VIDEO MESSAGE FOR CLOSURE OF NAPLES JUBILEE YEAR
VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Jubilee year of the Church in Naples, Italy, came to a close yesterday evening with a celebration presided by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, in the city's cathedral. The ceremony also included the projection of a video message from the Holy Father, specially recorded for the occasion. Extracts from his remarks are published below. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
"Your journey over these months has involved the joyful participation of the ecclesial and civil communities, and of many people of good will. ... This special Jubilee Year has, for the Church in Naples, been a time of immersion in the mystery of God, and therefore a time of grace. ... The Jubilee caused heaven to open above you and the power of the Holy Spirit to descend upon your lives and communities, just as it descended on the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost".
"Now, with renewed enthusiasm and with the strength of faith, hope and charity, you can face the many and complex problems of your daily lives. Just as, after Pentecost, the Apostles courageously began to announce the Good News so you too, after this Jubilee, can renew your hope, allow yourselves to be guided by the power of the Holy Spirit and work together with renewed energy in the mission of the Church. May each of you put the gifts you have received to good use, placing them at the service of others and of the entire community, without selfishness or rivalry, but in a spirit of sincere humility and joyful fraternity. Have special care, as you already do, for the weakest and most fragile, the poorest and most disadvantaged of our brothers and sisters.
"May Our Lady of Mount Carmel, protectress of the city of Naples, and St. Genarius, watch over you and help you to maintain, with perseverance and faithfulness the commitments you have taken on in this Jubilee Year".
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NEW EVANGELISATION IS NOT AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT
VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
In his address to the group, the Pope spoke of the challenges "which are common to all of you, in spite of the many social, economic and cultural contexts in which you work". In particular, he mentioned secularism and its "significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family", he said.
"Ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision. ... Thus, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation was recently established. Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelisation is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church. You, as bishops and pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples".
Benedict XVI then reminded the prelates of the importance of caring for their priests, "especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests. ... In our day young people need more assistance with spiritual discernment so that they may know the Lord's will. In a world affected by a 'profound crisis of faith', ensure too that your seminarians receive a well-rounded formation". The Pope also acknowledged the "significant contribution" made by religious to the work of evangelisation, and the contribution of the lay faithful.
"I have had this opportunity to discuss with you the new evangelisation, I do so mindful of the recently proclaimed Year of Faith, which 'is intended to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves'. May this privileged time serve as an inspiration as you join the entire Church in the ongoing efforts of the new evangelisation, for although you are spread among many islands and we are separated by great distances, together we profess 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all'".
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CHRISTIANS IN OCEANIA MUST REDISCOVER THEIR MISSION
VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Synod of Bishops today published a communique concerning the tenth meeting of the Special Council of Oceania, which took place on 9 December under the presidency of Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod, and was attended by most of the prelates of Oceania, currently in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.
The council focused its attention on the application of John Paul II's 2001 Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Oceania" to the daily lives of the particular Churches of the region. The participants highlighted how the Exhortation maintains all its validity in the current social and ecclesial situation, "which has undergone a certain degree of radicalisation, especially in the process of secularisation and particularly in Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, there are signs of hope, such as the openness of young people and of certain intellectuals to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although these aspects involve a minority, they are important signals and nourish hope for the future".
The challenges facing the Church in the region include human rights, bioethics, ecology, the family, charity, inculturation, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. At the same time, "the 'ad gentes' mission is a pressing necessity in Oceania, where the particular Churches are committed to continuing the mission of the evangelisers who first announced the truth of Christ. It is important to continue along this path, both in the context of secularised societies and among the traditionally religious peoples of the Pacific, paying particular attention to indigenous peoples. ... The announcement of the Gospel requires fresh ardour from all Christians, including the laity, who must rediscover their missionary vocation".
The meeting also examined the preparations underway for the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, due to be held in the Vatican in October 2012.
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OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:
- Fr. Serge Thomas Bonino O.P., professor of philosophy at the "Institut Catholique" and of theology at the Dominican Studium in Toulouse, France, as secretary general of the International Theological Commission.
- Msgr. Giovanni Battista Gandolfo of the clergy of the diocese of Albenga-Imperia, Italy, president of the Committee for Charitable Initiatives in Favour of the Third World and director of the same Office at the Italian Episcopal Conference, as a member of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum".
- As members of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples: Bishop Wojciech Polak, auxiliary of Gniezno, Poland, and Bishop Edward Janiak, auxiliary of Wroclaw, Poland.
- Msgr. Enrico Feroci, director of diocesan Caritas in Rome, as a consultor of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
- Msgr. Antonio Grappone of the clergy of the diocese of Rome, official of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as bureau chief of the same pontifical council.
- Sr. Nicoletta Vittoria Spezzati of the Congregation of the Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ, official of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as under secretary of the same congregation.
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POPE CALLS FOR PRISONERS' DIGNITY TO BE RESPECTED
VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father made a pastoral visit to the prison of Rebbiba in northern Rome. On his arrival he was welcomed by Paola Severino, minister of justice; Franco Ionta, head of the prison administration department, and Fr. Pier Sandro Spriano and Fr. Roberto Guarnieri, prison chaplains.
The Holy Father met the prisoners in the institute's central church, dedicated to Our Father. Excerpts from his remarks to them are given below.
"'I was in prison and you visited me'. These are the words of the Final Judgment according to Matthew the Evangelist, the Lord's words in which He identifies Himself with those in prison, words which fully express the significance of my visit to you today. Wherever someone is hungry, a stranger, sick or in prison, there is Christ Himself Who awaits our visit and our assistance. ... The Church has always considered visiting the imprisoned as one of the corporal acts of mercy, but this, in order to be complete, means fully accepting the prisoner, 'making space for him in our time, in our home, in our friendships, in our laws, in our cities'. ... The Only-begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus, also experienced jail. He was judged before a tribunal and suffered a ferocious death sentence.
"During my recent apostolic trip to Benin last month, I signed a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation in which I underlined the Church's concern for justice in States. I wrote: 'Independent judiciary and prison systems are urgently needed, therefore, for the restoration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders. It is time to put a stop to miscarriages of justice and ill-treatment of prisoners, and the widespread non-enforcement of the law ... which represents a violation of human rights, as well as imprisonment either without trial or else with much-delayed trial. The Church in Africa ... recognises her prophetic mission towards all those affected by crime and their need for reconciliation, justice and peace. Prisoners are human persons who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They need our care".
Justice is inseparable from mercy
"Human justice and divine justice are very different. Men are not, of course, capable of applying divine justice, but they must at least ... seek to understand the spirit that moves it, in order to illuminate human justice and to ensure that prisoners do not become outcasts, as unfortunately they often do. God, in fact, is He Who strongly proclaims justice, but at the same time heals wounds with the balm of mercy".
"Justice and mercy, justice and charity are cardinal points of Church social doctrine. They differ only for we human beings, as we carefully distinguish between an act of justice and an act of love. ... But this is not true of God. In Him justice and charity coincide; there is no act of justice that is not also an act of mercy and forgiveness while, at the same time, there is no act of mercy that is not perfectly just".
"The penitential system has two main points, both of them important: protecting society from possible threats, and rehabilitating those who have erred without trampling on their dignity or excluding them from social life. Both of these aspects ... are aimed at avoiding that 'chasm' between what life in jail is really like and how it was intended by the law, which gives fundamental importance to the re-educational function of punishment and to respecting the rights and dignity of persons".
Overcrowding and degradation make prison sentences worse
"I know that overcrowding and the dilapidation of jails can make detention even worse. ... Public institutions must carefully analyse the situation in prisons today, monitoring structures, resources and staff so that prisoners do not serve a 'double sentence'. It is important to develop the prison system in such a way that, while respecting justice, it is increasingly adapted to the needs of human beings, also by using non-custodial penalties or different forms of custody".
"Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. May the Lord's Nativity, which is now drawing near, reawaken hope and love in your hearts. The birth of the Lord Jesus, which we will celebrate in a few days' time, reminds us of His mission to save all mankind, excluding no one. ... Let us ask Him ... to free everyone from the prison of sin, arrogance and pride. Each of us, in fact, has need to leave this inner prison in order to be truly free from evil, anguish and death".
"I would like to conclude by saying that the Church supports and encourages all efforts to ensure that everyone lives a dignified life. Be sure that I am close to each of you. ... May the Lord bless you and your future".
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REBBIBIA: HOLY FATHER RESPONDS TO PRISONERS' QUESTIONS
VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following his address to inmates in the Roman prison of Rebbibia this morning, the Pope responded to six questions put to him by his audience. Summaries of the questions and his answers are given below:
Q. I would like to ask His Holiness whether the simplicity of his gesture [in coming here today] will also be understood by our politicians, so that the dignity and hope which belong to each living being may be restored to all mankind, including we prisoners.
A. "I have come here above all to express my personal and intimate closeness, in communion with Christ Who loves you. But of course this visit ... is also a public gesture reminding our fellow citizens, our government, of the fact that there are serious problems in Italian jails. Clearly, prisons exist to favour justice, and a primary factor of justice is human dignity. ... In as much as I can, I would like to give a signal of how important it is for prisons to respond to their purpose of renewing human dignity, supporting it not undermining it. Let us hope the government has the possibility to respond to this vocation".
Q. Rather than asking a question, I would like to ask you to allow us to come to you with our suffering, our own suffering and that of our families, like a cable which communicates with the Lord Jesus. I love you.
A. "I also love you. ... The Lord's self-identification with the imprisoned is an obligation upon us, and I too have to ask myself whether I have acted according to the commandment of the Lord. ... This is one of the reasons I came here, because I know that in you the Lord is waiting for me, that you have need of human recognition, that you need this presence of the Lord. I hope that prisons may realise their true goal of helping people to find themselves, ... to find self-reconciliation and reconciliation with others, with God, in order to re-enter society and help the progress of humankind".
Q. Do you feel it is right that, ... now that I am a new man and father to a beautiful two-month-old daughter, ... I am not granted the possibility to return home despite the fact that I have paid my debt to society?
A. "First of all congratulations! I am happy you consider yourself to be a new man. ... You know that, according to Church doctrine, the family is fundamental and it is important for a father to be able to hold his daughter in his arms. Thus, I pray and hope that you will soon embrace your daughter, be with her and your wife to build a beautiful family, and so collaborate in the future of Italy".
Q. What can sick and HIV-positive prisoners ask of the Pope? ... We are not often mentioned, and then in aggressive terms, as if seeking to eliminate us from society. This makes us feel subhuman.
A. "We have to endure the fact that people speak about us 'aggressively'. They also speak 'aggressively' about the Pope, yet nonetheless we persevere. I think it is important to encourage everyone to think positively, to understand your sufferings, to understand the need to help you rise again. I will do my part, inviting everyone to think in the right way, not abusively but humanly, understanding that anyone can fall, but God wants everyone to reach Him. We must cooperate in a spirit of fraternity recognising our own fragility so that people can truly ... continue their journey with dignity".
Q. Holiness, I was taught that the Lord can see and read inside each one of us. Why has absolution been delegated to priests. If I, alone and on my knees, asked the Lord to absolve me, would He?
A. "Of course if you, on your knees and with authentic love for God, ask Him to forgive you, He will do so. ... However, sin is not only a 'personal' thing, an individual account between me and God. Sin also has a social dimension. ... And it is this social dimension of sin that needs to be absolved at the level of the human community, the community of the Church. ... It requires the Sacrament. ... Sacramental absolution is necessary to absolve me of this bond of evil and to rehabilitate me in the will of God, ... to give me the certainty that God forgives me and receives me into the community of His children".
Q. Holy Father, last month you visited the African nation of Benin, one of the poorest countries in the world. ... They place their hope and faith in God, and die amidst poverty and violence. Why does God not listen to them? Does God perhaps listen only to the rich and powerful who have no faith?
A. "God's criteria are different from ours. God gives these poor people the joy of His presence, He makes His closeness felt in their suffering and difficulties, and of course He calls on us all to do everything we can to ensure they can emerge from their sickness and poverty. ... We must pray to God for justice, so that everyone can live in the joy of being His children".
Having answered the questions, the Pope then prayed with prisoners. On leaving the church, and before returning to the Vatican, he blessed a cypress tree planted in memory of his visit.
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WHO TRUSTS IN GOD ACCEPTS JESUS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT
VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following his visit to the Roman prison of Rebbiba this morning, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican Apostolic Palace where he appeared at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
The Pope introduced the Marian prayer with a reflection on the importance of Mary's virginity. Recalling the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel", he explained how "this ancient promise was abundantly fulfilled in the incarnation of the Son of God. Not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so by the Holy Spirit; that is, by God Himself. The human being Who began life in her womb took Mary's flesh, but His existence derived entirely from God".
"The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is, then, essential for an understanding of Jesus and of our faith. It is a testament to the fact that the initiative was God's and, above all, it reveals Who the person conceived is. As the Gospel says, 'the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the son of God'. In this perspective, Mary's virginity and Jesus' divinity are warranties of one another".
The Holy Father continued: "God awaited the 'yes' of this young girl in order to achieve His plan. He respected her dignity and her freedom. ... Mary's virginity is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance concerns all Christians, ... because those who have profound trust in the love of God welcome Jesus and His divine life into their own lives, by the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas".
Following the Angelus, Benedict XVI expressed his concern for people in the southern Philippines where a tropical storm has caused great loss of human life and material damage. "I pray for the victims, of whom so many are children, for the homeless and the missing", he said.
Finally he delivered greetings in a number of languages. Addressing Spanish pilgrims, her recalled the fact that twenty-two Oblates of Mary Immaculate, killed in 1936, were beatified in Madrid yesterday. "Joy at their beatification is linked to the hope that their sacrifice may yet bring great fruits of conversion and reconciliation", he concluded.
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JESUS WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN
VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received a delegation of children from Italian Catholic Action, with whom he exchanged Christmas greetings.
The Holy Father thanked the group for their visit, then went on to remark on a theme they have been studying this year, the invitation made to Bartimaeus in the Bible: "Arise, He is calling". This call, the Pope explained, "has already been repeated often in your lives, and it is repeated again today. The first call was in the gift of life. Always be attentive to this great gift, appreciate it and be grateful to the Lord. Ask Him to give a joyful life to all the boys and girls of the world, that they may all be respected and none may lack what they need to live".
"Another important call was Baptism. ... At that moment you became brothers and sisters of Jesus Who loves you more than anyone else and wants to help you to grow. Another call was First Communion. On that day your friendship with Jesus became closer and more intimate. ... Respond generously to the Lord Who calls you to be friends with Him. He will never let you down".
"Dear friends", Pope Benedict concluded, "I would like to ask you for one thing. Take this beautiful invitation - "Arise, He is calling" - to your own friends and tell them: Look, I have responded to Jesus' call and I am happy because I have found a great Friend in Him, a Friend I meet in prayer, Who I see among my Friends, to Whom I listen in the Gospel. My Christmas wish for you is that, when you make your nativity scenes, you imagine you are saying to Jesus: come into my life and I will listen to you always".
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DECREES OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE CAUSES OF SAINTS
VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorised the promulgation of decrees concerning the following causes:
- Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Italian priest and founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth and of the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord (1841-1913).
- Blessed Jacques Berthieu, French martyr and priest of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) (1838-1896).
- Blessed Maria del Carmen (born Maria Salles y Barangueras), Spanish foundress of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching (1848-1911).
- Blessed Maria Anna Cope, nee Barbara, German religious of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Syracuse U.S.A. (1838-1918).
- Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, American laywoman (1656-1680).
- Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Filipino lay catechist and martyr (1654-1672).
- Blessed Anna Schaffer, German laywoman (1882-1925).
- Servant of God Louis Brisson, French priest and founder of the Oblates of St. Francis of Sales (1817-1908).
- Servant of God Luigi Novarese, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Silent Workers of the Cross (1914-1984).
- Servant of God Maria Luisa (nee Gertrude Prosperi), Italian abbess of the convent of the Order of St. Benedict of Trevi (1799-1847).
- Servant of God Mother St. Louis (nee Maria Luisa Elisabeth de Lamoignon, widow of Mole de Champlatreux), French foundress of the Sisters of St. Louis (1763-1825).
- Servant of God Maria Crescencia (nee Maria Angelica Perez), Argentinean professed religious of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Orchard (1897-1932).
- Servant of God Nicola Rusca, Swiss diocesan priest, killed in hatred of the faith (1563-1618).
- Servants of God Luis Orencio (ne Antonio Sola Garriga) and eighteen companions of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools; Antonio Mateo Salamero, diocesan priest, and Jose Gorostazu Labayen, layman, all killed in hatred of the faith in Spain in 1936.
- Servants of God Alberto Maria Marco y Aleman and eight companions of the Order of Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, and Agustin Maria Garcia Tribaldos and fifteen companions of the Institute of Brothers of Christian Schools; all killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.
- Servants of God Mariano Alcala Perez and eighteen companions of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937.
- Servant of God Donato Giannotti, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Sisters Handmaidens of the Immaculate Conception (1828-1914).
- Servant of God Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus (ne Henri Grialou), French professed priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and founder of the Institute of Notre-Dame de Vie (1894-1967).
- Servant of God Alphonse-Marie (nee Elisabeth Eppinger), French foundress of the Congregation of Sisters of the Blessed Saviour (1814-1867).
- Servant of God Marguerite Lucia Szewczyk, Polish foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God - Seraphic Sisters (1828-1905).
- Servant of God Assunta Marchetti, Italian co-foundress of the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles (1871-1948).
- Servant of God Maria Julitta (nee Teresa Eleonora Ritz), German professed sister of the Congregation of Sisters of the Redeemer (1882-1966).
- Servant of God Maria Anna Amico Roxas, Italian laywoman and foundress of the Society of St. Ursula (1883-1947).
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VATICAN CITY, 19 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:
- Esteban Kriskovic, the new ambassador of Paraguay to the Holy See for the presentation of his Letters of Credence.
- Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
On Saturday 17 December he received in audience:
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
- Five prelates from the Conferentia Episcopalis Pacifici, on their "ad limina" visit:
- Fr. Olivier P. Aro, M.S.P., superior of the "sui iuris" mission of Tokelau.
- Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva.
- Bishop Paul Donoghue S.M. of Rarotonga.
- Bishop Paul Eusebius Mea Kaiuea M.S.C. of Tarawa and Nauru.
- Bishop Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.
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