Papal document on financial impropriety imminent

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Thursday plans to publish three important documents regarding its financial operations, including a papal letter on financial impropriety and a new statute to prevent money-laundering and other illegal practices.

The documents come several months after Italian treasury police, in a money-laundering probe, seized 23 million euros (US$30 million) that had been deposited in a Rome bank account by the Vatican bank.

The Vatican has been working for some time with Italian and international authorities to comply with procedures that ensure funds are not used for terrorism or money-laundering. The new documents apparently represent the fruit of those efforts.

In response to early and inaccurate leaks, the Vatican press office identified the new documents today:

– an apostolic letter by Pope Benedict XVI “concerning prevention and countermeasures against illegal activities in the financial and monetary sector.”

– a statute regarding the “Financial Information Authority.”

– a law concerning prevention and countermeasures against the laundering of funds from criminal activities and the financing of terrorism.

The Vatican said a lengthy communiqué would accompany the documents, to facilitate their “correct interpretation.”

In 2009, Pope Benedict named Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, an Italian banker and professor of financial ethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, as president of the Vatican bank, known formally as the Institute for the Works of Religion. The appointment was seen at the time as a move toward greater transparency in the bank’s operations.

Italy’s seizure of Vatican bank funds in September upset Vatican officials, who said the operations in question were legitimate and documented. A statement issued by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State said the Vatican bank was committed to “full transparency” in its operations.

The Vatican bank was involved in a major Italian banking scandal in the 1980s, when fraud led to the collapse of Italy’s Banco Ambrosiano. Although denying wrongdoing, Vatican bank officials made what they called a “good-will payment” of about $240 million to the failed bank’s creditors.

Pope condemns ‘absurd violence’ against Christian churches

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI today condemned a series of deadly attacks against Christian churches and other targets around the world at Christmas time.

The pope appealed for peace after bombs went off in churches in the Philippines and Nigeria, killing or wounding several worshipers. In Pakistan, a suicide bombing against a World Food Program depot left at least 40 dead.

Here is a CNS translation of the pope’s appeal:

At this time of holy Christmas, the desire and the pleas for peace have become still more intense. But our world continues to be marked by violence, especially against the disciples of Christ. I learned with great sadness of the attack on a Catholic church in the Philippines, during the celebration of the Christmas Day liturgy, as well as attacks against Christian churches in Nigeria. The earth has also been stained with blood in other parts of the world, like Pakistan. I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the victims of this absurd violence. Once again I make an appeal to abandon the path of hatred in order to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and bring security and tranquility to these dear populations. On the day in which we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, who lived the dramatic experience of having to flee into Egypt because of the homicidal fury of Herod, let us remember all those, in particular families, who are forced to abandon their homes because of war, violence and intolerance. I invite you, therefore, to join me in praying fervently that the Lord may touch people’s hearts and bring hope, reconciliation and peace.

A papal appeal for China on Christmas

VATICAN CITY — In his Christmas Day “urbi et orbi” blessing to the city of Rome and to the world, Pope Benedict appealed for respect for religious freedom, particularly in China, and for protection of Christian minorities in places like Iraq.

The pope also urged new efforts toward peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land, and prayed for victims of natural disasters and disease in Haiti and other countries.

Afterward, the pope expressed Christmas greetings in 65 languages, including Chinese, Russian and Arabic. In English, he said: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the savior has been born for us.”

Here is the Vatican’s English-language translation of the pope’s “urbi et orbi” talk:

“Verbum caro factum est” – “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14).

Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is “Emmanuel”, God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus.

This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth! Being in his presence, observing his works and hearing his words, they recognized in Jesus the Messiah; and seeing him risen, after his crucifixion, they were certain that he was true man and true God, the only begotten Son come from the Father, full of grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:14).

“The Word became flesh”. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love. Those who love desire to share with the beloved, they want to be one with the beloved, and Sacred Scripture shows us the great love story of God for his people which culminated in Jesus Christ.

God in fact does not change: he is faithful to himself. He who created the world is the same one who called Abraham and revealed his name to Moses: “I am who I am … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob … a God merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (cf. Ex 3:14-15; 34:6). God does not change; he is Love, ever and always. In himself he is communion, unity in Trinity, and all his words and works are directed to communion. The Incarnation is the culmination of creation. When Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, was formed in the womb of Mary by the will of the Father and the working of the Holy Spirit, creation reached its high point. The ordering principle of the universe, the Logos, began to exist in the world, in a certain time and space.

“The Word became flesh”. The light of this truth is revealed to those who receive it in faith, for it is a mystery of love. Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history.

In the night of the world a new light was kindled, one which lets itself be seen by the simple eyes of faith, by the meek and humble hearts of those who await the Savior. If the truth were a mere mathematical formula, in some sense it would impose itself by its own power. But if Truth is Love, it calls for faith, for the “yes” of our hearts.

And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence.

“The Word became flesh”. The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. “Emmanuel”, God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that his Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbor, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the one born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

May the birth of the Savior open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Côte d’Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

May the birth of the Savior strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of “God-with-us” grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all.

Dear brothers and sisters, “the Word became flesh”; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!



‘In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God’

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica tonight, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the birth of Christ as an event that overcame the “infinite distance between God and man.”

The liturgy, which began at 10 p.m. Rome time, was broadcast live around the world.

In his homily, the pope offered a prayer to Jesus:  “Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family.”

Here is the Vatican’s English-language translation of the pope’s homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

“You are my son, this day I have begotten you” – with this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel. The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the “Son of God” through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which he grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into his own being. The reading from the prophet Isaiah that we have just heard presents the same process even more clearly in a situation of hardship and danger for Israel:  “To us a child is born, to us a son is given. The government will be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:6). Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God’s personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true in a way that would still have been unimaginable at the time of Isaiah. Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. This child is truly born of God. It is God’s eternal Word that unites humanity with divinity. To this child belong those titles of honor which Isaiah’s coronation song attributes to him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Yes, this king does not need counselors drawn from the wise of this world. He bears in himself God’s wisdom and God’s counsel. In the weakness of infancy, he is the mighty God and he shows us God’s own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.

Truly, the words of Israel’s coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. In all of them, those words about divine sonship, about installation into the heritage of the peoples, about making the ends of the earth their possession (Ps 2:8) were only pointers towards what was to come – as it were signposts of hope indicating a future that at that moment was still beyond comprehension. Thus the fulfillment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. It is greater in the sense that this child is truly the Son of God, truly “God from God, light from light, begotten not made, of one being with the Father”. The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. God has not only bent down, as we read in the Psalms; he has truly “come down”, he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel – God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth. He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God’s own peace. This child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the “rod of his oppressor” is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the “garment rolled in blood” (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were  for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfill the prophecy that “of peace there will be no end” (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world – the “kingdom of righteousness, love and peace”.

“Mary gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel’s history had pointed. Luke calls the child the “first-born”. In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, “first-born” does not mean the first of a series of children. The word “first-born” is a title of honor, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow or not. So Israel is designated by God in the Book of Exodus (4:22) as “my first-born Son”, and this expresses Israel’s election, its singular dignity, the particular love of God the Father. The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus “the first-born”, simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy. The first-born belongs to God in a special way – and therefore he had to be handed over to God in a special way – as in many religions – and he had to be ransomed through a vicarious sacrifice, as Saint Luke recounts in the episode of the Presentation in the Temple. The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. Saint Paul amplified and deepened the idea of Jesus as firstborn in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians: Jesus, we read in these letters, is the first-born of all creation – the true prototype of man, according to which God formed the human creature. Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. Finally, it is said to us that he is the first-born of many brothers. Yes indeed, now he really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood – not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus, but the new brotherhood in which we are God’s own family. This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger. Let us pray to him: Lord Jesus, who wanted to be born as the first of many brothers and sisters, grant us the grace of true brotherhood. Help us to become like you. Help us to recognize your face in others who need our assistance, in those who are suffering or forsaken, in all people, and help us to live together with you as brothers and sisters, so as to become one family, your family.

At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14). The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God’s glory – “we praise you for your glory”. We praise you for the beauty, for the greatness, for the goodness of God, which becomes visible to us this night. The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. God’s glory, from which all beauty derives, causes us to break out in astonishment and joy. Anyone who catches a glimpse of God experiences joy, and on this night we see something of his light. But the angels’ message on that holy night also spoke of men: “Peace among men with whom he is pleased”. The Latin translation of the angels’ song that we use in the liturgy, taken from Saint Jerome, is slightly different: “peace to men of good will”. The expression “men of good will” has become an important part of the Church’s vocabulary in recent decades. But which is the correct translation? We must read both texts together; only in this way do we truly understand the angels’ song. It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if he had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralizing interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together. So this part of the angels’ message is both promise and call at the same time. God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.

Saint Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk 2:13f.). But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God’s heavenly glory. So this angelic song has been recognized from the earliest days as music proceeding from God, indeed, as an invitation to join in the singing with hearts filled with joy at the fact that we are loved by God. Cantare amantis est, says Saint Augustine: singing belongs to one who loves. Thus, down the centuries, the angels’ song has again and again become a song of love and joy, a song of those who love. At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men. Yes, indeed, we praise you for your glory. We praise you for your love. Grant that we may join with you in love more and more and thus become people of peace. Amen.

His birthplace is Bethlehem too

“Omahan Tony Bakhit shares a special connection to Jesus,” writes Lisa Maxson in the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Neb. “His birthday is Dec. 25. And he was born in Bethlehem.”

When he lived in Bethlehem, Bakhit attended Mass at the Church of the Nativity with his family until he was about 11 years old. Tradition holds that the church is built over the spot where Jesus was born.

In the Pittsburgh Diocese, the 7-year-old sextuplets of Joe and Erin Perry, along with their 11-year-old brother, Parker, are anxiously awaiting Santa’s visit to their Ohio Township house this evening.

Catholic students create a winning mini-documentary about homelessness

“Homelessness is becoming a problem of epic proportions,” seventh-grader Maeve Geraghty tells the camera in an award-winning mini-documentary created by her religious education class at St. John Vianney Catholic School in Kailua, Hawaii.

The production won the grand prize in the 2010 Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development. An announcement on the contest lists all the winners, who include students from Catholic schools in Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Amsterdam, N.Y.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Maeve and her classmates learned some important lessons about homelessness in the nation and in their own state. They teach viewers something, too, such as the fact that in the U.S., there are 750,000 homeless people. In Hawaii there are 14,000, and families with children make up 40 percent of that number.

The primary cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. Other factors include low-paying jobs; mental illness and substance abuse, and the lack of services available for people in those situations; and unempolyment and domestic violence.

The Hawaii seventh-graders’ film focuses on Family Promise, which brings faith communities together to help shelter people by taking turns offering them temporary quarters. Participating congregations also mobilize volunteers to help provide other services and resources to the families in need. The Hawaii affiliate is one of several operating in 41 states and the District of Columbia. The Family Promise  organization was founded about 20 years ago.

Christmas with the pope online

Pope Benedict XVI walks near a figurine the baby Jesus as he prepares to give Communion during last year's Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Celebrating Christmas with the pope at home or on the go couldn’t be easier. All you need is an Internet connection or an iPhone.

Today the Vatican announced that it is offering a new “Smooth Streaming” service to broadcast papal Christmas events via the websites of Vatican Radio, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the council’s Pope2you site and iPhone.

The CNS Crossplayer, available on client websites such as this, also offers a “Vatican Live” feed from the Vatican Television Center of papal ceremonies in addition to other colorful content produced by CNS staff in Washington DC and Rome.

The new “Smooth Streaming” technology means people will experience top quality video in high definition.

The papal events that will be broadcast live over the Internet and iPhone are the following (listed in local Rome time):

Christmas Eve Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica Friday Dec. 24 starting at 10pm.

Christmas Day message and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing from St. Peter’s Square Sat. Dec. 25 starting at 12 noon.

Mass for World Day of Peace from St. Peter’s Basilica Sat. Jan. 1 starting at 10am.

Live commentary will be available in six languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Portuguese) and one channel will offer live audio with no commentary.

Commentary in Chinese will be available for the Christmas Eve Mass and commentary in Arabic will be offered for New Year’s Day.

Canadian named to lead Haitian church rebuilding campaign

A Canadian civil engineer with three decades of experience in project management and construction oversight has been hired by the Haitian Conference of Catholic Bishops to oversee church reconstruction in the earthquake-stricken country.

Quebec native Yves Lacourciere will take on the task of rebuilding dozens of parishes, schools, convents and community buildings that were destroyed in the Jan. 12 quake that killed an estimated 230,000 people.

Officially, he will be director general of the bishops’ recently approved Proximite Catholique avec Haiti et son Eglise, with the acronym PROCHE. Translated, the organization’s name means “closeness to Haiti and its church.”

In announcing Lacourciere’s appointment, Archbishop Louis Kebreau of Cap-Hatien, president of the Haitian bishops’ conference, said in a statement the hiring “is an important step forward in putting the necessary structures in place that will ensure that such a tragic loss of life can be avoided in the future.”

Lacourciere has been charged with building a team to ensure that new church structures will be built under modern-day standards so that they can withstand a powerful earthquake or major hurricane.

He will have about $33 million to work with. The money represents 40 percent of the $83 million raised in a special collection in U.S. parishes. The remaining $50 million went to Catholic Relief Services for earthquake relief and recovery.

Largely put together by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services with the support of church organizations around the world, PROCHE was agreed to by the Haitian bishops in September at a meeting in Miami. The program’s structure will require all parish construction projects to be approved before work can begin.

Lacourciere is familiar with the challenges posed by a developing nation. He has overseen building project in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Qatar. He also was part of a United Nations team responsible for overseeing engineering projects and business transformation in Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia between 2000 and 2004.

The joys of being an intern at the CNS Rome bureau

CNS Rome correspondent, Carol Glatz, and Rita Fitch, our intern from Villanova University, enjoying a meal in Rome. (CNS photo by Paul Haring).

VATICAN CITY — We here at the Rome bureau have the great pleasure of working with interns from Villanova University.

Rita Fitch, a senior from Scarsdale, New York, wrote an item for our blog about her experience and we’d like to share it with you here:

“I had the unique opportunity of living in Rome, not as a tourist, but as an intern at the Catholic News Service Rome bureau, which meant I had some of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, including seeing the Apostolic Palace.

The doors of the Apostolic Palace were opened to the public for a short meet-and-greet on Nov. 20 after the hat giving ceremony for 24 newly-elected cardinals.

If you have ever visited St. Peter’s Basilica, picture going though the outdoor security check and then walking toward the Swiss Guards who stand in front of a set of large bronze doors where most people stop to take pictures. Not many people notice or think about what lies beyond those doors.

I can now tell you it is an absolutely wondrous place. After the Swiss Guards let me pass, I climbed a huge granite staircase leading beyond where my eye could take me.

Up the stairs there was room after room with sky-high ceilings and beautiful frescos; every inch of the palace was a work of art.

This “open house” night was filled with cardinals, archbishops, and pilgrims, some of whom were even dancing and singing traditional songs. I was able to wander freely and take it all in. Seeing the new cardinals up close in their vibrant red robes was overwhelming.

This was just one of the amazing experiences I encountered while working at CNS.

Two weeks before visiting the Apostolic Palace I was at St. Peter’s Square watching the general audience as Pope Benedict announced the names of who would be made a cardinal.

Every day I did something new and exciting, and my family and friends could not believe my work included:

  • Attending press conferences at the Vatican Press Office, including one on the release of a new book-length interview with the pope.
  • Seeing firsthand the canonization Mass of five new saints.
  • Going behind Vatican City walls for the unveiling of a new state-of-the-art broadcasting trailer.
  • Attending a special preview tour of a new Vatican Library exhibit.

I even happened to be in a photo in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, from a press conference I had attended!

The Vatican Press Office is always abuzz with journalists and through this experience I was able to see all the steps involved in composing a good story: the speeches, interviews, research, and the writing of the final piece.

Every week I was able to write and see my articles published with my byline. I have learned so much about being a journalist and the workings of the Vatican. All in all my internship at CNS was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Pope to host post-Christmas lunch for the poor

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict is taking time after Christmas to host a Vatican lunch for the poor and to visit children in a Rome hospital.

On Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen, people served by shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity will join the pope for lunch in the atrium of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

In addition to giving the pope the chance to personally offer a meal to the disadvantaged, the event also commemorates this year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who was born in Yugoslavia in on Aug. 26, 1910. She was beatified in 2003.

The Vatican also announced that on Jan. 5, the eve of the Epiphany, the pope will visit young patients at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. While he is there, he will bless a spina bifida center and distribute gifts to the children who receive care there. Gemelli is Rome’s biggest Catholic hospital.

The pope’s will preside over a whole slate of regular Christmas activities, too, including Christmas Eve midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Urbi et Orbi blessing to the city of Rome and the world on Christmas Day. On Dec. 26 he prays the Angelus and talks to pilgrims from his window above St. Peter’s Square, and on Dec. 29 he holds his regular general audience.

On New Year’s Eve at St. Peter’s, the pope will lead Vespers and the singing of the Te Deum, a traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of salvation in Christ. On Jan. 1, the church marks World Peace Day, and the pope’s message this year focuses on religious freedom and its contribution to peace. The pope will celebrate Mass and pray the Angelus on New Year’s Day.

To finish up the Christmas holidays, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

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