until Delly's successor is chosen. To this end, the Pope has called for a Bishops'
Synod of the Chaldean Church to be held in Rome on January 28, 2013, to elect a new Patriarch.



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/19/2012 7:50 PM]
12/20/2012 9:07 AM
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The GA in catechesis and tweets:
'Mary's faith is an example for us'

December 19, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI focused today on the example of Mary's faith and her obedience to God's will in his catechesis on the third week of Advent. In English, he said:

As part of our catechesis for this Year of Faith, it is fitting, during these last days of Advent, to consider the faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ.

At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with an invitation to rejoice because the Lord is with her. This joy is that of the messianic hope of God’s people, the daughter of Zion, now being fulfilled in her. It is also the fruit of the grace which fills Mary’s heart and shapes her obedience to God’s word.

Mary’s faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord’s promises with a certain "unknowing". In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God’s will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross.

It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the Angel’s message. Her example reminds us that faith, while fully obedient to the Lord’s will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will.

In this holy season, may Our Lady’s prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God’s grace in our hearts and in our world.

The catechesis today was the basis for the Holy Father's second round of 'tweets', coming one week from his initial tweets.

Vatican Radio has an English translation of the catechesis:

Perhaps it is a function of trying to follow each and every newsphoto available online of Benedict XVI, but it seems to me that the news photographers have paid undue attention to the Holy Father's literal 'comings and goings'. In the General Audiences, as today, for example, they take more pictures of him walking towards his seat than they ever do of him while speaking - and they usually end up with a photo taken from the rear showing him leving the room. My own doting explanation for this is that they find these moments of motion fascinating, as I do, because he moves with such grace and elegance, front and back, especially for an 85-year-old man - even on the occasions when he has to use a cane!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 9:40 AM]
12/20/2012 10:34 AM
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Why the Pope's writings
sell so well

Translated from the Italian service of

December 18, 2012

Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI's L’infanzia di Gesù continues to be the most-purchased book in Italy three weeks since its publication.

So, once more, lest anyone has reason to doubt, the books of Benedict XVI have proven to be publishing successes. Not to mention his encyclicals which have each sold millions in Italy, at least. [Or, for that matter, the Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, which sold a million and a half in its first few weeks out in Italy! It is unprecedented for such normally 'arcane' papal documents - usually far removed from the everyday life of the faithful - to sell in the millions. I don't think anyone ever thought of the very notion of a 'best-selling encylical' (or apostolic exhortation) before Benedict XVI.]

For a reflection on the fruits one might expect from reading the Pope's latest book, Alessandro Gisotti interviewed Fr.icola Bux, theologian and consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to the Office of Papal Liturgical Celebrations.

FR. BUX: I think it shows the possibility of bringing together heart and mind, because the Pope approaches both dimensions, which very significantly, he attributes first to Mary of all creatures, a woman of great interiority who used both her heart and reason. Which is what we need today, these two elements. Both these fundamental faculties of the human being can help us understand the unique figure and presence of Jesus.

Clearly, the Pope does this in the manner of a great scholar - which I think many exegetes, ecclesiastics and laymen must take into account - and makes it clear how the faithful must be helped to approach and apreciate Sacred Scripture. He does so in a very simple and clear manner, and even this makes us understand that one must present the faith with heart and reason give reasons for our faith.

We might say that in many ways - his books, his presence on Twitter and other social networks - he shows his great commitment to reaching contemporary men and women in all the possible ways of proclaiming the Gospel.
Absolutely, because to proclaim the Gospel, one must know how to do so with reason. Spreading the Gospel depends on the ability to defend it. If I can defend it, if i have reasons to give, then I can spread it [In Italian, there is a nice correlative consonance between the words 'difendere', to defend, and 'diffondere', to spread]. But if I do not have reasonable arguments to defend something, how can I possibly spread it?

I think that a problem with theology today is that many theologians have lost the ability to give reasons for the faith - the Greeks called it apologetics - as even St. Peter said in his famous letter.

The Pope knows apologetics, which he does with a style that is nonb-rhetorical or polemical, but very discoursive, as in the great academic debates [on religion and philosophy] in the Middle Ages. He has the courage, within the Church and to those outside, to present his arguments. And whoever has convincing arguments wins.

Let me go off on a different tangent here.

How ironic that MSM and almost all commentators had quickly decided, at the time Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, that he could never hope to come anywhere hear his predecessor in communicative power and ability, let alone attracting crowds or capturing public affection. Well, they were all proven almost immediately wrong on all counts.

This Vicar of Christ has brilliantly defied all their negative expectations - as his life story ought to have taught them - and they have been left scrambling in the dust for any and all petty (and even downright false) straws they can seize and then choose to wield as if they had battering rams, not flailing straws, to try and cut down Benedict XVi to the insignificant figure they would like him to be.

Not for any of them, however, to even conceive - or concede - that we are ringside witnesses to the flowering and fruition of a future Doctor of the Church (who would of course first be declared a saint before gaining the Church's ultimate honorific). All of his life, Joseph Ratzinger always ended up being the most distinguished at whatever position he was called on to fill. He has certainly carried that over to his being Pope, and not all the ill will of his critics is going to change that. God has so favored him with graces - he is truly BLESSED - but he never loses sight of the fact, as he reminded us in today's catechesis, that life always has to do with the mystery of the Cross, as well.

He knows the crosses he has to bear as Pope - he had decades to 'get used' to it as the CDF Prefect who took most of the heat for anything and everything that the media (and the public opinion they shape) could find fault with in their hero, John Paul II - who, of course, had a much more visible and perhaps more difficult cross to bear in having to live with a degenerative disability after decades of ahtleticism and physical vigor.

And so, although I get very upset, sometimes to the point of near-apoplexy, at the calumny heaped on Benedict XVI almost constantly, I soon come back out of my hysteria to firm ground, knowing that he surely accepts this as the cross he has to bear as a person, in addition to all the others that he must as Vicar of Christ on earth, and as I said recently, he has additional spiritual resources that we ordinary mortals don't have. Besides, he has the prayers of all the faithful in the world who venerate the Pope as the Vicar of Christ.

In this sense, he is never defenseless, and does not need any inept and ineffectual defenses or protests in his behalf from a mostly communications-challenged Roman Curia and Vatican media officials, who most of the time, fail to do their fundamental duties in this respect! (Which, however, is no excuse for them to let falsehoods pass into the public realm - and 'future history' that will be based on such lies - without the necessary correction.]

AD MULTOS ANNOS, SANCTE PATER - more beautiful years as our leader and inspiration, during which to continue confounding your enemies and leaving them in the dust!

P.S. And here's another newsbit to show that the Pope's critics "non prevalebunt"....

Attendance at 2012 GAs surpassed
that of 2011 by 10 percent

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 19 (Translated from AGI) - At least based on the number of reqests for tickets at the Wednesday General Audiences, 10% more people attended the Pope's catecheses this year, according to the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household which gives out the tickets.

[It is known, however, that actual attendance is usually far more - sometimes double - than the number of tickets issued, for the simple reason that pilgrims in Rome show up at the GA whether they have tickets or not. I hope Georg Gaenswein does the sensible thing as Prefect and release both sets of figures - the number of tickets given out, and the police estimates of the actual crowd that shows up! As such, in this adaptation of the AGI story, I have used the term 'number of tickets given' instead of 'number of persons present', as the reporter writes.]

Yhe Pope held 43 General Audiences in 2012 (none in the month of July, or when he was abroad) including the one today, to which 447,000 were given tickets. The audiences were held in St. Peter's Square, the Aula Paolo VI, and outside the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo.

The peak number of tickets issued was in October, to 90,000 faithful. The least was in August (10,500), when the Pope was in Castel Gandolfo. In 2011, the total number of tickets given for the GAs was 400,000 - 74,000 of them in October.

I have been keeping aside an item from 2006 for use on just such an occasion, because it also reminds us of the Benedict boom early in his Pontificate. The numbers were astounding:

Figures for 2006

General audiences 1,031,500
Special audiences - 357,120
Liturgies - 539,200
Angelus - 1,295,000
TOTAL: 3,222,820

The figures obviously do not include the faithful who saw the Pope during his visits abroad and to places in Italy besides Les Combes and Castel Gandolfo.

The 3.2 million this year (2006) compares to 2.8 million who saw Pope Benedict XVI last year in the same 4 categories from May-December 2005 plus the one general audience he held in April after his election. The figure does not include those who attended his Inaugural Mass, which would add at least 250,000 to the total.

John Paul’s peak annual number (total persons seen in the same four categories, at the Vatican, Castel Gandolfo and probably wherever the Pope was vacationing if he led Angelus prayers) in 26 years reached in 1979, the first full year of his Pontificate – 1,585,000. Then the numbers decreased, and did not pick up again except in the Jubilee Year of 2000, when there were 1,400,000.

So there is either a marked reawakening of the faith and/or more tourists in Rome with more of them wanting to see the Pope.

So what accounts for the decrease in attendance six years later? Bad economic times with far less people able to travel?
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 12:13 PM]
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Anthony Esolen contributes articles on the Catholic faith to many publications. The last article I posted from his pen was his beautiful tribute to the new English translation of the Roman Missal which was first used in the United States on the first Sunday of Advent last year.

A love supreme
A review of 'The Infancy Narratives"


Imagine touring the Sistine Chapel with someone who has done more than merely read some learned commentary on the paintings of Michelangelo. He has looked at them, pondered them, loved them, even waited upon them to reveal their inner harmony, and now he seeks to hand on to you what he has found.

Imagine listening to a master organist, not playing the whole St. Matthew Passion but showing you, as he touches a chord here and makes a progression there, some hint of the grandeur of Bach's composition that you might miss in the overwhelming storm of its performance.

Then you have an idea of what Pope Benedict XVI has attempted in his three-volume work on the life of Jesus, but most humbly and sweetly in the "Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives."

Modern men too often see things only by the guttering firelight of politics. Pope Benedict, who wrote many works of deep scholarship while simply Joseph Ratzinger, also served as the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, earning him a reputation among the ignorant as combative — "God's Rottweiler."

It may surprise some, then, to read that Pope Benedict has written about one topic all his life long. Love is the key to his work, as it is the theme and lesson of this work. Indeed, the Pope has written that in Jesus, the man and the mission are one, and the mission is the holiness of love — of being entirely for and with God, and for and with mankind, without reserve.

Now Benedict shows how this understanding of Jesus is manifest from the beginning, in his conception, his birth and his childhood.

Any scholar who would write on the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke faces two problems. The first is the opinion that the narratives about the birth of Jesus are add-ons, not central to the mission and the person of Jesus. The second is that we are too familiar with them. We have heard the carols and seen the crèches. We do not see the shadow of the cross fall upon the stable at Bethlehem.

My addendum:Orthodox Christianity makes this foreshadowing of the tomb in the crib very clear in its Christmas iconography - in which
the manger is a tomb, and the infant's swaddling clothes are reminiscent of the Jewish burial cloth.

Benedict addresses both problems at once, affirming the historicity of the narratives and showing that the question of who Jesus is hinges upon the question of whence he has come.

People who encountered Jesus, whether they chose to follow him or not, claimed that they knew exactly where he came from, the no-account village of Nazareth. Yet they did not know where he came from —whence he derived his authority.

The early Christians, by contrast, saw the life of Jesus as a coherent whole. The end of Matthew's Gospel, says Benedict, when Jesus commissions his disciples to go forth to the ends of the earth, baptizing all nations, is present in the beginning, in the genealogy that links Jesus with Abraham and God's promise of universality. Abraham is the essential wayfarer, Benedict writes, whose "whole life points forward," a dynamic of "walking along the path of what is to come."

Even to those who think themselves familiar with Niblical texts, every page of Jesus of Nazareth will present some pearl of great value, something that should have been obvious but that has been passed over in haste or inattention.

For example, when Luke places Jesus's birth in the context of the Augustan empire, and notes that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to register for the tax, he expects his readers, Benedict argues, to compare one "prince of peace" with another, for that is what Augustus styled himself ("Princeps Pacis").

The epithet was more than propaganda, Benedict says. It expressed a heartfelt longing in the people of the time, racked by the Roman civil wars and conflicts between the Roman empire and her rivals to the east.

We might see how seriously it was taken if we study Augustus's Altar of Peace [the Ara Coeli] in Rome, consecrated a few years before Jesus's birth. It was so placed that on the emperor's birthday, between morning and evening, the sun cast the shadow of an obelisk, says the Pope, along a line that struck the very center of the altar, where Augustus himself was portrayed as supreme pontiff.

But Augustus belongs to the past, Benedict notes, while Jesus "is the present and the future." That is because the salvation we yearn for is not simply a truce, with some economic prosperity, but the healing of our very selves.

Man is "a relational being," Benedict writes, by which he means that we only know ourselves when we give ourselves away in love. More to the point, Benedict teaches, God allows us to know Him by giving Himself in love to us. This gift, though grand, is necessarily also secret and humble, seeking not to overmaster but to invite.

In speaking of an intimate love, all the Gospel writers speak the same language, Benedict explains, whether it is Matthew showing that the birth of Jesus occurs outside of and against the predilections of the grand court of Herod, or Luke stressing the quiet interior life of Mary, or John saying that God has pitched his tent among us, submitting to the infirmities of the flesh, and to rejection.

This love is no mere sentiment. It is the ground of our being. Yet Benedict points to the gospels themselves for examples of how often we seek less than love, even while we believe we are seeking more.

Jesus's own disciples believed that he would reestablish the earthly kingdom of David — and Matthew takes trouble both to establish Jesus's descent from David (it is why Joseph had to travel to the city of David, Bethlehem) and to show that this kingship is wholly new, and not of this earth.

Thus Joseph is told that the child's name will be called Jesus, a name derived from the Hebrew word meaning "to rescue," because "he will save people from their sins."

That seems at once too little and too much, Benedict says. He compares the verse with the episode of the paralytic in Luke, who hears Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven." But he wanted to walk — and the Jews wanted freedom from their overlords.

The paralytic would indeed rise up and walk, but the point is clear: The gospel calls people to no less than complete love of God and neighbor—to the surrender of illusions that we can heal ourselves.

"The Infancy Narratives" is a short volume but for that very reason may be an ideal introduction to Benedict's writings, and for that matter Jesus's message of love.

Carl Olson, editor of Ignatius Insight and its blog, Scoop, as well as of the Catholic World Report called attention to Mr. Esolen's WSJ piece, and quotes some passages from his own review of the book coming out in the December 23 edition of Our Sunday Visitor (unfortunately available online only to subscribers):

Connecting crib and cross
by Carl Olson
Excerpted from

The book has four chapters and an Epilogue. The second chapter is on the annunciation of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus; the third on the birth of Christ; the fourth on the wise men and the flight into Egypt; the epilogue discusses the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple.

The first chapter, notably, begins not with the Gospels of Matthew or Luke, but with the Gospel of John. It is similar to how Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict’s 2010 postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the Word of God, began by stressing that the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel would be “a guide” for the rest of that lengthy and impressive document.

In “The Infancy Narratives,” it is John 18, which describes Jesus’s encounter and exchange with Pontius Pilate, serving as the starting point. “Where are you from?” asked the Roman judge of Jesus, wanting “to understand who he really is and what he wants.”

This question about Jesus’s true origins, Pope Benedict emphasizes, is found in key passages in both the Fourth Gospel and the three Synoptic Gospels. All four texts were written to answer the questions: “Who is Jesus? Where is he from?”

From there, the Pope moves into an engaging discussion of the genealogies presented by Matthew and Luke. Each genealogy points purposely to the end of the Gospel.

What is established from the start is Pope Benedict’s intent to show how the birth and death of Jesus Christ are intimately connected, and how the Incarnation and the Passion are not merely two episodes in salvation history, but are part of a cohesive whole that is “present from the beginning: the universality of Jesus’s mission is already contained within his origin.”

In other words, there is one Story, and unless we see the outlines of that startling mystery, we cannot rightly gauge, appreciate, and consider the many events and details within it.

For example, the second chapter concludes with the observation (drawn from Protestant exegete Karl Barth) that God’s direct interventions in the material world “in the story of Jesus” consist of “the virgin birth and the resurrection from the tomb.”

These two moments, Pope Benedict further notes, “are a scandal to the modern spirit” even as they are “the cornerstones of faith.” And in the following chapter, on Jesus’s birth, he points out the “child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death … The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar.”

This orientation to the Cross is summed up perfectly in the Epilogue: “The closer one comes to Jesus, the more one is drawn into the mystery of his Passion"....

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 2:18 PM]
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Last year, or was it year before last, the BBC had Benedict XVI deliver their four-minute Sunday nostrum on Christmas Eve. This year, it's the flagship economic newspaper, the Financial Times, that has an 'opinion piece' written by the Pope. The tagline reads: "The writer is the Bishop of Rome and author of ‘JESUS OF NAZARETH: The Infancy Narratives'." One might gauge how secular the readership is of the newspaper if it had to identify the Pope at all, or in this way! 'Bishop of Rome' does not quite convey the multiple roles of the spiritual leader of Catholicism - not to those who are not in the least bit interested in religion, let alone Christianity...

A time for Christians
to engage with the world

By Pope Benedict XVI

“Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force him to take sides in the highly charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel.

Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely he would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose him either as a threat to the regime, or as a fraud.

Jesus’s answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicisation of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As he told Pontius Pilate: “My kingship is not of this world.”

The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a “census of the whole world” ordered by Caesar Augustus, the emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.

Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.

The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience.

At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?

Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognise that God made man.

It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the stock exchange.

Christians should not shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.

Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life.

They work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of a belief that – as stewards of God’s creation – we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.

Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life.

The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.

Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful co-operation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God.

Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the past century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God.

When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated worldview. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.

In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love.

He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world.

From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.

Here is the Vatican's note in English preceding the text of the Pope's article reprinted in today's Vatican bulletin:

Vatican explains background
and context of FT aricle

The Pope's article for the "Financial Times" (December 20, 2012) originates from a request from the editorial office of the "Financial Times" itself which, taking as a cue the recent publication of the Pope's book on Jesus's infancy, asked for his comments on the occasion of Christmas.

Despite the unusual nature of the request, the Holy Father accepted willingly.

It is perhaps appropriate to recall the Pope's willingness to respond to other unusual requests in the past, such as the interview given for the BBC*, again at Christmas a few months after his visit to the United Kingdom, or the television interview for the programme "A sua imagine" produced by the RAI, the Italian state broadcasting company, to mark the occasion of Good Friday.

These too have been opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ and to bring his message to a wide forum at salient moments during the Christian liturgical year.

*It was not an interview - how can the Press Office get such a simple fact wrong about something that happened just two years ago? The most appalling thing is that obviously, no one at the Press Office noted there was any error at all, or it would not have been left uncorrected! Fr. Lombardi continues to run a very lax and not very professional news operation. I hate to have to note this every now and then, but why should and how can we trust the Vatican on major communications strategy when they can fail to get even the small things right? I know Fr. Lombardi has too many responsibilities already, but are all his subordinates equally lax and inattentive, and therefore unreliable? For the elementary and frequet lapses they are guilty of, none of them would keep their jobs if they were working in professional media.

n 2010, the Pope gave a straight taped message that was used on BBC Radio's 'Thought for the Day' - apparently something of a British instititution - on Christmas Eve. Although ranking BBC officials were present for the taping at the Vatican, no interview was done. This event was fully covered and reported on at the time - See posts on Page 171 of this thread. .]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 5:33 PM]
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Thursday, December 20, Third Week of Advent

ST. DOMINGO DE SILOS (Dominic of Silos) (Spain, 1000-1073),Benedictine abbot
Son of a peasant, he became a Benedictine monk, and soon, prior of a monastery in Navarre, northeast Spain, but he left the kingdom for neighboring Castile when the King of Navarre seized church property. He and his monks were given a rundown monastery in Silos which they built up into one of the great monasteries of the day - a center of monastic reform, liturgy (Mozarabic rite) and learning, which was also reputed for many miracles. Legend has it that almost a century later, he appeared in a vision to Blessed Juana of Aza and told her she would bear a son - whom she named after the saint of Silos, and the boy, Domingo de Guzman, grew up to found the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). The monastery at Silos gained worldwide fame in the 1980s through the recordings of its monks singing medieval chants, the first in a succession of worldwide best-selling musical monks. Silos is now under the great Benedictine abbey in Solesmes, France.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father met with

- Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood. The Holy Father authorized
promulgation of decrees recognizing 3 miracles that would lead to the canonization of three Blesseds; 4 miracles
and six martyrdoms that would lead to the beatification of ten Servants of God; and 10 proclamations of
heroic virtues that would earn their subjects the pre-beatification title of Venerable. As earlier anticipated,
Pope Paul VI leads the latter list, making him the second contemporary Pope after Pius XII to reach
this step on the road to sainthood.

- Mons. Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

- A delegation from the Ragazzi dell’Azione Cattolica Italiana (Children's movement of Italian Catholic Action).
Address in Italian.

A news conference was held by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Holy See’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs
to describe the functions of the Prefecture in the light of new regulations promulgated earlier this year as part
of the Vatican efforts for financial transparency in all the organisms of the Holy See.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 8:10 PM]
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Transparency and new regulations
to administer Vatican economic affairs

December 20, 2012

The Holy See has reaffirmed its desire to show transparency in the administration of its economic resources and affairs says it has the new regulations necessary to achieve this goal.

This was the message from Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Holy See’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs, at a news conference in the Vatican during which he outlined to journalists the functions of the Prefecture in the light of new regulations promulgated earlier this year.

The new regulations are based on recommendations from a special council of Cardinals appointed to study the organisational and economic problems of the Holy See.

Cardinal Versaldi told journalists that the need for new regulations did not come about because "we don’t trust people, but because even the best person can be led into temptation and that’s why we need control mechanisms" to guarantee truth and justice without forgetting charity.

The Cardinal said the new regulations stress that the Prefecture’s function is not to watch over the Holy See’s economic affairs but also to play a leadership role in guiding and running the entire economy of the Holy See.

Another speaker at the press conference, Monsignor Lucio Balda, Secretary of the Prefecture, said the Holy See’s budget is still operating at a loss and obviously is feeling the effects of the global financial crisis, since it relies very much on donations from the faithful.

"We must cut costs and unnecessary expenses", he said, "but at the same time, we must guarantee the salaries and pensions of those working for the Holy See".

In recent days, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone has spoken about the state of Vatican finances.

Assets managed by Vatican entities are “at the service of the universal mission of the Church” and today, in particular, “there must be an increasing commitment to transparency and accuracy in their administration”, Bertone reiterated Tuesday morning at the presentation of the new Regulations governing the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Emer McCathy provides background information:

During his reform of the Roman Curia, Paul VI first established the office responsible for the management of the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. This office had to fulfil specific tasks: knowledge, control, supervision and coordination "of all the Holy See’s most important investments and business transactions”.

Pope Paul VI wanted to modernize all activities with the fundamental objective of ensuring an essential aspect of its very existence for the Church, that of "self-sufficiency".

Cardinal Bertone said the Church has "always sought to consider the mere instrumentality of temporal goods in relation to the carrying out of its mission... (namely) the worship of God, the works of the apostolate and of charity, adequate support of the clergy and other ministers".

The Code of Canon Law, he pointed out, allows the Church to “acquire, possess, sell and administer temporal goods" to achieve mits "institutional purposes." However, "the Church, as such, has no assets: it possesses them through institutions that compose it," and this explains the central role played by a body such as the Prefecture for Economic Affairs.

In the recent past, he said, practice had somehow reduced the tasks originally meant for the Prefecture, transforming it into "a sort of central accounting house of the Holy See" and blurring its duty to assume the tasks of "general economic planning and coordination".

But with the new Regulations, he added, "it is returning to its original spirit", according to which the Prefecture is a higher body with supervision over the other Vatican administrations, and with a direct link to the Secretary of State, with which it must agree on "orientation and programming."

The new Regulations, issued in February, came about as part of the Vatican decision to adapt itself “to the international standards of financial control".

As a result, the cardinal said, "the necessary transparency in the economic and financial activities of the Holy See and Vatican City State requires an increasingly incisive and unified commitment to correctness on the part of the individual Administrations in the management of their heritage and economic activities".

Finally, referring to the global financial crisis, Cardinal Bertone said the Holy See must proceed in "the gradual, but effective, reduction of costs in the face of a continuing inability to increase revenues at least in proportion to the deficits as recently recorded in the consolidated balances... It is most necessary - he concluded - that we all become more aware of the need to support not only the mission of the Church and the Holy See, but also its credibility."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/20/2012 8:09 PM]
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Vatican City, December 20 (VIS) - Today, during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Pope authorised the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees:

- Blessed Antonio Primaldo and companions (800 of them), beheaded in 1480 in Otranto, Italy, by Ottoman invaders for refusing to convert to Islam.
- Blessed Laura Montoya, Colombian foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate and of St. Catherine of Siena (1874-1949).
- Blessed Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, Mexican co-foundress of the Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary and of the Poor (1878-1963).
- Venerable Servant of God Antonio Franco, Italian bishop of Santa Lucia del Mela (1585-1626).
- Venerable Servant of God Jose Gabriele del Rosario Brochero, Argentinian priest (1840-1914).
- Venerable Servant of God Cristobal of St. Catherine (ne: Cristobal Fernando Valladolid), Spanish priest and founder of the Congregation and the Hospital of Jesus of Nazareth in Cordoba (1638-1690).
- Venerable Servant of God Sofia Czeska-Maciejowska, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Virgins of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1584-1650).
- Venerable Servant of God Margherita Lucia Szewczyk, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God - Seraphic Sisters (1584-1650).

MARTYRDOM (leading to beatification
without need for a miracle)

- Servant of God Miroslav Bulesic, Croatian priest, killed in hatred of the faith in 1947.
- Servant of God José Javier Gorosterratzu, Spanish, and five companions of the Congregation of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1938.
- Servants of God Fr. Riccardo Gil Barcelon and Antonio Arrue Peiro, Postulant, of the Congregation of the Small Work of Divine Providence, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.
- Servant of God Manuel de la Sagrada Familia, (ne Manuel Sanz Dominguez), Spanish professed monk and Reformer of the Order of San Girolamo, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.
- Servant of God Maria di Monserrat (nee Giuseppa Pilar Garcia y Solanas) and eight companions, Spanish professed nun, along with Lucrezia Garcia y Solanas, laywoman, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.
- Servant of God Melchora de la Adoración Cortés Bueno, Spanish, and fourteen companions of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.

(First step towards beatification
with the title of Venerable)

- Servant of God Paul VI, Giovanni Battista Montini, Italian, Supreme Pontiff (1897-1978).
- Servant of God Francesco Saverio Petagna, bishop of Castellamare di Stabia, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts (1812-1878).
- Servant of God Juan José Santiago Bonal Cortada, Spanish founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Anne (1769-1829).
- Servant of God Fr. Louis-Marie Baudouin, French priest, (1765-1835).
- Servant of God Marcelina de San José (nee Luisa Aveledo), foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, Venezualan (1874-1959).
- Servant of God Claudia Russo, Italian foundress of the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1889-1964).
- Servant of God Maria Francisca de las Llagas (nee Rosa Elena Cornejo), Ecuadorean foundress of the Congregation of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate (1874 -1964).
- Servant of God Clara Ludmilla Szczesna, Polish cofoundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1863-1916).
- Servant of God Consuelo (nee Joaquina Maria Mercedes Barceló y Pagés), Spanish cofoundress of the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation (1857-1940).
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2012 12:39 PM]
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Pope to Italian children:
Search for God, the Author of life and joy

Adapted from

December 20, 2012

Catholic Action of Italy (Azione Cattolica Italiana, ACI) is a non-political lay Catholic Association which is supported by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Today, the youth of this association - Azione Cattolica dei Ragazzi (ACR) - paid their annual Christmas call on the Holy Father.

n the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings, the Holy Father spoke of the guiding theme of the recently opened pastoral year for the ACR group: “In search of an Author”.

“You are in search of the Author of life,” said Pope Benedict, “the Author of your joy... the Author of your love... (and) you are in search of the Author of peace – of which the world has such great need.”

“We know who this Author is," he said. "He is God, who has revealed His face to us.”

The Holy Father expressed the hope that the young people of ACR might continue their search together, among themselves and with their classmates, even through the games they play.

“If you help one another to find the great Author of life, joy, love, and peace,” said Pope Benedict, “you will discover that this Author is never far from you: in fact, He is very close - the God who became the baby Jesus!”
12/21/2012 3:16 PM
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Friday, December 21, Third Week of Advent

ST. PETER CANISIUS (Netherlands, 1521-1597)
Jesuit, Theologian, Writer, Preacher, Doctor of the Church
Benedict XVI devoted his catechesis on February 9, 2011, to this saint:
One of the great figures of the Counter-Reformation and the first Dutch Jesuit, Peter was educated in Cologne and is called the Second Apostle of Germany after St. Boniface, for having restored Catholicism to Germany after the Reformation. Besides Germany, he also re-evangelized Austria, Bohemia and Switzerland. A great teacher and charismatic preacher, he founded many schools and seminaries for the Jesuits. He addressed the Council of Trent on the importance of the Eucharist and is credited with adding the final lines of the Hail Mary prayer (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners...]. In 1555, he published a Catechism that directly countered Luther's Catechism, and had gone into 400 editions by the end of the 17th century, for which his special designation as a Doctor of the Church is 'Doctor of Catechetical Studies'. His writings include studies of St. Cyril of Alexandria and Leo the Great, and a voluminous epistolary reminiscent of St. Bernard of Clairvaux comprising 8,000 pages. Although his tomb was immediately renowned for miracles, he was not beatified until 1864, In 1925, he became the first saint to be canonized and declared Doctor of the Church at the same time.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father began his official day by attending the third Advent sermon of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa,
Preacher of the Pontifical Household. at the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Annual address to the Roman Curia - The Holy Father reviewed the major events of 2012 in the Church and
in his own Petrine ministry, emphasizing this time the defense of the family as an institution and denouncing
the notion of 'gender' instead of 'sex' as a denial of human nature.

In the afternoon, the Pope met with
- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (weekly meeting)

_ I'd like to pass along a comment from Patrick Brennan on the group blog, Mirror of Justice, who points up some statistics about what one might call 'fideicide', killings out of hatred for the Christian faith.

I've blogged here before about Christopher Ferrara's epochal book Liberty, the God that Failed. Below, from my Foreword to the book, is food for thought about where the escalating licence for violence comes from -- and where it does not come from:

"The truth, though, is that the period in which the Catholic religion has been severed from the state, either completely or in large part, has been the bloodiest in human history.

"Some 27,000 died effecting liberty from the English Crown, and, as Ferrara demonstrates, we must also face 2 million dead in the French revolution (“inspired by the American example”), the genocide of 300,000 Catholics in the Vendee by the Jacobin regime, 3 million dead following the fall of the Jacobin and Thermidorian regimes, 600,000 dead in the Civil War in America, 16 million dead in World War I (fought to make Europe “safe for democracy”), 7 million dead in the Bolshevik democides, 70 million dead in World War II - 20 million of them genocides, including 6 million Jews, and so it goes on and on. Just who imposed all of this suffering? No, it was not the Vatican.

- Then there's a poisonous little item on the Italian online journal Orticalab (hopefully, few people read it) from Francesco Antonio Grana, who in the past has even written a book in praise of Benedict XVI, but now accuses him of not having the time to govern the Church because he is 'too busy writing books'.

He starts out by reporting that Mons. Gaenswein has ordered closure of the former apartment in the Apostolic palace occupied by Cardinal James Harvey, who is now Rector of St. Paul outside the Walls. He adds that Gaenswein did so because, as the new Prefect of the Pontifical Household, he will continue to live in the attic apartment that he has occupied as the Pope's private secretary.

One might think that would be an occasion to praise GG's practical senses, but no, the writer goes on to say that whereas people in the Vatican may officially be applauding GG for his new position, unofficially, many are unhappy because they claim Benedict XVI is placing too much power in his hands. But that the Pope has to do that, claims this person, because he himself does not have time to govern and 'must leave everything in the hands of others'.

Mr. Grana has obviously never heard of multitasking or time management, but Benedict XVI made it clear from the start that he was using whatever free time he had to write the Jesus books. Now his obvious labor of love is made to appear as a dereliction of his primary duties. Grana takes care to attribute everything he writes to t=o 'voices in the Vatican' or 'well-informed sources' [as if anyone can be considered a source if he expresses his own opinions!). But then, he slips when he writes: "A Pope who writes books on Jesus - unheard of in the history of the Chur5ch as the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini underscored - does not have the time to guide the Bark of Peter" - which is surely his own opinion, and that of arch-critics like Marco Politi who have harped ad nauseam on the 'ineffectual ivory tower Benedict XVI'.

Grana also obviously dislikes Gaenswein whom, he says, some Curia officials fear may even become Secretary of State if Cardinal Bertone leaves. I cannot5 understand all this venom, and why Grana should also unload his animus against GG on the Popo!

He ends by citing his 'sources' as expressing 'dissatisfaction in the Curia' because there is 'lack of respect for human dignity' - by the Pope obviously, since the example he cites is Harvey's elevation to cardinal and change of position. How is it disrespect of human dignity if an archbishop if promoted to cardinal and made rector of one of the four papal basilicas? Moreover, he cites the fact that Harvey's predecessors in the Pontifical Household did not become cardinals until they were in their 70s, and Harvey is only 63. Mons. Carlo Vigano must be gritting his teeth in envy at Harvey's promotion, but no, Grana and his 'sources' consider it 'a lack of respect for human dignity'. A pox on all of them!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2012 9:41 PM]
12/21/2012 3:55 PM
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Because of the inexplicable absence of newsphotos of this event, I am using the photos from the 2011 adderss to the Curia for a 'banner'.

The Holy Father's annual
address to the Roman Curia:
The state of the Church in 2012

At 11 a.m. today, the Holy Father met with the cardinals resident in Rome, and officials of the Roman Curia and of the Vatican Governatorate, for their traditional exhnage of Christmas greetings. First, the Pope delivered his year-end look at the major events in the Church and his Petrine ministry in 2012, with strong words in defense of the family and the sexes as God created them, as well a clarification of what inter-religious dialog ought to be.

Here is the official Vatican translation of the address:

Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with great joy that I meet you today, dear Members of the College of Cardinals, Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governorate, for this traditional event in the days leading up to the feast of Christmas. I greet each one of you cordially, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his kind words and for the warm good wishes that he extended to me on behalf of all present.

The Dean of the College of Cardinals reminded us of an expression that appears frequently during these days in the Latin liturgy: Prope est iam Dominus, venite, adoremus! The Lord is already near, come, let us adore him!

We too, as one family, prepare ourselves to adore the Child in the stable at Bethlehem who is God himself and has come so close as to become a man like us.

I willingly reciprocate your good wishes and I thank all of you from my heart, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the generous and competent assistance that each of you offers me in my ministry.

Once again we find ourselves at the end of a year that has seen all kinds of difficult situations, important questions and challenges, but also signs of hope, both in the Church and in the world. I shall mention just a few key elements regarding the life of the Church and my Petrine ministry.

First of all, as the Dean of the College of Cardinals mentioned, there were the journeys to Mexico and Cuba – unforgettable encounters with the power of faith, so deeply rooted in human hearts, and with the joie de vivre that issues from faith.

I recall how, on my arrival in Mexico, there were endless crowds of people lining the long route, cheering and waving flags and handkerchiefs. I recall how, on the journey to the attractive provincial capital Guanajuato, there were young people respectfully kneeling by the side of the road to receive the blessing of Peter’s Successor; I recall how the great liturgy beside the statue of Christ the King made Christ’s kingship present among us – his peace, his justice, his truth.

All this took place against the backdrop of the country’s problems, afflicted as it is by many different forms of violence and the hardships of economic dependence. While these problems cannot be solved simply by religious fervour, neither can they be solved without the inner purification of hearts that issues from the power of faith, from the encounter with Jesus Christ.

And then there was Cuba – here too there were great liturgical celebrations, in which the singing, the praying and the silence made tangibly present the One that the country’s authorities had tried for so long to exclude. That country’s search for a proper balancing of the relationship between obligations and freedom cannot succeed without reference to the basic criteria that mankind has discovered through encounter with the God of Jesus Christ.

As further key moments in the course of the year, I should like to single out the great Meeting of Families in Milan and the visit to Lebanon, where I consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that is intended to offer signposts for the life of churches and society in the Middle East along the difficult paths of unity and peace.

The last major event of the year was the Synod on the New Evangelization, which also served as a collective inauguration of the Year of Faith, in which we commemorate the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, seeking to understand it anew and appropriate it anew in the changed circumstances of today.

All these occasions spoke to fundamental themes of this moment in history: the family (Milan), serving peace in the world and dialogue among religions (Lebanon) and proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ in our day to those who have yet to encounter him and to the many who know him only externally and hence do not actually recognize him.

Among these broad themes, I should like to focus particularly on the theme of the family and the nature of dialogue, and then to add a brief observation on the question of the new evangelization.

The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world.

It was noticeable that the Synod repeatedly emphasized the significance, for the transmission of the faith, of the family as the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence. This is something we learn by living it with others and suffering it with others.

So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human.

The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for?

Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his "I" ultimately for himself, without really rising above it.

Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper.

While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question.

He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: "one is not born a woman, one becomes so" (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term "gender" as a new philosophy of sexuality.

According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious.

People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.

According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God.

This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: "male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) no longer apply.

No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist.

Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.

From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed.

But Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.

When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.

The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.

At this point I would like to address the second major theme, which runs through the whole of the past year from Assisi to the Synod on the New Evangelization: the question of dialogue and proclamation. Let us speak firstly of dialogue.

For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions.

In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man’s experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition, she has experienced its boundaries and its grandeur, its opportunities and its limitations.

Human culture, of which she is a guarantee, has developed from the encounter between divine revelation and human existence. The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria.

Yet just as an individual without memory has lost his identity, so too a human race without memory would lose its identity. What the Church has learned from the encounter between revelation and human experience does indeed extend beyond the realm of pure reason, but it is not a separate world that has nothing to say to unbelievers.

By entering into the thinking and understanding of mankind, this knowledge broadens the horizon of reason and thus it speaks also to those who are unable to share the faith of the Church.

In her dialogue with the state and with society, the Church does not, of course, have ready answers for individual questions. Along with other forces in society, she will wrestle for the answers that best correspond to the truth of the human condition. The values that she recognizes as fundamental and non-negotiable for the human condition she must propose with all clarity. She must do all she can to convince, and this can then stimulate political action.

In man’s present situation, the dialogue of religions is a necessary condition for peace in the world and it is therefore a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities.

This dialogue of religions has various dimensions. In the first place it is simply a dialogue of life, a dialogue of being together. This will not involve discussing the great themes of faith – whether God is Trinitarian or how the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures is to be understood, and so on.

It is about the concrete problems of coexistence and shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity. In the process, it is necessary to learn to accept the other in his otherness and the otherness of his thinking. To this end, the shared responsibility for justice and peace must become the guiding principle of the conversation.

A dialogue about peace and justice is bound to move beyond the purely pragmatic to become an ethical struggle for the truth and for the human being: a dialogue concerning the values that come before everything. In this way what began as a purely practical dialogue becomes a quest for the right way to live as a human being.

Even if the fundamental choices themselves are not under discussion, the search for an answer to a specific question becomes a process in which, through listening to the other, both sides can obtain purification and enrichment.

Thus this search can also mean taking common steps towards the one truth, even if the fundamental choices remain unaltered. If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless.

Two rules are generally regarded nowadays as fundamental for interreligious dialogue:

1. Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;

2. Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other.

These rules are correct, but in the way they are formulated here I still find them too superficial. True, dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at better mutual understanding – that is correct. But all the same, the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth.

Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth.

As far as preserving identity is concerned, it would be too little for the Christian, so to speak, to assert his identity in a such a way that he effectively blocks the path to truth. Then his Christianity would appear as something arbitrary, merely propositional. He would seem not to reckon with the possibility that religion has to do with truth.

On the contrary, I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity.

To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.

Finally, at least a brief word should be added on the subject of proclamation, or evangelization, on which the post-synodal document will speak in depth, on the basis of the Synod Fathers’ propositions.

I find that the essential elements of the process of evangelizing appear most eloquently in Saint John’s account of the calling of two of John the Baptist’s disciples, who become disciples of Jesus Christ (1:35-39).

First of all, we have the simple act of proclamation. John the Baptist points towards Jesus and says: "Behold the Lamb of God!" A similar act is recounted a few verses later. This time it is Andrew, who says to his brother Simon "We have found the Messiah" (1:41).

The first and fundamental element is the straightforward proclamation, the kerygma, which draws its strength from the inner conviction of the one proclaiming.

In the account of the two disciples, the next stage is that of listening and following behind Jesus, which is not yet discipleship, but rather a holy curiosity, a movement of seeking. Both of them, after all, are seekers, men who live over and above everyday affairs in the expectation of God – in the expectation that he exists and will reveal himself.

Stimulated by the proclamation, their seeking becomes concrete. They want to come to know better the man described as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist.

The third act is set in motion when Jesus turns round, approaches them and asks: "What do you seek?" They respond with a further question, which demonstrates the openness of their expectation, their readiness to take new steps. They ask: "Rabbi, where are you staying?" Jesus’ answer "Come and see!" is an invitation to walk with him and thereby to have their eyes opened with him.

The word of proclamation is effective in situations where man is listening in readiness for God to draw near, where man is inwardly searching and thus on the way towards the Lord. His heart is touched when Jesus turns towards him, and then his encounter with the proclamation becomes a holy curiosity to come to know Jesus better.

As he walks with Jesus, he is led to the place where Jesus lives, to the community of the Church, which is his body. That means entering into the journeying community of catechumens, a community of both learning and living, in which our eyes are opened as we walk.

"Come and see!" This saying, addressed by Jesus to the two seeker-disciples, he also addresses to the seekers of today. At the end of the year, we pray to the Lord that the Church, despite all her shortcomings, may be increasingly recognizable as his dwelling-place.

We ask him to open our eyes ever wider as we make our way to his house, so that we can say ever more clearly, ever more convincingly: "we have found him for whom the whole world is waiting, Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and true man".

With these sentiments, I wish you all from my heart a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you.

As one would expect by now, the address to the Curia - always a major statement from the Pope - is the basis for the latest three tweets:
One must think the person(s) in charge of choosing and composing the Tweets from today's address were lazy and or/inattentive. because of the 'easy' choices they made, which completely ignored the two main messages of the address = on human sexuality and on inter=religious dialog. While one must acknowledge that it is not easy to compress a fundamental message on human nature as God created man and woman, it surely can be done from the Pope's words today - and to make the meaning clearer, with more than one tweet instead of one. On the created duality of human beings, the following would have been helpful (with minor changes to fit 144 characters but without changing the nessage in any way):[

Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of being human are now called into question.

People deny their nature and decide that they make it for themselves.

Manipulating nature, which we deplore in the environment,now becomes man's choice where he himself is concerned.

When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied.

Even the AP report posted below cites the last three quotations, but of course, selectively omits the statement on man and woman as complementary versions of being human.... Something similar could have been done about the statements on inter-religious dialog...Omitting the substantive parts of the Pope's message on human nature in the tweets simply opens him up even more to the inevitable hate mail that follows any statement he makes about human sexuality and what God intended for man (and woman). The public will only have ths secular media's take on what the Pope said, without considering the theological and anthropological bases for the Catholic Church position.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2012 4:51 AM]
12/21/2012 4:07 PM
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I suppose the AP report on the Pope's address to the Curia will be typical of what to expect from the secular press, even if Winfield could have been more hysterical than the severe reproach implied in her lead paragraph and in the item's headline. I fully expect other secular writers and commentators yo be much more hysterical...

Pope takes anti-gay marriage
stance to new level


VATICAN CITY, Dec. 21 (AP) — The Pope took his opposition to gay marriage to new heights Friday, denouncing what he described as people manipulating their God-given gender [God-given SEX, not gender - that is precisely his point!]to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very "essence of the human creature" in the process.

Benedict XVI made the comments in his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy — one of his most important speeches of the year. He dedicated it this year to promoting family values in the face of vocal campaigns in France, the United States, Britain and elsewhere to legalize same-sex marriage.

In his remarks, Benedict quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, in saying the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves."

"The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," he said.

It was the second time in a week that Benedict has taken on the question of gay marriage, which is dividing France after proponents scored big electoral wins in the United States last month. In his recently released annual peace message, Benedict said gay marriage, like abortion and euthanasia, was a threat to world peace.

After the peace message was released last week, gay activists staged a small protest in St. Peter's Square.

Church teaching holds that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered," though it stresses that gays should be treated with compassion and dignity. As Pope and as head of the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog before that, Benedict has been a strong enforcer of that teaching: One of the first major documents of his pontificate said men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies shouldn't be ordained priests.

For the Vatican, though, the gay marriage issue goes beyond questions of homosexuality, threatening what the Church considers to be the bedrock of society: a family based on a man, woman and their children.

But the Vatican's opposition has been falling on deaf ears. Under then-Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the largely Roman Catholic Spain legalized gay marriage. Earlier this month, the British government announced it will introduce a bill next year legalizing gay marriage, though it would ban the Church of England from conducting same-sex ceremonies.

In France, President Francois Hollande has said he would enact his "marriage for everyone" plan within a year of taking office last May. The text will go to parliament next month. But the country has been divided by vocal opposition from religious leaders, prime among them Bernheim, as well as some politicians and parts of rural France.

The Socialist government's plan also envisions legalizing same-sex adoptions. Benedict quoted Bernheim as denouncing that in his view, under the plan, a child is now essentially considered an object people have a right to obtain.

"When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God," Benedict said.

The Pope invites reflection on
human nature and inter-religious dialog

Translated from the Italian service of

December 21, 2012

The Holy Father's year=end address at the exchange of Christmas greetings with the Roman Curia is always one of his most personal and most closely studied statements.

It is a reflection on the year about to end but also a deeper statement on issues that the Poep consoders most urgent and of major importance.

They are things about which he feels it is his duty to manifest his thinking, going to the fundamentals, with that clearness and courage so characteristic of him. It is his duty to the Church and to mankind, even if his statements may provoke resistances and negative reactions.

The themes he chose this year were two: the family and the created duality of man and woman; and inter-religious dialog and the proclamation of the faith.

On the family, the Pope does not get into discussions on proposed legislation and on same-sex unions, nor does he reiterate his unforgettable statement of spiritual closeness to remarried Catholic divorcees that he pronounced in Milan last June.

But he reaffirms that today, the very question of 'who and what is man exactly' is at stake. The duality of man and woman is essential for the human being. It gives rise to the fundamental relationships between father, mother and children.

This duality is inscribed in human nature by God the Creator's plan. To deny it is to oppose truth and to say that it is the human being himself who 'determines' his sexual identity is a destructive step that opens the way to arbitrary manipulation of nature, with very serious consequences for human dignity - starting with the dignity of children, who are considered the object of a 'right' and no longer subjects of law.

In short, the battle for the family begins with the human being himself. The Pope makes ample references to what the Grand Rabbi of France wrote recently, to show that the position of the Church is not strictly 'confessional', but that of universal reason, which is shared in the great Judeo-Christian tradition.

Even the second theme that the Pope spoke about at length will be cause for dispute. It is most actual and is not unconnected with the first. The Christian enters a relationship of dialog as the bearer of great experience of man in the light of the faith, and feels he is responsible for the most precious and lasting values beyond merely pragmatic solutions.

He enters into dialog with the confidence that the search for truth will never place his Christian identity into question/ Because truth is not possessed by us arrogantly, but it calls and guides us even as Christ leads us by the hand.

This, too, is a Christmas wish from the Pope - profound, demanding and very actual.

And the editorial in tomorrow's issue of the OR... A 'duty translation', really, that is primarily 'for the record', since I am weary of arbitrary OR titles that have little to do with the content of the editorial (or of the Pope's addresses, even), and I am no fan of Mr. Vian's literary style.

The memory of mankind
Editorial by
Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from the12/22/122 issue of

Benedict XVI's year-end address to the Roman Curia after a year marked by shadows and light [The human experience is always marked by shadows and light!]will doubtless count as one of the most important in a Pontificate that never ceases to surprise. And which is increasingly showing itself to be able to attract the attention and interest not just of believers but even those who do not profess any religion.

In fact, the address, framed within the principal events of the Church year [the Pope's visits to Mexico and Cuba, to Milan, to Lebanon, then the Synodal assembly on the New Evangelization and the start of the Year of Faith, focused primarily on two themes - family and inter-religious dialog, in the style of a Pope who wishes to speak to everyone. Getting to the heart of the great questions that trouble the human being.

In the background is the Second Vatican Council 50 years since it opened, "in order to understand and assimilate it anew" in a historical context that has completely changed. This means continuing the Council's efforts to understand and to relate itself to the contemporary world in order to announce the Gospel of Christ.

Benedict XVI's reflections thus focused on the family, which remains 'strong and alive' despite the crisis which, especially in the West, is "threatening its very foundation".

A grave danger because it denies the ability of the human being to bond and would wish to eliminate it. [Not exactly! Only that the 'bonding' = in the sense of marriage = avidly espoused by contemporary society is same-sex bonding. even as traditional marriage bonds are becoming rarer and weaker!]

Through the theory of 'gender', present society in the West would cancel out the "fundamental figures of human existence - father, mother and children". In short, a radical mutation that the Pope contests with a calm but decisive clarity, citing an important recent reflection by Gilles Bernheim, the Grand Rabbi of France.

And even this citation of French Judaism's most authoritative leader shows a characteristic trait of Benedict XVI: his interest and his desire for friendship with a religious tradition without which Christianity would be incomprehensible.

It is from the common Scriptural roots of Judaism and Christianity that the Pope insists on holding up the true nature of man, which is now being manipulated in favor of 'man in the abstract', an idea that would end up dissolving the family and making children "an object to which one has rights". And he synthesizes this in a lapidary statement: "Whoever defends God defends man".

If the Pope's reasoning on the family is motivated by his concern for the reality of the human being as sustained by the Biblical narrative, a similar double inspiration is at the root of the Church's effort at inter-religious dialog.

In fact, she speaks "out of the light that she must announce and bear witness to the world, while representing at the same time the collective memory of mankind" - that memory of the human being who resists "a civilization of oblivion, which now recognizes only himself and his own criteria".

Obviously without forgetting the specificity - and the urgency of the Gospel announcement, the Pope looks beyond, as Paul VI had done at the United Nations, to address "even those who have not succeeded to share the faith of the Church".

Certainly, the Church does not have solutions for individual questions, but it must do what it can "to create conviction that can then be translated to political action".

Benedict XVI reiterates that "dialog among religions is a necessary condition for the peace of the world" - knowing well that it has to do with a common journey towards the only Truth.

I was hoping that the OR tomorrow would provide photos of the event,

but the fact that the editor chose to use a generic photo of the Pope shaking hands with someone for his Page 1 photo was a bad omen - it could have been taken at any other occasion. The B&W photos in the inside spread dedicated to the Curial address are singularly unexceptional and technically deficient, as usual - certainly not worth lifting and reproducing in larger format.

Catholic Press Photo which used to be a 'last resort' source of papal newsphotos has now switched to subscriber-only usage with all sorts of onerous conditions. I do not know where Gloria took the following pictures but they are from today...

The second panel is sub-optimal as I had to increase brightness at the expense of sharpness to make up for the very dark lighting.

P.S. Found one clean picture from CNS showing the Pope with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals:

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2012 1:01 PM]
12/21/2012 11:18 PM
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The whole world, including non-Christians, have taken advantage of the annual commemoration of the birth of Christ to feast and take the day off. What can one say about the bureaucrats of Europe who take off for their 'Christmas' holidays but won't even bother to acknowledge Christ in their official greeting cards? The only image I could find online of the Europarliament's greeting cards this year, as described in the article below, is the one above, in which snow, pine trees and Santa Claus with his reindeer are their 'symbols' of the holiday (I see no angel!)... At least, in the United States, only militant Christianophobic atheists and the horrid hysterical ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) are anti-Christmas and everything Christian, not the legislators!

Why even 'observe' Christmas
if you refuse to acknowledge Christ?

by Giacomo Galeazzi

What’s happened to Christmas? After Halloween pumpkins replaced the crucifix [not that the crucifix is particularly the symbol of All Saints' Day/All Souls'Day!], provoking strong criticisms from the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the European Parliament’s decision to scrap Christian symbols and references from its Christmas greeting cards has caused further uproar.

Apart from the angel which appears on the six printed greeting card versions and the ten electronic ones, the Nativity, which is the core symbol of the Christian celebration is nowhere to be seen. “If this is the case, then bureaucrats and MPs should be turning up at work on December 25th,” said Lorenzo Fontana, Italian Northern League party representative in the European Parliament.

The European Parliament’s greeting cards also provoked complaints last year. Fontana himself presented a request to the President of the Assembly, Jerzy Buzek, asking for Christmas cards to include recognisable Christian symbols in the future.

His request was rejected and this year’s cards feature stylised Christmas trees against psychedelic backgrounds and photoshopped images of the European Parliament.

Those who criticise this as a new chapter in Strasbourg’s “anti-Christian crusade" complain: “The design is dry, illuminated by cold blue and white flash lights which go completely against the whole idea of Christmas warmth.” Even the traditional “Merry Christmas” message has disappeared. All that appears in the cards is a neutral “2013”.

In addition to the negative reactions to the EU Parliament’s Nativity-free greeting cards, there was also a lot of huffing and puffing over the futuristic Christmas tree erected in the Grand Place in Brussels. It is apparently so anti-Christian that is has triggered a series of online petitions and forums asking for the return of the traditional pine tree.

It is really a shame that the message contained in Europe’s motto “unity in diversity” are just empty words. Even at such a time of heart-felt sharing as Christmas, EU institutions have failed to show sensitivity to the feelings of its citizens, the vast majority of whom are Christians.

But it is not just in Brussels and Strasbourg that Christmas is under threat, lay anti-Christmas crusades are also being witnessed in other European countries. In one French school south of Paris, Father Christmas has been banned in order to show respect for the school’s beliefs and values. A puppet show has replaced Santa Klaus, a figure inspired by faithful’s veneration of Bishop St. Nicholas.

In another school in Piacenza, Italy, references to religious topics in the institution’s Christmas celebrations are forbidden. Mgr. Adriano Vincenzi, a representative of the Italian Episcopal Conference in Confcooperative said: “It is commonly believed that giving up one’s own identity facilitates dialogue, but conserving one’s identity is essential for dialogue to take place.”

Every time man had attempted to extinguish the light brought to Earth by Jesuss’ birth, the result has been horrible darkness, Benedict XVI warned on the occasion of the lighting of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square.

Trying to remove God’s name from the history books leads to the most noble and beautiful of words losing their real meaning. “When terms such as freedom, common good and justice are no longer rooted in God and in his love, they fall victim to human interests and lose touch with the truth and civil responsibility, which are vital.”

But no one has managed to suppress the bright story of love begun two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us “to constantly draw on this legacy of faith, fostering it, in order to face up to the new social emergencies and today’s cultural challenges.”
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/21/2012 11:19 PM]
12/22/2012 2:24 AM
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The Pope's message on Jesus:
Joy matters more than any ideology

Why Benedict XVI's books sell
in an era considered post-Christian

by Mons. Bruno Forte
Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto
Translated from

December 21, 2012

The publishing success of the books of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI on JESUS OF NAZARETH, including the last of the trilogy, The Infancy Narratives, may be can appear singular in an age that many already consider ‘post=Christian’.

What would account for it? I think the answer is to be found in the ability of this Pope to speak to ‘the spirit of the times' in a way that is far from accommodating but nonetheless engaging. [I must thank Mons. Forte for pointing this out. It's something I've always taken for granted since I started reading Joseph Ratzinger in April 2005. He always does address the world fully aware of its dominant mentality and the world's growing alienation from God. He never assumes that all is sweetness and light because he is aware that even the 'best' of men are still subject to sin and human failings, but the grace of God never fails those who seek it in seeking Him.]

Benedict XVI does not ignore the great cultural transformations in recent decades: from a widespread trust – perhaps even ingenuous – in the ability of the 'great ideologies’ to interpret and transform the world, we have gone on with surprising rapidity to a similarly widespread mistrust of any comprehensive horizon of meaning, including that of religion.

Man reduced to ‘masses’ by ideologies finds himself suddenly alone, without the embrace of a firm belonging, in a crowd of lonely persons where often ‘the other’ is reduced to a ‘moral stranger’. In this setting, the autonomy claimed by modernity as its historical attribute becomes absolute, and the space for the other, starting with one’s neighbor, to God himself, is frighteningly reduced.

Today, the Pope says, “ever anew, God himself is seen as a limitation to our freedom, a limitation to be eliminated in order to be able to be totally oneself”(L’infanzia di Gesu, p 101). But precisely because of this the idea of a God that is different from that which ideologies have fought and that the post-modernity of manifold solitudes rejects, is fascinating: "God is love… Love is not a romantic feeling of well-being. Redemption is not wellness, a bath of self-complacency, but a liberation of the being that is compressed in the ego. This liberation is at the cost of suffering on the Cross. The prophecy of light and the words on the Cross come together (ibidem).

Thus the theologian Pope attracts the men and women of this post-Christian, post-secular and post-modern age. [If we are post-everything, then what are we? I think Mons. Forte is too taken in by current sociological jargon to consider what he is saying! Benedict XVI is more direct in simply saying we are living in age of narcissism, in which the only criterion is me-myself-and-I. In other words, purely and totally post-Original Sin]

In his simple exposition, in the contents which narrate very powerfully about a God who is near, one who is human to the end but not any less divine, Joseph Ratzinger’s JESUS OF NAZARETH trilogy is Good News for our time and its uncertainties, for those who are shipwrecked on the failed promises of the great ideologies and orphans without a reliable, much less welcoming, homeland.

Even in its method, the Christological work of Benedict XVI presents a marked post-modern character: it is an approach to the figure of Jesus inspired by kind of ‘post-critical narrative innocence”. [Please. Mons. Fprte, stop using post-anything for anything!]

The author presumes the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts, not a-critically, but by weighing the testimony and applying the criteria elaborated in refined debates over the past two centuries about the historicity of the Gospels.

In his reading, there are various emphases that range from minimalism to maximalism. [What does that mean, exactly? Cite one minimalism and one meximalism, at least!] The Pope’s trilogy follows a precise line, inspired by a basic premise, in which appreciating the historical Jesus is never irrelevant to the mind and heart.

A master of contemporary hermeneutics, Hans Georg Gadamer, has noted that this approach is valid for every historical figure, and always involves three elements: 'strangeness, co-involvement and the fusion of horizons'.

If the strangeness of the subject demands critical rigor, which is a guarantee of objectivity, co-involvement motivates research because it looks into questions of the past that touch our lives today. When one gets to this encounter between the two poles, then there is a 'fusion of horizons’, in which the past speaks to the present and makes it fruitful by transforming it.

The understanding that is thereby obtained, according to Benedict XVI, is the goal of every believer’s approach to the Gospels, when he is not moved simply by intellectual curiosity but always by the desire to understand oneself better in the light of what the story of the Son of God tells us.

“A correct interpretation,” writes the Pope, “requires two steps. On the one hand, one must ask oneself what did the respective authors intend to say in their texts at the moment when they said it… But it is not enough to leave the text in the past, archived among the things that happened long ago. The second question of the correct e3xegete must be: "Is it true what has been said? Does it concern me? And if it does, how?" (page 5)

What then is the message that Benedict XVI takes from the Gospels through this approach, especially from the stories of Jesus's childhood? To the disappointment of the orphans of utopian ideologies and their violence, they are offered the face of a God who is near to us.

The humanity of God emerges from the evangelical narratives in the form of humility: “The sign of the New Testament is humility, hiddenness – the mustard seed i9s its symbol. (Page 30).

Against the indifference to the suffering of others, which the Fathers of the Church considered typical of paganism, and present in so many forms in the consumeristic hedonism of our time [thank God he didn’t say post-consumeristic!] [, “the Christian faith offers a God who suffers with men and thus attracts us to ‘com-passion'. (Page 102).

The paradox that pervades all Biblical narratives is that "everything that is great arises from that which, according to worldly criteria, may appear small and insignificant, while that which appears great in the eyes of the world shatters and disappears” (PagE 121).

All this does not take away anything from the divinity of God, powerfully offered in the work of Joseph Ratzinger. In the story of the Magi, he notes, :it is not the star that determines the destiny of the Baby, but the Baby who guides the star… Man assumed by God – as he shows in his only-begotten Son –is greater than all the powers of the material world and is worth more than the entire universe (Page 119).

But the heart of the message is that this man and this God are found completely in Jesus: In him, “the universal and the concrete touch each other. In him, the Logos, the Creative Reason of all things, entered the world” (Page 77).

This encounter produces great joy for whoever accepts to live the faith: “It is the joy of man struck to the heart by the light of God and who can therefore see that his hope is realized, the joy of he who has sought and has been found” (Page 123).

This joy motivates the song of angels, the Pope writes as a connoisseur of music, “helps us to understand why “the simple people among believers heard even the shepherds sing, and up to now, on Christmas Eve, join in their song, expressing in music the great joy that since then to the end of times has been given to all” (Page 88).

And it is joy that one experiences reading the pages of Benedict XVI. A joy that a great fellow German of his, Johann Sebastian Bach, sang about in his Christmas Oratorio, which is singularly in tune with what the Pope conveys in this book: “How can I welcome you, how can I meet you, O desire of all the world, o treasure of my soul? .. My beloved baby Jesus, prepare a pure and tender cradle to rest in the treasure chest of my heart so that I may never forget you!...
O Jesus, you alone are my desire, may you always be in my thoughts, and do not let me vacillate”.

12/22/2012 12:51 PM
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Saturday, December 22, Third Week of Advent

BLESSED JACOPONE DA TODI (Italy, ca. 1236-1306)
Widower, Franciscan, Reformer, Poet
Born to wealth in the Umbrian city of Todi, Giacomo (James) became a successful lawyer
whose wife did penance for his worldly excesses. After losing her in an accident, he had
a change of heart, gave away his wealth, joined the lay Franciscans, and preached penance
to everyone. People took to call him Jacopone ('Crazy Jim') because he dressed in rags,
but he kept the name. After 10 years, he decided to join the Franciscan friar order
itself, being accepted in 1578 after initial rejection, although he declined to be ordained
as a priest. Besides preaching penitence and fighting corruption in both Church and State
leaders, he also wrote many poems as well as hymns in the vernacular. The Stabat Mater
has been attributed to him. As the 14th century came along, Jacopone found himself a leader
of the so-called Spiritualist movement within the Franciscan order, which advocated a return
to St. Francis's strict lifestyle. In 1298, he was excommunicated, exiled and imprisoned
when a new Pope, Boniface VIII, opposed their cause. He was freed in 1303 after Boniface
died. He lived three more years, and was venerated as a saint from the day he died. Dante
mentions him in La Divina Commedia.
Readings for today's Mass:


The Holy Father met with

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

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 12/22/2012 12:52 PM]
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