POPE HAS LUNCH WITH THE POOR
VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2010 (VIS REPORT) - The Holy Father today offered a luncheon to people assisted by the various Roman communities of the Missionaries of Charity, in order to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The lunch, which took place in the atrium of the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, was attended by 350 people from various welcome centres, and by 150 religious, including Missionaries of Charity, Contemplative Brothers, priests and seminarians.
Following some words of greeting by Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Pope arose to address the assembly. "May the light of the Baby Jesus, of the Son of God made man, illuminate our lives to transform them into light, as we see happen particularly in the lives of saints", he said. In this context, he also recalled the witness of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which he defined as "a reflection of the light of God's love. Celebrating a hundred years since her birth is a cause for gratitude and reflection, for a renewed and joyful commitment to serve the Lord and our brothers and sisters, especially the most needy".
"Blessed Teresa of Calcutta", the Holy Father said, "showed charity to everyone without distinction, but with a preference for the poor and abandoned: a luminous sign of God's paternity and goodness. In all people she was able to recognise the face of Christ, Whom she loved with her entire being. She continued to encounter the Christ she adored and received in the Eucharist in the streets and lanes of the city, becoming a living 'image' of Jesus Who pours the grace of merciful love onto man's wounds.
"To those who ask why Mother Teresa became as famous as she did, the answer is simple: because she lived humbly and discretely for and in the love of God. She herself said that her greatest prize was to love Jesus and serve Him in the poor. Her diminutive figure, her hands joined in prayer or caressing the sick, a leper, the dying, a child, was the visible sign of an existence transformed by God. In the night of human pain she made the light of divine Love shine and helped many hearts to find the peace which only God can give.
"We thank the Lord", Benedict XVI added, "because in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we all see how our lives can change when we meet Jesus; how they can become a reflection of the light of God for other people. To so many men and women who experienced poverty and suffering, she gave the consolation and certainty that God never abandons anyone, ever. Her mission continues through those who, here as elsewhere in the world, live the charism of being missionaries of charity.
"We are very grateful, dear sisters and brothers, for your humble and discreet presence, hidden to the eyes of mankind but extraordinary and precious to the heart of God. Your life witness shows man - who often searches for illusory happiness - where true joy is to be found: in sharing, in giving, in loving with the same gratuitousness as God, which breaks all the logic of human selfishness".
The Holy Father concluded his remarks with assurances of his prayers. "Know that the Pope loves you", he said, "and carries you in his heart, gathering you all together in a paternal embrace".
LORD MAKE YOUR PROMISE TRUE: OF PEACE THERE WILL BE NO END
VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
In the course of the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his homily.
"'You are my son, this day I have begotten you'. With this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel. The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the 'Son of God' through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which He grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into His own being".
"Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God's personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true. ... Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In Him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. ... In the weakness of infancy, He is the mighty God and He shows us God's own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.
"Truly, the words of Israel's coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. ... Thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. ... The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. ... He has truly 'come down', He has come into the world, He has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to Himself. ... He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God's own peace. This Child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds His kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart.
"But at the same time it is true that the 'rod of his oppressor' is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the 'garment rolled in blood' still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God's closeness. We are grateful that God gives Himself into our hands as a Child, begging as it were for our love, implanting His peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that 'of peace there will be no end'. We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world, the 'kingdom of righteousness, love and peace'.
"'Mary gave birth to her first-born son'. ... In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, 'first-born' does not mean the first of a series of children. The word 'first-born' is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow. ... The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In His person He brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. ... Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man". Furthermore, "He is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection He has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. ... Now He really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood - not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus - but the new brotherhood in which we are God's own family".
"At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'. The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God's glory. ... The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. ... But the angels' message on that holy night also spoke of men: 'Peace among men with whom he is pleased'. The Latin translation of the angels' song that we use in the liturgy, taken from St. Jerome, is slightly different: 'peace to men of good will'. ... It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if He had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralising interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God's prior love for us, without which we could not love Him, and the response that He awaits from us. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together".
"St. Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest'. But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God's heavenly glory. ... At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men".
VATICAN CITY, 25 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Holy Father pronounced his traditional Christmas Message from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, and imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.
Extracts of the Message are given below:
"Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; He came to dwell among us. God is not distant: He is 'Emmanuel', God-with-us. He is no stranger: He has a face, the face of Jesus.
"This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth!
"'The Word became flesh'. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love".
"God does not change; He is Love. ... Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history".
"And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence".
"The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. 'Emmanuel', God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that His Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the One born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.
"May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.
"May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Cote d'Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
"May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of 'God-with-us' grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all".
Following his Message, the Pope extended Christmas greetings in sixty-five languages and imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world).
VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the first Sunday after Christmas and Feast of the Holy Family, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.
"In the poor grotto of Bethlehem", the Pope said, "a bright light shone forth, a reflection of the profound mystery which surrounded that Child, and which Mary and Joseph guarded in their hearts. ... Indeed, in their most intimate depths they conserved the words of the angel's announcement to Mary: 'the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God'".
"The birth of any child brings with it something of this mystery. Parents know this well as they receive their offspring as a gift, and often talk of it as such. ... Human beings experience procreation not merely as reproductive act; they perceive its richness, they are intuitively aware that every human creature who enters into the world is a 'sign' par excellence of the Creator and Father in heaven.
"How important it is, then", the Holy Father added, "for each child coming into the world to be welcomed into the warmth of a family! Exterior comforts are not important. Jesus was born in a stable and His first cradle was a manger, but the love of Mary and Joseph made Him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. This is what children need: the love of a father and mother. This is what gives them a sense of security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth had to suffer many trials, such as... the 'massacre of the innocents', which forced Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt. But, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and ensured Jesus had a serene infancy and a solid education".
"The Holy Family was certainly unique and unrepeatable", the Pope concluded, "but at the same time it is a 'life model' for all families because Jesus, true man, chose to be born in a human family and, by doing so, blessed and consecrated that institution. And so we entrust all families to Mary and Joseph, that they may not be discouraged in the face of trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and dedicate themselves faithfully to the service of life and education".
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father launched a fresh appeal for peace, hope and reconciliation.
"Over this Christmas period, the desire and calls for the gift of peace have become more intense. Yet our world continues to be marked by violence, especially against the disciples of Christ. I learned with great sadness of the attack on a Catholic church in the Philippines during the celebration of the Christmas liturgy, as well as attacks against Christian churches in Nigeria. The earth has also been stained with blood in other parts of the world, such as Pakistan. I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the victims of this absurd violence, and I once again reiterate my appeal to abandon the path of hatred in order to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and bring security and tranquillity to those dear people. On this day in which we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, who underwent the dramatic experience of having to flee into Egypt because of the murderous fury of Herod, let us remember all those, especially families, who are forced to abandon their homes because of war, violence and intolerance. I invite you, therefore, to join me in praying fervently that the Lord may touch people's hearts and bring hope, reconciliation and peace".
VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Gabriel Sayaogo of the clergy of the diocese of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso, vicar general, as bishop of Manga (area 9,870, population 574,622, Catholics 107,104, priests 16, religious 21), Burkina Faso. The bishop-elect was born in Niessega, Burkina Faso in 1962 and ordained a priest in 1991. He succeeds Bishop Wenceslas Compaore, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
On Monday 27 December it was made public that the Holy Father appointed Fr. Ferenc Palanki of the clergy of the diocese of Vac, Hungary, spiritual director of the minor seminary, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Eger (area 11,500, population 1,264,000, Catholics 692,000, priests 209, permanent deacons 14, religious 57), Hungary. The bishop-elect was born in Balassagyarmat, Hungary in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1994.