December 23, 2009

Vatican Information Service Bulletin

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

SUMMARY:


THE CHILD JESUS MAKES THE LOVE OF GOD MANIFEST

 VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, celebrated this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope focused his remarks on the subject of Christmas.

   At the beginning of his catechesis the Holy Father explained that "the Church's liturgical year did not initially develop on the basis of Christ's birth but on that of faith in His resurrection. Hence, the most ancient feast of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. The resurrection of Christ is what founded the Christian faith, underpinned the announcement of the Gospel and brought the Church into being".

   "The first person to make the clear affirmation that Jesus was born on 25 December was Hippolytus of Rome in his commentary on the Book of Daniel, written around the year 204", said the Pope.

   "In the Christian world, the feast of Christmas assumed a distinct form in the fourth century when it took the place of the Roman feast of the 'Sol invictus', the sun unconquered. This highlighted the fact that the birth of Christ is the victory of the true light over the darkness of evil and sin. Yet the particular and intense spiritual atmosphere that now surrounds Christmas developed during the Middle Ages, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi who was profoundly enamoured of Jesus the man, of the God-with-us".

   "This particular devotion to the mystery of the Incarnation was the origin of the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio. ... St. Francis with his nativity scene highlighted the defenceless love, humility and goodness of God, Who in the Incarnation of the Word shows Himself to mankind in order to teach them a new way to live and love".

   The Pope then went on to recall the fact that the first biographer of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano, recounted how, "on that Christmas night, Francis was granted the grace of a marvellous vision. He saw, lying immobile in the manger, a small child Who was reawakened from sleep by the proximity of Francis himself".

   "Thanks to St. Francis, Christian people are able to understand that at Christmas God truly became the 'Emmanuel', the God-with-us, from Whom no barrier or distance separates us. In that Child, God became so close to each of us ... that we can establish an intimate rapport of profound affection with Him, just as we do with a newborn child.

   "In that Child", the Holy Father added, "God-Love becomes manifest: God comes unarmed and powerless, because He does not intend to conquer, so to say, from the outside; rather, He intends to be accepted by man in freedom. God becomes a defenceless child to overcome man's pride, violence and thirst for possession. In Jesus, God assumed this poor and disarming condition in order to triumph over us with love and lead us to our true identity".

   "His being a Child likewise indicates to us that we can meet God and enjoy His presence", the Pope concluded. "People who have not understood the mystery of Christmas have not understood the decisive element of Christian existence: that those who do not accept Jesus with the heart of a child cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. This is what St. Francis wished to tell the Christian world of his time and of all times, even unto today".

 

NOTE CONCERNING DECREE ON THE HEROIC VIRTUES OF PIUS XII

 VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. today issued the following note concerning the signing of the recent decree on the heroic virtues of Servant of God Pope Pius XII.

   "The Pope's signing of the decree 'on the heroic virtues' of Pius XII has elicited a certain number of reactions in the Jewish world; perhaps because the meaning of such a signature is clear in the area of the Catholic Church and of specialists in the field, but may merit certain explanation for the larger public, in particular the Jewish public who are understandably very sensitive to all things concerning the historical period of World War II and the Holocaust.

   "When the Pope signs a decree 'on the heroic virtues' of a Servant of God - i.e., of a person for whom a cause for beatification has been introduced - he confirms the positive evaluation already voted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. ... Naturally, such evaluation takes account of the circumstances in which the person lived, and hence it is necessary to examine the question from a historical standpoint, but the evaluation essentially concerns the witness of Christian life that the person showed (his intense relationship with God and continuous search for evangelical perfection) ... and not the historical impact of all his operative decisions".

   "At the beatification of Pope John XXIII and of Pope Pius IX, John Paul II said: 'holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in them'.

   "There is, then, no intention in any way to limit discussion concerning the concrete choices made by Pius XII in the situation in which he lived. For her part, the Church affirms that these choices were made with the pure intention of carrying out the Pontiff's service of exalted and dramatic responsibility to the best of his abilities. In any case, Pius XII's attention to and concern for the fate of the Jews - something which is certainly relevant in the evaluation of his virtues - are widely testified and recognised, also by many Jews.

   "The field for research and evaluation by historians, working in their specific area, thus remains open, also for the future. In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents. ... Yet for the complete opening of the archives - as has been said on a number of occasions in the past - it is necessary to organise and catalogue an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years' work.

   "As for the fact that the decree on the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII were promulgated on the same day, this does not mean that from now on the two causes will be 'paired'. They are completely independent of one another and each will follow its own course. There is, then, no reason to imagine that any future beatification will take place together".

   "It is, then, clear that the recent signing of the decree is in no way to be read as a hostile act towards the Jewish people, and it is to be hoped that it will not be considered as an obstacle on the path of dialogue between Judaism and the Catholic Church. Rather we trust that the Pope's forthcoming visit to the Synagogue of Rome will be an opportunity for the cordial reiteration and reinforcement of ties of friendship and respect".

 

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

 VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Christian Bock of the clergy of the diocese of Erfurt, Germany, as a member of the administrative council of the Holy See Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Universities and Ecclesiastical Faculties (AVEPRO).

 

NOTICE

 VATICAN CITY, 23 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Vatican Information Service wishes its readers a very happy and holy Christmas. During the Christmas holiday there will be no VIS bulletin on Thursday 24 December or Friday 25 December. The next bulletin will be transmitted on Monday 28 December.

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