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Today’s News Dispatch: Dec. 17, 2015

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Happy 79th Birthday, Pope Francis!

Pope Francis has turned 79 today and many can’t wait to wish him Happy Birthday!

On social media, Twitter is using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayPopeFrancis, Facebook is full of posts, and even on LinkedIn, word has spread.

During the General Audience yesterday, the faithful in St. Peter’s Square sang birthday wishes for the Pope, and Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki gave him a birthday cake, in the shape of a sombrero.  

Teddy Reno, a 90-year-old Italian singer, wrote a song for Pope Francis’ day, which he sang for the Pontiff.

This morning, the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, also sent the Pope birthday wishes. (D.C.L.)



Pope’s Address to Young Members of Italian Catholic Action (A.C.R.)

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address to a representation of youngsters of Italian Catholic Action (A.C.R.) this morning in the Vatican:


Dear Young [Members of A.C.R],

It is always lovely for me to meet with you, to exchange greetings as Christmas approaches. Thank you for the cake! I welcome you affectionately and, through you, I wish to send my greeting and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all those that are part of the young people’s Catholic Action or, as you prefer to call it, the A.C.R.

Many are the children and youngsters that, thanks to your association, have the possibility to know Jesus more closely, and they are helped to live the Gospel in the family, at school, in the parish and in sport. By taking part in A.C.R. they feel more involved in the Church; they feel that Jesus is not far away but close, in our midst, and this gives so much joy! And thus you participate better in the catechisnm and at Mass, you learn to read and follow the Gospel and, little by little, you also become missionaries, that is, capable of bringing Jesus to others.

I heard that this year the motto of your formative journey is “Journeying towards You.”  very beautiful! It is true: we are all journeying towards the Lord, but so many do not think of it! Instead, you wish to live this “journey” fully. However, what does it mean to “journey towards the Lord’? It means to follow the way of the good, not that of evil; the way of forgiveness not that of the vendetta; the way of peace, not that of war; the way of solidarity, not that of egoism.

In this connection, the initiative of charity you carry out with God’s help, in favor of migrants in the diocese of Agrigento, is very good. May the Lord bless this project, which will give a hand to that community committed in an exemplary way in the reception of so many brothers and sisters who arrive full of hope but also of many wounds and needs, in search of peace and of bread. Yesterday in the Audience, a colored child was presented to me by his parents, a child who must be five months old, and they said to me: “He was born on the boat off the coast of Sicily.” So many, so many … so many children succeed in arriving, others do not. And all that you do for these people is good, thank you for doing it. You can give a special contribution to this initiative, with your enthusiasm and your prayer, which I suggest that you accompany with some self-denial, to share what is necessary with other youngsters who are deprived of it. In connection with self-denial, I would like to ask a question — but you, youngsters, answer — not the grownups. If you have two candies and you have your friend beside you who doesn’t have one, what do you do?  What do you do? [A child answered: “I give him one”]. You give it to him. And if you have one candy and he has nothing, what do you do? [A child answered: “I give him half!” Half! OK Go on this way.

I see that “important” leaders of Italian Catholic Action are accompanying you. I greet them cordially and thank them for the commitment with which they dedicate themselves to your Christian education.

I wish you all from my heart a happy and holy Christmas. I extend this wish to your families and to the whole of Catholic Action, in all the dioceses of Italy. May the Lord bless you and Our ady protect you. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Now we will all pray together to Our Lady. Hail Mary …

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]



Pope’s Address to Ambassadors From Guinea, Latvia, India, Bahrain

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to new ambassadors to the Holy See from Guinea, Latvia, India and Bahrain.

* * *

Mister Ambassadors,

I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of your countries to the Holy See: Guinea, Latvia, India and Bahrain. I thank you for the greetings you transmitted to me on behalf of your respective Heads of State and, in return, I wish to have transmitted to them, through your courtesy, my best wishes for their persons and for the carrying out of the high task entrusted to them. I pray God to grant to all your fellow citizens to live in peace and prosperity.

The Message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace, for which I chose the topic “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” was published two days ago. I am happy for today’s occasion to share with you attention to this challenge, which is so important: to collaborate together to promote in the world a culture of solidarity, which can oppose the globalization of indifference that, unfortunately, is one of the negative tendencies of our time. Many are the ways in which this attitude of indifference is manifested, and diverse also are the causes that concur to fuel it, but they are reduced essentially to an unbalanced humanism, in which man has taken God’s place and, therefore, has remained in turn a victim of several forms of idolatry. The very grave ecological crisis we are going through can also be traced back to this anthropological imbalance. (cf. Encyclical Laudato Si’, 115-121).

Indifference to God, to one’s neighbor and to the environment are linked to one another and fuel each other and, therefore, can only be opposed with an answer that addresses them all together, namely, with a renewed humanism, which puts the human being again in a correct relation with the Creator, with others and with Creation. As I said, it is about promoting a culture of solidarity and sharing, and this requires the commitment of all those that have responsibilities in the political, social, cultural and educational ambit. In this challenge, a decisive role is also played by the mass-media, which in our days influence in a notable measure personal and social attitudes. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on the professional and ethical qualification of the workers of this sector. At the same time, it remains indispensable to continue to invest in the school, not considered in an isolated way but in constant relation with families and with the social context, collaborating to reinforce an educational alliance that in diverse countries has been greatly weakened.

All this is necessary to overcome indifference and build peace. The year that is about to end was marked, unfortunately, by the multiplication of violent conflicts, be they bellicose or terrorist. On the other hand, this situation is arousing increasingly in more mature consciences, a non-violent but spiritual and moral reaction. It is this that we wish and must nourish with the means at our disposition and according to our responsibilities. In keeping with her mission, with the Jubilee of Mercy that has just begun, the Catholic Church proposes to spread throughout the world the spirit of forgiveness an
d reconciliation, calling the faithful and men and women of good will to open themselves to the gift of God’s grace and to practice what in our tradition are  the “works of spiritual and corporal mercy.” “Civil society is likewise called to make specific and courageous gestures of concern for their most vulnerable members, such as prisoners, migrants, the unemployed and the infirm” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2016, 8). Moreover, in this Jubilee Year, I wish to formulate an “appeal to national leaders for concrete gestures in favour of our brothers and sisters who suffer from the lack of labour, land and lodging” (Ibid.). On the international plane, I earnestly hope that every Nation will commit itself to renew its relations with the others, cooperating actively for the growth of fraternity also in the great family of peoples.  (cf. Ibid.).

Mister Ambassadors, before ending these reflections, I would like to address, through you, my fraternal greeting to the Pastors and faithful of the Catholic communities present in your countries. I encourage them cordially to collaborate always in a loyal way to the common good of the whole society. And they will be able to do so better and all the more, the more full religious freedom is accorded to them. For its part, the Holy See is honored to be able to establish with each one of you and with the countries you represent an open and respectful dialogue and a constructive collaboration. In this perspective, while your new mission begins officially, I express to you my best wishes, assuring you of the constant support of the different offices of the Roman Curia in carrying out your function. I invoke upon each one of you, upon your families and your collaborators an abundance of Divine Blessings.

Thank you!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]



Pope Francis to Open a Holy Door at Homeless Shelter in Rome

Pope Francis on Friday will open a Holy Door at the Caritas center for the homeless at Rome’s Termini Station.

The center, where homeless can find a bed and a meal, has been newly refurbished and is named after Caritas Rome founder Don Luigi Di Liegro and Pope St. John Paul II.

Speaking at the inauguration of the new centre, the present Director of Caritas Rome, Monsignor Enrico Feroci quoted the words of Don Luigi who said, “a city in which one man suffers less is a better city,» Vatican Radio reported.</p>

Those words are inscribed on the walls of the new cafeteria, which caters for up to 600 homeless people every evening and offers a respite from the streets where people can come for warmth, contact with others, and a good meal.



“O Antiphons” – The Advent Season’s Brightest Jewels

During the final week of Advent (December 17-23), the Church offers us an intense time of preparation for the feast of the Nativity, and the Roman Church in particular sings a series of antiphons at Vespers that magnificently set forth the nature of the coming One. 

Here is a rendering of this “season’s brightest jewels” that can help us understand more clearly how for Christians, Jesus has fulfilled the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Israel.

December 17  O Wisdom, O Holy Word of God (Sir. 24:3), you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care (Wisd. of Solomon  8:1).  Come and show your people the way to salvation (Isa. 40:3-5).

December 18  O Sacred Lord of Ancient Israel (Exod. 6:2, 3, 12), who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush (Exod. 3:2), who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:  come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

December 19  O Flower of Jesse’s Stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12); kings stand silent in your presence (Isa. 5:15); the nations bow down in worship before you.  Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid (Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37).

December 20  O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7); come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom (Isa. 42:7; Ps. 107:14; Luke 1:79).

December 21  O Radiant Dawn (Zech. 6:12), splendor of eternal light (Heb. 1:3), sun of justice (Mal 4:2):  come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79; Isa. 9:2).

December 22  O King of all the Nations, the only joy of every human heart (Hag 2:8); O Keystone (Isa. 28:16) of the mighty human arch (Eph. 2:14); come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust (Gen. 2:7).

December 23  O Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14; 8:8), king and lawgiver (Isa. 33:22), desire of the nations (Gen. 49:10), Savior of all, come and set us free, Lord our God.



Canada: Bishops Join With Rabbis to Point Out That Christians Are Now Most Persecuted Religious Group

The bishops of Canada have joined with the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus in writing a joint letter to Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, regarding the situation of Christians in various countries of the Middle East and Africa.

The letter was signed by the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Hamilton and President of the CCCB, and by one of the three Co Chairs of the Caucus, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl.

In their letter, they state that «while we recognize that many religious and ethnic communities are subjected to prejudice in various countries, many observers have noted in recent years that Christians experience religious persecution more than any other faith group on a global scale and in absolute numbers.»

«The Pew Research Center released findings this past February 26 which confirm that Christians around the world face more persecution, restrictions, hostility and harassment than any other religious group (Latest Trends in Religious Restrictions and Hostilities; http://www.pewforum.org/). Similar findings are reported by Aid to the Church in Need which regularly issues extensive research on the situation of religious freedom around the world.»

The letter is dated Dec. 15, following the last day of the 2015 Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, and just 10 days before Christmas. This is a season filled with hope, faithfulness and expectation for Jews and Christians, and both Hanukkah and Christmas are symbolized by the celebration of light even in the midst of shadows and darkness.

Read the letter here: http://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/Joint_Letter_to_Minister_Dion_re_Christians_in_Middle_East_-_EN.pdf




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