Friday, December 25, 2009




The birth of God "for us" is a strong exhortation to overcome " both individual and collective” selfishness, which "keeps us prisoners of self-interest” and makes us “tone deaf” to God. A call to peace in the Middle East, respect for human rights in Sri Lanka and in Congo, the pursuit of harmony in Iraq and Latin America, an invitation to welcome the poor and immigrants in our lives. This was Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the City and the World this Christmas.Flags and banners thronged St Peter’s square, from Mexico and Brazil, North America and India.The marching bands of the Italian Army and Vatican Guards took up position and struck up the chords of the two national anthems as the crowds waited excitedly for the red velvet curtains to part.Then at midday Pope Benedict appeared at the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, flanked by two Cardinal deacons to deliver his Christmas blessing to the jubilant crowds below and to the many millions more who had tuned in from an estimated 100 nations worldwide. He told them, "The light of the first Christmas was like a fire in the night." "Today too, - continued the Pope - in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world". “The “us” of the Church – he continued - is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in Iraq with the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region subject to violence and injustice, but which remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society and is opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. “The “us” of the Church, he said, is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace.” “On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them". "In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity”.That symbol of the "fire" was also the heart of Thursday’s celebration of the Christmas vigil mass, celebrated in St. Peter’s basilica. The rite, beamed around the world, was marked at the beginning by a moment of confusion and fear when a young woman, jumped over the security barricade as the Pope passed in procession down the central aisle of St Peter’s Basilica, and launching herself at the Pope, caused him to fall. Pope Benedict XVI immediately recovered and continued towards the altar to celebrate mass. Unfortunately the elderly French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was caught up in the fray that ensued the attack and suffered a broken femur in the fall.Vatican Press Office director Fr Federico Lombardi said the 25 year-old woman appeared to have a history of mental ill-health. He added that Cardinal Etechgaray was receiving treatment in Gemelli Hospital, and that he would be operated on in coming days. Fr Lombardi ensured that Pope Benedict had emerged unscathed from the episode.Pope Benedict XVI, made no mention of the incident as he continued celebrations, placing the "light" of Christ’s birth at the centre of his reflections. The light that illuminated the shepherds in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.He said "We must be awake, so that we can hear the message of salvation", we must leave our own individual dreamworlds and enter common reality, casting off that selfishness "that keeps us prisoners of our interests and desires, dividing us from one another." Pope Benedict said that today, the mentality of the world and "the range of our various experiences" end up reducing our sensitivity to God. We are tine deaf to Him."The majority of men - concluded the Pope – do not see the things of God as a priority, when in reality God is the most important part of our life. Just as the shepherds we must " learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives” and how to “escape from the muddle of our thoughts and activities and discover the way that leads to” Jesus Christ. God in Christ comes to us, he becomes a child, he lets us touch Him and asks for our love, saying " come and see how much I love you” On Christmas day they came, in their thousands, to wish the Pope a merry Christmas. And they were not disappointed as before he imparted his apostolic blessing Pope Benedict sent Christmas greetings around the world in 65 languages; including: Chinese, Russian, Kazakh, Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Armenian , Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Burmese, Urdu, Korean, Vietnamese, Sinhalese, Thai, Indonesian, Cambodian, Filipino, and of course English.(SOURCE:


Last night during the entrance procession of the Christmas Eve Mass in St Peter's Basilica, a woman with mental health problems - 25 year old Susanna Maiolo, of Italian and Swiss citizenship – jumped over the security barrier and, despite the intervention of security officers, managed to reach the Holy Father and to grasp his pallium, causing him to lose his balance and stumble to the ground. The Pope was able to quickly recover and resume the procession. The celebration was subsequently held without any further problems.Unfortunately in the confusion which arose, Cardinal Etchegaray fell, and fractured his femur. He has been hospitalized, his condition is good, but he will be subjected to an operation in coming days.Maiolo, who was not armed, but who has previously shown signs of psychological imbalances, was admitted to a health clinic, for medical care. As for the Holy Father, his current program remains unchanged.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!“Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,quia natus est nobis Dominus.A light will shine on us this day,the Lord is born for us”(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!(SOURCE:

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England reports:
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, offered thanks for the "unswerving love of God, who comes to be with us in the birth of Jesus", as he celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral. The Mass was televised live on BBC1.
Prayers were offered for the people of Bethlehem, living under harsh security conditions in Jesus’ birthplace, and for those serving in our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his homily, Archbishop Nichols questioned the wisdom of the world that tells us happiness comes from wealth, status, celebrity and how we are regarded by society.
“We know that our happiness lies much closer to home; in our steady relationships of friendship and love; in family and community.”
While we have this longing for a sense of community, he said, a recent visit to Feltham Young Offenders Institute reminded him that too many of our young people have resorted to gangs and gang violence to bolster their weakened sense of identity.
The duplicity, deceit and bitterness within us and our society, can be overcome by accepting the gift of God’s love and forgiveness that comes among us in this Christmas celebration of the incarnation. Then, individually, and as a society, we may grow again. And in that growth lies our true happiness; a happiness of forgiveness, serving others, shared joy and lasting love.


CNS reports that the attack came at night. One ethnic group against another. Twenty-eight-year-old Claudine Dhesi remembers hearing the gunshots as they whizzed by and the machete-wielding raiders flailing away at anyone in sight. One of them gashed her right leg."I was left for dead until the morning," she said.Seriously wounded, Dhesi was slow to recover. She ended up losing her leg. That's when her troubles began."My husband abandoned me when they removed my leg," she recalled in an interview with Catholic News Service. "My brother-in-law took me in at first, then my cousin found me and took me in, but it was difficult for them to accept me because I could not contribute anything. They thought I was useless and I was neglected. So now I live with a friend and I am concentrating on tailoring, and making my independence."Today, though, Dhesi is learning the craft of tailoring under Synergie Simama, a collection of religious and community groups that came together to serve people with disabilities sustained in ethnic fighting that long plagued the central African country.Dhesi is among dozens of disabled people who are attempting to piece their lives back together now that the violence has subsided in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.Yvonne Bura, a counselor with Synergie Simama, said that like many of the other women Dhesi is traumatized and feels she is no longer valued. The group works to improve the lives of disabled people by providing host of services including medical programs and organizing community members to help them understand the needs of traumatized people."What we find is that sometimes they have difficulty concentrating," Bura said. "They can sleep in class because they never sleep at night. When we approach the family to get more information sometimes we find serious problems at home."Many are abandoned by their husbands and some of them are sent by family members into town to beg for money. What we do here is useless if they are not taken care of at home," she continued. "We need to change the family's attitude to accept them and not to try and get something out of them."The best solution is to integrate them into the community. Through this training they can contribute to the family and the goal is for them to teach their new skills to at least one family member and through this process they learn to value themselves," she said.In Bunia, the committee sponsors an association which offers counseling and training to women injured during the violence. The diocese provides the facilities for vocational training in tailoring, farming, embroidery and baking so the women can become financially independent.In the town of Bogoro, the site of a massacre by the Ngiti and Lendu tribes in 2002 which left 200 dead, Synergie Simama funds a grass-roots employment training program run by members of the community.Ngozi Monu, 18, was discovered in a displacement camp in the neighboring village of Vilo by a field team organized by the program. He lost both of his legs in 2007 when he stepped on a land mine. Until recently, he had been dependent on family and friends for support."I could not afford a wheelchair so I had to crawl around," Monu said. "Everyone neglected me, apart from my mother, and they looked down on me because I could do nothing for myself."Last year when his village was attacked by a looting militia, Monu escaped only because his friends carried him to Vilo. Upon joining the project in Bogoro Monu's independence returned when he was given a tricycle wheelchair. He is being trained in welding and hopes to open his own business."Before I couldn't manage to survive on my own, I had no hope," he said. "Now through the training I am receiving here, I can finally be self-reliant."Further south in the city of Goma, Jesuit Refugee Service has been working with the most vulnerable in camps for internally displaced people, meeting basic needs and offering income-generating education programs.The coordinator, Jesuit Father Gerry Clarke, a native of Ireland, said his team's work goes beyond emergency relief. "The fruits of the work are getting to know people and sharing their warmth and their laughs," he said.The camps in the eastern part of the country are closing now that security has been restored and the Jesuit Refugee Service is moving its operation south to Masisi, the area most of the internally displaced people call home.Walking around what remains of the Goma camp, Father Clarke is followed by a group of inquisitive children. Some use crutches; others have their legs in braces. One young child has both his legs encased in plaster casts.Father Clarke visits with people who live in plastic shacks built on a field of volcanic rock left by an eruption in 2002. He gives a bandage to an elderly woman who lost both legs to polio. A woman with a deformed arm, thanks to a gunshot wound, asks him for help with her leaky roof. Another woman who was sick with malaria seeks a blessing."This is what we do. We make friends with the vulnerable, accompany them, walk in their shoes, and have a presence here so that we can speak up for them," Father Clarke said. "People with no resources really have no chance here. They endure so much but they keep smiling, and they have an incredibly strong faith in God."(source:

UCAN reports that women Religious in central Vietnam have had a busy run-up to Christmas as they visited the poor and sick and gave food and gifts to children.

A Daughters of Our Lady ofthe Visitation nun feeds achild during the Christmas party
The Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation nuns held Christmas parties at their convent for 450 beggars, elderly people without relatives and people with disabilities.
The nuns also gave them blankets, cooking oil, rice and clothes.
"Christmas is an opportunity for people to meet one another and share God's love, especially with the underprivileged," said Sister Martha Nguyen Thi Ngoc, head of the congregation's social and charitable committee.
Four of the congregation's nuns carried nearly 1,000 kilograms of rice on their motorbikes to the poor in nearby villages, said Sister Anna Le Thi Hue, head of the nuns' community based in Kim Doi parish. The grain had been donated by benefactors and the nuns themselves.
The Daughters of Our Lady Immaculate nuns, meanwhile, organized a gathering for 80 local people with HIV/AIDS at their convent during which they sang carols, danced and played games. Participants were also given gifts of food and clothing.
Sister Benedictine Nguyen Thi Dien, an organizer of the party, said it was to bring people with HIV/AIDS together to share God's love and Christmas joy.
Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres and Redemptorists in Hue city also visited the sick and poor and gave clothes, candy and toys to children from 100 poor families.
"We want to bring joy to these poor children," Sister Epherem Nguyen Thi Luu said.
Sister Luu, 72, said she will also hold a party for 100 blind children at her convent on Dec. 27.


Cath news reports:
Heavens above. The big man is making a comeback. His churches may lie virtually empty for most of the year, but this Christmas God can rest assured he remains in the hearts and minds of most Australians.
A decade ago parliamentarians told academic Marion Maddox that having faith was neither an advantage or disadvantage because Australians were inherently suspicious of too much "God bothering". By 2004 the public and political mood had shifted, with debate raging on issues such as abortion and creationism.
The Neilsen poll for Fairfax papers showed religion remains fundamental to many Australians. The vast majority of people don't worship in church, but many still believe in a higher power.
It also shows that more Australians believe in heaven (56 percent), life after death (53 percent), angels (51 percent) and ESP (49 percent) than in Darwin's theory of evolution (42 percent).
A majority accept either that God guided creation of life over millions of years (32 percent), or at a stroke 10,000 years ago (23 percent). - Billy Adams, New Zealand Herald(SOURCE


CBC reports that a fierce Christmas storm dumped snow and ice across the midsection of the United States, stranding travellers as highways and airports closed and leaving many to celebrate the holiday just where they were. Some churches decided to cancel Christmas Eve services, while others saw sharply lower attendance.
Meteorologists predicted the slow-moving storm would glaze highways in the East with ice through Christmas night and that gusty thunderstorms would hamper the South. An ice storm warning was issued for parts of West Virginia and the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina and Virginia, while a wind chill advisory cautioned of temperatures as low as minus 30 Fahrenheit (minus 34 Celsius) in Montana.
The National Weather Service warned that blizzards would hit parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin on Christmas Day and into the evening.
Slippery roads have been blamed for at least 18 deaths this week as the storm moved east across the country from the Southwest. Driving became so treacherous that authorities closed interstates in Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas to prevent further collisions.
The National Weather Service said the storm posed a threat to life and property. Officials warned travellers to stay home, and pack emergency kits if they had to set out. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency.
Jonathan Cannon was spending the night at a Baptist church in Goldsby, Oklahoma, after being stuck for several hours on I-35. He had left Sherman, Texas, a little after noon on Thursday hoping to join his wife in Edmond, Oklahoma - a trip that usually takes about three hours.
Cannon, a reporter at the Sherman Herald Democrat, said about 200 people - plus the dogs many travellers had with them in their cars - were in the church Thursday night, with more possibly on the way. He wasn't sure if he would be able to finish his journey on Friday.
"This is mine and my wife's first Christmas together, so she's not very excited," he said.
About 100 passengers and the same number of workers were stuck at Oklahoma's largest airport, which closed Thursday afternoon after several inches of snow clogged runways. At least 70 flights were cancelled, said Mark Kranenburg, director of Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Kranenburg told The Oklahoman that the airport re-opened Friday morning, with one of three runways operational, though many flights remained delayed or cancelled.
Oklahoma City had received 14 inches (36 centimetres) of snow by Thursday night, breaking a record set back in 1914 of 2.5 inches (6 centimetres). Winds gusted to 50 mph (80 kph) in central Kansas, while winds gusting at up to 65 mph (100 kph) in Texas drifted the snow as deep as 5 feet (1.5 metres) in some areas.
The Star-Telegram said Dallas-Fort Worth was experiencing its first White Christmas in more than 80 years. While the area had a sprinkling of holiday snow in 2004 and 1997, the last time it experienced "a true, New England-style dose of snow on Christmas Day was Dec. 25, 1926," the newspaper reported.
Several Midwest churches cancelled Christmas Eve services because of the snow.


Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Feast: December 25
Feast Day:
December 25

THE world had subsisted about four thousand years when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, having taken human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and being made man, was born of her, for the redemption of mankind, at Bethlehem of Judea. Joseph and Mary had come up to Bethlehem to be enrolled, and, unable to find shelter elsewhere, they took refuge in a stable, and in this lowly place Jesus Christ was born. The Blessed Virgin wrapped the divine Infant in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger. While the sensual and the proud were asleep, an angel appeared to some poor shepherds. They were seized with great fear, but the heavenly messenger said to them: "Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of exceeding great joy, that shall be to all the people. For this day is born to you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: you shall find the Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger." After the departure of the angel the wondering shepherds said to one another: "Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see the word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shown to us." They immediately hastened thither, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. Bowing down they adored Him, and then returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God.


Isaiah 52: 7 - 10
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Psalms 98: 1 - 6
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Hebrews 1: 1 - 6
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;
but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.
For to what angel did God ever say, "Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?
And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

John 1: 1 - 18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.
He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
(John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'")
And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

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