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".
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".
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.
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".
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".
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 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.
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
WITNESS OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
Feast: December 9