Monday, December 12, 2011









VATICAN CITY, 10 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received representatives from the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives, and from the Italian Federation of Cooperative Credit Banks, who were accompanied by their ecclesiastical assistant Msgr. Adriano Vincenzi. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

In his remarks to them the Pope dwelt on the importance Catholic cooperatives have had in Italy since their emergence in the wake of Leo XIII's Encyclical "Rerum novarum". That document, the 120th anniversary of which falls this year, "favoured the fruitful presence of Catholics in Italian society through the promotion of cooperative and mutual societies, the development of social enterprises and many other public works characterised by various forms of participation and self-management. The purpose of such activity has always been to provide material support for people and constant attention to families, drawing inspiration from the Magisterium of the Church", he said.

"The heart of cooperative efforts has always lain in the search for harmony between the individual and community dimensions. This is a concrete expression of the complementarity and subsidiarity which Church social doctrine has always sought to promote between citizens and the State, a balance between safeguarding the rights of the individual and promoting the common good, in order to develop a local economy capable of responding to community needs. Cooperative activities are likewise characterised by their great concern for solidarity, while still respecting the due autonomy of the individual".

"In a period of great change, of persistent economic uncertainty, and of difficulties in the world of work, the Church feels the need to announce Christ's message with renewed vigour. ... And you, dear friends, must be aware that Catholic cooperatives have an important role to play in this field", the Holy Father told his audience.

Benedict XVI invited members of cooperatives to make their specific contribution "to ensure that the economy and the market never neglect solidarity", in order "to promote a culture of life and the family, and to favour the creation of new families with access to dignified work which respects the creation that God has entrusted to our responsibility and care". He also invited them "to value man in his entirety, irrespective of any difference in race, language or religion".

Finally, the Pope recalled how Catholic cooperatives are characterised by their "Christian inspiration, which must constantly guide them", because "for Christians loving others is not mere philanthropy but an expression of the love of God. ... Never forget the importance of developing this spiritual dimension as you seek to respond to contemporary challenges and social emergencies, in order to continue to work in the logic of gratuitousness and responsibility, promoting wise and sober consumption".

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VATICAN CITY, 11 DEC 2011 (VIS) - At 9 a.m. today, Benedict XVI travelled to the parish of "Santa Maria delle Grazie" at Casal Boccone, in the northern sector of the diocese of Rome. There, in the courtyard of the parish complex which were inaugurated last year, he was greeted with dances and songs by children from the local primary school. The Holy Father expressed his thanks for the welcome and pronounced some off-the-cuff remarks.

"I wish everyone a happy Sunday. We know that Christmas is approaching so let us prepare ourselves, not just with gifts but with our hearts. Let us think that Christ the Lord is close to us, that He enters our lives and brings us light and joy. 'Pray incessantly' says St. Paul today in his Letter to the Thessalonians. ... What this means is that we must not lose contact with God in our hearts. If such contact exists then we have a reason to be joyful. To all of you I wish the joy of Christmas, the presence of the Baby Jesus Who is the God of our hearts".

Mass began at 9.30 a.m. with a greeting delivered by the parish priest, Fr. Domenico Monteforte. Excerpts from Benedict XVI's homily are given below:

"Advent is a time of waiting, hope and preparation for the visit of the Lord. As we heard in the Gospel reading, the person and preaching of John the Baptist invite us to take up this commitment". John the Baptist "is the precursor, a mere witness, entirely subject to the One Whom he announces. He is voice in the desert, just as today, in the desert of the great cities of this world, in the great absence of God, we need voices which tell us simply that God exists, that He is always close even when He seems distant".

John the Baptist "is a witness of the light. This fact touches our hearts, because in a world so full of shadows and darkness, we are all called to be witnesses of the light. This is the mission of Advent: being witness of the light, and we can do this only if we carry the light within us. ... In the Church, in the Word of God, in the celebration of the Sacraments, in the Sacrament of Confession and the forgiveness we receive, in the Eucharist where the Lord gives Himself into our hands and hearts, in of all this we touch the light and receive our mission: the mission of bearing witness to the fact that the light exists, of bringing that light into our world".

"This 'Gaudete' Sunday is the Sunday of joy. It tells us that, even amidst our doubts and difficulties, joy exists because God exists and He is with us".

"Looking at this church and the parish buildings, I see the fruits of patience, dedication and love. At the same time, by my presence here, I wish to encourage you also to raise that Church of living stones, which you yourselves represent. Each of you should feel yourselves to be an element of this living structure. A community is constructed with the contribution each person makes, with the commitment of everyone. I am thinking in particular of the field of catechesis, the liturgy and charity, the columns which support Christian life".

"I also wish to draw your attention to the importance and the central role of the Eucharist. May the Mass be the focus of your Sunday, which must be rediscovered and lived as the day of the Lord and of the community, a day on which to praise and celebrate the One Who was born for us, Who died and rose again for our salvation, and Who asks us to live together joyfully, to be a community open and ready to welcome anyone who is alone and in difficulty. Do not lose your understanding of the significance of Sundays, and remain faithful to your appointment with the Eucharist. Early Christians were ready to give their lives for this".

"Another point I would like to raise is that of the witness of charity, which must characterise your life as a community. Over recent years you have seen a rapid growth in numbers, but you have also witnessed the arrival of many people in situations of difficulty and want. These people need you, they need your material aid but also and above all of your witness as believers. Ensure that your community always remains a concrete expression of the love of God Who is rich in mercy, and that it invites people to approach Him with trust".

Following the Mass, the Pope held a brief meeting with the members of the parish council. Before returning to the Vatican for the Angelus prayer, he addressed some remarks to faithful waiting outside the church to bid him farewell.

"Thank you for your presence and the warmth of your welcome", he said. "Your beautiful, open and heartfelt cordiality reminded me of my visit to Africa. It is a great joy to me to see how, ... in this new parish, people actively participate in the Eucharist and prepare for Christmas.

"Today, preparing for Christmas is very difficult", the Holy Father added. "I know that people have many commitments, but getting ready for Christmas does not only mean shopping and making preparations, it means being in contact with the Lord, going out to meet Him. I feel it is important not to forget this dimension. ... This is not an additional burden, but the power that enables us to do all we need to do. I hope you maintain permanent contact with Jesus, that His joy and strength might help you to live in this world".

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VATICAN CITY, 11 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Having returned to the Vatican following his pastoral visit to the Roman parish of "Santa Maria delle Grazie" at Casal Boccone, at midday today Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Following a Roman tradition of this third Sunday of Advent, the Pope blessed statuettes of the Baby Jesus which were brought to the square by children from local oratories and which are destined to be placed in nativity scenes in homes, schools and parishes.

"The liturgical texts of Advent" said the Holy Father, "invite us to live in expectation of Jesus, always to await His coming and to remain open and ready to meet Him. The vigilance Christians are called to show every day of their lives is particularly characteristic of this period in which we ready ourselves for the joy of the Christmas mystery. The external environment presents its usual commercial messages, though perhaps somewhat subdued due to the economic crisis, but Christians are called to experience Advent without allowing themselves to be distracted by the lights, giving things their correct value and fixing their inner gaze on Christ".

"The liturgy today, 'Gaudete' Sunday, invites us to happiness, to await not sadly but joyfully", the Pope explained. "True joy is not the result of diversion, of avoiding life's responsibilities. True joy is linked to something more profound. Of course, in an often frenetic daily life it is important to find time for rest and relaxation, but true joy is linked to the relationship with God. People who have encountered Christ in their lives, experience a calmness of heart and a joy which no worldly situation can take from them. ... In this time of Advent, let us reinforce our certainty that the Lord came among us, and that He continually renews His presence of consolation, love and joy".

Following the Angelus, Benedict XVI greeted the children of Rome asking them, when they prayed before their nativity scenes, to remember the Pope, just as the Pope remembered them.

He also welcomed members of the Movement for Life who have come to Rome from all over Europe for the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Prize, awarded in memory of Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolari Movement. "On this anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights", he said, "let us remember that the first of all rights is the right to life".

Finally he addressed Croatian pilgrims who are participating in a symposium on Fr. Ruder Josip Boskovic. "That Jesuit scientist and diplomat", the Pope said, "personified and bore witness to the bond between faith and science".

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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience Serzh Sargsyan, president of the Republic of Armenia. The president, accompanied by Edward Nalbadian, foreign minister, then went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, under secretary for Relations with States.

"In the course of the cordial discussions, and having expressed great pleasure at the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Armenia, the parties exchanged views on the role that the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church play in society, and the contribution they both make to the common good. Attention also turned to the importance of the country's Christian heritage, and of the commitment to educating the new generations in fundamental values".

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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a telegram sent by the Holy Father to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. Cap. of Philadelphia, U.S.A., for the death of Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Cardinal Foley yesterday died in Darby, U.S.A., at the age of 76.

"Having learned with sadness of the death of Cardinal John Patrick Foley, grand master emeritus of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, I offer you my heartfelt condolences. As I recall with gratitude the late cardinal's years of priestly ministry in his beloved archdiocese of Philadelphia, his distinguished service to the Holy See as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and most recently his labours on behalf of the Christian communities of the Holy Land, I willingly join you in commending his noble soul to God, the Father of all mercies. I also pray that his lifelong commitment to the Church's presence in the media will inspire others to take up this apostolate so essential to the proclamation of the Gospel and the progress of the new evangelisation. To all who mourn Cardinal Foley in the hope of the resurrection, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ".

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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience:

- Seven prelates of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop John Atcherley Dew of Wellington.

- Bishop Patrick James Dunn of Auckland.

- Bishop Barry Philip Jones of Christchurch.

- Bishop Colin David Campbell of Dunedin.

- Bishop Denis George Browne of Hamilton in New Zealand.

- Bishop Peter James Cullinane of Palmerston North, accompanied by Coadjutor Bishop Charles Edward Drennan.

- Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

On Saturday 10 December he received in audience:

- Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

- Archbishop Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

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VATICAN CITY, 12 DEC 2011, VIS - The Holy Father:

- Appointed Fr. Gaetan Proulx O.S.M. pastor of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Foy in the archdiocese of Quebec, Canada, and Fr. Denis Grondin Jr. of the clergy of Quebec, pastor in the region of Charlevoix, as auxiliaries of the archdiocese of Quebec (area 35,180, population 1,195,261, Catholics 1,040,690, priests 701, permanent deacons 95, religious 3458). Bishop-elect Proulx was born in 1947 and ordained a priest in 1976. For many years he was responsible for forming candidates to religious and priestly life in the Servite Province of Canada and, from 2000 to 2006, was prior provincial for Canada, France and Belgium. Bishop-elect Grondin was born in Rimouski, Canada in 1954 and ordained a priest in 1989. He has been active as vice pastor and administrator in a number of parishes and has worked in pastoral animation in schools and health centres.

- Appointed Fr. Jose Luis del Palacio Perez-Medel of the clergy of Madrid, Spain, head of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in Peru, as bishop of El Callao (area 147,850, population 1,015,000, Catholics 912,000, priests 102, permanent deacons 8, religious 247), Peru. The bishop-elect was born in Madrid in 1950 and ordained a priest in 1985. Prior to his ordination he worked on the itinerant teams of the Neo-Catechumenal Way in Spain and Peru. He is currently a professor at the "Redemptoris Mater" Faculty of Theology in El Callao. He succeeds Miguel Irizar Campos C.P., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

Saturday 10 December it was made public that he appointed:

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Culture: Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, U.S.A.; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation; Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Italy; Bishop Joseph Vianney Fernando of Kandy, Sri Lanka; Fr. Francois Bousquet, professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of the "Institut Catholique de Paris", France; Jean-Luc Marion, philosopher and professor of metaphysics at the Universities of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and of Chicago, and Arvo Part, musician and composer from Estonia.

- As consultors of the Pontifical Council for Culture: Fr. Jose Tolentino de Mendonca, professor of the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Lisbon, Portugal; Fr. Edouard Ade, professor at the Catholic University of West Africa, Benin; Fr. Antonino Spadaro S.J., editor in chief of the magazine "Civilta Cattolica" and professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Fidel Gonzalez Fernandez M.C.C.J., professor at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urban University in Rome and at the Faculty of Ecclesiastical History of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Santiago Calatrava, Spanish architect and engineer; Francesc Torralba Rosello, professor of philosophy at the "Ramon Llull" University in Barcelona, Spain; Piero Benvenuti, professor of astrophysics and director of the "G. Colombo" Interdepartmental Space Centre at the University of Padua, Italy; Wolf Joachim Singer, professor of neurology and director of the "Max Planck Institute Fur Hirnforschung-Frankfurt A. M.", Germany; Bruno Coppi, professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT "Plasma Science & Fusion Center" in Cambridge, U.S.A.; Micol Forti, curator of the modern art collection of the Vatican Museums, and; Marguerite A. Peeters, journalist, and director general of the "Brussels-Based Institute for Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics", Belgium.

- Fr. Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet S.D.B., Salesian inspector for Uruguay and president of the Conference of Religious of Uruguay, as auxiliary of Montevideo (area 540, population 1,394,000, Catholics 883,000, priests 252, permanent deacons 35, religious 721), Uruguay. The bishop-elect was born in Montevideo in 1959 and ordained a priest in 1987. Among other duties, he has worked as vicar for the Salesian novitiate and post novitiate, master of novices and professor of Church history.

- Msgr. Edward Robinson Wijesinghe of the clergy of the archdiocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, official of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, as bureau chief of the same pontifical council.


ARCHDIOCESE OF CANBERRA REPORT: Sister Madeleine Lawrence sits among the presents on her 109th birthday.The oldest Australian Sister of Mercy, Sr Madeleine Lawrence, has celebrated her 109th birthday.

Sr Madeleine received letters of congratulation from the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Governor General.

Born in Victoria in 1902, Sr Madeleine joined the Goulburn Sisters of Mercy when she was 17.

She taught in schools and orphanages in many areas including Goulburn, Galong and Jerilderie, and says she still keeps in touch with most of her students.

“They write me letters and I always write back,” she said.

“I have watched them get their jobs, settle in life, marry, have children of their own, and their children have married, so I have seen them along the line.”

Sr Madeleine currently lives at Mt St Joseph’s Home in Young, where she has been for nine years.

She says she likes to keep busy: an ordinary day usually consists of prayer, Mass, reading, writing letters and a game of scrabble.


USCCB REPORT: WASHINGTON—As they finalize federal spending priorities, Congress should find ways to assure continuation of Unemployment Insurance and Emergency Unemployment Compensation, said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“For millions of American workers and their families, economic hardship continues and grows. The US Catholic bishops have long advocated that the most effective way to build a just economy is the availability of decent work at decent wages,” wrote Bishop Blaire in a December 12 letter to Congress. “When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families.”

Bishop Blaire wrote that the current “pervasive economic pain” includes a median length of joblessness of 10 months, and over four job seekers for every opening. He wrote that Pope John Paul II called such conditions in “a real social disaster” and that the pope said the “obligation to provide unemployment benefits” to workers and their families is a fundamental principle of “the right to life and subsistence.”

The full text of Bishop Blaire’s letter is available online:


UCAN REPORT: Emphasizes his duties as shepherd rather than grandeur of position reporters, Manila
December 12, 2011
Catholic Church News Image of New Archbishop assumes office
Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle

Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle assumed office as Archbishop of Manila today, stressing his desire to serve God.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales handed the seat of the archdiocese to his successor during canonical rites that followed early morning festivities, including joyous street dancing by priests, parishioners and Archbishop Tagle himself.

“I appear before you as one who serves,” Archbishop Tagle, 54, said at his thanksgiving Mass attended by government and civic leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, thousands of Catholics and their priests and bishops.

Archbishops Charles Bo of Yangon, Francis Xavier Kriengsak of Bangkok and Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur joined the celebration, along with Bishops Cornelius Sim of Brunei and John Baptist Lee Keh-mien of Hsinchu, and Father Raymond O’Toole, assistant secretary general of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). Monsignor James dela Fuente also attended to represent the Archbishop of Agana in Guam.

Archbishop Tagle stressed that the sense of hope in his appointment is not about himself, but about Jesus Christ and God’s plan for his people.

He urged all Christians to work together. “When we compete against each other, we are not engaging in mission,” he said, reminding pastors to “gather the sheep instead of scattering them.”

Archbishop Tagle also addressed his concerns as a pastor.

“When in spite of our good intentions and efforts there are still the multitude of hungry people we cannot feed, homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot protect, cases of corruption and injustice we cannot remedy,” Christians must continue trusting that God watches over his Church.

The archbishop also spoke of a new evangelization toward transformation.

“Putting on the mind and eyes of the Lord … we see differently. A child, especially the unborn, is no longer seen as a burden but a gift. The youth are not a problem but a promise. Women are not objects but persons. Laborers are not machines but partners; and the poor are not a nuisance but our jewels, and creation is not an object of manipulation, but a sign of God’s sustaining love.”

Archbishop Pakiam said following the Mass that “Archbishop Tagle brings such great hope not only to the Church of Manila and the Philippines, but also the rest of Asia.”


Carmelite Third Order receives record number of new members | Lay Carmelites

IND. CATH. NEWS REPORT: Karisha, (wearing new scapular) with groupIn recent months, the Carmelite Third Order in the British Province has been blessed with a large number of new candidates. A news story on the Carmelite website says: "In fact, the number of receptions and first or final professions within the Third Order this autumn has been something of a record-breaking bonanza!"

In September the Glasgow Lay Carmelite community witnessed the first profession of two candidates and the final profession of seven more.

In October a candidate was received into the Third Order in Cardiff, another in Manchester, and seven in Margate. Also in Margate two tertiaries made first profession of promises, and one made final profession.

On 24 November a student, Karisha George, was received into the Third Order as a member of York Carmelite Spirituality Group, while over the Pennines in Lancashire, husband and wife Brian and Eszter Dunleavy, were received into the Third Order at the Carmelite Spirituality Group that meets in Mawdesley.

Brian came across the Carmelites some years ago at a Day for the Carmelite Family event in Aylesford. He got chatting with Veronica and when it transpired he was about to move to Lancashire she encouraged him to come to the Mawdesley group. Brian says that he finds a real sense of belonging with the Carmelites, as well as a welcome call to silence (he has a sometimes noisy working life as a Religious Education teacher!). Brian met Eszter - who is from Hungary - in church, and they married last year. To be received into the Third Order was the culmination of a long-cherished hope for Eszter. She lived too far from a Carmelite community in Hungary to be in regular contact with the Order, but she had wanted to join Lay Carmel for 10 years before she was finally able to.

The Carmelite Spirituality Group in Mawdesley is a very friendly and close-knit ommunity of about a dozen members who meet in Veronica's living room for formation, Lectio Divina prayer and social time. Until the reception of Brian and Eszter, Veronica was the only member of the Third Order in the group, though there is a distance member in Morecombe attached to the community, as well as a professed member of the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order (OCDS) who is a regular participant. Brian and Eszter's reception provided a chance for a real sense of celebration, and the opportunity to talk about what a formal commitment in Carmel means for lay people.

On Saturday, 3 December a candidate made first profession in the Carmelite Third Order at the monthly meeting of the Birmingham Lay Carmelite community. Caroline Holland made her profession into the hands of Margaret Williams, the leader of the Birmingham community, during a celebration of Mass at St Chad's Cathedral. Witnessing the profession in the name of the Church were Cathedral priest Fr Christopher Marshall, and Fr Michael Puljic, assistant priest at Caroline's parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Redditch, who was once a student at the Carmelite-served Chaplaincy at the University of York.

What is particularly striking about the new candidates within the Third Order is the young age of some of them, two of them being in their twenties. Of course this isn't to say that the Third Order doesn't value its older members! Several communities have celebrated members' Diamond Jubilees (60 years) of profession this year.

If you would like to know more about the Lay Carmelite vocation, see:



Agenzia Fides REPORT - "We have no specific information on the identity of the bombers and we cannot say that they are members of the Boko Haram sect " says to Fides His Exc. Mgr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama Archbishop of Jos, capital of the Plateau State (central Nigeria), where the during the night between Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December three bombs exploded in three places crowded with people watching a football match on television, causing at least one death and dozens of injuries. There are suspicions that the attacks were committed by the Boko Haram sect which are very active in the northern States of the Federation. "What we do know is that these attacks were perpetrated by a group of young people, and there are fears that they are part of a strategy to create tension before Christmas. It is clearly the design of instilling fear before the holidays", says the Archbishop of Jos.
Mgr. Kaigama, however, appreciates the work of the police "that intervened on the site of the attacks quickly" and stresses at the same time, that "these attacks took place in a small area of Jos, it did not affect the entire city. When the press reports of attacks in Jos in the Plateau State, the descriptions are often exaggerated. It seems that the entire city is involved, or the entire State, but it is not like that, because the attacks involve only a few areas. Indeed I am happy to be able to say that the security forces are quite efficient and are able to act quickly to regain control of the situation. I hope that the attacks do not happen any more, but this is why one needs to be more pro-active".
Mgr. Kaigama adds that "Jos is a very beautiful city with a cool climate that attracts both permanent residents from other parts of Nigeria and tourists. I think this is part of the problem. In Jos, there are also several religious groups, Christians and Muslims, who seek to live in peace and coexistence". "There is someone who wants to destroy all this. The problem of violence in Jos and the surrounding areas cannot be blamed only because of the tension between Christians and Muslims that exist and need to be overcome, but we must also consider the political and economic aspects, and especially if there is a threat to destroy the examples of the Nigerian people to live in peace and harmony", concludes the Archbishop of Jos. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 12/12/2011)


Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast: December 12


Feast Day:December 12

More on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe

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.

When the Indians had learned the news of Our Lady's apparitions, an enthusiasm and joy such as had never been seen before spread among them. Renouncing their idols, superstitions, human sacrifices, and polygamy, many asked to be baptized. Nine years after the apparitions, nine million Indians had converted to the Christian faith—nearly 3,000 a day! The details of the Image of MARY moved the Indians deeply—this woman is greater than the sun-god since she appears standing before the sun. She surpasses the moon god since she keeps the moon under her feet. She is no longer of this world since she is surrounded by clouds and is held above the world by an angel. Her folded hands show her in prayer, which means that there is Someone greater than she...

Even in our time, the mystery of this miraculous Image remains. The tilma, a large apron woven by hand from cactus fibers, bears the holy Image, which is 1.43 meters tall. The Virgin's face is perfectly oval and is a gray color verging on pink. Her eyes have a profound expression of purity and gentleness. The mouth seems to smile. The very beautiful face, similar to that of a mestizo Indian, is framed by a black head of hair that, up close, is comprised of silky locks. She is clad in a full tunic, of a pinkish red hue that no one has ever been able to reproduce, and that goes to her feet. Her bluish-green mantle is edged with gold braid and studded with stars. A sun of various shades forms a magnificent background, with golden rays shining out.

The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to this day is inexplicable. After more than four centuries, this fabric of mediocre quality retains the same freshness and the same lively color as when it was new. By comparison, a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted in the 18th century with great care, and preserved under the same climatic conditions as Juan Diego's, had completely deteriorated in a few years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a painful period of revolutions in Mexico, a load of dynamite was put by unbelievers at the foot of the Image, in a vase of flowers. The explosion destroyed the marble steps on the main altar, the candelabras, all the flower-holders. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the tabernacle was split in two. The windows in most of the houses near the basilica were broken, but the pane of glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked. The Image remained intact.

The most moving experience of my life

In 1936, an examination conducted on two fibers from the tilma, one red and the other yellow, led to an astounding finding—the fibers contained no known coloring agent. Ophthalmology and optics confirm the inexplicable nature of the Image—it seems to be a slide projected onto the fabric. Closer analysis shows that there is no trace of drawing or sketching under the color, even though perfectly recognizable retouches were done on the original, retouches which moreover have deteriorated with time. In addition, the background never received any primer, which seems inexplicable if it is truly a painting, for even on the finest fabric, a coat is always applied, if only to prevent the fabric from absorbing the painting and the threads from breaking the surface. No brush strokes can be detected. After an infrared analysis conducted on May 7, 1979, a professor from NASA wrote, "There is no way to explain the quality of the pigments used for the pink dress, the blue veil, the face and the hands, or the permanence of the colors, or the vividness of the colors after several centuries, during which they ordinarily should have deteriorated... Studying this Image has been the most moving experience of my life."

Astronomers have observed that all the constellations present in the heavens at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531, are in their proper place on MARY's mantle. It has also been found that by imposing a topographical map of central Mexico on the Virgin's dress, the mountains, rivers and principal lakes coincide with the decoration on this dress.

Ophthalmological tests have found that MARY's eye is a human eye that appears to be living, and includes the retina, in which is reflected the image of a man with outstretched hands—Juan Diego. The image in the eye conforms to the known laws of optics, particularly to that which states that a well-lighted object can be reflected three times in an eye (Purkinje-Samson's law). A later study allowed researchers to discover in the eye, in addition to the seer, Bishop Zumárraga and several other people present when the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. And the normal microscopic network of veins in the eyelids and the cornea of the Virgin's eyes is completely recognizable. No human painter would have been able to reproduce such details.

Three months pregnant

Gynecological measurements have determined that the Virgin in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is three months pregnant. Under the belt that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals stands out—the Solar Flower, the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space. On the Virgin's neck hangs a brooch, the center of which is decorated with a little cross, recalling the death of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. Many other details of the Image of MARY form an extraordinary document for our age, which is able to observe them thanks to modern technology. Thus science, which has often been a pretext for unbelief, helps us today to give prominence to signs that had remained unknown for centuries and that science is unable to explain.

The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears a message of evangelization: the Basilica of Mexico is a center "from which flows a river of the light of the Gospel of Christ, spreading throughout the earth through the merciful Image of MARY" (John Paul II, December 12, 1981 ). In addition, through her intervention on behalf of the Aztec people, the Virgin played a role in saving innumerable human lives, and her pregnancy can be interpreted as a special appeal on behalf of unborn children and the defense of human life. This appeal has a burning relevance in our time, when threats against the lives of individuals and peoples, especially lives that are weak and defenseless, are widespread and becoming more serious. The Second Vatican Council forcefully deplored crimes against human life: "All offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia... all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization ; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator" ( Gaudium et Spes, 27). Faced with these plagues, which are expanding as a result of scientific progress and technology, and which benefit from wide social consensus as well as legal recognition, let us call upon MARY with confidence. She is an "incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for... Showing us her Son, she assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, nos. 102, 105). "Death and life are locked in an incredible battle; the Author of life, having died, lives and reigns" (Easter Sequence).



Luke 1: 26 - 38
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"
29But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
30And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
34And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
35And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37For with God nothing will be impossible."
38And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

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