December 17, 2008

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

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

SUMMARY:


CHRISTMAS: OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT ON MEANING OF EXISTENCE

 VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated the last general audience of 2008, celebrated in the Paul VI audience hall, to Christmas, "a universal festivity".

  "Even non-believers", he said, "perceive something extraordinary and transcendental, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event. It is the festivity that sings of the gift of life. The birth of a child should always be a joyful occurrence".

  "Christmas is the encounter with a new-born baby, wailing in a wretched grotto", the Holy Father added. "Contemplating Him in this crèche how can we not think of all the children who still today, in many regions of the world, are born amidst such poverty? How can we not think of those newborns who have been rejected, not welcomed, those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not have this hope fulfilled?"

  "Unfortunately, under the drive of a hedonist consumerism, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual meaning, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts. Actually, however, the difficulties, uncertainty, and the economic crisis that many families are living in these months, and which affects all humanity, can truly serve as a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas. Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas can become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth".

  "Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity. ... 'Thus the recurring annual cycle of the mystery of our salvation is renewed that, promised at the beginning and given to the end of time, is destined to last without end'".

  "At Christmas, therefore, we do not limit ourselves to commemorating the birth of a great person. We do not celebrate, simply and in the abstract, the mystery of the birth of humanity or, in general, the mystery of life. ... At Christmas we recall something that is quite concrete and important for human beings, something essential to the Christian faith, a truth that St. John summarizes in these few words: 'The Word became flesh': This is a historical fact that St. Luke the evangelist is careful to place in a particular historical context: during the days of the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus".

  "In the darkness of the night in Bethlehem a great light was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, indissolubly and eternally joining himself to human nature, to the point of being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time truly human. By 'the Word' ... John also intends the 'Meaning'" and "the 'Meaning' that became flesh is not just a general idea inherent in the world; it is a Word addressed to us".

  "The Meaning has power: it is God. A good God who cannot be confused with some being on high and far away who cannot be reached, but God who made Himself our neighbor and who is very near to us", "God reveals Himself to us as a poor 'infant' in order to conquer our pride. ... He made Himself small in order to free us from the human delusion of grandeur that arises from pride; He freely became flesh so that we might be truly free, free to love Him".

  "Christmas", the Pope concluded, "is the privileged opportunity to contemplate the meaning and value of our existence. The nearness of this solemnity helps us to reflect, on the one hand, on the dramatic nature of a history in which human beings, wounded by sin, are perennially seeking happiness and a reason for living and dying; on the other hand, it exhorts us to contemplate the merciful goodness of God, who has come to meet humanity that He might communicate the saving Truth to us directly and make us to participate in His friendship and His life".

 

FINAL COMMUNIQUE ON THE 11TH CATHOLIC-MUSLIM COLLOQUIUM

 VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today was made public the final communique on the 11th Colloquium organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), which took place in Rome from 15 to 17 December.

   The Catholic and Muslim participants, who briefly met with the Pope after today's general audience, agreed on the following:

 1) The first and most important responsibility of religious leaders is one of a religious nature, according to their respective religious traditions, to faithfully fulfill them through teaching, good deeds and example, thus   serve their communities for the glory of God.

 2) Considering the role religions can and should have in society, religious leaders also have a cultural and social role to play in promoting fundamental ethical values, such as justice, solidarity, peace, social harmony and the common good of society as a whole, especially the needy, the weak, migrants and the oppressed.

 3) Religious leaders have a special responsibility towards youth, who require particular attention so that they do not fall victim to religious fanaticism and radicalism, receiving rather, a sound education thereby helping them to become bridge builders and peace makers.

 4) Taking into consideration that crises of diverse nature, including in interreligious relations, are possible, on a national or international level, religious leaders should learn to prevent, cope with and remedy these particular situations, avoiding their degeneration into confessional violence. This requires a mutual respect and reciprocal knowledge, both cherishing personal relations and building confidence and mutual trust, so as to be able to confront together crises when they occur.

 

ARCHBISHOP TOMASI: THE RISKS OF "NEW" RIGHTS

 VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today was published the address of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  Archbishop Tomasi affirmed that "when a breach is caused between what is claimed and what is real through the search of so-called 'new' human rights, a risk emerges to reinterpret the accepted human rights vocabulary to promote mere desires and measures that, in turn, become a source of discrimination and injustice and the fruit of self-serving ideologies".

  "By speaking of the right to life, of respect for the family, of marriage as the union between a man and a woman, of freedom of religion and conscience, of the limits of the authority of the State before fundamental values and rights, nothing new or revolutionary is said and both, the letter and the spirit of the Declaration are upheld, and coherence with the nature of things and the common good of society is preserved".

  After noting that this anniversary of the Declaration, "leads us also to reflect on its implementation", Monsignor Tomasi said that "in a world of too many hungry people, too many violent conflicts, too many persons persecuted for their beliefs, there remains a long road to walk and the duty to eliminate every discrimination so that all persons can enjoy their inherent equal dignity".

  Archbishop Tomasi encouraged the UN and its specialized agencies "to faithfully translate the principles of the Declaration into action by supporting States in the adoption of effective policies truly focused on the rights and sense of responsibility of everyone".

  "Every human being", he concluded, "has the right to an integral development and 'the sacred right' to live in peace. On such premises, human rights are not just entitlement to privileges. They are rather the expression and the fruit of what is noblest in the human spirit: dignity, aspiration to freedom and justice, search for what is good, and the practice of solidarity. In the light of the tragic experiences of the past and of today, the human family can unite around these values and essential principles, as a duty toward the weakest and needier and toward future generations".

 

AUDIENCES

 VATICAN CITY, 17 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father received in audience Bishop Wilhelm Schraml of Passau, Germany.

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