Thursday, December 9, 2010










TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 9: Matthew 11: 11- 15



VATICAN CITY, 8 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father explained how the mystery of the Immaculate Conception "is a source of inner light, of hope and comfort. In the midst of the trials of life, and especially the contradictions man experiences within and around himself, Mary the Mother of Christ tells us that Grace is greater than sin, that God's mercy is more powerful than evil and can transform evil into good. Unfortunately we experience evil every day, manifesting itself in many ways in the relationships and events of our lives, but its roots lie in the heart of man, a wounded and sick heart incapable of healing itself.

"Holy Scripture", the Pope added, "shows us that the origin of all evil lies in disobedience to God's will, and that death holds sway because human freedom has succumbed to the temptation of the Evil One. But God does not renounce His plan of love and life. By a long and patient journey of reconciliation He has prepared the new and eternal alliance, sealed with the blood of His Son Who, to offer Himself in atonement, was 'born of a woman'. This woman, the Virgin Mary, benefited in advance from the redemptive death of her Son and, from conception, was preserved from the contagion of sin. Thus ... she says: entrust yourselves to Jesus. He will save you".

The Pope concluded his brief remarks by entrusting "the most pressing needs of the Church and the world", to the Virgin Mary. "May she help us, above all, to have faith in God, to believe in His Word and always to refuse evil and choose good".

ANG/ VIS 20101209 (320)


VATICAN CITY, 8 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At 4.15 p.m. Benedict XVI went to place the traditional floral wreath at the foot of the statue of Mary, in celebration of today's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The statue stands on a column in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, directly in front of the Spanish embassy to the Holy See.

Before arriving in the square, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity to greet the Dominican Friars and the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, in the presence of thousands of faithful, he blessed a basket of roses which was placed at the foot of the column bearing Mary's statue.

"We are gathered here around this historic monument, which today is surrounded by flowers as a sign of the people of Rome's love and devotion for the Mother of Jesus", the Pope remarked. "And the most beautiful gift, ... we can offer her is our prayer, the prayer we carry in our hearts and entrust to her intercession".

"Yet when we come here, and especially on this 8 December, what we receive from Mary is much more important than what we can offer to her. She gives us a message, addressed to each one of us, to the city of Rome and to the entire world. I too, as the bishop of this city, come here to listen, not just for myself but for everyone. And what does Mary say? She speaks with God's word, which became flesh in her womb. God's 'message', in none other than Jesus. ... Mary tells us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit in order to achieve, as our ultimate destiny, the immaculate state, fully and definitively free from evil".

"This is the message that Mary gives us", the Holy Father went on. "And it strikes me particularly when I come here on this day because I feel it is addressed to the entire city, to all the men and women who live in Rome, including ... those who do not even remember that today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and those who feel alone and abandoned. The gaze of Mary is as the gaze of God upon each one of us. She looks at us with the same love as the Father, and she blesses us".

"The Mother looks upon us as God looked upon her, the humble girl of Nazareth insignificant before the eyes of the world but chosen and precious before God. In each of us she recognises a likeness to her Son Jesus, even though we are so different! But who better than she knows the power of divine Grace? Who better than she knows that nothing is impossible for God, Who is even capable of drawing good from evil?"

"This", the Pope concluded, "is the message we receive here at the feet of Mary Immaculate. It is a message of hope for everyone in this city and in the entire world".

BXVI-HOMAGE/ VIS 20101209 (530)


VATICAN CITY, 8 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Vilmar Santin O. Carm., vicar of the parish of "Sao Lazaro e Coracao Imaculado de Maria" in the archdiocese of Manaus, Brazil, as bishop prelate of Itaituba (area 175,369, population 203,700, Catholics 194,500, priests 16, religious 26), Brazil. The bishop-elect was born in Paranavai, Brazil in 1952 and ordained a priest in 1979. He succeeds Bishop Capistrano Francesco Heim O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same territorial prelature the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

NER:RE/ VIS 20101209 (100)


VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following English-language communique at midday today:

"Talks between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) resumed this morning at the Headquarters of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, following the Basic Agreement signed in 2000. The talks aimed at a comprehensive international agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian Territories, so strengthening the special relations between the Holy See and the PLO.

"The talks were co-chaired by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for the Holy See's relations with States, and Ziad Al-Bandak, the president's advisor for Christian relations. The talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.

"Both sides agreed on establishing a working group to elaborate the aforementioned comprehensive agreement.

"The Holy See delegation was composed of Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; Bishop Salim Sayegh, vicar general of the Latin Patriarchate in Amman; Msgr. Maurizio Malvestiti, under secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches; Msgr. Alberto Ortega, official of the Holy See Secretariat of State; Msgr. Waldemar Sommertag, counsellor of the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem; Ghassan Faramand, legal advisor, and Fr. Emil Salayta, president of the ecclesiastical tribunal court in Jerusalem.

"The Palestinian delegation was composed of Nabil Shath, member of the PLO central committee; Nimer Hamad, presidential advisor; Ambassador Shawqi Armali; Ramzi Khouri, head of the Palestinian National Fund, Bernard Sabella, member of the PLC, and lssa Kassissieh, deputy head of the Negotiations Affairs Department".

OP/ VIS 20101209 (270)


VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2010 (VIS) - This morning at the Rome headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a press conference was held to present the new Missionary Museum of Propaganda Fide.

The conference was presented by Fr. Massimo Cenci P.I.M.E., under secretary of the congregation; Francesco Buranelli, co-ordinator of the missionary museum's academic committee, and Ludovico Ortona, president of the Italian "Societa per lo sviluppo dell'arte, della cultura e dello spettacolo" (ARCUS).

Fr. Cenci explained how the new institution, located in the Roman palazzo which has been the headquarters of the congregation for nearly four centuries, "is a complete museum, which not only has artistic value but which was conceived and created also and above all with a view to its specifically pastoral function".

Francesco Buranelli recalled the fact that "it was Pope Gregory XV (Alessandro Ludovisi 1621-1623) who, with his 'Inscrutabili Divinae', founded the Holy Congregation 'de Propaganda Fide' ... to promote and co-ordinate all evangelising activity in non-Christian lands".

Buranelli then reviewed the contents of the museum, referring first to the Chapel of the Magi, originally an elliptical construction by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. "It was Cardinal Antonio Barberini who chose to dedicate the church to the Baby Jesus, adored by the Magi", he said. "The Magi symbolically represent the kings of the pagan peoples who, guided by the star, were the first to go out to meet Christ and thus to gain the faith. The theme of the Epiphany is, then, extremely appropriate for a chapel intended to welcome the students of Propaganda Fide, who were destined to go out and transmit the good news". With the advent of Pope Innocent X (Giovanni Battista Pamphilj) the work was entrusted to Borromini under whose direction Bernini's church was demolished and the Chapel of the Magi rebuilt between 1662 and 1664.

The co-ordinator of the academic committee explained how the first hall of the museum contains a video presentation on the congregation's origins, history and missionary activity. This is followed by a multimedia room in which visitors can consult the "Agenzia Fides" archive of more than ten thousand photographs, showing voyages in mission lands since the beginning of the twentieth century.

The museum route also comprehends the Barberini Library "which has been completely restored for the occasion". The structure has a coffered wooden ceiling and a gallery with "portraits of certain illustrious students of the College".

Finally, "there is the Newman Chapel", Buranelli explained. Following his conversion to Catholicism, Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman "lived and studied in the College of Propaganda Fide, and there celebrated his first Mass".

For his part, Ludovico Ortona noted that this new project "gives the public a chance to see works which up to now were not available to them. Thus it enables not only the conservation, recovery and restoration of our artistic and cultural heritage, but also opens the way to new possibilities, making available all the hidden masterpieces ... which are a measure of the greatness of Italian cultural and artistic history".


IND. CATH. NEWS REPORT- In a homily to be delivered today at Westminster Central Hall in London, Cardinal Keith O'Brien will call on politicians and wider society to; uphold "freedom of religious expression" which he will describe as "a basic human right, (which) is not upheld in our midst as widely and as completely as it should be" With reference to a recent campaign by Christians in the UK to promote our Christian heritage and an ongoing debate in Scotland, where "Catholics have raised their voices against sectarianism and intolerance directed against the Church" Cardinal O'Brien will urge his listeners to "respect, uphold and protect the rights of Christians to hold their beliefs and to act according to their Christian conscience"

The full text of the Cardinal's homily, delivered at Christians in Government Carol Service, Westminster Central Hall, today is shown below.


It is indeed a very great privilege being with you for your annual Carol Concert – realising just how many of you in the midst of busy lives are willing to give this time to share your Christian faith with one another as we think over that most tremendous event in the history of the world – God becoming man. In this enormous hall crowded with peoples of goodwill, with the bustling City of London around us, we give time to think of the birth of Jesus Christ, son of God and son of man, born of the Virgin Mary. We think of the implication of that still in our own lifetime – and we pray that in some way or another at this time of the year we may follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, ever more closely and radiate something of his love and concern to all those around us.


During this service, I would like to think with you on that common vocation which we all share – whether Priest or Politician, Cardinal or Cabinet Minister. By virtue of our Christian baptism, our baptism into the Body of Christ, we try to follow his way. As God became man so man is called upon to become like God and perhaps the realisation of something of our tremendous vocation comes home to us at thism particular time each year.

I bring before your minds at this time also the example of St Thomas More – who was prepared to give his life for God rather than betray his conscience. As you know our Church proposes Thomas More as role model for politicians due to his exemplary exercise of public office. It was in the great jubilee year of 2000 that Pope John Paul II declared St Thomas More as the Patron Saint of Politicians commenting that: “His life teaches us that government is above all an exercise of virtue”. I think that the message of the sacrifice of Thomas More is as pressing today as it has ever been, and his final words inspire us to this day: “I die the King’s loyal servant, but God’s first”.

I am of course fully aware that no politicians in our country today, risks loss of life for holding to their beliefs – although that does indeed still exist in other countries at this present time. However our own Christians in politics do sometimes risk public ridicule, loss of office, being overlooked for promotion, and so on because of their beliefs. It is reassuring to know that there are so many in public life who are not afraid of being true to their consciences and who are only too willing to stand up and be counted.


I know also of the forthcoming launch of a “Declaration of Christian Conscience” entitled “Westminster 2010”. It is equivalent to the so-called “Manhattan Declaration” which was launched last year and which has now been signed by over 400,000 United States Christians. The “Westminster 2010” declaration is aimed to appeal to United Kingdom Christians of all denominations who subscribe to the historic Christian faith and who hold Orthodox Christian beliefs about life, marriage and conscience. No doubt you will be hearing more about this forthcoming Declaration, which I ask you to consider endorsing as it does uphold the rights of conscience of all peoples particularly those in positions of responsibility and especially concerning Christian beliefs and values, and the dignity of human life and marriage. The Declaration calls upon all those in positions of leadership, responsibility and influence in the United Kingdom to pledge to respect, uphold and protect the rights of Christians to hold their beliefs and to act according to their Christian conscience. It is a timely initiative. Within the last week Christians across the United Kingdom have endorsed the “Not Ashamed” campaign urging us all not to be ashamed of our Christian heritage, while in Scotland Catholics have raised their voices against sectarianism and intolerance directed against the Church.

Clearly, these actions show that freedom of religious expression, a basic human right, is not upheld in our midst as widely and as completely as it should be.


It is only some few months since Pope Benedict XVI preached in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster addressing politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders. As you may remember when he entered Westminster Hall to address leaders of civil society he paused at the spot at which St Thomas More was tried and condemned to death in 1535 for refusing to acknowledge the King as also the Head of the Church.

It was an unforgettable moment for so many of us when the elderly slightly stooped figure of the Pope clad in white was outlined against the vivid red carpet in packed Westminster Hall – reminding so many of us of that figure of Jesus standing before Pilate as he was condemned to death. One might say that Pope Benedict XVI had similarly been condemned over the years and especially since his election as Pope for his views and for his outspoken ways of proclaiming the “truth” of Jesus Christ and his teaching. It almost seemed that, as his words were proclaimed, that he was in turn defending his message of truth.

And when speaking at the great Mass at Bellahouston Park the Pope mentioned St Ninian whose feast day we were celebrating and indicated:”St Ninian was himself unafraid to be a lone voice. In the footsteps of the Disciples whom out Lord sent forth before him, Ninian was one of the very first Catholic missionaries to bring his fellow Britons the good news of Jesus Christ”.

And the Pope did not hesitate to stress the responsibility on our shoulders as Christian Leaders and as Christians in politics to have that same strong faith as those early Disciples of the Lord had.

In very strong and stirring words, the Pope proclaimed to that great audience in Westminster Hall: “Religion is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance”.

And he went on to state that: “There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience”.

Strong words indeed from our Pope and he continued to emphasise that there is a legitimate role for religion in the public square. And then the challenge comes to each one of us from Pope Benedict XVI: “I would invite all of you, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life”.


I am sure you realise that over the years I myself have not been slow in proclaiming the Christian message. One Easter Time in my own Cathedral I indicated that I saw the initials letters P and C as standing not for “political correctness” but rather for “proclaiming Christianity”. That is certainly at the basis of our vocation as Christians in politics.

In the coming weeks, we will indeed look at and pray before the cribs and various nativity scenes in our homes, our churches and public places. As we do let us pray for those whom we are called upon to serve and for our own role in service; let us pray that we will have the strength of character of people like St John Fisher and those of his time who were called upon to act according to their consciences. Let us ask the good Lord to strengthen us in our own living out of our baptismal vocation so that we will never be afraid to proclaim Christ so that in our acts and our words we live out the message of the Saviour of the world born among us in poverty and simplicity 2000 years ago.

For more information see:


AsiaNews REPORT – Hundreds of police attacked hundreds of Catholics of the Degar ethnic group. 22 were wounded; many fled into the forest and are now being hunted. Inhabitants were ordered not to speak of the episode.

The toll from an attack by hundreds of police on a group of about one hundred ethnic Degar Vietnamese Catholics gathered in prayer is 22 wounded.There are about one million Vietnamese ethnic Degar, mostly Christians. Catholics are about 200 thousand.

According to reports by the Montagnard Foundation, the attack took place on November 11 in the village of Ploi Kret Krot, in Gia Lai province, bordering Cambodia, where similar events had already occurred twice in the villages of Ploi Kuk Kong and Ploi Kuk Dak.

In the latest attack, the faithful had gathered in prayer in the open air, when police officers ordered to disperse. On replying that they were not committing any crime, the police attacked them, beating men, women and children with sticks, even electric batons, and seizing their crosses, images of the Virgin and other religious objects. Some people fled into the forest.

Among the 22 injured, nine were unconscious. A man, A Bom, 50, has been left crippled The officials have also threatened to arrest residents if they had reported the incident to the foreign media.

Those who fled are still hidden, while the police hunts them down, patrolling the village and forcing residents to stay indoors.


CATHOLIC ONLINE REPORT: The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help receives the decree from Bishop of Green Bay

Following a two-year formal inquiry, Bishop David Rickin of the Diocese of Green Bay issued a decree with "moral certainty" that the events, apparition and locutions given to a young Belgian immigrant woman were approved. Adele Brise claimed to have received three visits from the Virgin Mary in October of 1859.

On October 9, 1859, a year after the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, France; Mary, the Queen of Heaven is alleged to have appeared three separate times in Northeastern Wisconsin to Adele Brise. (Recreated in the image above.)

On October 9, 1859, a year after the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, France; Mary, the Queen of Heaven is alleged to have appeared three separate times in Northeastern Wisconsin to Adele Brise. (Recreated in the image above.)

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - During October of 1859 the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared to a young Belgian immigrant woman, Adele Brise, on three occasions in Champion, Wisconsin. Since that time faithful pilgrims have continuously visited the chapel which stands of the site of those appearances.

On Wednesday, December 8, which is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Most Reverend David Rickin, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, decreed with "moral certainty" that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and approved these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful.

This historic decree concerning the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is a first for the United States, where no other appearances have been validated. Two alleged apparitions in the US that were examined by the Church and formally declared to be false are Necedah, Wisconsin and Bayside, New York.

An apparition is an appearance of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary or one of the Saints. An appearance may include a message for the person who sees the apparition.

There are 11 approved sites in the world in addition to Our Lady of Good Help. Probably the most well-known apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary are Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico in 1531; Lourdes, France in 1858; and Fatima, Portugal in 1917.

During each of the three apparitions near Champion (then Robinsonville), Wisconsin, a lady in shining white clothes appeared to Adele. The third time she identified herself as "the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners."

She went on to tell the 28 year-old woman, who lived with her family on a small homestead in northern part of the state, "I wish you to do the same."

The Virgin Mary then gave her a mission for evangelization and catechesis: "Gather the children in this wild country, and teach them what they should know for salvation . Go and fear nothing. I will help you."

Before moving to America with her family about four years earlier, Adele had intended to become a nun and later went on to become a Third Order Franciscan after the apparition.

She fully embraced the mission she had been given and traveled throughout the state, which was still mostly unsettled, giving religious instruction to children and adults. At that time there was a severe lack of priests and attending Mass often involved a laborious journey.

She also established a Catholic school and a community of Franciscan women near the Shrine.

Six years prior to Sister Adele's death in 1896, her adopted hometown of Robinsonville, Wisconsin renamed itself after the Belgian town of Champion. She had requested the change in honor of a childhood promise she had made to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would enter a Belgian religious order in that region.

Since the 1859 appearances, bishops of the Diocese of Green Bay have been supportive of the apparition account and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, which was erected on the site, as a place of prayer and pilgrimage. However, none had made a official declaration.

While no one can actually prove a supernatural occurrence, there are other factors that can be considered. The Church judges apparitions on the basis of their consistency with Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Church, any subsequent spiritual benefits in the lives of people, and whether there is anything in the life of the seer that detracts from the credibility of the account.

A decree with moral certainty approves apparitions as worthy of belief by the Christian faithful; however, there is no obligation for belief implied in the approval.

On January 9, 2009 Bishop Rickin opened a formal investigation of the apparition and appointed a team of experts to conduct the study. The formal decree came after just under two years of examination.

While some may think that the Holy See or a conference of bishops makes such decrees, the Bishop is the one responsible for judging the authenticity of apparitions that are said to have occurred in his Diocese.

Bishop Ricken told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that Sister Adele's own life was among the most convincing testimonies to the validity of the apparition. Rather than calling attention to herself or the apparitions, she had humbly devoted the rest of her life to fulfilling the instructions she had received.

"She went all over this area, and visited the homes that were scattered far and wide," Bishop Ricken said, recounting the sister's Franciscan spirit of humble simplicity. "She walked most of the time, and she'd spend several days with the children teaching them the catechism and talking with the parents about their faith."

"She really had an evangelistic spirit and lived that out, not just immediately after the message, but her whole life long."

Bishop Ricken went on to tell CNA that the simplicity and clarity of Mary's message also testified to the truth of the apparitions. Her instructions to Sister Adele were "simple, but very much loaded with the main message of the Gospel and with the teachings of the Church."

The bishop also recalled discovering "countless stories of answered prayers," including reports of "what many call miracles," among those who had visited the shrine to seeking intercession from Our Lady of Good Help.

The formal declaration from Bishop Rickin can be read here.


Agenzia Fides REPORT – One recommendation is to promote the diffusion of the Divine Word in Africa through the use of both modern means of social communications and traditional means of communication in the promotion of the Biblical Apostolate on the Continent, says the final communique sent to Fides for the Continental Seminar organized by the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar (BICAM), under the auspices of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) that took place from 30 November to 5 December 2010 at the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary Nkolbisson in Yaoundé, Cameroon (see Fides 30/11/2010).
The purpose of the Seminar was to evaluate the Biblical Apostolate in Africa, in light of the Post-synodal Exhortation by Pope Benedict XVI for the 2008 Synod on “the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church”. The participants acknowledged that “the Biblical Apostolate has not yet taken root in some African countries.” To address this situation it was proposed to widely disseminate the magisterial documents, namely “Dei Verbum”, “Ecclesia in Africa” and “Verbum Domini”. It was also proposed to widely promote teaching the methods of “Lectio Divina” in Africa and to redefine the aim, structures and activities of the Biblical Apostolate in line with the Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini”, and to re-emphasise the important role of women in the dissemination of faith and promotion of the Biblical Apostolate in Africa.
Among the recommendations for promoting the Biblical Apostolate are: the use of modern means of communication (television, radio, internet), urgently addressing the formation of those involved in Biblical Apostolate at all levels, networking at the diocesan, national, regional and Continental levels, the establishment of a school to train African translators of the Sacred Scriptures into local languages and the strengthening of cooperation between the National Bible Societies and the Episcopal Conferences of the Continent for the translation, publishing and distribution of the Bible in African languages at an affordable price.


CATH NEWS REPORT- Catholics should write to their Federal MPs in support of traditional marriage, in response to a recent Federal Parliament motion that asked members to gauge constituents' views on how to achieve equal treatment for same sex couples, reports The Catholic Weekly.

Parishioners have been invited to sign a petition, in a campaign backed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which requests their local Federal MP to "protect the unique institution of marriage as traditionally understood and actually lived as the complementary love between a man and a woman."

The campaign, jointly co-ordinated by The Knights of the Southern Cross, the Catholic Women's League, and the Sydney archdiocese's Life, Family and Marriage Centre, calls on all Catholics to "have their voices heard".

Petition forms were sent to all parishes last week with the campaign having the support of the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, and reflecting the wishes of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at their recent plenary meeting.

A letter co-signed by The Knights of the Southern Cross, the Catholic Women's League, and the Sydney archdiocese's Life, Family and Marriage Centre, read: "Over the summer parliamentary break, Members of the House of Rep resentatives have been asked to "gauge their constituents' views on ways to achieve equal treatment for same sex couples including marriage."

This is a direct challenge to the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and calls for an urgent response from the Catholic community.

"The petitions need to be returned to your Federal Member of Parliament at their local electorate office preferably by Monday, December 20."

Chris Meney, director of the Life, Marriage and Family Centre, said: "We know that marriage is likely to be debated next year in Federal Parliament and that MPs will report back to the Parliament their constituents' views on marriage.

"It is vital that we encourage MPs to affirm the unique meaning and value of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"We hope they will be able to say that they have heard a strong and positive message about marriage from the Catholic community in their electorates."


St. Juan Diego


Feast: December 9


Feast Day:December 9
Born:1474, Tlayacac, Cuauhtitlan, Mexico
Died:May 30, 1548, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City, Mexico
Canonized:July 31, 2002, Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico by Pope John Paul II
Major Shrine:Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico

In the sixteenth century, the Blessed Virgin, moved with pity for the Aztec people who, living in the darkness of idolatry, offered to their idols multitudes of human victims, deigned to take into her own hands the evangelization of these Indians of Central America who were also her children. One of the Aztec gods, originally considered the god of fertility, had transformed himself over time into a ferocious god. A symbol of the sun, this god was in continuous battle with the moon and the stars and was believed to need human blood to restore his strength; if he died, life would be extinguished. Ever new victims, to be offered to him in perpetual sacrifice, therefore seemed essential.

An eagle on a cactus

Aztec priests had prophesied that their nomadic people would settle in the place where an eagle would be seen perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This eagle appears on the Mexican flag today. Having arrived on a swampy island, in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs saw the foretold sign: an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent. This was in 1369. There they founded their town Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City. The town expanded to become a city on pilings, with many gardens abounding in flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The organization of the Aztec kingdom was very structured and hierarchical. The knowledge of their mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers, architects, doctors, artists, and artisans was excellent for that time. But the laws of the physical world remained scarcely known. Tenochtitlan drew its power and wealth primarily from war. The conquered cities had to pay a tribute of various foodstuffs and men for war and sacrifices. The Aztecs' human sacrifices and cannibalism are almost unequaled throughout the course of history.

In 1474, a child was born who was given the name Cuauhtlatoazin ("speaking eagle"). After his father's death, the child was taken in by his uncle. From the age of three, he was taught, as were all young Aztecs, to join in domestic tasks and to behave in a dignified manner. At school, he learned singing, dancing, and especially the worship of many gods. The priests had a very strong influence over the population, whom they kept in a submission bordering on terror. Cuauhtlatoazin was thirteen years old when the great temple at Tenochtitlan was consecrated. Over the course of four days, the priests sacrificed 80,000 human victims to their god. After his military service, Cuauhtlatoazin married a young woman of his social status. Together they led a modest life as farmers.

In 1519, the Spaniard Cortez disembarked in Mexico, leading 500 soldiers. He conquered the country for Spain, yet was not lacking in zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs. In 1524 he obtained the arrival of twelve Franciscans to Mexico. These missionaries quickly integrated into the population. Their goodness contrasted with the harshness of the Aztec priests, as well as that of some conquistadors. They began to build churches. However, the Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.

Cuauhtlatoazin and his wife were among the first to receive Baptism, under the respective names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia. After his wife's death in 1529, Juan Diego withdrew to Tolpetlac, 14 km from Mexico City, to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well. On December 9, 1531, as was his custom every Saturday, he left very early in the morning to attend the Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, at the Franciscan fathers' church, close to Mexico City. He walked past Tepeyac Hill. Suddenly, he heard a gentle and resounding song that seemed to come from a great multitude of birds. Raising his eyes to the top of the hill, he saw a white and radiant cloud. He looked around him and wondered if he was dreaming. All of a sudden, the song stopped and a woman's voice, gentle and graceful, called him: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" He quickly climbed the hill and found himself in the presence of a very beautiful young woman whose garments shone like the sun.

"A church where I will show my love"

Speaking to him in Nahuatl, his native language, she said to him, "Juanito, my son, where are you going?"—"Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear the divine things that the priest teaches us there."—"I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin MARY, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love Me, trust in Me, and have recourse to Me. I will hear their complaints and I will comfort their affliction and their sufferings. So that I might show all My love, go now to the bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him the great desire I have to see a church dedicated to me built here."

Juan Diego went straight to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal, who had a heart overflowing with kindness towards the Indians. He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story. Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home. At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Apparition again. He told her about his mission, then added, "I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it. I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person. Therefore, he didn't believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you."—"My dearest son, "replied the Lady, "you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin MARY, Mother of God, who am sending you."

On Sunday morning after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the bishop's house. The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the apparition. When Juan Diego went home, the bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants. At Tepeyac Bridge, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him again. Furious, they declared to the bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not be believed. During this time, Juan Diego told the beautiful Lady, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the bishop. "Come back tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for," replied the Apparition.

Roses, in the middle of winter!

Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him. As the illness got worse, the uncle asked his nephew to go look for a priest. At dawn on Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego started on the road to the city. Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it best to make a detour so as not to meet the Lady. But suddenly, he perceived her coming to meet him. Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to administer last rites to his uncle. "My dear little one," replied the Apparition, "do not be distressed about your uncle's illness, because he will not die from it. I assure you that he will get well... Go to the top of the hill, pick the flowers that you will see there, and bring them to me." When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian roses that gave off a very sweet fragrance. Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there. Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his cloak, or tilma, then went back down the hill. "My dear son," said the Lady, "these flowers are the sign that you are to give the bishop... This will get him to build the church that I have asked of him."

Juan Diego ran to the bishop. When he arrived, the servants made him wait for hours. Amazed at his patience, and intrigued by what he was carrying in his tilma, they finally informed the bishop, who, although with several people, had him shown in immediately. The Indian related his adventure, unfolded his tilma, and let the flowers, which were still shining with dew, scatter to the floor. With tears in his eyes, Bishop Zumárraga fell to his knees, admiring the roses from his country. All of a sudden, he perceived, on the tilma, the portrait of Our Lady. MARY's image was there, as though printed on the cloak, very beautiful and full of gentleness. The bishop's doubts gave way to a sure faith and a hope filled with wonder. He took the tilma and the roses, and placed them respectfully in his private oratory. The next day he went with Juan Diego to the hill where the apparitions had taken place. After having examined the sites, he let the seer return to his uncle's house. Juan Bernardino had been completely cured. His cure had taken place at the very hour when Our Lady appeared to his nephew. He told him, "I have also seen her. She even came here and talked to me. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac Hill and wants her portrait to be called 'Saint MARY of Guadalupe.' But she didn't explain to me why." The name "Guadalupe" is well known by the Spanish, because in their country there is a very old sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The news of the miracle spread quickly. In a short time, Juan Diego became well-known. "I will spread your fame," MARY had told him, but the Indian remained as humble as ever. To make it easier to meditate on the Image, Bishop Zumárraga had the tilma transported to his cathedral. Then work was begun on the construction of a small church and a hermitage for Juan Diego on the hill of apparitions. The next December 25, the bishop consecrated his cathedral to the Most Blessed Virgin, to thank her for the remarkable favors with which she had blessed his diocese. Then, in a magnificent procession, the miraculous Image was carried to the sanctuary that had just been completed on Tepeyac Hill. To express their joy, the Indians shot arrows. One of them, shot carelessly, went through the throat of a participant in the procession, who fell to the ground, fatally wounded. A great silence fell and intense supplication rose to the Mother of God. Suddenly the wounded man, who had been placed at the foot of the miraculous Image, collected himself and got up, full of vigor. The crowd's enthusiasm was at its peak.

Millions of Indians become Christian

Juan Diego moved into his little hermitage, seeing to the maintenance and cleaning of the site. His life remained simple—he carefully farmed a field close to the sanctuary that had been placed at his disposal. He received pilgrims in ever larger numbers, and enjoyed talking about the Blessed Virgin and untiringly relating the details of the apparitions. He was entrusted with all kinds of prayer intentions. He listened, sympathized, and comforted. A good amount of his free time was spent in contemplation before the image of his Lady. He made rapid progress in the ways of holiness. Day after day, he fulfilled his duty as a witness up until his death on December 9, 1548, seventeen years after the first apparition.


TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 9: Matthew 11: 11- 15

Matthew 11: 11 - 15
11Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John;14and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli'jah who is to come.15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Post a Comment