December 19, 2005

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

The following, in it's entirety, is a copyrighted transcript of the Vatican Information Service.

SUMMARY: DECEMBER 17 - 19

- Reflections on the Role of the Laity in the Church
- Upper Austria Donates Christmas Tree in St. Peter's Square
- Benedict XVI Visits His Former Titular Parish
- The Silence of St. Joseph in a World Full of Noise
- Division of Church and State Must Not Be Antagonistic
- True Meaning of Life Lies in Following Jesus
- In Brief
- Audiences
- Other Pontifical Acts

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 REFLECTIONS ON THE ROLE OF THE LAITY IN THE CHURCH

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 17, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Pope received the third group of prelates from the Conference of the Polish Episcopate, who have just completed their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. In remarks to them, he offered some reflections on the role of lay people in the Church.

   After first highlighting how "the essential element in the structure of the Church is the parish," the Pope stated that "the first and most important requirement is that the parish should constitute an 'ecclesial community' and an 'ecclesial family'." Apart from the "indispensable role of priests, especially pastors, ... the active participation of the laity is also important in the formation of the community. ... Pastoral councils must collaborate with a spirit of common concern for the good of the faithful."

   The Holy Father highlighted the need for pastors to maintain "active contact with the various communities dedicated to the apostolate within the parish," adding that such communities must "collaborate among themselves, never must there be any rivalry between them."

   Pastors must do all in their power "to ensure that the people entrusted to their care are made aware of the gift (of the Eucharist), and that they participate in it as frequently as possible," both in Mass and communion, and in adoration. In this context, Benedict XVI called on priests to look after children and altar boys and to show special pastoral solicitude "for the girls who actively participate ... in the liturgy. This pastoral service can prove very fruitful in terms of priestly and religious vocations."

   Turning to consider the subject of ecclesial movements, the Pope recalled the duty of diocesan bishops to maintain "active contact with them, encouraging them to operate in accordance with a charism recognized by the Church and, at the same time, to guard against closing themselves off from the reality surrounding them." Pointing out that many of these movements have established contacts with non-Catholic Churches, the Pope told the bishops "to take care to interpret ecumenism correctly," and to seek "the truth, not simplistic compromises that can bring Catholic movements to lose their own identity."

   The Holy Father stressed that people who occupy important positions in society, or who dedicate themselves to political life, need the Church's help, and that a clear distinction must be made "between the tasks which Christians undertake, individually or as a group, on their own responsibility as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and the activities which, in union with their pastors, they carry out in the name of the Church."

   He concluded with a reference to the theme of voluntary work, including care for the poor, the sick, people alone, and the physically and mentally handicapped. "I know that in Poland a form of voluntary work is being developed that has the aim of defending human life. ... All these people await the encouragement and the moral support of bishops, of priests and of the entire community of believers."

   "Missions are another field of Church life in which volunteers are active. Ever greater numbers of lay people leave for mission lands to exercise their profession and their talents, and at the same time to bring a testimony of Christian love to those living in the poorest regions of the world. Theirs is an activity worthy of admiration and recognition."

 

UPPER AUSTRIA DONATES CHRISTMAS TREE IN ST. PETER'S SQUARE

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 17, 2005 (VIS) - This morning, the Holy Father received a group of pilgrims from Upper Austria, led by the president of their region, Josef Puhringer. The region has donated the huge fir which is adorning St. Peter's Square for this year's Christmas celebrations. The tree was taken from the forests of Eferding in Upper Austria.

   After recalling that this evening, "following the official donation ceremony, the lights on the tree will be lit," Benedict XVI expressed his thanks for the gift of the giant fir and of the other smaller firs which will be placed in various sites around the Apostolic Palace and the offices of the Roman Curia.

   "With these much appreciated gifts, you have chosen to express the spiritual closeness and friendship that have long linked Austria and the Holy See, in keeping with the noble Christian tradition which, with its spiritual and cultural values, has enriched the literature and art of your nation and of all Europe," said the Pope.

   Referring to the birth of the Messiah, the Holy Father pointed out how, "with His luminous presence, Jesus dissipated the shadows of error and of sin, bringing humanity the joy and radiance of divine light, of which the Christmas tree is a symbol and a reminder."

   Benedict XVI expressed his best wishes to those present, extending his Christmas greetings to all inhabitants of the region of Upper Austria and concluded by calling for them all to "welcome into their hearts the gift of His joy, His peace and His love. Believing in Christ means allowing oneself to be bathed in the light of His truth, which gives full meaning, value and significance to our lives."

 

BENEDICT XVI VISITS HIS FORMER TITULAR PARISH

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2005 (VIS) - The traditional practice of visits by the Bishop of Rome to parishes in his diocese resumed today as Benedict XVI made his first pastoral visit to a Roman parish, arriving at 9 a.m. in the parish of Santa Maria Consolatrice in the neighborhood of Casal Bertone, where he celebrated Mass. As a cardinal, Benedict XVI was titular holder of this parish until 1993.

   In his homily, delivered entirely off-the-cuff, the Holy Father recalled "October 15, 1977, when I took possession of this titular church. ... Now we are all together again here. This truly is a great joy. Since then, our mutual bond has become progressively stronger and deeper. A bond of affection and friendship that warmed my heart, and warms it again today. This bond did not slacken when in 1993 I became titular holder of the diocese of Velletri, and acquired a new and more profound dimension by my becoming bishop of Rome."

   The Pope went on to comment the scene of the Annunciation as recounted in today's Gospel. "With the angel's greeting to Mary - 'kaire' in the Greek, which means 'be joyful' - the New Testament begins," he said. "We could say that the first word of the New Testament is 'be joyful,' 'be happy,' in other words, 'joy.' This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that He became a child."

   The Holy Father then highlighted how "we realize that today's world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty." Nonetheless, "the words 'be joyful because God is with you and with us,' truly open a new time."

   "Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. And the joy we give will certainly come back to us. ... Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives."

   Later in his homily, the Benedict XVI commented the phrase "do not be afraid," with which the angel comforted the Virgin as she faced the mission with which God had entrusted her. "This world of ours is a world of fear," said the Pope, "fear of misery and poverty, fear of sickness and suffering, fear of solitude, fear of death. ... The only worthwhile assurance in such moments is the one that comes from the Lord. ... We may fall, but in the end we fall into the hands of God; and God's hands are good hands."

   In closing, he referred to Mary's "yes," her acceptance of the Lord's will, something "apparently too great for a human being to bear. ... Initially, this may appear as an almost unsupportable burden, an unbearable yoke, but in reality God's will is not a burden, it gives us wings that we may fly. And so, with Mary, we too may dare to open the door of our lives and the doors of this world to God, saying 'yes' to His will, in the knowledge that this will is the true goodness that guides us to true happiness."

   Following Mass, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican by car. His next visit to a parish community is scheduled to take place on March 16, 2006, the third Sunday of Lent.

 

THE SILENCE OF ST. JOSEPH IN A WORLD FULL OF NOISE

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 18, 2005 (VIS) - At midday today, in remarks to the faithful prior to praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI considered the figure of St. Joseph. Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled how the evangelist Matthew presents the saint as the model "of the 'just' man who, in perfect harmony with his wife, welcomes the Son of God-made-man, and watches over His human development."

   He added: "For this reason, in the days prior to Christmas, it is more important than ever to establish a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph, because he helps us to experience fully this great mystery of the faith."

   John Paul II was greatly devoted to St. Joseph, said the Holy Father, and left us a meditation dedicated to him in the Apostolic Exhortation "Redemptoris Custos" (Guardian of the Redeemer), in which the late Pope "particularly stressed the silence of St. Joseph; a silence permeated by contemplation of the mystery of God, in an attitude of complete openness to the divine will. In other words, St. Joseph's silence was not an expression of interior emptiness, but on the contrary, of the fullness of faith that he carried in his heart, and that guided his every thought and deed.

   "A silence through which Joseph, together with Mary, safeguarded the Word of God ... and continually compared it with the events of Jesus' life; a silence interwoven with constant prayer ... and with unreserved trust in Divine providence. It is no exaggeration to say that from His 'father' Joseph, Jesus learnt - at a human level - the vigorous interior life that is a premise of true justice, the 'superior justice' that one day He would teach His disciples."

   Benedict XVI concluded: "Let us allow ourselves to be 'infected' by St. Joseph's silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God. During this period of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior meditation, in order to welcome and safeguard Jesus in our lives."

 

DIVISION OF CHURCH AND STATE MUST NOT BE ANTAGONISTIC

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received the Letters of Credence of Bernard Kessedjian, the new ambassador of France to the Holy See.

   The Pope began his address to the diplomat by referring to the fact that this year France is celebrating the centenary of the law separating Church and State. "As my predecessor John Paul II recalled in a letter addressed to French bishops," he said, "the principle of the lay State lies in a healthy distinction of powers, it is by no means antagonistic and does not exclude the Church's ever more active participation in social life, while maintaining full respect for the competencies of each side."

   "This concept," the Pope went on, "must promote the Church's autonomy, both in her organization and her mission. On this matter, I view very positively ... the dialogue between the Church and civil authorities in all fields," so that "all forces concerned with the wellbeing of society may unite their efforts in the interests of citizens."

   "Your country has gone through a difficult period," said Benedict XVI, "that has made manifest the profound dissatisfaction among certain groups of young people. This situation seems to have touched not only the outskirts of the big cities, but all sectors of the population. The internal violence that marks societies, and that is to be absolutely condemned, nonetheless expresses a message, especially in the case of young people, and invites us bear their needs in mind and to provide - as Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux and president of the French Episcopal Conference has said - 'a response equal to these dramatic tensions in our society'."

   The Pope then went on the mention the contribution to French development made by the numerous foreign workers who emigrated to the country, especially since the Second World War. "It is important," he said, "to thank them and their descendents for this economic, cultural and social wealth of which they are an integral part. The vast majority of them have become French in every sense of the word. The challenge today is to uphold the values of equality and fraternity, which are a constituent part of French identity, so that all the country's citizens, while respecting legitimate differences, may form part of an authentic shared culture, one that carries fundamental moral and spiritual values."

   The Holy Father also called for special attention to be given to "the institution of marriage and the family, with which no other form of relationship can be compared."

   "I also wish to call the attention of all men and women of good will," he continued, "to the decisions and actions to be taken in the field of bioethics, which is showing an ever greater tendency to consider the human being, especially in the first moments of life, as a mere object of research. It is important to consider ethical questions not only from the point of view of science, but also from the perspective of human beings, a perspective which has to be respected. If this fundamental moral criterion is not accepted, it will be difficult to create a society that respects all its members without distinction."

   Finally, the Holy Father turned his attention to the aid given by France to developing countries. By way of example, he mentioned the recent African-French summit in Mali, and recalled that the responsibility of rich countries towards poor ones does not only consist in giving them "financial help, but also training and education, ... so that these nations may become ever more independent and masters of their own destiny."

 

TRUE MEANING OF LIFE LIES IN FOLLOWING JESUS

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - As is traditional during Advent, the Holy Father today received a group of young people from Italian Catholic Action, accompanied by their general ecclesiastical assistant, Bishop Francesco Lambiasi.

   "In the Child of Bethlehem," the Pope told them, "the 'smallness' of God-made-man reveals to us the greatness of man and the beauty of our dignity as children of God. Contemplating this Child, we see how great is the faith that God places in each of us, and how great is the chance given us to do good and great things in our daily lives, living with Jesus and like Jesus."

   Recalling that this year Italian Catholic Action has chosen the slogan "You are with us," Benedict XVI called on the young people never to doubt Jesus' presence. "Always seek the Lord Jesus, develop your friendship with Him, learn how to listen to and know His Word, and to recognize Him in the poor of your own communities."

   "Bear witness to everyone, beginning with your peers, to the joy of His strong and sweet presence. Tell them how wonderful it is to be friends with Jesus and that it is worthwhile following Him. Show your enthusiasm, ... only by following Jesus can the true meaning of life, and true and lasting joy, be found."

 

IN BRIEF

 THE HOLY SEE HAS ADHERED TO THE "Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War" (ERW), an annex to the "Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects" (CCW), adopted on November 28, 2003 at the meeting of States parties to the CCW. On December 13, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the U.N., deposited the instrument of adhesion at the office of the U.N. secretary general in New York. The CCW includes four other protocols which, together with the convention, were ratified by the Holy See on June 16, 1997.

 THE POST-SYNODAL COUNCIL OF THE GENERAL SECRETARIAT of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for America held its tenth meeting on December 1 and 2 in Rome. According to a communique, the participants discussed the current social and ecclesiastical situation on the American continent in the light of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in America," also bearing in mind the Synod on the Eucharist held in October this year. The prelates emphasized the fact that in America there is more awareness of the equal dignity of all human beings, of the promotion of the family and of the culture of life, but expressed concern over political and economic instability, drugs and arms trafficking, the growth of religious sects and a culture that often runs counter to the values of the Gospel.

 

AUDIENCES

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins C.M.F., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

   On Saturday, December 17, he received in audience Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops.

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

 VATICAN CITY, DEC 19, 2005 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the apostolic exarchate for Greek-Melkite Catholics residing in Argentina, presented by Bishop Georges Haddad, S.M.S.P.

   On Saturday, December 17, it was made public that the Holy Father:

  - Accepted the resignation from the office of apostolic nuncio to the United States of America and Holy See permanent observer to the Organization of American States presented by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, upon having reached the age limit. Thanking Archbishop Montalvo for his long service, the Holy Father called to succeed him Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.

  - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Choluteca, Honduras, presented by Bishop Raul Corriveau P.M.E., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Bishop Guido Plante P.M.E.

 

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