Monday, December 26, 2011


RADIO VATICAN REPORT: Pope Benedict made a heart felt appeal this St Stephen’s Day for the people whose lands as he put it “are drenched with innocent blood. He spoke in particular about the violence that was wreaked on Christmas Day in Nigeria.

A blast outside a St Theresa’s Church near the capital Abuja killed at least 35 people, and in the city of Jos another bomb went off near the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church.

The Pope expressed his closeness to the Christian community in the country and all those who have been affected by what he called “this senseless act”.

He also reinforced his call for peace, respect, reconciliation and love adding that violence is a path that only leads to pain, destruction and death.

The Holy Father made the appeal at the Angelus this 26
th of December in St Peter’s Square. He also recalled St Stephen who was the first Christian martyr.

“Today we celebrate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. May his example inspire us to be courageous in living our faith in Christ our Saviour and ready to forgive those who harm us”.

Speaking in Italian the Pope described how St Stephen gave his life for God adding that even as he was being stoned to death he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" and begged forgiveness for his accusers.

Pope Benedict went on to explain that after the generation of the Apostles, the martyrs gained a prominent place in the consideration of the Christian community.

In times of increased persecution, he continued, their praise revives the arduous journey of the faithful and encourages those in search of the truth to be converted to the Lord.

The Holy Father also underlined the importance of the martyrs as figures in the Church saying, that they are venerated and honoured as "teachers of virtue," "living witnesses", and "silent messengers" .

On this feast of St Stephen Pope Benedict greeted the faithful in St Peter’s Square in a number of languages including English and pray that Our Lady Queen of Martyrs would protect the faithful in times of adversity


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ALLAFRICA REPORT: An early morning bomb blast at a Catholic church near Abuja has reportedly left at about 40 people dead and many more injured.
According to eyewitnesses, the blast tore through St Theresa's Church in Madalla as worshippers gathered for Christmas services.
An emergency official told reporters that the authorities were struggling to cope with the casualties.
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman, Yushau Shuaibu told the BBC that the explosion had happened in the street outside the church.
But he said the church had been badly affected by the blast, and the number of dead was likely to rise.
Earlier he told Reuters news agency: "We are presently evacuating the dead and the injured, but unfortunately we don't have enough ambulances.
"Most of our ambulances have gone to operate on the major highways of the country."
Security had been beefed up in recent time following recent skirmishes between Boko Harem gunmen and soldiers in Yobo and Borno States have killed over 50.
Eye witnesses said windows of nearby houses had been shattered by the explosion.
Officials at the local hospital said the condition of many of the injured was serious, and they were seeking help from bigger medical facilities.

The aftermath of the bomb explosion at the Nigerian Police Headquarters (file photo).
No group has said it carried out the attack, although militant group, Boko Haram have been carrying out running attacks in recent times in a number of places in the north including Yobo, Borno and Bauchi States.
However, some of their most spectacular attacks have taken place in Abuja and include the Independence Day bomb attack and the blowing up of the UN Headquarters building.
Our correspondent who visited some churches in the Federal Capital Territory however reports that the incident did not dampen the enthusiasm of worshippers as most were full as expected.
Rather, there is heightened security consciousness as unknown people entering some of the church premises were screened by local security details.


Photo: DPA
THELOCAL REPORT: Bavarians in a small village have almost finished their one-of-a-kind winter project: A Catholic church built entirely out of snow.
Leaders in the village of Mitterfirmiansreut near the German-Czech border originally wanted to open their “Snow Church” in mid December. But an unusual lack of the white stuff this winter meant that they only began building it a few weeks ago and won’t be able to open it until Wednesday.

“People are on the worksite through the day and night,” said Julia Herzig, spokeswoman for the church, which will be able to seat 200 parishioners and has a 17-metre tall tower made out of packed snow and ice.

The church is likely to attract curious tourists from throughout Germany before it melts in spring.

But project leaders said the point was to commemorate a protest by villagers sa century ago.

Back then local people were upset that they had to make an arduous 90-minute hike to the town of Mauth in order to go to church - and the regional Catholic authorities refused to build them one of their own.

So, over the Christmas season the villagers built a church entirely out of snow and ice as a protest.

The modern version of the Snow Church has run into a few challenges. Catholic leaders have expressed scepticism and the local Bishop has refused to officially consecrate the structure.

It remains unclear whether the project will make money. It’s being bankrolled by local people excited about the idea, but costs have already reached six figures.

“We are still looking for sponsors,” Herzig said.


ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE RELEASE: Archbishop Denis Hart's 2011 Christmas message Print E-mail

Wednesday 21 December 2011
archbishophart-200pxArchbishop Denis Hart has issued the following Christmas message:
Christmas comes to a world filled with families grieving the loss of young Australians in war, the inroads of sickness which cuts life short, anger and wanton violence.
The birth of Jesus our Saviour as a baby reminds us that God's love is light in darkness, constancy of love and faithfulness, which invites us to live by the love that he has first shown us.
The blessings of Christmas are precious but fragile. A child is born into poverty. Kings worship at his crib, but another king threatens his life. This child becomes the world's greatest teacher, who offers us new hope and the means to be saved. He offers us the possibility of giving to others; our time, our interest, our love, and he promises us a joy beyond what we can imagine.
May Christmas be a time for God, who loved us first, and invites us to share his love with others. May we bring peace and hope to all we meet and receive it in rich measure ourselves, so that we can witness to the triumph of light and goodness over darkness and evil.
May Christ give peace to our hearts and minds.


UCAN REPORT: Parish Church reaches out to its non-Catholic neighbors reporter, Quang Tri town
December 26, 2011
Catholic Church News Image of Gala presents true meaning of Christmas
Residents of Quang Tri town watch cultural performances at a gala celebration on Christmas Eve in Tri Buu parish
A parish in central Vietnam held a Christmas gala yesterday in an effort to bring the message of the gospels to non-Christians in the region.
Some 500 guests from a variety of religious backgrounds visited the Tri Buu parish Church for cultural performances, a Nativity scene, the singing of Christmas carols and a meal of traditional foods.
Father Johng Baptist Le Quang Quy, head of the parish, said the event was an opportunity for the Church to educate its neighbors about the true meaning of Christmas.
“The special Christmas gala aims to provide Christmas meanings and Christian values for local no-Catholics, said the priest, who heads the Hue archdiocese’s Committee for Evangelization.
“Such events help bring Catholics and others to one another.”
He added that many people visited his parish Church to take photos of the Nativity scenes and attend rites in the Church.
Teresa Tran Thi My Dung, a parishioner, said she volunteered to serve visitors food, made many friends and explained the meaning of Christmas to them.
“This is a good opportunity to express our solidarity and good will to our neighbors.”
Le Dinh Lam, who attended the gala, said he and his family made their first visit to the Church.
“I want my two children to understand Catholicism and other faiths so that they can embrace a religion in the future,” the 30-year-old father said.
Fr Quy said that in the past some people who had been opposed to local Catholics have since become friends and have even cooperated in charity events as a result of evangelistic efforts such as the Christmas gala.
Tri Buu parish, in Quang Tri province, serves 926 Catholics among a total population of 30,000.


Matthew 10: 17 - 22
17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.


St. Stephen
Feast: December 26

Feast Day: December 26
Born: 1st century
Died: 35, Jerusalem
Patron of: casket makers; deacons; headaches; horses; masons
That St. Stephen was a Jew is unquestionable, himself owning that relation in his apology to the people. But whether he was of Hebrew extraction and descended of the stock of Abraham, or whether he was of foreign parents incorporated and brought into that nation by the gate of proselytism, is uncertain. The name Stephen, which signifies a crown, is evidently Greek; but the priest Lucian, in the history of the discovery of his relics, and Basil of Seleucia, inform us, that the name Cheliel, which in modern Hebrew signifies a crown, was engraved on his tomb at Caphragamala. It is generally allowed that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord; for immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, we find him perfectly instructed in the law of the gospel, endowed with extraordinary measures, both of the interior and exterior gifts of that divine Spirit which was but lately shed upon the church, and incomparably furnished with miraculous powers. The church of Christ then increased daily, and was illustrious for the spirit and practice of all virtues, but especially for charity. The faithful lived and loved one another as brethren, and were of one heart and one soul.
The rich sold their estates to relieve the necessities of the poor and deposited the money in one common treasury, the care whereof was committed to the apostles, to see the distribution made as everybody's necessity required. Heaven alone is free from all occasions of offence, and the number of converts being very great, the Greeks (that is, the Christians of foreign countries, who were born and brought up in countries which spoke chiefly Greek or at least were Gentiles by descent, though proselytes to the Jewish religion before they came over to the faith of Christ) murmured against the Hebrews, complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. The apostles, to provide a speedy remedy, assembled the faithful, and observed to them that they could not relinquish the duties of preaching and other spiritual functions of the ministry, to attend to the care of tables; and recommended to them the choice of seven men of an unblemished character, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, who might superintend that affair, that so themselves might be freed from distractions and incumbrances, the more freely to devote themselves without interruption to prayer and preaching the gospel. This proposal was perfectly agreeable to the whole assembly, who immediately pitched on Stephen, "a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost," and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte of Antioch. All these names are Greek; whence some think they were chosen among the Greeks in order to appease the murmurs that had been raised. But it frequently happened that Hebrews changed their names into Greek words of a like import when they conversed with Greeks and Romans, to whom several names in the Oriental languages sounded harsh, and were difficult to pronounce. Stephen is named first of the deacons, as Peter is of the apostles, says St. Austin. Hence he is styled by Lucian, archdeacon.
St. Stephen had the primacy and precedence among the deacons newly elected by the apostles, as St. Chrysostom observes, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, preached and pleaded the cause of Christianity with undaunted courage, confirming his doctrine by many public and unquestionable miracles. The number of believers were multiplied in Jerusalem, and a great multitude, even of the priests, obeyed the faith. The distinguished zeal and success of our holy deacon stirred up the malice and envy of the enemies of the gospel, who bent their whole force and all their malice against him. The conspiracy was formed by the Libertines (or such as had been carried captives to Rome by Pompey, and had since obtained their freedom), those of Cyrene in Lybia, of Alexandria, Cilicia, and Lesser Asia, who had each a distinct synagogue at Jerusalem. At first they undertook to dispute with St. Stephen; but finding themselves unequal to the task and unable to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke, they suborned false witnesses to charge him with blasphemy against Moses and against God. The indictment was laid against him in the Sanhedrim, and the saint was hauled thither. After the charge was read, Caiphas, the high priest, ordered him to make his defence. The main point urged. against him was that he affirmed that the temple would be destroyed, that the Mosaic sacrifices were but shadows and types, and were no longer acceptable to God, Jesus of Nazareth having put
an end to them. It pleased God to diffuse a heavenly beauty and a shining brightness on the saint's face, whilst he stood before the council, so that to all that were present it seemed as if it had been the countenance of an angel. According to the licence given him by the high priest to speak for himself, he made his apology, but in such a manner as boldly to preach Jesus Christ in the Sanhedrim itself. He showed that Abraham, the father and founder of their nation, was justified, and received the greatest favours of God without the temple; that Moses was commanded to erect a tabernacle, but foretold a new law and the Messiah; that Solomon built the temple, but it was not to be imagined that God was confined in houses made by hands, and that the temple and the Mosaic law were temporary ministrations, and were to give place when God introduced more excellent institutions. The martyr added, that this he had done by sending the Messiah himself; but that they were, like their ancestors, a stiff-necked generation, circumcised in body but not in heart, and always resisting the Holy Ghost; and that as their fathers had persecuted and slain many of the prophets who foretold the Christ, so they had betrayed and murdered Him in person, and though they had received the law by the ministry of angels, they had not observed it.
This stinging reproach touched them to the quick and kindled them into a rage, gnashing with their teeth at the holy martyr and expressing all the symptoms of unbridled passion. The saint, not heeding what was done below, had his eyes and heart fixed on higher objects, and being full of the Holy Ghost and looking up steadfastly to the heavens, saw them opened, and beheld his divine Saviour standing at the right hand of his Father appearing by that posture ready to protect, receive, and crown his servant. With this vision the saint was inexpressibly ravished, his soul was inspired with new courage, and a longing to arrive at that bliss a glimpse of which was shown him. His heart overflowed with joy and in an ecstasy, not being able to forbear expressing his happiness in the very midst of his enemies, he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." The Jews became more hardened and enraged by hearing the saint's declaration of this vision; and calling him a blasphemer, resolved upon his death without any further process. In the fury of their blind zeal they stayed not for a judicial sentence nor for the warrant of the Roman governor, without which no one could at that time be legally put to death amongst them. But stopping their ears against his supposed blasphemies, they with great clamour rushed upon him, furiously hauled him out of the city, and with a tempest of stones satiated their rage against him. The witnesses who, according to the Levitical law, were to begin the execution in all capital cases, threw their clothes at the feet of Saul, who thus partook of their crime. In the meantime the holy martyr prayed, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice and the greatest earnestness, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." When he said this he had fell asleep in the Lord. This word is used by the Holy Ghost elegantly to express the sweetness of the death of the just, which is to them a test after the toils of this painful life a secure harbour after the dangers of this mortal pilgrimage and the gate to eternal life. The edification and manifold advantages which the church received from the martyrdom of this great and holy man compensated the loss which it sustained in him. Certain devout men took order to inter him in a decent manner and made great mourning over him, though such a death was his own most glorious triumph and unparalleled gain. The priest Lucien, who recounts the manner of the miraculous discovery of his relics in the fifth century, informs us that they were deposited about twenty miles from Jerusalem, by the direction of Gamaliel and at his expense. St. Stephen seems to have suffered towards the end of the same year in which Christ was crucified.
In the whole life of our divine Redeemer we have the most perfect pattern of meekness. During his ministry he meekly bore with the weakness, ignorance, and prejudices of some; with the perverseness, envy, and malice of others; with the ingratitude of friends, and the pride and insolence of enemies. How affecting is the most patient silence which he held in the courts of unjust judges, and through the whole course of his passion! How did he confirm this example which he had given us by spending his last breath in fervent prayer for his murderers! With what ardour and assiduity did he press upon us the practice of this virtue of meekness, and inculcate its indispensable obligation and unspeakable advantage! St. Stephen inherited more perfectly this spirit in proportion as he was more abundantly replenished with the Holy Ghost. No one who is passionate, unforgiving, and revengeful, can be a follower of the meek and humble Jesus. In vain do such assume to themselves the honour of bearing his name. In charity, meekness, and humility, consists the very spirit of Christianity; and scarce anything dishonours religion more than the prevalence of the opposite spirit in those who make a profession of piety.