Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Vatican City, 4 December 2012 (VIS) - A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office this morning to present the International Congress "Ecclesia in America" on the Church in the American continent, which will take place in Vatican City from 9 to 12 December. The Congress is promoted by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Knights of Columbus in collaboration with the Institute for Guadalupan Studies. Participating in the conference were Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Professor Guzman Carriquiry, secretary of the same Commission, and Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
Cardinal Ouellet began by recalling the Synodal Assembly that took place in November and December 1997, convoked by Blessed John Paul II, which was dedicated to the American continent and addressed the theme of the "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ: The way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America". This theme will inspire the Congress as it works towards its aim of "re-examining the prophetic intuition of Blessed John Paul II and the basic content of the exhortation 'Ecclesia in America', as well as intensifying the communion and co-operation of the Churches in Canada and the United States with the Churches of Latin America in order to address common problems and challenges faced by the mission of the Church in the American continent".
"The valuable heritage of Christian faith, which is at the origin of the American 'New World' and inspires the life of its people, is now subject to erosion caused by waves of secularisation and the impact of a global culture increasingly distant from and hostile to the proliferation of 'sects', and needs to be revitalised, reformulated and brought up to date. The encounter between the strengths and experiences of the Churches of God from different latitudes of the continent will surely be fruitful and rewarding. Such an exchange already occurs within the providential 'laboratory' created by the increasingly important Hispanic presence in the United States and Canada".
The cardinal went on to mention some of the common problems and challenges which have arisen during the last fifteen years and which the Churches of North, Central and South America must face together. "The theme of immigration is a controversial topic in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America; narcotrafficking networks, drug abuse and related policies are subject of serious concern and debate; there is an increase in urban violence, especially among marginalised youths; the culture of life and the institution of the family are gravely threatened throughout the continent; the defence and promotion of religious liberty is of concern everywhere, and situations of poverty and indigence are widespread. ... This is all located within a context of shifting political, economic and cultural relationships between the United States, Canada, and the countries of Latin America, which are seeking improved dialogue, comprehension and respect, and solidarity and justice".
In order to face these problems "in the light of the Church's mission", it is fundamental to "strengthen the sense of communion in each of the Churches and among them. This international Congress hopes to co-operate in the creation of networks of friendship throughout the continent, with a loyal sense of belonging to the Church. Without true, strong unity, she cannot hope to exercise missionary and social influence. In this respect, it can be understood why this inter-American Congress is being held in the Vatican. Indeed, this highlights the universal care of the Churches which represent over fifty percent of the world's Catholics, in trust and devotion to Peter's Successor, universal Pastor, first witness and guarantor of unity and communion".
Professor Guzman Carriquiry explained that the congress will be attended by over two hundred participants linked to the American continent, including both clergy and lay persons. It will open and conclude with two Eucharistic celebrations: the first on 9 December in St. Peter's Basilica, in which the Holy Father will greet the participants, and the second on 12 December, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina.
On the morning of 10 December in the Synod Hall, debates will be held on "the event in Guadalupe as the origin of evangelisation in the New World", "The post-Synodal Exhortation: prophecy, teaching and commitment" and "The Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in America' with the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of the new evangelisation and mother of the civilisation of love". Later there will be a discussion on fundamental issues regarding co-operation between Churches throughout the continent. The day conclude with the conference "The meaning of the Year of Faith", presented by Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On 11 December participants will pray the rosary before the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican Gardens, followed by a screening of a documentary on the image of the Patron of the Americas. On 12 December participants will attend the Holy Father's general audience. In the afternoon Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley O.F.M., archbishop of Boston, USA, will lead a conference on "Scenarios and proposals for communion and co-operation between the Churches of the Americas and for solidarity among their peoples".
Carriquiry added, "The results of the Congress will be communicated to the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the Episcopal Conferences of the continent, and to the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).
Vatican City, 4 December 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Alberto German Bochatey O.S.A., rector of the Santa Monica International College, Rome, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of La Plata (area 4,652, population 917,000, Catholics 845,792, priests 146, permanent deacons 6, religious 396), Argentina. The bishop-elect was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1955 and ordained a priest in 1981. He studied philosophy in the monastery of Santa Maria de la Vid in Spain and theology in Rome. He has held the roles of director of the Institute of Bioethics at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, editor of the magazine "Vida y etica". In 2010 he became rector of the Santa Monica International College in Rome.




by Tomaso Mammo*
The response to the archbishop's initiative "really surprised everyone." Some of the money will go to the Sick Children's Hospital and people who need treatment and drugs. For Mgr Sako, bringing "Christ's joy to their hearts" at Christmas brings a message of "hope, dynamism and sharing".

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - On the first Sunday of Advent, young people in Kirkuk, an archdiocese in northern Iraq, raised funds for the city's poor kids. At the express wish of Mgr Louis Sako, this initiative of solidarity for children and the needy is central to Christmas celebrations. The money raised, as indicated by sources inside the archbishopric, will go to "Christians and Muslims." The faithful's generosity "surprised everyone."
On Sunday, Mgr Sako asked the boys and girls of Kirkuk-scene of a bloody power struggle between Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds and Shias for control of the oil fields around the city-to support fund raising in the city's four parishes. The initiative is part of the events and activities that characterise the weeks of Advent ahead of Christmas.
In his appeal, the archbishop said that the birth of Christ is "not a past event" for Christmas is a message of "hope, dynamism and sharing" with others that is still valid nowadays. The prelate also stressed the fact that the feast day is a sign of faith working "through love".
"So many people have helped us in the past during times of tribulation and suffering. Now it is our turn, as a token of our gratitude, to give others a helping hand. Compassion towards our suffering brothers, showing them our solidarity, is an integral part of our faith."
By order of the archbishop, the money will be "distributed to Christian and Muslim orphans" without distinctions of religion or ethnicity. Some of the money will also go to the Children's Hospital, to poor families, and sick people in need of treatment and drugs.
The money will be handed over by "Santa Clause groups" who will bring "Christ's joy to their hearts."
*Priest in Iraq from the Order of Discalced Carmelites (ODC)


Agenzia Fides REPORT - "The M23 has withdrawn from the center of Goma, but still controls the airport and the surroundings of the city. It has not withdrawn 20 km from Goma as it was announced, " says to Fides Agency Fr. Loris Cattani, a Xaverian missionary and an animator of the "Peace Network in Congo," which follows the evolution of the situation in Goma, capital of North Kivu (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo), a few days before the withdrawal of the rebel movement M23 .
"Among the population, it is further stated that the military of the M23 have remained in the city, disguised as Congolese policemen or civilians," the missionary continues. "In Goma, however relative calm prevails after the arrival of 1,500 police officers and about 800 men of the Congolese army sent by the government in Kinshasa."
On the political front, Fr. Cattani said that "in a few days negotiations between the Congolese government and the M23 are expected to start, and representatives of the political opposition and civil society members of North and South Kivu are expected to participate." The first phase of negotiations will be held in Kampala (Uganda), and then will move to Brazzaville (Republic of Congo) with the mediation of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.
"Rwanda and Uganda, which had been indicted by UN experts to support the M23, are now playing the role of mediators. In this way, on the one hand they exonerate themselves from accusations of complicity with the rebels, and on the other continue to have a say in the east of the DRC, " concludes Fr. Cattani. (L.M.) 


Meaning of Christmas alive in the heart of Melbourne

Tuesday 4 December 2012

By Fiona Basile
Melbourne’s City Square on the corner of Swanston and Collins Street has been transformed into a ‘Christmas Square’ featuring a 3D pop-up Nativity scene, an interactive digital Nativity story book and a Nativity word wall ensuring onlookers remember the traditional and true meaning of Christmas.

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Rev. James Barr of the Welsh church led the opening and blessing of the Nativity scene, story book and word wall last Friday on behalf of Melbourne City Churches in Action (MCCIA) and the City of Melbourne. Rev. Barr is the Convenor of MCCIA which is an ecumenical organisation with representatives from the 16 churches in the inner city of Melbourne.
According to City of Melbourne’s website, City Square is “the centrepiece of Melbourne's Christmas decorations program”. The square has been “transformed into a magical wonderland ... Visitors can find Rudolph and his reindeer friends amongst the hedge maze, view a traditional nativity scene and an interactive story book, plus visit Santa in his house. By night experience daily sound and light shows, bringing a very special atmosphere to the city.”

"The dedication is to acknowledge the religious aspect of Christmas and recall the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.” The ceremony was marked by a choir singing traditional carols.
Christmas Square is an outdoor free event for people of all ages. It is accessible daily from 10am to 10pm, until 3 January 2013.

And while enjoying Christmas Square with the family, pop across the road to Melbourne Town Hall’s City Gallery, where award-winning pastry chefs have created a Gingerbread Village for public display. The entire village has been built out of gingerbread and includes popular iconic Melbourne landmarks such as the Melbourne Town Hall, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Luna Park.
Entry to the Gingerbread Village is free. Its open daily from 9am-5pm and is located at City Gallery in Melbourne Town Hall, 90-110 Swanston Street.



Luke 10: 21 - 24

21In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
22All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
23Then turning to the disciples he said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!
24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."


St. John Damascene
Feast: December 4

Feast Day:December 4
Born:676, Damascus
Died:December 4, 749, Mar Saba, Jerusalem
This Doctor of the Church was born in Damascus, Syria, and his father was a government official under both the Byzantine emperor and the Muslim rulers of Damascus. Receiving an excellent classical education, and fluent in Arabic as well as Greek, St. John Damascene worked in the Muslim court until the hostility of the caliph toward Christianity caused him to resign his position, about the year 700.
He migrated to Jerusalem and became a monk at Mar Sabas monastery near Jerusalem. He taught in the monastery, preached many of his luminous sermons in Jerusalem, and began to compose his theological treatises.
It was about this time that the iconoclast controversy shook the Churches of the East, when the Byzantine emperor ordered the destruction of images in Christian churches. John fought the heresy, bringing down upon himself the wrath of the emperor and the hatred of the iconoclast party.
He has left a rich legacy of writings, including his principal dogmatic work, , which was a , a refutation of heresy, an exposition of the Orthodox faith, and a study of contemporary religious issues. His writings on Mary constitute a true theology of the Mother of God, and his sermons of the saints, the liturgical feasts, and the Gospels show not only vast learning but also give us information about local customs and contemporary happenings.
Since he lived in the midst of political and theological turmoil, John wrote much to clarify true doctrine and to do his part in spreading the Gospel. The fact that he lived and worked in Jerusalem itself gives his sermons, delivered at many of the holy places, a special appeal.
He died at a very old age, some say one hundred four, in the midst of his labors, beloved by his fellow monks and revered by the people. He was buried at the monastery of Mar Sabas and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1890.


St. Barbara
Feast: December 4

Feast Day:December 4
Patron of:Artillery gunners, masons, mathematicians, miners, military engineers, stonecutters, against lightning, anyone who works at risk of sudden and violent death
There is no reference to St. Barbara contained in the authentic early historical authorities for Christian antiquity, neither does her name appear in the original recension of St. Jerome's martyrology. Veneration of the saint was common, however, from the seventh century. At about this date there were in existence legendary Acts of her martyrdom which were inserted in the collection of Symeon Metaphrastes and were used as well by the authors (Ado, Usuard, etc.) of the enlarged martyrologies composed during the ninth century in Western Europe. According to these narratives, which are essentially the same, Barbara was the daughter of a rich heathen named Dioscorus. She was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. An offer of marriage which was received through him she rejected. Before going on a journey her father commanded that a bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this she was ill-treated by him and dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. The father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed. Another Christian named Juliana suffered the death of a martyr along with Barbara. A pious man called Valentinus buried the bodies of the saints; at this grave the sick were healed and the pilgrims who came to pray received aid and consolation. The emperor in whose reign the martyrdom is placed is sometimes called Maximinus and sometimes Maximianus; owing to the purely legendary character of the accounts of the martyrdom, there is no good basis for the investigations made at an earlier date in order to ascertain whether Maximinus Thrax (235-238) or Maximinus Daza (of the Diocletian persecutions), is meant.
The traditions vary as to the place of martyrdom, two different opinions being expressed: Symeon Metaphrastes and the Latin legend given by Mombritius makes Heliopolis in Egypt the site of the martyrdom, while other accounts, to which Baronius ascribes more weight, give Nicomedia. In the "Martyrologium Romanum parvum" (about 700), the oldest martyrology of the Latin Church in which her name occurs, it is said: "In Tuscia Barbarae virginis et martyris", a statement repeated by Ado and others, while later additions of the martyrologies of St. Jerome and Bede say "Romae Barbarae virginis" or "apud Antiochiam passio S. Barbarae virg.". These various statements prove, however, only the local adaptation of the veneration of the saintly martyr concerning whom there is no genuine historical tradition. It is certain that before the ninth century she was publicly venerated both in the East and in the West, and that she was very popular with the Christian populace. The legend that her father was struck by lightning caused her, probably, to be regarded by the common people as the patron saint in time of danger from thunder-storms and fire, and later by analogy, as the protector of artillerymen and miners. She was also called upon as intercessor to assure the receiving of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist at the hour of death. An occurrence of the year 1448 did much to further the spread of the veneration of the saint. A man named Henry Kock was nearly burnt to death in a fire at Gorkum; he called on St. Barbara, to whom he had always shown great devotion. She aided him to escape from the burning house and kept him alive until he could receive the last sacraments. A similar circumstance is related in an addition to the "Legenda aurea". In the Greek and present Roman calendars the feast of St. Barbara falls on 4 December, while the martyrologies of the ninth century, with the exception of Rabanus Maurus, place it on 16 December. St. Barbara has often been depicted in art; she is represented standing in a tower with three windows, carrying the palm of a martyr in her hand; often also she holds a chalice and sacramental wafer; sometimes cannon are displayed near her.