Christ's birth can bring peace, hope to suffering world, pope says |
People attend Pope Francis' Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 25.
VATICAN CITY — Christmas is a reminder that through the birth of Christ, hope and peace are possible and that only through his grace can humanity find peaceful solutions to the world's most difficult problems, Pope Francis said.
"Only God's mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst," the pope said Dec. 25. "Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war."
Heightened security around St. Peter's Square did little to dampen the spirits of an estimated 50,000 people attending the pope's solemn Christmas blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world). Many in the crowd dressed festively and applauded the music of the Vatican's marching band.
However, police and anti-terrorism task forces were a visible sign of a world shaken by violence and extremism; conflicts that have not even spared the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The pope prayed that Israelis and Palestinians would reach a peaceful agreement that would end the "conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region."
The pope also prayed that recently approved agreements would bring a quick end to the wars afflicting Syria and Libya, two countries ravaged by war for several years. He also prayed that the international community would find ways to end atrocities in Iraq, Yemen, Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Ukraine.
Christians persecuted for their faith were remembered as the pope prayed that "the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength" to those suffering.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Ramsey County Attorney's Office entered into a settlement agreement Dec. 18 on a civil petition regarding abuse that the county filed against the archdiocese in June. The 24-page agreement outlines child protection measures the archdiocese has already implemented or has promised to implement, and Ramsey County's oversight of those measures for three years.
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — A new national survey conducted by the Marist Poll shows that a majority of Americans said they were well aware of atrocities committed by Islamic State militants against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Nearly six in 10 Americans said they have heard "a great deal" or "a good amount" about the attacks by militants.
UNITED NATIONS — Fifty years after its promulgation, the Catholic Church retains a solid and irrevocable commitment to the Second Vatican Council's declaration on its relations with non-Christian religions. "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Time") is a living, vibrant process that must be continued into the future and could serve as a model for dialogue among men and women of goodwill in other religions, speakers at a U.N. panel said.
OK to fight back
COALCOMAN, Mexico — Father Emiliano Mendoza Magana, pastor of the St. James the Apostle Parish in this town of timber cutters, recalls parishioners coming to confessions in past years with questions about grabbing guns and fighting back against a marauding drug cartel. In early 2013 he recognized an uprising was in the offing state against the Knights Templar drug cartel, which carried out crimes such kidnappings, extortion of local lumber mills and cooking up methamphetamines in clandestine kitchens — even as it preached its own homespun religion. Priests like Father Mendoza confront such conundrums constantly in this oft-forgotten corner of the country, where poor parishioners pepper them with questions on the propriety of planting marijuana to pay medical bills, families face the horrors of kidnapping for ransom and young people sometimes see illegal activities as their only alternatives. Pope Francis will visit Mexico Feb. 12-17, a trip that should provide attention to peripheral places often at the heart of the country's challenges with inequality, impoverishment and drug cartels — all issues an image-conscious federal government has preferred to avoid in favor promoting an economic agenda.
MANILA, Philippines — While Philippine church leaders prepare the country to host the International Eucharistic Congress in late January, some laypeople are still not quite sure just what the event is. At the parking lot of Asia Pacific College in a quiet Manila-area neighborhood, Dwight Paolo and a couple of friends took a guess at what exactly was the International Eucharistic Congress. When told the Congress is a weeklong series of seminars and activities that focus on Christ in the Eucharist, and that it would be attended by Catholics from around the world, he laughed. Paolo said he would not be going to the Congress in Cebu City in the central Philippines but said he would tell his parents "who are religious" about it.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, thus paving the way for her canonization. Pope Francis signed the decree for Blessed Teresa's cause and advanced three other sainthood causes Dec. 17, the Vatican announced. Although the date for the canonization ceremony will be officially announced during the next consistory of cardinals in February, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Vatican office organizing the Holy Year of Mercy events, had said it would be Sept. 4.
— Catholic News Service
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