Friday, December 23, 2011



VATICAN  CITY, 22 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence to the  President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, on the death this past Sunday  of former president Vaclav Havel, whose funeral was celebrated this morning  in the Cathedral of St. Vitus at the Prague Castle. President Havel was 75  years old. (IMAGE SOURCE; RADIO VATICANA)

   In the text, the Pope expressed his nearness to those attending the funeral,  joining them in "commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite  mercy of our heavenly Father" and recalling Vaclav Havel's courage in  the defence of "human rights at a time when these were systematically  denied to the people of your country". He paid tribute to his "visionary  leadership in forging a new democratic policy after the fall of the previous  regime" and gave thanks to God "for the freedom that the people of  the Czech Republic now enjoy".

   The Holy Father concluded by imparting the Apostolic Blessing as "a  pledge of spiritual strength and comfort" to all those mourning the  deceased, "in hope of resurrection to new life".
TGR/                                                                         VIS  20111223 (170)


VATICAN  CITY, 23 DEC 2011 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in separate  audiences:

   - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals,

   - Archbishop Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the  Evangelization of Peoples, and

   - Mr. Timothy Andrew Fischer, ambassador of Australia, accompanied by his  wife, on his farewell visit.


REPORT OF Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese
23 Dec 2011

Sr Eleanor Capper RSJ (right) with Provincial
Sr Colleen Keeble
Sister Eleanor Capper, RSJ admits the three large quakes that struck Christchurch today have left her fearful and tense.
"One man was reported injured in the first quake and while I understand there have been a few other minor injuries, the main damage seems to be downed power and phone lines and liquefaction. But even though there is little real damage, after more than a year of continuous earthquakes and aftershocks, our nerves are frayed, and we're living in fear," she says.
Until a massive 7.1 earthquake hit the city in September 2010, Christchurch's 370,000 residents were unaware they lived on an active fault line. But from that moment on, the city has been hit by numerous aftershocks, the most severe of which occurred on 22 February this year.
At 6.3 the February quake was far less than the one the previous September, but in terms of damage and loss of life, far more severe. Not only was the quake responsible for taking the lives of 182, but it toppled buildings weakened by the September quake and destroyed much of the city's CBD along with the historic Anglican cathedral which had given Christchurch its name, and the iconic 100-year-old Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sr Eleanor, speaking from her home in Christchurch where she works with the Catholic Education Office giving support and pastoral advice to teachers across the Christchurch Diocese, said the first of today's quakes measuring 5.8 struck at 1.58 pm (11.58 AEST). This was followed at 2.06 pm (12.06 ADST) by a 5.3 magnitude quake and an hour and a bit later, at 3.18 pm (1.18 pm ADST) by the biggest quake of the day measuring a magnitude 6.
Quake Damaged Cathedral will have to be rebuilt
"I was outside when the first one hit and rushed over to see if my neighbours were alright. She lost some things off shelves and had some smashed glass and bottles but nothing much else, I'm pleased to say."

But before Sr Eleanor and her neighbour could catch their breath, another big quake hit. Then came the third quake.
Luckily injuries so far reported are all minor but police say the continued shaking has led to the collapse of one of the city's partly demolished buildings as well as a vacant house. The quakes have also led to a return of liquefaction with mud swamping homes for the third time in less than a year.
The last time liquefaction bubbled mud in some of the eastern suburbs of the city was in June when the city was hit by a 6.3 quake, the biggest since the massive destruction and loss of life as a result of the 22 February tremor.
Although Sr Eleanor is grateful that Christchurch has escaped with little damage or injury in today's cluster of powerful quakes, she says her heart goes out to the city's retailers.
Liquefaction swamps houses for a third time
after pre Christmas quake
"Friday, 23 December, was the final big shopping day before Christmas and malls and shopping centres were filled with families buying last minute gifts and items for their Christmas and holiday feasts," she says. "Retailers have been doing it tough all year and they hoped for a bumper day. But after the quake most shoppers were too frightened to remain in stores and instead of continuing their shopping, they packed up and headed for home."

Christchurch retailers not only missed out on what should have been several hours of heavy trading, but with little or no customers, they had little choice but to close early.
"The quakes were certainly something we didn't need," one retailer confessed as he picked up broken items of food from the floor of his delicatessen.
Until the February earthquake which caused so much loss of life, heartache and terror, Christchurch's Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament had been considered one of the most important examples of Romanesque architecture, and the only such example to be found in the Pacific.
But as a result of ongoing aftershocks, the Cathedral's massive copper-plated domes became irreparably damaged and the building itself was later deemed unsafe, and is now slowly being deconstructed with many of its treasures carefully removed. These will eventually form part of a new Cathedral yet to be built.
Damage to the Cathedral of the Blessed
Sacrament taken two weeks ago from the air
The years during which Christchurch's new cathedral will be designed and constructed, the Catholic Diocese will use St Mary's Pro-Cathedral as their home. Built in 1889, this is where this year's Christmas Midnight Mass will be celebrated along with Mass on Christmas Day.

While Christchurch has had a difficult year, one piece of positive news for the city's Catholics is the full recovery of the Bishop of Christchurch, the Most Reverend Barry Jones who suffered a stroke in April this year, just one month after the February quake.
Bishop Barry has resumed full duties and is full of his old energy and dedication. During the past nine months, the Bishop also battled a severe case of pneumonia. But he insists his health is back to normal.
"We are all thrilled to have him back and delighted he will preside over our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses," says Sr Eleanor.
Christchurch Cathedral's bell tower was
destroyed in the February earthquake
Although an estimated 30,000 residents have left Christchurch since February's earthquake, and headed to other cities in New Zealand, the majority of the city's inhabitants are like Sr Eleanor and can't imagine calling anywhere else home.
"I was born and grew up here," she says. But admits that after the cluster of quakes today, her nerves are frayed and she is once again filled with fear.

"Each quake comes without warning and you never know how long it will last or how severe it will be," she says.
With school holidays underway, Sr Eleanor had planned to spend Christmas in Christchurch, then on 28 December to fly to Sydney to spend time with her fellow Sisters of St Joseph at the Mother House in North Sydney.
"Now with these latest quakes, I'm completely on edge and must admit that 28 December cannot come soon enough!" she says laughing.


Catholic Church News Image of Caritas volunteers assist flood victimsUCAN REPORT: reporter, kilinochchi
Sri Lanka
December 23, 2011
Church rushes to join aid efforts to help victims of new disaster .  The Catholic Church has joined relief efforts to provide aid for up to 38,000 people displaced by severe flooding that has hit the north of the country this week.
More than 11,000 families have been affected in Northern Province, according to the government-run Disaster Management Center, which has set up 41 welfare centers to help the victims.
Caritas-Vanni and Don Bosco centers are also providing aid to victims who fled their homes in Kilinochchi and Mullativu districts after the downpours began on Monday.
“Kilinochchi, Thiruwaiyaru, Wattakachchi, Kandarawalai were the worst affected areas and are under water,” said Father Devadas Judedas, Parish priest of St. Joseph Church in Kilinochchi.
Flood victims are getting hot meals while Caritas Vanni and other organizations have to decide on what other steps to take, he said.
Around 14,500 people were displaced in Kilinochchi alone, the Disaster Management Center said.
Father Arockiyasamy, head of the Don Bosco center in Kilinochchi said his organization is providing food parcels for the victims.
“They are being distributed with the help of the local government,” he said.
Many of the victims, still trying to recover from years of civil war, said the floods have destroyed their lives yet again.
“We have faced so many difficulties these past years,” said Anjeli Devi, 40, in Wattakachchi.
“After being resettled after the war we took out loans so we could rebuild our livelihoods, but everything was destroyed by this flood. I think this must be our fate,” Devi said.
“We have limited resources to combat natural disasters,” he lamented


Bishops Conference of England release: This November a marvellous pilgrimage to the Holy Land was shared by 100 people from our Diocese. We visited Nazareth, Jerusalem and, of course, Bethlehem. Thoughts and prayers constantly filled our hearts and minds. Some among us had the skill to write them down, loving and poetically – words such as these:

Christmas 2011

"At the window….Mary's home…the archangel Gabriel … kneels alone …awesome …beautiful …filled with love's greeting…captured and bound…his architectural strength spills pools of brilliant rainbow light across the floor and the power of the most high stoops into the shadows of our life saying…. 'Come my love'…..and we walk with Mary to welcome Christ…in Joseph's home."

Yes, indeed, the power of the most high stoops into the shadows of our lives in that stable in Bethlehem. So we too stooped low to kiss the silver cross that marks the place of Christ's birth.

And we will do so before the crib this Christmas. In our churches, we will kneel before our new born Saviour, our hearts full of thoughts and prayers.

Take your time there. See in the images of the crib the great act of God's loving humility, coming to us in poverty so that we may not be overwhelmed by God's majesty but drawn to God's love.

As you see the outstretched arms of the child hear again those words of invitation: 'Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. For see, the winter is past the rains are over and gone.' These are indeed the words of the Lord to each one of us. He continues: 'Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.' (Song of Songs 2.10-14)

Here is the invitation of Christmas: that the Lord, in coming to us, wants above all to draw us to himself. He loves us, each of us, in our hidden selves, more than we could ever know. In his sight we are beautiful of face and sweet of voice. We may not think so. But he sees us with fresh, Christmas eyes. He sees deep into the soul given to each one of us by his heavenly Father and beautiful beyond measure.

Let us open our hearts to him, respond to his invitation, allow the life of our soul to breathe with a fresh grace, the grace that comes with forgiveness and repentance, the grace which enables us to rise from our knees with new heart, new hope and new love.

I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas. Please keep your priests in your prayers this Christmas, as you are in theirs, and include me among them too.

May God bless you all.

Archbishop Nichols

To listen to the audio version go to:



Archdiocese of New York RELEASE: "Where will you have your Christmas? " A common question this time of the year.
What’s it mean? Usually, the person asking is wondering where you’ll have Christmas dinner, or where you’ll be when the presents under the tree are opened.
But, for us as believers, the essence of Christmas is not the festive meal — as eagerly as I await that joyful experience! — or even where we’ll gather with family and friends to exchange presents. (I’m all for that, too!)
No. For us as Catholics, the heart of Christmas is the Mass! Even the name of the holiday — Christ-Mass — implies the centrality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on this radiant feast of the Nativity of the Lord.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Hebrew word for “house of bread.”
Thus, on His birthday, we approach the Eucharist to receive this “bread of life” in Holy Communion.
Jesus was born in a manger, a feedbox, where creatures ate, because He desired to be food for our souls. He nourishes us at Mass.
In the baby Jesus, the divine was hidden within the tender, innocent, humble human nature of an infant.
So in the Holy Eucharist, the divine is hidden under the simple, routine, natural elements of bread and wine.
That first Christmas, God the Son, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word, assumed flesh and blood.
At every Mass, Jesus Christ — body, blood, soul, and divinity — comes into our midst on the altar, into our souls.
In a way, every single celebration of the Eucharist is Christmas again, as Jesus comes to us in His Holy Word and in the Blessed Sacrament.
The tree, lights, carols, cards, gifts, family, friends, visits, wreaths, cookies, dinner — all cherished Christmas traditions.
But, the greatest custom of the all: Mass on the feast of Christmas!
So . . . where will you have your Christmas?
See you at Mass!
A blessed Christmas!


Agenzia Fides REPORT - "I am in the store, with my staff, to choose the clothes to be distributed to children on Christmas Day" says to Fides Fr. Luciano Verdoscia, a Comboni missionary who has been working for years in Mansheya, the area of garbage collectors (called "Zabbaleen"). " Me and my association tale care of about 650 children, giving them an education and a little financial help," explains the missionary.
With regards to the social situation in Egypt, Fr. Luciano remembers that today, December 23, "there is a demonstration against violence against women, who have discredited the image of the army. Yesterday, in another square in Cairo, a pro army demonstration took place. One should however keep in mind that the army has a considerable strength in numbers: sinply by ordering its members to send their families to the streets and the streets are filled".
"The population is a bit 'confused' continues Fr. Luciano. "But at the same time, people continue their activities. The protest is concentrated only in some specific places, starting from Tahrir Square. In short, the situation is much more complex than it appears. Now excuse me, but I have to leave because I have to finish downloading the packages" this is how the missionary ends his conversation. (L.M.)


Luke 1: 57 - 66
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son.
58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechari'ah after his father,
60 but his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John."
61 And they said to her, "None of your kindred is called by this name."
62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John." And they all marveled.
64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea;
66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.


St. John of Kanty
Feast: December 23

Feast Day:December 23
Born:23 June 1390, Kęty, Oświęcim, Poland
Died:24 December 1473, Kraków Academy
Canonized:1767 by Pope Clement XIII
Stories of  John of Kanty (Kanty is near Oswiecim in Poland) are many but not entirely dependable. Nevertheless we have record of him as a holy and learned man who was both a distinguished university teacher and a benefactor of the poor. He came from a family of good position, and was sent to the University of Cracow, where he did well. He was ordained priest, and appointed to a lectureship in the University. His academic life was however interrupted when jealous rivals managed to get him removed from his teaching post, and he was sent to labor as a parish priest. This caused him much distress, as he was both unused to this kind of work and weighed down by the feeling of its heavy responsibility. But he gradually won the love of his parishioners, who wept when, after some years, he left them to return to the University of Cracow as professor of Scripture. This post he held for the rest of his long life; and he became increasingly famous for his teaching, his humble and austere way of living and his spontaneous generosity to chose in need. Perhaps his best lesson for us, especially in these days of increasing communication, lies in one of his favorite sayings to his pupils: 'Fight all false opinions, but let your weapons be patience, sweetness and love. Roughness is bad for your own soul and spoils the best cause.'
When he died St. John was greatly mourned, and was already accounted a worker of miracles; but he was not canonized until 1767.