Wednesday, December 23, 2009





(VIS) - In his general audience, celebrated this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his remarks on the subject of Christmas. At the beginning of his catechesis the Holy Father explained that "the Church's liturgical year did not initially develop on the basis of Christ's birth but on that of faith in His resurrection. Hence, the most ancient feast of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. The resurrection of Christ is what founded the Christian faith, underpinned the announcement of the Gospel and brought the Church into being". "The first person to make the clear affirmation that Jesus was born on 25 December was Hippolytus of Rome in his commentary on the Book of Daniel, written around the year 204", said the Pope. "In the Christian world, the feast of Christmas assumed a distinct form in the fourth century when it took the place of the Roman feast of the 'Sol invictus', the sun unconquered. This highlighted the fact that the birth of Christ is the victory of the true light over the darkness of evil and sin. Yet the particular and intense spiritual atmosphere that now surrounds Christmas developed during the Middle Ages, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi who was profoundly enamoured of Jesus the man, of the God-with-us". "This particular devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation was the origin of the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio. ... St. Francis with his nativity scene highlighted the defenceless love, humility and goodness of God, Who in the Incarnation of the Word shows Himself to mankind in order to teach them a new way to live and love". The Pope then went on to recall the fact that the first biographer of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano, recounted how, "on that Christmas night, Francis was granted the grace of a marvellous vision. He saw, lying immobile in the manger, a small child Who was reawakened from sleep by the proximity of Francis himself". "Thanks to St. Francis, Christian people are able to understand that at Christmas God truly became the 'Emmanuel', the God-with-us, from Whom no barrier or distance separates us. In that Child, God became so close to each of us ... that we can establish an intimate rapport of profound affection with Him, just as we do with a newborn child. "In that Child", the Holy Father added, "God-Love becomes manifest: God comes unarmed and powerless, because He does not intend to conquer, so to say, from the outside; rather, He intends to be accepted by man in freedom. God becomes a defenceless child to overcome man's pride, violence and thirst for possession. In Jesus, God assumed this poor and disarming condition in order to triumph over us with love and lead us to our true identity". "His being a Child likewise indicates to us that we can meet God and enjoy His presence", the Pope concluded. "People who have not understood the mystery of Christmas have not understood the decisive element of Christian existence: that those who do not accept Jesus with the heart of a child cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. This is what St. Francis wished to tell the Christian world of his time and of all times, even unto today".AG/CHRISTMAS/... VIS 091223 (560)

NOTE CONCERNING DECREE ON THE HEROIC VIRTUES OF PIUS XII VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued the following note concerning the signing of the recent decree on the heroic virtues of Servant of God Pope Pius XII. "The Pope's signing of the decree 'on the heroic virtues' of Pius XII has elicited a certain number of reactions in the Jewish world; perhaps because the meaning of such a signature is clear in the area of the Catholic Church and of specialists in the field, but may merit certain explanation for the larger public, in particular the Jewish public who are understandably very sensitive to all things concerning the historical period of World War II and the Holocaust. "When the Pope signs a decree 'on the heroic virtues' of a Servant of God - i.e., of a person for whom a cause for beatification has been introduced - he confirms the positive evaluation already voted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. ... Naturally, such evaluation takes account of the circumstances in which the person lived, and hence it is necessary to examine the question from a historical standpoint, but the evaluation essentially concerns the witness of Christian life that the person showed (his intense relationship with God and continuous search for evangelical perfection) ... and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions". "At the beatification of Pope John XXIII and of Pope Pius IX, John Paul II said: 'holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in them'. "There is, then, no intention in any way to limit discussion concerning the concrete choices made by Pius XII in the situation in which he lived. For her part, the Church affirms that these choices were made with the pure intention of carrying out the Pontiff's service of exalted and dramatic responsibility to the best of his abilities. In any case, Pius XII's attention to and concern for the fate of the Jews - something which is certainly relevant in the evaluation of his virtues - are widely testified and recognised, also by many Jews. "The field for research and evaluation by historians, working in their specific area, thus remains open, also for the future. In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents. ... Yet for the complete opening of the archives - as has been said on a number of occasions in the past - it is necessary to organise and catalogue an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years' work. "As for the fact that the decree on the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII were promulgated on the same day, this does not mean that from now on the two causes will be 'paired'. They are completely independent of one another and each will follow its own course. There is, then, no reason to imagine that any future beatification will take place together". "It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church. Rather we trust that the Pope's forthcoming visit to the Synagogue of Rome will be an opportunity for the cordial reiteration and reinforcement of ties of friendship and respect".OP/DECREE PIUS XII/LOMBARDI VIS 091223 (660)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Christian Bock of the clergy of the diocese of Erfurt, Germany, as a member of the administrative council of the Holy See Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Universities and Ecclesiastical Faculties (AVEPRO).NA/.../BOCK VIS 091223 (60)

NOTICE VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a very happy and holy Christmas. During the Christmas holiday there will be no VIS bulletin on Thursday 24 December or Friday 25 December. The next bulletin will be transmitted on Monday 28 December..../.../... VIS 091223 (50)



Cath News reports that three signatures on pages of parchment bound in leather found in the archives at Rome's Venerable English College may be more evidence that William Shakespeare was a secret Catholic who spent his "lost years" in Italy.
An exhibition at the Venerable English College has revealed cryptic names in its guest books for visiting pilgrims, suggesting that the playwright sought refuge there, the Times Online reports.
"Arthurus Stratfordus Wigomniensis" signed the book in 1585, while "Gulielmus Clerkue Stratfordiensis" arrived in 1589.
According to Fr Andrew Headon, vice-rector of the college and organiser of the exhibition, the names can be deciphered as "(King) Arthur's (compatriot) from Stratford (in the diocese) of Worcester" and "William the Clerk from Stratford".
A third entry in 1587, "Shfordus Cestriensis", may stand for "Sh(akespeare from Strat)ford (in the diocese) of Chester," he said.
The entries fall within the playwright's "missing years" between 1585, when he left Stratford abruptly, and 1592, when he began his career as playwright in London.
"There are several years which are unaccounted for in Shakespeare's life," Fr Headon said, adding that it was very likely that the playwright had visited Rome and was a covert Catholic.
The "Shakespeare" entries are being kept in the college's archive for security reasons but have been reproduced for the exhibition, which illustrates the history of the college from its origins as a medieval pilgrims' hospice to a refuge for persecuted Catholics during the Reformation. (source:

UCAN reports that in what they called an expression of their faiths, representatives of various religions joined a Catholic-organized prison visit to provide support and comfort to inmates.

Father Olivier Schmitthaeuslerblesses prisoners with holy water
"We must not only sit and talk but also take action," said Father Un Son, parish priest of Kompot parish in Kompot province. "We should do something to bear witness to our faith," added the priest, who coordinated the visit.
On Dec. 21, 30 people comprising Catholic priests and laypersons, Buddhist monks, Muslim and Protestant leaders, and officials from the Ministry of Religions and Cults visited 347 inmates at Kompot Prison in southern Cambodia.
Kompot parish has organized such annual Christmas visits for Catholics since 2003. It held its first interreligious visit last year.
"Do not lose hope. Show your solidarity and help each other," Paris Foreign Missions Father Olivier Schmitthaeusler told the prisoners. The priest, who is vicar general of Phnom Penh apostolic vicariate, added that during this Christmas time, the leaders of various religions are here "to share joy with all of you."
The visitors prayed with the prisoners, blessed them and gave them gifts of food and blankets.
Chhu Ann, one of the Catholic visitors, said "It was only a short time we were with them but it was very meaningful." She added that some prisoners were moved to tears by the visit.
Buddhist monk Venerable Sum Chan said it is very important that prisoners remain motivated and hopeful so that they can contribute to society when they are released.
For Muslim representative Ly Ahs Mat, the visit was an opportunity for people of different religions to exchange experiences based on their faiths. He also emphasized the importance of compassion for those who needed it most.
Father Son noted that the visit not only benefits the prisoners, it also helps foster better relations among people of different religions in the Kompot area.



USCCB reports that as leaders of nations and scientists were gathering in Copenhagen to figure out ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that have been linked to global warming, representatives from the United Methodist Church (UMC) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) held their third meeting to discuss Christian responsibility in caring for God’s creation. The dialogue between the UMC and the USCCB dates back to 1966 and has covered a broad range of theological and moral topics. In Round 7 the two churches are focusing on caring for God’s creation from a Eucharistic perspective, a theme that Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, Catholic co-chair, views as holding out opportunities for Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians to “witness together in solidarity and common responsibility.” Bishop Skylstad was among the twelve bishops of Oregon and Washington State who issued the 2001 Pastoral Letter, “The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good.” The letter has been a reference point for the dialogue. “The beautiful natural world is a loving gift from God,” said United Methodist Bishop Timothy Whitaker, co-chair of the dialogue, in an opening presentation to the dialogue which met December 15-17 at St. Paul’s College in Washington D.C. Whitaker, who is bishop of the UMC Florida Conference, drew on the writings of Methodism’s founder John Wesley in showing how social holiness belongs to the basic call to discipleship with Jesus Christ. “Through social holiness, we make ourselves channels of God’s blessing to the world—a blessing that extends to the renewal of all creation,” Whitaker said. Against the backdrop of the Copenhagen summit, Christian leaders from around the globe have been speaking out about the need to link combating environmental degradation with economic development. On December 16 the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace Message (January 1, 2010), whose theme this year is “If you want to cultivate peace, then protect creation.” Earlier this fall, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I visited the United States and spoke at a number of venues on the spiritual renewal needed around the world to redress the destructive effects of deforestation and uncontrolled fossil-fuel emissions. The recent United Methodist-Catholic dialogue session covered a range of topics that will help the participants draft a final statement on the covenantal relationship that exists between Christian worshipers and the natural environment. Members also are exploring ways to develop an instrument on faith and ecology for adult education to be used in local congregations. Catholic presenters included Dr. Angela Christman, of Loyola University, Baltimore, who examined texts of the ancient Greek and Latin Fathers that make the connection between Eucharist and creation; and Father Drew Christiansen, S.J., Editor of America Magazine, who assessed the mystical theology of Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin, with special emphasis on his Mass on the World. United Methodists looked to the Weslyan tradition and more recent UMC statements to draw connections between the sacramental perspective and environmental stewardship. Dr. Karen B. Westerfield-Tucker, of Boston University, Mass., spoke on the piety of John Wesley, whose hymns often invoke thanksgiving to God for the works of creation; Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric, of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, compared Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification (holiness) with St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology of the virtues; and Dr. Sondra Wheeler, of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, assessed ethical authority in the United Methodist Church, with a particular emphasis on environmental teachings and advocacy. Other participants in the dialogue included Father James Massa, executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at USCCB; Dr. John Hart of Boston University; and Rev. Betty Gamble, acting ecumenical officer for the UMC, who also served as secretary for the meeting. The next session of the dialogue is scheduled for June 28-30, 2010 at St. Paul’s College in Washington.(SOURCE:


CISA reports that a new hospital owned by the Catholic Diocese of Uvira in South Kivu has been set up and will act as a symbol of peace among peoples suffering war Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).Pere Crippa Joseph Hospital can accommodate up to 150 beds. The hospital includes a central block with various clinics, laboratories, emergency room and offices. There is also a surgery block, the block of three internal medicine wards for men, women, and children, a section for x-rays and ultrasound, according to Fides.It also has a maternity and gynecology ward, the section with four small apartments, a section for visiting physicians, the mortuary, a chapel, and kitchen and laundry area. The hospital, while it awaits electricity, will have a large central generator and generator sets for the various smaller pavilions. There will also be two large tanks of water because the water supply is not constant in that region.The hospital halls are still under construction and are located on an area of over one hectare. The masonry work is set to end in July 2010. According to Fides a priest in the region said, "Outside the wall of the hospital will be the home for the director and assistant director, and the house for the community of sisters who will manage the hospital.”“There will also be 5 acres of land for agricultural crops (peanuts, maize, cassava, soy plant, beans, peas, legumes), and another 10 hectares to be cultivated to help self-financing of the hospital, available to the families of hospital staff and the sisters,” according to Fides.The construction is entrusted to a company of Burundi, but with staff from the town of Kamanyola. The activities are monitored on site by an Italian volunteer already working as a lay missionary in those areas. The hospital, although owned by the Diocese of Uvira, will be officially under the Ministry of Health.Currently, the nearest hospital is 75 kilometres away in Uvira (about 90 minutes by car). The other is in Nyangezi, 35 kilometres, but it is difficult to reach because the road is a mule track. The majority of the citizens of the area surrounding Kamanyola will attend this new hospital.(SOURCE:


Cath News reports that Church leaders are urging for a renewal of hope and generosity this Christmas after a year of tragic bushfires, floods and and economic crisis that put thousands out of work.
Cardinal George Pell who announced that Christmas Mass tomorrow at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney would for the first time be streamed live on the internet, will urge his followers to extend charity to strangers as well as friends and family, The Australian reports.
"We thank God Australia has escaped the recession and has done better than most countries, but many individuals and families still struggle financially... they need a hand," Cardinal Pell said yesterday.
"God requires all of us to do our bit to bring hope to friends and strangers, especially those who are down on their luck, and especially at this season of Christmas."
Anglican church primate Phillip Aspinall said he would remind his congregation in a sermon at St John's Cathedral in Brisbane tomorrow that despite the many disasters of the past year, financial and natural, God was "present in the nitty-gritty of our lives", the report adds.
"The Christmas story is not always all sweetness and light," Archbishop Aspinall is quoted saying. "It recognises the harsh realities of human life, but it is a life of decency, courage, fearlessness and of selflessness."
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart is cited saying in The Age that everyone has the power to make a difference and should ask how best to help others.
"As we remember God's great giving to us we keep in mind our need to be there to support other people, particularly the sick, the burdened, the lonely."
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Philip Wilson said in a Christmas message that every new life offered new possibilities, and this was the great truth of the birth of Jesus.
"The pattern of regeneration that began with the birth of Christ is what gives meaning and direction to our lives, not as a burden but as a response to the graciousness of God." (SOURCE:


St. John of Kanty
Feast: December 23
Feast Day:
December 23
23 June 1390, Kęty, Oświęcim, Poland
24 December 1473, Kraków Academy
1767 by Pope Clement XIII

of John of Kanty (Kanty is near Oswiecim in Poland) are many but not entirely dependable. Nevertheless we have record of him as a holy and learned man who was both a distinguished university teacher and a benefactor of the poor. He came from a family of good position, and was sent to the University of Cracow, where he did well. He was ordained priest, and appointed to a lectureship in the University. His academic life was however interrupted when jealous rivals managed to get him removed from his teaching post, and he was sent to labor as a parish priest. This caused him much distress, as he was both unused to this kind of work and weighed down by the feeling of its heavy responsibility. But he gradually won the love of his parishioners, who wept when, after some years, he left them to return to the University of Cracow as professor of Scripture. This post he held for the rest of his long life; and he became increasingly famous for his teaching, his humble and austere way of living and his spontaneous generosity to chose in need. Perhaps his best lesson for us, especially in these days of increasing communication, lies in one of his favorite sayings to his pupils: 'Fight all false opinions, but let your weapons be patience, sweetness and love. Roughness is bad for your own soul and spoils the best cause.'
When he died St. John was greatly mourned, and was already accounted a worker of miracles; but he was not canonized until 1767.


Luke 1: 57 - 66
Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son.
And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechari'ah after his father,
but his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John."
And they said to her, "None of your kindred is called by this name."
And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called.
And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John." And they all marveled.
And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea;
and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.

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