ISRAELI RELIGIOUS LEADERS AT THE VATICAN
Dialogue is essential for religious leaders in the Holy Land, “a place full of memories sacred to our traditions,” but a place that each day faces challenges to living together in harmony, Benedict XVI told religious leaders from Israel.
The “movement toward reconciliation requires courage and vision, as well as the trust that it is God himself, who will show us the way,” the Pope said as he welcomed members of the Israel Council of Religious Communities and several Israeli government representatives.
The pontiff had met with Council members when he visited Nazareth in 2009 and he invited them to the Vatican.
The Council was established in 2007 and brings together leaders of 18 different religious communities, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Samaritan and Bedouin leaders. The Christians on the Council represent the Greek, Armenian, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox communities, the Anglicans and the Latin-rite, Armenian, Maronite and Melkite Catholic communities, as well as the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
“CHRISTIAN VOLUNTEERS ARE SIGNS OF GOD’S LOVE”
Especially at a time of serious economic crisis, moral uncertainty and social tension, Christian volunteers show “that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst,” the Pope said in a speech to participants at a Vatican meeting on Catholic volunteer activity in Europe.
The two-day meeting, sponsored by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charity, was held in conjunction with the European Year of Volunteering. It brought together about 160 bishops and representatives of charitable organizations from 25 countries.
Benedict XVI thanked the European volunteers and “the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the Church’s charitable mission throughout the world.”
The pontiff also asked the meeting participants to step up efforts to involve young Catholics in volunteer work as “a way to grow in the self-giving love which gives life its deepest meaning.”
THE CHURCH ON ADULT STEM CELLS
In rejecting research using embryonic stem cells, the Catholic Church is not trying to impede science or delay treatment that can save lives, Benedict XVI said.
The Church’s opposition to the use and destruction of embryos flows from the conviction that all human life is sacred and that destroying the most defenseless will never lead to a true benefit for humanity, the Pope said to participants in a Vatican-sponsored conference on research using adult stem cells.
The Pontifical Council for Culture partnered with NeoStem Inc., a US company researching and marketing adult stem-cell therapies, to sponsor the conference, “Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture.”
The pontiff said the Church supports research with adult stem cells, which have the possibility of developing into a variety of specialized cells and can alleviate degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissues.
Adult stem cells are obtained not from fertilizing and destroying human embryos, but from “the tissues of an adult organism, from the blood of the umbilical cord at the moment of birth or from fetuses who have died of natural causes,” he said.
THE MEANING OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
“Yes, in the world there is much evil, there is a permanent battle between good and evil and it seems that evil is stronger. But, no, the Lord is stronger,” the Pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“Despite all the things that make us doubt the positive outcome of history, Christ wins and goodness wins. Love, and not hatred, wins,” he said.
Just a few days before the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict spoke at his audience about Psalm 110, a psalm about a king, which the New Testament repeatedly holds up as a reference to Christ.
Benedict XVI asked Catholics to read and pray with the Psalms, particularly through the Liturgy of the Hours, “lauds in the morning, vespers in the evening and compline before going to sleep.”
Friday 18-Sunday 21
BENEDICT XVI TO BENIN
“The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues… firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life,” the Pope said after arriving at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport in Cotonou, for his second apostolic visit to Africa.
Pope Benedict, who said he had come to Benin, a small nation in West Africa, to celebrate 150 years of Christianity in the country and to present a document on the church’s future on the continent, was welcomed by President Thomas Yayi Boni, Church and civil dignitaries and an exuberant crowd of singing, scarf-waving women who danced in salutation.
The Pope also said another reason for coming to Benin was his personal relationship with the late Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, with whom the Pope worked side by side for many years in the Roman Curia.
Later in the day, the Pope was to visit the cathedral in Cotonou, where hundreds of faithful had assembled in anticipation.
On November 19, Benedict XVI signed a document during a ceremony in Ouidah, Benin, a slave trade city on the Atlantic coast, and then Pope Benedict prayed at the tomb of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin.
The document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, explored the themes treated by the 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa. Titled Africae Munus (“The Commitment of Africa”), the 138-page text said the Church should lead the way in promoting respect for human dignity and life at every stage, fighting against economic imbalance and environmental degradation, providing health care to those with AIDS and other diseases, educating the young and reconciling human hearts in places of ethnic tension.
Addressing diplomats, civil authorities and religious representatives November 19 in Cotonou, the pontiff said Africa’s challenges reflect wider issues common to all humanity, including scandals and injustice, corruption and greed, and “too much violence which leads to misery and death.”
The Church must be “attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast,” the Pope said at a Mass November 20 for more than 50,000 people who filled a stadium in Cotonou.
“I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers,” he said. “The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries; she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus,” the Pope said.
One of the most animated encounters saw the Pope surrounded by several hundred schoolchildren, who accompanied him in a rhythmic procession and cheered him inside a parish church. In a talk, the pontiff told the children to ask their parents to pray with them.
RECALLING THE TRIP TO BENIN
During his general audience, Benedict XVI said his latest visit to Africa left him convinced that the joy and faith of the continent’s people — especially the young — represent a hope for all humanity.
The Pope said the visit, in particular the “unforgettable” Mass he celebrated for 50,000 people in a Cotonou stadium, showed that faith in Christ is capable of uniting generations and responding to their expectations.
“Through the joy and enthusiasm of the entire population, especially the children who represent the future, one could see the freshness of the ‘yes’ to life and the perception of reality in its connection with God,” he said.
MEETING WITH U. S. BISHOPS
In a speech to US bishops from the state of New York who were in Rome for their ad limina visits, Benedict XVI defended the Church’s “honest efforts” to confront the priestly sex abuse scandal with transparency, and said its actions could help the rest of society respond to the problem.
Pope Benedict’s speech was the first in a series of five talks he is expected to deliver in coming months, as 15 groups of U.S. bishops make their consultative visits to Rome. He said he planned to focus primarily on the urgent task of “new evangelization.”
NEW NUNCIO TO IRELAND
Benedict XVI has named American Msgr. Charles J. Brown, a longtime official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as the new apostolic nuncio to Ireland.With the appointment, he was named archbishop of the titular see of Aquileia.
In July, the Vatican recalled its previous nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, after Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and others sharply criticized the Vatican’s handling of clerical abuse.
In early November, the Irish government announced it was closing its embassy to the Holy See for economic reasons, although keeping diplomatic relations open.
POPE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
“I hope that all members of the international community can agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon, keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations,” Benedict XVI said. The pontiff made the remarks at his noon blessing, the day before officials from 194 countries were to begin meeting in Durban, South Africa, to discuss the next steps in reducing greenhouse gases and stopping global temperatures from rising.
Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, was leading a 20-person Caritas delegation to the Durban talks to press for an agreement on behalf of poor countries that have been severely impacted by climate change.
TO BAN DEATH PENALTY
During his weekly audience, Benedict XVI gave a special greeting of encouragement to delegations meeting in Rome — including a group from Illinois — to promote the abolition of the death penalty.
Pope Benedict said he hoped the work of the delegations would “encourage political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a number of countries to eliminate the death penalty” and promote progress in penal law that speaks equally to “the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”
The Nov. 29-30 Rome meeting, sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community, encouraged people in cities around the world to join a public demonstration of opposition to the death penalty. In Rome, for example, the Colosseum was to be lit up Nov. 30 to show the city’s adherence to the initiative.
The main part of the Pope’s audience talk dealt with the significance of prayer in the life of Jesus Christ and in his relationship with God, a continuation of his series of reflections on prayer.
Pope Benedict said Jesus teaches today’s Christians that prayer must be constant, profound and characterized by “self-surrender and complete openness to God.”
“CHRISTIAN FAMILIES ARE KEY PART OF NEW EVANGELIZATION”
Christian families are called to welcome, demonstrate and spread the love and presence of Christ in the world, Benedict XVI said in a speech to members of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
The Council, founded by Pope John Paul II, was marking the 30th anniversary of its establishment by focusing on the role of the family in the “new evangelization.”
Pope Benedict said the Church needs strong couples involved in its pastoral work, especially in educating children, teaching young people about the Christian vision of sexuality, preparing engaged couples for marriage, and helping married couples strengthen their relationships.
POPE MEETS INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Foreign students need “a healthy and balanced intellectual, cultural and spiritual preparation so they do not fall prey to the ‘brain drain,’ but form a socially and culturally relevant category in view of their return as future leaders in their country of origin,” the Pope told international students and those who minister to them, partecipating in the Third World Congress on the Pastoral Care of International Students Nov. 30-Dec. 3.
The congress was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.
Pope Benedict said universities are called to educate “a new generation capable of dialogue and discernment, committed to promoting respect and collaboration for peace and development.”
POPE PRAYS FOR MIGRANTS, ENCOURAGES INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE
Benedict XVI expressed concern for the millions of migrants around the world, and encouraged the agencies trying to help them.
“While I encourage solidarity for them, I pray for all those who are doing their utmost to protect and assist these brothers and sisters in emergency situations, even if it means exposing themselves to serious hardships and dangers,” the Pope said at his noon blessing.
In his remarks to pilgrims on the second Sunday of Advent, the Pope called Advent “a season of inner preparation for the coming of the Lord” and a time that recognizes the important roles filled by Mary and St. John the Baptist in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
The next day, the Vatican announced that the international organization had accepted the Holy See as a full member state.
Being a full member of the International Organization for Migration, rather than a permanent observer as the Vatican is with many UN agencies, will give the Vatican a stronger voice in an area where politics is not as important as meeting real human needs, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to international organizations based in Geneva.
RESTORED TOMB FROM OLD ST. PETER’S BASILICA
With help from the Knights of Columbus, the only papal tomb transferred from the old to the new St. Peter’s Basilica has been restored.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and president of the office responsible for the basilica’s upkeep, rededicated the tomb of Pope Innocent VIII during a brief ceremony attended by leaders of the Knights.
The gilded bronze monument created by Antonio del Pollaiolo in the late 1400s and placed in the old St. Peter’s Basilica. Work on the current basilica began in 1506 and the tomb of Pope Innocent was placed in the church in 1621.
Located in the southern nave of the basilica, the monument contains two figures of Pope Innocent: one lying on top of the sarcophagus and the second sitting on a throne above the tomb. On the sides, there are depictions of the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. The top of the monument depicts the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.
“TO FOLLOW GOSPEL IS TO FOLLOW CHRIST”
Following the Gospel is not adhering to a doctrine or code of ethics but entails truly following the person of Christ in one’s life, Benedict XVI said during his weekly general audience.
Through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, “we can turn with trust to God our Father, confident that, in doing his will, we shall find true freedom and peace,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict was continuing a series of talks on Christian prayer.
POPE LIGHTS WORLD’S LARGEST CHRISTMAS ‘TREE’
Benedict XVI tapped a tablet computer and successfully lit the world’s largest electronic Christmas “tree” located in the Italian town of Gubbio. Before turning on the tree with a tap on the Sony S Tablet, the Pope addressed the citizens of Gubbio via a video link from his apartment in Vatican City, calling on Christians to serve as a light in the lives of others.
“Every small act of kindness is like a light in this big tree: together with the other lights it can bring light to even the darkest of nights,” the pontiff said.
THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Pope Benedict marked the feast day by making an afternoon visit to a statue of Mary erected near the Spanish Steps.
He paid homage to Mary by praying before the statue, which commemorates Pope Pius IX’s proclamation in 1854 that Mary, by special divine favor, was without sin from the moment she was conceived.
The pontiff offered a large basket of white roses, which was then set at the foot of the column topped by the statue. He also greeted and blessed the infirm and their caregivers.
“CHRISTIANS DRAW JOY FROM KNOWING GOD IS NEAR”
Celebrating a morning Mass at Rome’s Our Lady of Grace parish and reciting the Angelus at the Vatican later, Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday, Pope Benedict said true joy is not found in twinkling Christmas decorations or presents, but in God’s gift of his son.
After the midday recitation of the Angelus and Benedict XVI blesed the statues of Baby Jesus that children bring and then place in their Nativity scene at home or at school.
The Pope asked the children to remember him when they pray in front of their Nativity scenes and he promised to remember them in his prayers.
COMMITTEE SEEKS BISHOPS’ NOTES, DIARIES ON VATICAN II
With a view toward the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962-October 11, 2012), a pontifical committee has launched a worldwide treasure hunt. Many of the more than 2,800 cardinals and bishops who participated in all or part of the 1962-65 Council kept diaries, or at least notes; some wrote articles for their diocesan newspapers and most — in the days before emails and relatively cheap trans-Atlantic phone calls — wrote letters home.
The Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences is asking Church archivists, and even the family members of deceased Council fathers, to look through their papers to find reflections that can add a personal touch to the historical research already conducted on the official acts of the council.
Until 1966, very few bishops retired; they tended to die in office. After the Council, Pope Paul VI asked bishops to voluntarily offer to resign at age 75 — which became a requirement with the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983.
Bishops who retire at 75 obviously leave official papers with the diocese, but they tend to take their personal papers with them. That’s why family members of bishops at Vatican II are being asked to help.