Tuesday, December 7, 2010


"I am thinking," the Pope said, "of the many difficult situations such as the continued attacks taking place in Iraq against Christians and Muslims, the confrontations in Egypt that have left dead and wounded, the victims of drug traffickers and criminals, as well as the hostages from Eritrea and other nationalities who have been taken in the Sinai desert. Respect for the rights of all is a requisite for civil coexistence. May this, our prayer to the Lord and our solidarity," he concluded, "bring hope to those who are suffering".



VATICAN CITY, 4 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Bishop Jozef Guzdek, auxiliary of Krakow, Poland, as military ordinary of Poland.

- Accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of Hildesheim, Germany, presented by Bishop Hans-Georg Koitz, upon having reached the age limit.

- Appointed Fr. Heinz-Gunter Bongartz of the clergy of Hildesheim, Germany, director of the "pastoral personnel" department of the diocesan curia and canon of the cathedral chapter of Hildesheim, as auxiliary of that diocese (area 30,000, population 5,700,000, Catholics 634,365, priests 420, permanent deacons 99, religious 424). The bishop-elect was born in Gutersloh, Germany in 1955 and ordained a priest in 1982.

- Appointed as counsellors of the Apostolic Penitentiary Fr. Enrique Colom Costa, professor of moral theology at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, and Fr. Paolo Carlotti S.D.B., professor of fundamental moral theology at Rome's Pontifical Salesian University.

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VATICAN CITY, 5 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At noon today, the second Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father stood at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful present in St. Peter's Square.

"This Sunday's Gospel," the Pope said, "presents St. John the Baptist who, following a noted prophecy by Isaiah, went into the Judean desert and with his preaching called the people to conversion in order to prepare for the imminent arrival of the Messiah [...] The precursor of Christ, situated between the Old and New Covenants, is like a star who precedes the rising of the Sun, of Christ".

During the Advent season "we are also called to listen to the voice of God crying out in the wilderness of the world through Sacred Scripture, especially when it is preached with the strength of the Holy Spirit. In fact, faith is fortified when it is most illuminated by the divine Word", the pontiff added.

"The Virgin Mary is the model of listening ", Benedict XVI concluded, citing the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini: "As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives".

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VATICAN CITY, 6 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Today at noon, the Press Office of the Holy See made public the following communique:

"On the morning of Monday, 6 December, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience His Excellency Mr. Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, who successively met with the Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, accompanied by His Excellency Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States".

"During the cordial discussion, the prime minister outlined the country's current social, economic, and political situation. The importance of the Christian tradition in the life of the nation and the role of the Catholic Church for its renewal was emphasized. The next semester of Hungarian presidency of the European Union was then discussed, highlighting some convergences of vision between Hungary and the Holy See on major themes that concern the European continent. Finally, a few items regarding relations and cooperation in the region were covered".

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VATICAN CITY, 6 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy.

- Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker, of Paderborn, Germany.

- Msgr. Massimo Camisasca, superior general of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo.

On Saturday 4 December he received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

- Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

- Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, accompanied by an entourage.


Two more Christians murdered overnight in Baghdad
The killings prompt exodus. Some 500 families fleeing from Baghdad and Mosul to the north. That might not hold up to the influx of refugees. Meanwhile, the government promises 400 dollars in aid to every family that leaves.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - An Christian elderly couple was killed in their home last night: the latest in a long series of bloody episodes involving Christians. According to the little information so far provided by an Interior Ministry spokesman gunmen broke into the couple in the neighbourhood of Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area . Hikmat Sammak and his wife, Samira had sold their house in Baghdad and gone to live in Ainkawa-Erbil in the north. Two days ago, they had returned to Baghdad to complete the transaction and sell their furniture. During the night the criminals broke into their home, bound them and stabbed them to death. Today, their bodies have been transferred to the monastery of St. Matthew at Ba Ashika for burial.

This latest act of violence came the same day Benedict XVI in his Angelus asked the faithful to pray for an end to the violence involving Christians and Muslims, that is sowing death in Iraq. Within hours of the murderer gen. Qassim Atta told a news conference that those responsible for deadly attacks on Christians, and other attacks in the country, are fifteen “non-Iraqi” Arabs, a euphemism for foreign terrorists.

And in this situation of growing insecurity the exodus of Iraqi Christian families to the north of the country continues. After the barrage of attacks on churches and private property of the community in Baghdad and Mosul about 500 families are now moving into the semi autonomous region of Kurdistan, according to estimates reported by the newspaper Azzaman. In Sulaimaniyah alone, at least 85 families arrived within two weeks. The displaced people leave behind them homes, possessions and their work, as well as parishes and monasteries, among the oldest in Christendom.

Their pain is not relieved by the guarantee of a government "in progress". Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is forming the new government on behalf of President Jalal Talabani. The Prime Minister has ensured that the new government will be formed by Dec. 30. But the political deadlock that has continued for nine months in Iraq gives little hope to the Christian community. After stopping a cell of al Qaeda held responsible for the 31 October at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in the capital, the authorities have promised to give 400 US dollars to every family who decides to leave their homes. "They are crumbs” some Christians have said: the sum can not even pay one month's rent for an apartment in the North.

The Kurdish government in Erbil has promised to help the incoming refugees, but experts believe it will be difficult to manage such a large influx of migrants. Not everyone, however, has decide to flee. Especially in Mosul, Christians live in fear but there are many who prefer fear to the pain of leaving their homes. Once a community of around one million faithful Christians in Iraq since 2003 have seen their presence almost halved. (


Photo: DPA

Celebrating Nikolaus in Germany


Is Nikolaus the same as Santa Claus?

Though they have similar outfits, Nikolaus is not to be confused with Santa Claus, who Germans call the Weihnachtsmann, or Father Christmas. They are two different people. In fact, many religious families try to focus more onNikolaus earlier in December to insure that Christmas is actually about Jesus’ birth, and not presents from an Americanised and commercialised Santa.

Who is Nikolaus, then?

Each year on December 6, Germans remember the death of Nicholas of Myra (now the Anatolia region of modern Turkey), who died on that day in 346. He was a Greek Christian bishop known for miracles and giving gifts secretly, and is now the patron saint of little children, sailors, merchants and students. Known as Nicholas the Wonderworker for his miracles, he is also identified with Santa Claus. Beliefs and traditions about Nikolaus were probably combined with German mythology, particularly regarding stories about the bearded pagan god Odin, who also had a beard and a bag to capture naughty children.

Why do children set their shoes out on the night of December 5th? Doesn’t he have any?

Of course Nikolaus has shoes. The custom began because the historical St. Nicholas had a reputation for leaving secret gifts, such as coins, in people’s shoes overnight. Kids traditionally put out their boots, though shoes or stockings will suffice for those without boots.

And the boots have to be polished first?

Definitely. Dirty boots are unacceptable. Children polish their boots to show they’ve been good. They usually place just one boot outside their door so they don’t appear too greedy, though.

One polished boot: Check! What happens next?

According to the legend, Nikolaus comes in the middle of the night on a donkey or a horse and leaves little treats – like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys - for good children.

What do naughty children get?

This depends on different family traditions. Sometimes Nikolaus only leaves a switch in the boot, ostensibly for spankings, to show that the child doesn’t deserve a treat. In other families, a man disguised as St. Nicholas will visit the family or the child’s school alone or with his with his sinister-looking alter egoKnecht Ruprecht to question the children about their behaviour.

Crikey. What does he do if the kids admit to being naughty?

Depending on how strict the children’s parents are, St. Nicholas will give them a verbal warning or even a pretend spanking with a rod.

Hey, he’s a Saint isn’t he? Saints can’t spank little kids.

Well, the rod is more an invention of parents who wanted to teach their children a lesson over the years.

That spoils the fun a bit, doesn’t it?

Certainly! Children were often quite frightened of being questioned about their behaviour because they’ve been told that St. Nicholas will hurt them with his rod or even put them in a sack and take them away.

Though the custom is in decline, in more Catholic regions, parents inform a local priest of naughty behaviour. The priest then pays a personal visit wearing the traditional Christian garb to threaten the little rugrats with a beating.

What does his outfit look like?

He is usually pictured with a long white beard, a bishop's mitre and a red cloak, sometimes with a sack over his shoulder and a rod in his hand.

Does Nikolaus come again on Christmas Eve then?

No. Santa Claus, or the Weihnachtsmann, usually comes to German homes – often in person – on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Frohen Nikolaus!




To all the faithful in parishes and dioceses across Canada:

We turn to the Lord for peace, solidarity and inner strength for all!

December 12 marks an important celebration in the Catholic Church in Canada, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples. We ask, especially today, that you devote your prayers for the special intentions of all indigenous peoples, in Canada and around the world. On the occasion of the 2010 National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal People, we honour the life of Joseph Chiwatenhwa.

When Pope John Paul II made his historic visit to Canada in September, 1984, he visited the National Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midland, Ontario. He explained that the Jesuits came in the 1620’s and founded the first house of prayer in Huronia. The Jesuits were assisted by the Huron and relied on the support of people such as Joseph Chiwatenhwa. The Pope spoke of him, saying: “of great importance to the Church of Huronia is Joseph Chiwatenwa, who, together with his wife Aonnetta, his brother Joseph and other family members, lived and witnessed to their faith in a heroic manner.”

This may have been the first time that the people of Canada heard of Joseph Chiwatenhwa. His story is contained in a book entitled Friends of God, written by Bruce Henry in 1991. Chiwatenhwa was his birth name. When he first met the Jesuits in 1636, he was very touched by their teachings, even though they were being blamed by other Huron for the epidemics that were ravaging Huronia. Chiwatenhwa himself fell sick; after his recovery, however, he was baptized, on August 16, 1637, by Father Jean de Brébeuf, and given the Christian name Joseph. His wife, Aonette, was baptized on March 19, 1638; her Christian name was Marie. Their marriage was blessed on the same day; this was the first Catholic wedding in Huronia.

Joseph became the first lay administrator in the Catholic Church in Canada, in 1639. He helped the Jesuits translate hymns and prayers from French into Huron. He was impressed with the teachings of Saint Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises. During his eight-day silent retreat, he composed a prayer that reveals his profound experience with Jesus: “You love us so deeply that all I can do in return is to offer myself to you. I chose you as my elder and chief. There is no one else.” In adopting his new faith, Joseph drew on many of the spiritual and cultural teachings of his people; he entered the Catholic Church as a Huron. This helped him spread the Good News to many members of his family and tribe.

Joseph Chiwatenhwa had a premonition that his life would be taken in a violent way because of his dedication to and fervent love of Jesus. He was martyred on August 2, 1640, at the age of 38. Father Lalemant wrote a letter in which he described him as “a teacher of the Christian faith among the native people. In this past year, he has made himself their apostle.

After Joseph’s death, more members of the Huron nation were baptized into the Catholic Church. His wife Marie Aonette, his brother and other members continued to help and assist the Jesuits.

Pope John Paul II said at Huronia that “the worthy traditions of the Indian tribes were strengthened and enriched by the Gospel message … not only is Christianity relevant to the Indian peoples, butChrist, in the members of his Body, is himself Indian.“ Let us be inspired by the faith of Joseph Chiwatenhwa, his wife, Marie Aonette, and their families. They believed in their brother and Saviour Jesus when he spoke the words recorded by Saint John (20:29): “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.

Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe

12 December 2008

For the past six years, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, the National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal People has expressed, through prayer, the unity that non-Aboriginal Catholics and Aboriginal Catholics share in their faith in Jesus Christ. Today, this event is of particular significance as it takes place during the year that celebrates the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. The establishment of this colony began a dynamic evangelization movement marked by the meeting of Aboriginal peoples and French Catholic missionaries.

One of the most beautiful witnesses to this meeting is that of Kateri Tekakwitha, known as "The Lily of the Mohawks." Kateri was born in 1656 of a Christian Algonquin woman and an Iroquois chief, in the village of Ossernenon, the present-day Auriesville, New York. When she was four years old, she lost both parents and her young brother in a smallpox epidemic. Orphaned, she was taken in by one of her uncles and educated by her aunts. She carried with her the scars of smallpox throughout the rest of her life.

In 1666, a conflict with a French expedition forced her tribe to relocate to the north bank of the Mohawk River (Rivière des Hollandais) in the state of New York, where Kateri first came into contact with Jesuit missionaries. Struck by their hospitality, she stayed with the Jesuits and helped them with many tasks. On Easter Sunday, 1676, she was baptized. Despite persecution from members of her community, she led a profound spiritual life and, following Father Lamberville's advice, went to live in Sault Saint-Louis (present-day Kahnawake) at the Saint-François-Xavier mission. She made a vow of chastity on 25 March 1679 and died on 17 April 1680, only 24 years old. On 22 June 1980, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

On this National Day of Prayer, we may very well ask ourselves this question: What message did Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha want to leave us? We can focus on her openness toward others, toward foreigners whom she did not know. At the same time, we can also look at the foreign missionaries who, thanks to their hospitality, were able to stir in her heart a call to further openness towards others. Witnesses of the Gospel were in the presence of someone who would later herself become a witness to the same Gospel.

In a recent pastoral message, Aboriginal people were told:

"You are finding new strength in an ever-deepening embrace of the seven spiritual gifts of respect, wisdom, courage, love, humility, honesty, and truth, as expressed in the teachings of the Medicine Wheel. In this way, you reflect ever more clearly your true dignity as Children of God."[1]

Has Blessed Kateri not demonstrated that these seven gifts, which she fully accepted, come from the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23) whom God the Father sent us in the name of his Son (John 14.26)? Pope John Paul II further recognized this when he declared:

"Your encounter with the Gospel has not only enriched you, it has enriched the Church. We are well aware that this has not taken place without its difficulties and, occasionally, its blunders. However, and you are experiencing this today, the Gospel does not destroy what is best in you. On the contrary, it enriches as it were from within the spiritual qualities and gifts that are distinctive of your cultures (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 58). In addition, your Amerindian and Inuit traditions permit the development of new ways of expressing the message of salvation and they help us to better understand to what point Jesus is the Savior and howuniversal his salvation is."[2]

In the context of the reconciliation and spiritual healing movements for Aboriginals who suffered painful experiences in residential schools run by the federal government and various Churches, Blessed Kateri teaches us that patience, respect, and love of others are at the heart of forgiveness. If the past has been marked by hardship, the future calls us to awaken the resilience within our communities in order to bring out their riches. Pope Benedict XVI has said that "All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action." Is this not an invitation to "work towards a brighter and more humane world so as to open doors into the future"[3]?

May God, the Creator and Savior, lead all of our communities, through the intercession of Kateri Tekakwitha, to live united in the Church in the peace of Jesus Christ, our hope (1 Timothy 1.1).

Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

O God, among the many marvels of your grace in the New World, you did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the Saint Lawrence the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha. Grant, we beseech you, the favor we beg through her intercession; that this young lover of Jesus and of his Cross may soon be counted among her saints by Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.



Côte d'Ivoire has two different Presidents and Governments. Alassane Ouattara, who according to the Independent Electoral Commission and the international community won the presidential ballot of 28 November, was sworn in as President on 4 December, via a letter sent to the Constitutional Council, the competent body to declare the winner of the elections. Due to alleged fraud the same Council revoked the victory originally assigned to Ouattara by the Independent Electoral Commission, attributing it instead to the former President Laurent Gbagbo (see Fides 4/12/2010). The latter was sworn in a few hours before at the presidential palace in Abidjan.
Ouattara appointed a new Government led by outgoing Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, who had placed his office in the hands of Ouattara, only to be confirmed anew. Gbagbo, on the evening of Sunday, 5 December, appointed Gilbert Marie N'gbo Aké, Prime Minister of the other Government. The African Union has sent former South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate between the two parties.
“The situation is very delicate. Mbeki continues with his mediation, but so far there are no possibilities for agreement, because Gbagbo and Ouattara remain firm on their positions,” a source from the local Church tells Fides. “The Catholic Church has offered to contribute to the mediation and launched continuous calls for dialogue and calm. Yesterday, during the consecration of a new church in Abidjan, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan and spokesperson for the group of religious leaders for “peaceful” elections appealed to Gbagbo and Ouattara to be sensible and invited the population to remain calm. Archbishop Kutwa reminded the faithful that God will not abandon Cote d'Ivoire and that it is still possible to find a peaceful solution,” said the Fides source.
The situation remains tense even after the cancellation of the curfew and the reopening of the border. “According to an opposition newspaper, in recent days in clashes throughout Côte d'Ivoire, there have been 54 deaths, but this news is absent in the media connected to Gbagbo. This information is difficult to verify. To prevent the spread of information and “rumours” that incite the minds of the population, text message services (SMS) from mobile phones have been blocked,” concludes our source.


CATH NEWS REPORT: Asylum seekers will be moved into presbyteries and other church-owned properties in Melbourne's eastern suburbs before Christmas, as part of the plan to bring families out of detention, reports theHerald Sun.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Hotham Mission Asylum-Seeker Project, behind the scheme, says they are in talks to have the families moved, but residents have raised fears about the program, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

The Catholic church has declined to give details, including what security checks would be in place.

Two presbyteries on offer are in Melbourne's leafy eastern suburbs of Deepdene and Balwyn.Parishioners were told of the plan at a service last week. One parishioner said they were told up to four families would be moving in.

But other locals, not associated with the church, said they had no idea about the plan. Some residents were concerned about the ability of the families to assimilate into the community and the type of security checks that have been done.



St. Nicholas


Feast: December 6


Feast Day:December 6
Born:270, Patara, Lycia
Died:6 December 343, Myra, Lycia
Major Shrine:Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy.
Patron of:Children, sailors, fishermen, merchants, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, prostitutes, repentant thieves, many cities.

The great veneration with which this saint has been honoured, both in the Greek and Latin churches for many ages, and the great number of altars and churches which have been everywhere erected in his memory, are proofs of his extraordinary sanctity and of the glory which he enjoys with God. The Emperor Justinian built a church in his honour at Constantinople, in the quarter called Blaquernae, about the year 430, and he was titular saint of four churches in Constantanople. All accounts agree that he was a native of Patara, in Lycia. We are told that in his infancy he observed the fasts of Wednesdays and Fridays, refusing to suck the breasts on those days. Happy are they who, from their infancy and innocent age, are inured to the exercises of devotion, penance, and perfect obedience. St. Nicholas increased his fervour in these and all other virtues with his years, especially when he had devoted himself to a religious life in the monastery of Holy Sion, near Myra, of which house he was made abbot by the archbishop, its founder. Charity in comforting and relieving the distressed seemed his characteristical virtue. Amongst many other instances, it is related that when three young virgins were exposed through distress to the danger of falling into vicious courses, he, for three successive nights, conveyed to them through the window a competent sum of money for a fortune for one of them, so that they were all portioned and afterwards happily married. Lycia was a large ancient province of Asia, in which St. Paul had planted the faith. Myra, the capital, three miles from Patara and from the sea, was an archiepiscopal see, founded by St. Nicander, of so great dignity that in later ages, thirty-six suffragan bishoprics were subject to it. This metropolitan church falling vacant, the holy abbot Nicholas was chosen archbishop, and in that exalted station became famous by his extraordinary piety and zeal, and an incredible number of stupendous miracles. The Greek histories of his life agree that he suffered imprisonment for the faith, and made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution raised by Diocletian: and that he was present at the great council of Nice, and there condemned Arianism. The silence of other authors make many justly suspect these circumstances.

The history of the translation of his relics place his death in 342. He died at Myra and was buried in his own cathedral. The relics of St. Nicholas were kept with great honour at Myra, till they were translated into Italy. Certain merchants of Bari, a seaport in the kingdom of Naples situated on the Adriatic Gulf, sailed in three ships to the coast of Lycia; and watching an opportunity when no Mohammedans were near the place, went to the church in which the relics of St. Nicholas were kept, which stood in a desert place three miles from the sea, and was guarded by a small community of monks. They broke open the marble coffin in which the sacred bones lay, and carried them off to their ships; the inhabitants, upon the alarm given, pursued them to the shore with horrible outcries, but the Europeans were got safe on board. They landed at Bari on the 9th of May 1087, and the sacred treasure was deposited by the archbishop in the Church of St. Stephen. On the first day, thirty persons were cured of various distempers, imploring the intercession of St. Nicholas, and from that time the tomb of St. Nicholas of Bari has been famous for pilgrimages. The authentic history of this translation, written by John, at that time archdeacon of Bari, by order of the archbishop, is extant in Surius.


TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 6: LUKE 5: 17- 26

Luke 5: 17 - 26
17On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.18And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;19but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.20And when he saw their faith he said, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?"22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts?23Which is easier, to say, `Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, `Rise and walk'?24But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the man who was paralyzed -- "I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home."25And immediately he rose before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home, glorifying God.26And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen strange things today."

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