DecemberSunday 17
After reciting the Angelus, the Pope, speaking in English, said he was “deeply saddened” by the December 14 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. He offered his condolences and prayers, urging all to dedicate themselves to acts of peace in the face of such “senseless violence.”

Just before blessing the Nativity-scene statues of the Baby Jesus that Italian children brought to the Square, Pope Benedict urged people to use the rest of Advent to dedicate themselves more “to prayer and to acts of peace.”

Before reciting the Angelus on Gaudete (“Rejoice!”) Sunday, Pope Benedict celebrated a morning Mass at the parish of St. Patrick in Colle Prenestino, a suburb on the eastern outskirts of Rome, and met with parents of babies baptized in the past year.

Pope Benedict met today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a private audience at the Vatican.
During the “cordial” talks in the papal library, the two men discussed the need to restart talks between Israelis and Palestinians in a way that respects the rights of all parties involved, said a statement from the Vatican press office.

The two leaders also talked about the broader situation in the Middle East, which is “troubled by numerous conflicts,” and expressed hopes that “the courage for reconciliation and peace will be found,” the Vatican statement said.

Abbas, who is president of the Palestinian National Authority, gave the Pope a picture of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.


Benedict XVI exchanges gifts with Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas during a private audience in the pontiff’s library at the Vatican on December 17 (CNS photo).

Last month, 138 member states voted to boost Palestine’s status from “entity” to “non-member state”—the same status held by the Holy See—in an implicit recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. Israel, the United States and Canada were among the nine states that voted against the motion. Forty-one countries abstained.

Wednesday 19
Mary’s role in the birth and life of Jesus shows all Christians that the strength of faith lies in trusting God, even when his will is mysterious and life seems dark, Pope Benedict said at his weekly general audience.

Preparing for Christmas and continuing his Year of Faith series of audience talks, the Holy Father focused on what Christians can learn about faith from Mary.

With a Nativity scene already decorating the stage in the Vatican audience hall, the Pope’s weekly meeting with visitors and pilgrims had a Christmas feel. The atmosphere was even more festive given the presence of a group of zampognari, Italian bagpipe players who shared their renditions of Adeste Fideles (“O Come, All Ye Faithful”) and other traditional carols.

Thursday 20
Pope Benedict advanced the sainthood cause of Pope Paul VI by recognizing the Italian Pope as having lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.

popePaulVILIghtDuring a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the Pope signed the decree approving the heroic virtues of Pope Paul VI, making him “venerable.” Before Pope Paul can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, Pope Paul VI is probably best remembered for seeing the Second Vatican Council through to its end and helping implement its far-reaching reforms.

He is also well remembered as the author of Humanae Vitae, his 1968 encyclical reaffirming Church teaching that artificial birth control is intrinsically wrong, which became a focus of controversy and dissent.

Pope Paul was the first modern pontiff to start visiting local Churches around the globe, making nine major trips abroad.

He was elected Pope in 1963 and died at age 80 in 1978. The Rome diocese officially opened his sainthood cause in 1993.

In the Vatican’s latest move to expand its use of the media, an article on the meaning of Christmas by Pope Benedict appeared Dec­ember 20 in Britain’s Financial Times newspaper.

“While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience,” the pontiff wrote. “At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?”

Writing in one of the business world’s most prominent publications, Pope Benedict stressed Christian duties to “fight poverty,” “work for more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources” and “oppose greed and exploitation.”
According to a statement from the Vatican press office, the article was solicited by the Financial Times, and “despite the unusual nature of the request, the Holy Father accepted willingly.”

In accordance with Financial Times style, the Pope’s article appeared with a line identifying its author as “the bishop of Rome and the author of Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” his latest best-selling book.

Friday 21
Benedict XVI said the family in Western society is undergoing a “crisis that threatens it to its foundations,” owing to false ideas of human nature that equate freedom with selfishness and present God-given sexual identities as a matter of individual choice, to the profound detriment of human dignity.

But the pontiff said that the Catholic Church, in its dialogue with states, secular society and other religions, can help restore a proper understanding of hu­man nature as a basis for justice and peace.

The Holy Father made his remarks in his annual Christmas address to officials of the Roman Curia, the Catholic Church’s central administrative offices at the Vatican.

The Pope’s speech included a brief summary of his activities in 2012, including his March trip to Mexico and Cuba.


Pope Benedict visits the Vatican’s Nativity scene, riding in his popemobile on December 31 (Galazka photo)

Benedict XVI urged people to think seriously about their faith at Christmas, and he urged them to recognize the connection between believing in God and helping others through acts of charity and by praying and working for peace.

The birth of Jesus is a source of hope for the world, “a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations,” the Pope said December 25 before giving his solemn blessing “urbi et orbi” (Latin for “to the city (of Rome) and to the world”).

Pope Benedict prayed for the people of Syria, “deeply wounded and divided” by conflict and violence. He appealed for an end to the fighting, for “easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced” and for a dialogue that would bring a political solution to the crisis that began in March 2011.

During his Christmas Day address, he also repeated his prayers for peace throughout the Middle East, for peace in the Holy Land and for the people of Egypt as they continue to struggle to build a new democracy. He also prayed that China’s Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, and the other new leaders of China’s government would respect the contribution that religions want to make to the country.

Support for Latin American migrants and an end to conflicts and ethnic and interreligious tensions in Mali, Nigeria, Congo and Kenya were also among the Pope’s Christmas Day prayers.

In his Midnight Mass homily, Pope Benedict said God made himself a baby so that people could overcome their fear of God and “dare to love him.”

During his homily, Pope Benedict also offered special prayers for peace in the Holy Land, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. He prayed that “Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there” and that Christians and Muslims in the Middle East would cooperate in building peaceful societies.

Monday 31
The Pope presided over an evening prayer service with Eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God in St. Peter’s Basilica.

After the prayer service, Pope Benedict went by popemobile into St. Peter’s Square, where he visited the Vatican’s Nativity scene. While the Swiss Guard band played Silent Night, the Pope knelt before the manger scene for a few moments of prayer.

JanuaryTuesday 1
Welcoming in the new year, Pope Benedict said that despite the injustice and violence in the world, every human being yearns for and is made for peace.

“Man is made for peace, which is a gift of God,” but also something individuals must work tirelessly to build, he said.

The Holy Father celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1st, which the Church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and as World Peace Day.

Prayers for peace were offered in five languages. In Arabic, the prayer asked that Mary “awaken in government leaders, legislators and men and women of science, respect and concern for motherhood, God’s supreme gift to humanity.”

In his homily, the pontiff quoted from the peace day message he had sent to government leaders around the globe.

Speaking after the Mass from his apartment window above St. Peter’s Square, the Pope highlighted the importance of peacemakers who, day after day, “try to conquer evil with good, with the strength of truth, with the weapons of prayer and forgiveness, with honest work done well, with scientific research serving life and with works of mercy.”

Wednesday 2
The annual celebration of Christ’s birth fills Christians with hope and joy because it is a reminder that the power of God is always at work, and he does great things even through the weak and the small, Benedict XVI said at his weekly general audience.

Continuing his Christmas reflections, the Pope explained why Catholics traditionally bow their heads when, in reciting the Creed, they come to the words, “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

Sunday 6
In their task of leading people to the light of Christ, bishops must have the courage to face opposition and peacefully stand firm in the truth, Benedict XVI said as he celebrated the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

During the three-hour ceremony, the Pope also ordained four new archbishops, including his longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who became prefect of the Papal Household, a job that involves organizing the Pope’s daily round of audiences and meetings.

In his homily at the Mass, the Holy Father looked at the figure of the Three Kings, the wise men who set out from the East in search of Jesus; the Pope drew comparisons between them and the mission to which the new bishops are called.

Along with the Sistine Chapel Choir, singers from the Palestrina Choir of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin provided music for the Mass.

After Mass, an Italian folklore association sponsored an Epiphany parade featuring drummers, flag twirlers and men and women in Renaissance costumes. The parade ended with the arrival of the Magi on horseback in St. Peter’s Square.


A balloon with an image of a dove floats as Pope Benedict XVI waves after leading the Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the the observance of World Peace Day at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In his midday Angelus address to thousands of people in the Square, Pope Benedict offered special prayers for Eastern Christians celebrating Christmas on January 7 in accordance with the Julian calendar.

Monday 7
Deploring war, civil conflict and poverty around the world, Benedict XVI told foreign ambassadors, in his annual address to members of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, that peace-building requires charity, religious liberty, a proper understanding of human rights and openness to divine love.

He particularly condemned recent attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria, including the “barbarous” killings of a dozen people by gunmen during services at Christmas. His remarks on sub-Saharan Africa also included a call for international intervention in Mali, where a military regime is fighting to reclaim the country’s north from Islamist rebel forces.

The Pope’s speech gave special attention to “that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East,” reiterating earlier calls for a cease-fire and for peace talks in Syria.

Pope Benedict also reiterated the Vatican’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Alluding to Egypt’s new Islamist constitution, which has drawn opposition from liberals and religious minorities, the pontiff assured “all Egyptians of my closeness and my prayers at this time when new institutions are being set in place.”

Then the pontiff stressed that peacemaking requires the protection of fundamental human rights and dignity, especially through “respect for human life at every stage.” He said he felt “dismay” over recent moves to decriminalize abortion in various countries, which he said would upset the “balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both.”

In Western societies today, Benedict XVI said, “rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential… absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs.”

Such societies also suffer from distorted economic values, the Pope said: “The current economic and financial crisis… developed because profit was all too often made absolute, to the detriment of labor, and because of unrestrained ventures in the financial areas of the economy, rather than attending to the real economy.”
The Pope also stressed the importance to peace of religious liberty, particularly the “right of conscientious objection,” which he said was under threat in unspecified countries.

In the United States, an Obama administration plan to force most Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception and sterilizations, which violate the Church’s moral teaching, has provoked strenuous opposition from U.S. bishops.

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