Tuesday, December 25, 2012






Vatican Radio REPORT -  Pope Benedict XVI led the Universal Church in joyous celebrations for the birth of Our Lord Christmas Eve in Mass attended by thousands and broadcast globally from St. Peter’s Basilica. During his homily he posed a question to believers and non-believers alike: Will people find room in their hectic, technology-driven lives for children, the poor and God?. He also also prayed that Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and freedom, and asked the faithful to pray for strife-torn Syria as well as Lebanon and Iraq.

Below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily at Christmas Mass 2012
Homily Christmas Vigil

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.
I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.
There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.
Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.
So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.
Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings. 
Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.
Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.
The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.




Opening Prayer:

V. O God, come to my assistance.

R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father and to
the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now
and ever shall be, world without

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Day 8 Prayers

The Flight into Egypt.
O most sweet infant Jesus, whom Herod tried to slay,
carried by St. Joseph with your Mother into Egypt, saved
from death by flight, and glorified by the blood of the
holy innocents. Have mercy on. us.

Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, 0 Lord. Have mercy on us.
Hail Mary...



NOVENA PREPARATORY TO CHRISTMAS In order to the devout preparation of ourselves for the glorious Birthday of our most loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, which the holy Church recalls to our memory every year on the 25th of December, and at the same time to render Him thanks for this great benefit, Pope Pius VII., by a Rescript of the Segretaria of the Memorials, dated August 12th, 1815 (which said Rescript is preserved in the Segretaria of the Vicariate), granted to all faithful Christians who, being contrite in heart, should prepare themselves for that great solemnity by a novena, consisting of pious exercises, prayers, acts of virtue, &c. -
i. An indulgence of 300 days each day of the said novena, and -
ii. A plenary indulgence to be gained on Christmas day, or on some day in its octave, by those who, after Confession and Communion, shall have made the said novena every day, and who shall pray according to the intentions of the Sovereigns Pontiff: and note that the Confession and Communion may be made on any one of the days of the said novena, provided the novena is correctly kept. This was declared by Pope Pius VIII., of holy memory, by means of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, July 9, 1830. These indulgences were extended by the above-named Pius VII. to one other time in the year, besides the the specified, when any one should make the aforesaid novena in honour of the Child Jesus.


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Christmas message from Heads of Churches of Jerusalem | +Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate,+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate, + Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, Locum Tenens of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate, +Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land, +Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem,+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, +Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate,+Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate, +Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate,+Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East,+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land,+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate,+Bishop Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate,

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1.14)
We, the Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem, bring you greetings of joy, peace, hope and love from the Land of the Nativity: the Joy and the peace of God that were announced by the heavenly host of Angels in the sky of Bethlehem, the Hope of salvation made possible through the Incarnation of the Word, His Love that was fully embodied, revealed and incarnated through the Babe of Bethlehem.
This was the essence of the message of the incarnation, which descended from on high and revealed the very nature of the Divine, the Holy and the Transcendent. It is through the incarnation of the Word of God that heaven and earth were reconciled and wedded together; it is through the incarnation of the Word that heaven and earth were united and made one, because God has dwelt among God’s people in flesh here on earth. We pray, with our Lord and Saviour, that the whole church may be one and Christians be united under the banner of the Prince of Peace.
Church Fathers taught us that the Word became human so that humans may become divine. Today, humans have the same challenge set before them, yet the only way to become divine is through becoming fully human, thus, human-becoming! This heavenly message is directed towards all of humanity, especially, where humanity is alienated from the divine presence from within, and is called to embody the Joy, Peace, Hope and Love of the Nativity and be able to share them with the whole world.
The message of Christmas is about bringing Joy to all those who mourn and grieve, and about bringing Peace to those who are oppressed and live under occupation and injustices. It is about bringing Hope to those who live without hope and are in despair, and about bringing Love where there is hatred and enmity, particularly to the unloved and the strangers. We especially hold up to God the children and those who are affected by violence and those who live as refugees, and for the end of intolerance, discrimination, and vandalism against all Holy Sites.
We pray at this time of our Christmas celebrations for the situations of conflict and distress throughout the Middle East. Especially, for the people of Syria and for the ending of violence and bloodshed. And here in the Holy Land, we pray that the "Two States" solution may bring peace, security, and reconciliation to both nations.
May there be peace in this region of the Middle East, and all people may see the love of God in face of the other. We hope and pray that all those in authority and their people may walk in the paths of peace and good will for the common good, thus our joy may be complete.

+Patriarch Theophilos III, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
+Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarchate
+ Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, Locum Tenens of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Patriarchate
+Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, ofm, Custos of the Holy Land
+Archbishop Anba Abraham, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
+Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey, Greek-Melkite-Catholic Patriarchate
+Archbishop Abouna Matthias, Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate
+Archbishop Mosa El-Hage, Maronite Patriarchal Exarchate

+Bishop Suheil Dawani, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
+Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
+Bishop Pierre Malki, Syrian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate
+Bishop Joseph Antoine Kelekian, Armenian Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate


+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
24 Dec 2012

Like every other priest and bishop I bring Christ's message of peace and goodness once again this Christmas. Where there is evil, there is less peace, sometimes no peace.
My heart, the hearts of all believers, of all people of good will go out to all those who cannot find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians; Christian officials, priests, religious, teachers.
I am deeply sorry this has happened. It is completely contrary to Christ's teachings and I feel too the shock and shame across the community at these revelations of wrong doing and crimes.
We need our faith in God's goodness and love to cope with these disasters, to help those who have been hurt. We need the hope that comes to us from Christ's birth with his call to conversion, to sorrow for sins and the necessity of reparation.
St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian who died in 1226, perhaps the most remarkable follower of Christ in 2000 years. One of his most important contributions was the invention of the Christmas crib, which changed the way we look at God and life.
Mary's son Jesus was not born as a prince, not even in a good middle class home, but in a cave used as a stable at the back of a small residence. Tradition, not the Scriptures, placed an ox and an ass there, but a stable remains a place for animals even when it has been cleaned up.
Francis gave us a greeting which is still used today "peace and goodness"; pax et bonum. These two qualities are linked together inescapably, and best found by following the baby in the stable who grew up to be crucified and rise again.
Christianity is offered to everyone in every age and culture, especially those who are suffering and disadvantaged among us today.
We now know much more about the immensity and age of the universe (13.7 billion years) and, at the other end of things, we understand better how the brain works. This knowledge has also reminded us of how much we do not know, of the oceans of mystery which remain undiscovered.
Christ's message comes at a different level. We do not simply follow the beautiful ideals and abstractions of knowledge and truth, beauty, motherhood. The great truths are simple, open to all, rooted in history, in time and place. We all recognize peace and goodness and St. Francis told us these are linked together and found in a vulnerable powerless baby, whose birth triggered Herod's slaughter of the innocent baby boys around Bethlehem.
The light of Christ shines through this darkness, brings us peace and calls us to goodness and love. It offers strength and healing to every person who suffers. We should never forget this, especially at Christmas.
The ancient hymn is right about Bethlehem.
"Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy darkness shineth,
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight".
A happy and peaceful Christmas to everyone.


Opposition claim it was a government plane; Damascus say the attack is the work of terrorists. Halfaya was a zone "liberated" by the rebels. Brahimi is in Damascus for new peace talks. His task seems impossible.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Several dozen people were killed and many more injured in an air strike that hit a long line of people waiting to buy bread from a bakery. Opponents of the regime have accused the Syrian government of the carnage; the State TV is accusing "armed terrorist groups."

The attack, that took place yesterday in Halfaya, near Hama, is one of the most cruel and deadly of all the civil war that has inflamed Syria for 21 months. So far there has been no independent confirmation, since the Damascus government restricts the presence of reporters and correspondents. The rebels had declared Halfaya a "liberated zone " only five days ago.

Videos posted online by activists showed dozens of bloody bodies lying inert under the rubble. The inhabitants of Halfaya say that the dead number at least 90 people, but the toll is likely to grow because many of the wounded are in critical condition.

According to the rebels the regime is desperate and resorting to mass destruction.

As the violence continues, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has arrived in Damascus by land - for the continued fighting around the international airport in the capital - to continue dialogue for peace and a cease-fire. But his work now seems impossible, rejected by the rebels, who claim to be close to victory, and the Syrian government which contemptuously continues its offensive.

According to opposition activists, the Syrian war has already caused at least 44 thousand deaths, at a rate of 100 deaths per day.



(Image source: GOOGLE)
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE from Catholic Archbishop Pezzi of Moscow: "He who calls you is faithful" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). He begins with the words of the Apostle Paul's which reminds us that "God can do anything", as explained by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation. "Even when we are not faithful, He waits, respecting our freedom - we read in the text released by the press service of the Archdiocese - God takes the initiative and comes to us, inviting us to respond with faith ".

"The new man that God has awakened, coming into the world is a man for whom this statement is the center of his life: 'God can do anything.'" "This means that the God we are talking about - he says - is not a God of our imagining, but a living God, who became man in Jesus." The words of the angel to the Virgin - become the beginning of a new asceticism, of a new perspective and a new sense of self for Man. "" The first word, the first step, the authentic initiative - always come from God. Only by accepting this initiative, can we too become part of authentic witnesses of communion with God. Only those who allow God to improve them, will be able to meet the challenges of this world, that argues we can live without God. "
"God has entered into human history in the most unexpected and unimaginable way. He became a child and traveled the path of the human being. Himself has become the path, through which man can reach God". Quoting Pope Benedict XVI the Archbishop says that "God, in Jesus of Nazareth, accepts man and his entire history, and gives us a new beginning."

"He who loves you is faithful - let this consoling truth accompany each one of you, beloved children of God on the path of life. "

"Peace and joy of Christmas Eve come into our homes, filling them with the joy of faith, with mutual brotherly love and the peace of profound hope."


St. Charbel Makhlouf
Feast: December 24

Feast Day:December 24
Born:May 8, 1828, Bekaa Kafra (North Lebanon)
Died:December 24, 1898
Canonized:October 9, 1977 by Pope Paul VI
Mystic and Maronite hermit. He was born in 1828 in Lebanon and became a Maronite monk at Annaya Abbey at the age of twenty. As a hermit, Charbel was famous for his spiritual gifts, even among his Islamic neighbors. He spent almost a quarter century displaying many miraculous abilities and was noted for his love of the Holy Eucharist. Charbel died in 1898. He was beatified in 1965 and canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI (r. 1963-1978).


Luke 1: 67 - 79

67And his father Zechari'ah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people,
69and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;
72to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath which he swore to our father Abraham,
74to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
75in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
78through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
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