VIS REPORTS: POPE'S THREE WISHES FOR CHRISTMAS
VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Late Wednesday afternoon, 7 December, thanks to a "tablet" connected to the power grid, Benedict XVI lit the largest Christmas tree in the world from the papal apartments. This electronic "tree" is located in the Italian town of Gubbio. Before flipping the switch he addressed a few words - by television - to those attending the ceremony. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
"Before lighting the tree", he said, "I would like to express three wishes. This Christmas tree is formed on the slopes of Mt. Ingino at whose summit is found the basilica of Gubbio's patron saint, St. Ubaldo. When we look at it our eyes are lifted up, raised toward the sky, toward the world of God".
"My first wish, therefore, is that our gaze, that of our minds and our hearts, not rest only on the horizon of this world, on its material things, but that it in some way, like this tree that tends upward, be directed toward God. God never forgets us but He also asks that we don't forget Him".
"The Gospel recounts that, on the holy night of Christ's birth, a light enveloped the shepherds, announcing a great joy to them: the birth of Jesus, the one who brings us light, or better, the One who is the true light that illuminates all. The great tree that I will light up shortly overlooks the city of Gubbio and will illuminate the darkness of the night with its light".
"My second wish is that we recall that we also need a light to illumine the path of our lives and to give us hope, especially in this time in which we feel so greatly the weight of difficulties, of problems, of suffering, and it seems that we are enshrouded in a veil of darkness. But what light can truly illuminate our hearts and give us a firm and sure hope? It is the Child whom we contemplate on Christmas, in a poor and humble manger, because He is the Lord who draws near to each of us and asks that we reeceive Him anew in our lives, asks us to want Him, to trust in Him, to feel His presence, that He is accompanying us, sustaining us, and helping us".
"But this great tree is formed of many lights. My final wish is that each of us contribute something of that light to the spheres in which we live: our families, our jobs, our neighbourhoods, towns, and cities. That each of us be a light for those who are at our sides; that we leave aside the selfishness that, so often, closes our hearts and leads us to think only of ourselves; that we may pay greater attention to others, that we may love them more. Any small gesture of goodness is like one of the lights of this great tree: together with other lights it illuminates the darkness of the night, even of the darkest night".
VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2011 (VIS) - On midday on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Before the Marian prayer the Pope recalled that blessed Pope Pius IX, in his Apostolic LetterIneffabilis Deus of 1854, affirmed that Maria "'by the special grace and privilege of omnipotent God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ as the saviour of mankind, remained immune from any stain of original sin'. This truth of faith is found in the Archangel Gabriel's words to her: "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you."' The phrase "full of grace" indicates the glorious work of the love of God, which restores to us our life and liberty, lost in sin, through his only Son incarnate, dead and resurrected".
"Therefore, since the 2nd century in the East and in the West", continued the Holy Father, "the Church has invoked and celebrated the Virgin whose acceptance brought heaven closer to earth, generating God and nourishing our lives".
"We too are recipients of this 'fullness of grace', which it is our duty to enable to flourish in our lives, since 'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ', writes St. Paul, 'has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless ... He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ'. We receive this gift through the Church, on the day of our Baptism. In this regard, St. Hildegard of Bingen writes, 'The Church is, therefore, the virgin mother of all Christians. It is the secret strength of the Holy Spirit that conceives and gives birth to them, offering them to God so they might be called children of God'", concluded the Pope.
Following the Angelus, Benedict XVI greeted the members of Italian Catholic Action who, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception renew their adherence to this association, and stated that Catholic Action is "a school of sanctity and evangelisation: I wish it every success in its educative and apostolic commitment".
He also greeted the Spanish-speaking pilgrims present, urging them to entrust to "the Mother of Redemption ... the intentions and wishes inspired in us during Advent, remembering the needs and suffering of those who are deprived of their freedom, are without work, or are experiencing moments of difficulty or pain".
VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Benedict XVI made his way to Piazza di Spagna in Rome for the traditional act of veneration of the image of the Virgin Mary on the column situated in front of the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See.
During his journey, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, where he greeted the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, the Pope began by offering a prayer, followed by a reading from the Revelation of St. John, a homily and the offering of a floral tribute to the image of the Virgin.
In his homily, the Pope explained that the text from the Revelation, which speaks of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet and a garland of twelve stars upon her head, refers both to the Virgin and to the Church. In part, "the woman of the Apocalypse is Mary ... the symbol of the luminous robe clearly expressed a condition referring to Mary in all her being: She is 'full of grace', filled with the love of God".
The moon beneath her feet symbolises death: "Mary is fully linked to the victory of Jesus Christ, her Son, over sin and death... just as death has no power over Christ resurrected, so by the grace and singular privilege of omnipotent God, Mary overcomes death. This is made manifest in the two great mysteries of her existence: at the beginning, the conception without original sin, the mystery we celebrate today; and at the end, her assumption in body and soul in Heaven".
The garland of twelve stars "represents the twelve tribes of Israel, and indicates that Mary is at the centre among the people of God, in full communion with the saints. And thus, this image ... brings us to the second grand interpretation of the celestial sign of the "woman clothed with the sun": as well as representing the Virgin, this sign indicates the Church. She is with child, in the sense that she carries Christ in her womb and will give birth to him on earth ... and it is precisely for this reason, that She carries Christ, that the Church meets the opposition of a fierce adversary, represented by a dragon which seeks to destroy the son, but in vain as Jesus, through death and resurrection, ascends to God. Therefore the dragon, defeated once and for all in heaven, turns to attack the woman - the Church - in the desert of earth. But in every age the light and strength of God have supported the Church ... and thus, through all the trials She encounters over time and all over the world, the Church suffers persecution but is always victorious".
The only evil that the Church must fear is that sin of Her members. While indeed Mary was Immaculate, free of any stain of sin, the Church is holy but at the same time marked by our sins. Therefore the People of God, as pilgrims throughout time, turn to their celestial Mother and seek Her help; they ask that She might accompany them on their path of faith, that She might encourage them in their commitment to Christian life and sustain their hopes. We need this support, especially in this difficult moment for Italy, for Europe, and for many parts of the world. Mary helps us to see that there is light beyond the mantle of fog that appears to obscure reality.
VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Secretariat of State today published a communique regarding the signing of an agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Mozambique, which took place on 7 December at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the latter African country.
The communique states that "the agreement, the first of its type signed by a southern African country, consolidates the existing links of friendship and collaboration between the two Parties. It is composed of a Preamble and twenty-three Articles, which regulate various aspects, including the juridical status of the Catholic church in Mozambique, the recognition of academic qualifications and canonical marriage, and the fiscal regime".
The Accord was signed on the part of the Holy See by Archbishop Antonio Arcari, Apostolic Nuncio in Mozambique, and on the part of the Republic of Mozambique, by Dr Oldemiro Julio Marques Baloi, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Msgr. Nunzio Galantino, as bishop of the diocese of Cassano all'Jonio (area 1,311, population 107,600, Catholics 106,000, priests 87, permanent deacons 3, religious 77), Italy. The bishop-elect was born in Cerignola, Italy in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1972. From 1972 to 1977 he was Vice-Rector of the Seminary of Foggia and Assistant of Catholic Action (Youth); from 1974 to 1977 he was a Professor at the Pontifical Regional Seminary of Benevento; from 1977 he was a Priest in San Francesco d'Assisi in Cerignola; Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Care; Episcopal Vicar for Culture and Continuing Education; from 1977 he was Professor of Anthropology at the Faculty of Theology for Southern Italy; from 2004 he was Head of National Service for the Higher Study of Theology and Religious Science at the C.E.I. He has until now served as Priest of the parish of San Francesco d'Assisi in Cerignola, and Episcopal Vicar for Culture and Continuing Education.
- Appointed Msgr. Jeremiah Madimetja Masela, Apostolic Administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, as bishop of the diocese of Polokwane (area 69,533, population 2,624,000, Catholics 93,500, priests 28, permanent deacons 7, religious 52), South Africa. He succeeds Bishop Mogale Paul Nkumishe, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.
- Appointed Bishop Benedito Araujo, Co-adjutor of the diocese of Guajara-Mirim, Brazil, as bishop of the same diocese (area 89,700, population 233,000, Catholics 140,000, priests 21, permanent deacons 1, religious 63). He succeeds Bishop Geraldo Verdier, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para.2 of the Code of Canon Law.