Thursday, December 16, 2010








TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 16: LUKE: 7: 24-30


VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS REPORTS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference was held to present the Pope's Message for the forty-fourth World Day of Peace. The Day falls on 1 January 2011 and has as its theme: "Religious Freedom. The Path to Peace".

Participating in today's press conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Bishop Mario Toso, S.D.B., Msgr. Anthony Frontiero and Tommaso De Ruzza, respectively president, secretary and officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Turkson, speaking English, explained how this year's Message is made up of "an introductory reference to the attack on Christians in Iraq, the main body of the text which presents the meaning of religious freedom and the various ways in which it fashions peace and experiences of peace, and a concluding reflection on peace as a gift of God and as the work of men and women of goodwill, especially of believers.

"Religious freedom", he added, "is the theme of the Pope's Message for the World Day of Peace not only because that subject matter is central to Catholic social doctrine, but also because the experience of religious freedom - a basic vocation of man and a fundamental, inalienable and universal human right, and key to peace - has come under great stress and threat: From raging secularism, which is intolerant of God and of any form of expression of religion. From religious fundamentalism, the politicisation of religion and the establishment of State religions. From the growing cultural and religious pluralism that is becoming ever more present and pressing in our day".

"The Holy Father", the cardinal said, "sees the safeguarding of religious freedom in our multi-cultural, multi-religious and secularised world as one of the ways to safeguard peace".

"One of the important tasks that our world set for itself following World War II was the formulation, adoption and promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", said the president of the pontifical council. Benedict XVI, he said, "is also worried about the increasing instances of the denial of the universality of these rights in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks".

"Religious freedom is not a right granted by a State", it "is derived, ... from natural law and from the dignity of the person, which are rooted in creation. Rather, the State and other public institutions, ... need to recognise it as intrinsic to the human person, as indispensable for integrity and peace".

Cardinal Turkson went on: "Religious freedom is a duty of public authority" but "it is not an unlimited right. ... Religious freedom refers primarily to man's freedom to express his being 'capax Dei': his freedom to respond to the truth of his nature as created by God and created for life with God without coercion or impediments. It is in this that man finds his peace, and from there becomes an instrument of peace".

"Religious freedom does not imply that all religions are equal. Nor is it a reason for religious relativism or indifferentism. Religious freedom is compatible with defence of one's religious identity against relativism, syncretism and fundamentalism, which are all abused forms of religious freedom".

After then highlighting how "religious freedom is not limited to the free exercise of worship", the cardinal pointed out that "there is a public dimension to it, which grants believers the chance of making their contribution to building the social order".

"Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truth of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development", he said.

"The exercise of the right of religious freedom as a way to peace thus implies the recognition of the harmony that must exist between the two areas and forms of life: private and public, individual and community, person and society. ... Accordingly, the development and the exercise of one's religious freedom, is also the task of one's community".

Referring then to the relationship between religious freedom and the State, Cardinal Turkson affirmed that, "although religious freedom is not established by the State, it (the State) nevertheless needs to recognise it as intrinsic to the human person and his public and communitarian expressions. Recognition of religious freedom and respect for the innate dignity of every person also imply the principle of the responsibility to protect on the part of the community, society and the State".

"The Church's appeals for religious freedom are not based on a claim of reciprocity, whereby one group respects the rights of others only if the latter respect their rights. Rather, appeals for religious freedom are based on the dignity of persons. We respect the rights of others because it is the right thing to do, not in exchange for its equivalent or for a favour granted. At the same time, when others suffer persecution because of their faith and religious practice, we offer them compassion and solidarity".

Cardinal Turkson concluded his observations by noting that "all proclamation of the Gospel ... is an effort to awaken the (religious) freedom of man to desire and to embrace the truth of the Gospel. This truth of the Gospel, however, is unique, because it is truth that saves. ... Evangelisation and the carrying out of the missionary charge, then, do not contradict and oppose the sense of religious freedom".

For his part, Bishop Toso affirmed that Benedict XVI's Message "invites us particularly to examine the truth of the right to religious freedom; in other words, its anthropological, ethical, juridical, political, civil and religious implications. ... Over and above mere tolerance, religious freedom is the marrow bone of all morality and freedom, of reciprocal respect, of peace".

"The Message reserves the same criticism for fanaticism, fundamentalism and laicism, because they all overlook the essence of religious freedom, which is the free and common search for transcendent truth".

"For the Church", the bishop concluded, "dialogue between followers of different religions is an important stimulus to collaborate with all religious communities for the promotion of peace. In this way - in a globalised world characterised by increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-confessional societies - the great religions can represent not a problem but a resource, an important factor of unity and harmony".

To read the text of the Holy Father's Message click here.

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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of five new ambassadors to the Holy See: Suresh Prasad Pradhan of Nepal; Royson Mabuku Mukwena of Zambia; Miquel Angel Canturri Montanya of Andorra, Vivianne Fock Tave of Seychelles, and Boubacar Sidiki Toure of Mali.

The Holy Father first addressed the diplomats as a group, then gave each of them a speech in written form concerning issues specific to his or her own country.

The Pope focused his collective remarks on the subject of human fraternity, in which context he recalled appeals made over the course of the year "for Haiti, devastated first by the earthquake and them by the cholera epidemic. Unfortunately", he said, "other tragedies have taken place in a number of nations this year. Your own counties, the international community and the voluntary sector have responded to the urgent appeals for aid, aid which must certainly continue and intensify. For her part the Church, through her various institutions, also contributes in many ways over the course of time".

"The great ideal of fraternity, which is part of the national emblem of many countries, has had less resonance in the development of philosophical and political ideas than other ideals such as freedom, equality, progress or unity", the Pope observed. "It is a principle which has become a dead letter in contemporary political societies, due above all to the influence of individualist and collectivist ideologies. Yet fraternity has a special significance for Christians, because of God's plan of fraternal love, the fraternity revealed to us by Christ".

"In order to live with dignity all human beings need respect, just as they need justice to be done and their rights to be recognised in concrete terms. However, this is not enough to live a fully human life, for human beings also need fraternity, ... not only in their immediate relationships but also on a planetary scale. And, although the current process of globalisation brings people closer together it does not make them brothers".

"Human reason", said Benedict XVI, "is capable of recognising the equality of all men and the need to limit excessive inequalities among them, yet it is incapable of establishing fraternity. That is a supernatural gift. The Church sees the achievement of human fraternity on earth as a vocation that is part of the creative design of God, Who wishes her to create this fraternity at both the local and universal level, as she does in the countries you represent before the Holy See".

Yet, the Pope concluded, "although fraternity among men can raise positive echoes in terms of 'social effectiveness', it must not be forgotten that it is not a means but an end in itself. The Church believes that Christ revealed to us that God is love. Thus people who believe in divine charity are certain that the path of love is open to all men and women, and that efforts to establish universal fraternity are not in vain".

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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received Bishop Munib A. Younan and Rev. Martin Junge, recently elected as president and secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation, who are leading a delegation on an official visit to Rome.

Beginning his English-language address to the group, the Pope highlighted "the many significant fruits produced by these decades of bilateral discussions" between Catholics and Lutherans.

"With God's help it has been possible slowly and patiently to remove barriers and to foster visible bonds of unity by means of theological dialogue and practical co-operation, especially at the level of local communities", he said.

"Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification", the Pope noted, affirming that this "proved a significant step along the difficult path towards re-establishing full unity among Christians and a stimulus to further ecumenical discussion.

"In these years leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of the events of 1517", he added, "Catholics and Lutherans are called to reflect anew on where our journey towards unity has led us and to implore the Lord's guidance and help for the future".

The Pope expressed his pleasure at the fact that "the International Lutheran - Roman Catholic Commission on Unity is preparing a joint text which will document what Lutherans and Catholics are able to say together at this point regarding our closer relations after almost five centuries of separation. In order to clarify further the understanding of the Church, which is the main focus of ecumenical dialogue today, the Commission is studying the theme: 'Baptism and Growing Church Communion'".

The Holy Father concluded: "It is my hope that these ecumenical activities will provide fresh opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to grow closer in their lives, their witness to the Gospel, and their efforts to bring the light of Christ to all dimensions of society".

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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

- Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, minister general of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.

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VATICAN CITY, 16 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Paul Stagg Coakley of Salina, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Oklahoma City (area 109,997, population 2,555,000, Catholics 116,619, priests 146, permanent deacons 92, religious 150), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in Norfolk, U.S.A. in 1955, he was ordained a priest in 1983 and consecrated a bishop in 2004. He succeeds Archbishop Eusebius Joseph Beltran, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.


CALIFORNIA CATHOLIC DAILY REPORT; Mexican cardinal demands that drug cartels respect holiday season, says criminals ‘have no shame’

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 14, 2010 (CNA) -- Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara, Mexico, has called on drug cartels to respect the holiday season after a group of armed men interrupted an Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration and killed at least 10 people.

The cardinal expressed his indignation over the latest episode of violence during Mass on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12. “These people have no shame,” he said. “They fire off bullets at a group of people attending a religious celebration. They ought to at least respect sacred things… They are already committing serious enough crimes.”

On Dec. 10 armed men fired upon a group honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tecalitlan, located two hours from Guadalajara. At least 10 were killed and 30 injured.

Cardinal Sandoval urged the faithful to take extreme measures to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime, such as “not leaving home unless necessary.” He also encouraged them to avoid becoming victims of extortion by not giving out personal information over the phone.

The cardinal said the reason for Mexico’s ills are because the faithful “have not seriously accepted the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is to pay attention to her son and put our faith into practice.” He added that Our Lady calls Catholics “to live the commandments of the Lord, who is the King of justice and of peace.”


ASIA NEWS REPORT: Gunmen broke into the house on the evening of December 15 in Mosul and forcibly abducted the student. Patriarch Ignatius III Younan denounces cover-up of the terror targeting Iraqi Christians.

Mosul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A new attack on the Christian community in Iraq. On the evening of December 15 armed militants abducted a young Christian female student from her home in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. The gunmen burst into her home in Mosul’s Karaj neighbourhood overnight and drove her away to an undisclosed location, according to the Ankawa Christian news website. The girl is a student of a local technical institute.

It is the latest in a string of attacks against the country's Christian community, once 100 thousand Christians lived in Mosul, but now only five thousand live in the area, due to growing wave of religious fundamentalism, and attacks against them. The Iraqi government decided only days ago to protect Christian churches with three meter high concrete walls, to avoid tragic incidents like the attack on the Syrian-Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad Oct. 31.

In his homily of 10 December the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan asked the Iraqi government to ensure the safety of all Iraqi citizens, and particularly Christians, "people who are honest, peaceful and helpless." The patriarch in the mass in memory of the "46 new martyrs" of the church of Our Lady of Salavation, which took place in the presence of members of the government denounced that “the cover-up of the terror targeting Iraqi Christians is still going on after such a period of time. E it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to carry out proper and thorough investigations to uncover the terrorist groups who did plan and finance the carnage, of whatever religious or political allegiance they may be, and to bring them publically to justice".His words were echoed at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 15 when Mgr. Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, archbishop of Baghdad, told the assembly; ''Iraq's Christians live in fear of the future”.


IND CATH NEWS REPORT: The Catholic Bishops have questioned the possible repatriation of over 300 Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan at a time when it is unclear if the country is safe.

The Australian newspaper reported yesterday that the Gillard Government is on the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which has been drafted between Canberra and Kabul, which would allow the possible repatriation of over 300 Hazaras to Afghanistan.

Australian Bishops’ delegate for Migration issues Bishop Joe Grech is very worried about what this would mean for the vulnerable Hazara group.

“Considering that earlier this year, there was a freeze on asylum seeker claims from Afghanistan which was only lifted in late September, it seems to be extremely premature discussing repatriation to this country, which is widely considered to be extremely dangerous”, he said.

Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office Fr Maurizio Pettena said that the information at hand is not satisfactory to make a decision to repatriate so many.

“When assessing cases of people like the Hazara group, it is essential that we have accurate information about the state of affairs in that country. It is my belief that people are fleeing with very good reason and may be in need of international refugee protection.”

“We would ask the Australian Government to consider very carefully its motives for repatriation, considering the increasing numbers of arrivals on our shores from this part of the world and consider how they would be monitored following their repatriation”, he said.

This move comes at the same time as up to 40 Asylum Seekers drowned off Christmas Island in stormy seas this morning.

Bishop Joe said that this tragedy shows that seeking asylum is a very complex issue.

“We need to really respect that people are fleeing desperate circumstances and take into very strong consideration what has led people to make this decision.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to these people and their families who remain. To make the arduous journey by boat and to lose their lives just short of safety is tragic. This just puts into perspective the incredible risks taken by people to escape their homelands. They make this journey with children, so they are obviously escaping very dire circumstances. They are not coming for a holiday”, said Bishop Joe.

The asylum seekers who drowned were apparently mostly Iraqis and Iranians.

Source: Australian Bishops Conference


Agenzia Fides REPORT - Violent clashes are underway in the administrative capital of Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan, where supporters of Alassane Ouattara, the President recognized by the international community, have organized a march to seize the headquarters of National Radio and Television (RFI), following a call by their leaders in recent days (see Fides 15/12/2010). “There are clashes in different districts of the capital, but the area around the RFI is calm although manned by security forces, a sign that the demonstrators have not been able to reach it,” says a source from the Church in Abidjan to Fides, who for security reasons does not wish to be named. “The supporters of Ouattara from the north were stopped because the roads leading to the capital were blocked by police. New accounts of the dead and wounded are spreading every hour.” Police are making use of tear gas but there is also evidence of the use of firearms. According to press reports there have been at least four deaths.

The institutional political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire began on 3 December, when the Constitutional Council annulled the results declared on 2 December by the Election Commission under which the winner of the presidential ballot on 28 November was Alassane Ouattara, with 54% of the vote, and instead declared the winner, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. Côte d'Ivoire now has two Presidents with two respective Prime Ministers and their Governments (see Fides 6/12/2010).

Ouattara has called for another march tomorrow, 17 December, to accompany his cabinet, led by Guillaume Soro, to the Government headquarters in central Abidjan.

“Everything is played out in Abidjan, the Country's administrative capital (Yamoussoukro is the political capital), because here are the “corridors of power”, including the President. The armed forces have so far sided with Gbagbo, but it cannot be said that the whole army is in favour of the outgoing President. The balance of power in this struggle is likely to be the army,” concludes the Fides source.

The Bishops of Côte d'Ivoire have not issued a personal statement on the meeting which they had yesterday with Gbagbo to try to find a solution to the crisis. Today in Abidjan the Episcopal Conference is expected to call a special session.


Bread like baby Jesus? A brief history of German Christmas sweets

Germany’s favourite Christmas sweets include spiced Lebkuchen andSpekulatiuscookies, as well as the raisin-filled, sugar-coated breadStollen. But where do they come from? The Local explains some tasty holiday traditions.

The art of baking Lebkuchen began in monasteries during the Middle Ages, when the word leb meant “remedy.” The medicinal herbs and spices grown in monastery gardens – including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, aniseed and cardamom – were baked into the honey cookies as a symbol of the healing brought to the world by Christ’s birth.

Now supermarkets sell ready-made spice packets for the yeast-free cookies, which often use thin white wafers as a base. The ingredients of different regional versions sold at stores and Christmas markets are now state regulated to preserve the their tradition.

The shortbread cookies called Spekulatius are most closely connected with December 5, when Germans celebrate St. Nikolaus. The name is thought to be related to the Latin word for bishop, “speculator.”

The spiced cookies, which contain cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, are traditionally stamped with a variety of images of St. Nikolaus as a bishop.

Christstollen or just Stollen, as the loaves of sweet raisin bread are known, was first recorded in 1330 at a Naumberg monastery. Said to resemble the swaddled baby Jesus, the original loaves contained ingredients acceptable for Advent fasting – just water, oat flour, yeast and oil.

But after Pope Innocence VIII himself granted permission for butter to be used in the dough in 1491,Stollen developed into a special Christmas sweet and are said to taste best after a few months in the pantry. The basic form now contains raisins and sometimes also candied citrus peels. But variations include almonds, marzipan and even carrots now abound.

Some 150 years after the existence of Stollen was recorded in Naumberg, a similar Christmas bread called Striezel was noted in Dresden. The city and surrounding region are most famous for the bread, and the Saxon capital’s main Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt, was named in its honour, though the bread is now also known as Stollen there.


St. Haggai the Prophet


Feast: December 16


Feast Day:December 16

Commemoration of the Prophet Haggai, one of the twelve minor prophets, who prophesied during the time of King Darius of Persia and Zerubbabel, Governor of Judah (c. 520 BC). The Book of Haggai preserves his oracles to the returnees from the Babylonian Exile, in which he exhorts them to finish the rebuilding of the Temple, whose glory foretells the glory of the messianic temple to come.

N.B. The Martyrologium Romanum (Vatican Press, 2004), the Church’s official list of holy men and women, lists the saints of the Old Law alongside those of the New.

TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 16: LUKE: 7: 24-30

Luke 7: 24 - 30
24When the messengers of John had gone, he began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?
25What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts.
26What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
27This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.'
28I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
29(When they heard this all the people and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John;
30but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
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