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".