First Reading: Isaiah 41:13-20
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 145:1, 9, 10-11, 12-13
Gospel: Matthew 11:11-15
Today’s Events, Appearances Around the Diocese
SAN ANGELO, Baptist Memorial – Advent and Christmas Mass at 11:00 a.m.
CHRIST THE KING RETREAT CENTER
International Clergy Orientation Program
Catholic Daughters Christmas Party Advent Evening of Recollection
Today’s Headlines from the Catholic News Service
Excommunicated archbishop ordains two more married men as priests
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Raymond A. Grosswirth of Rochester, N.Y., and Dominic Riccio of Newark are the latest married men to be illicitly ordained Catholic priests by excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. Like the married Zambian archbishop who ordained them, the two were automatically excommunicated for participating in an ordination ceremony not sanctioned by the church. The ordinations took place Dec. 10 at Trinity Reformed Church in West New York, N.J., run by Patrick Trujillo, one of four men ordained as bishops by Archbishop Milingo in September. The ceremony came at the close of a three-day convention of Married Priests Now!, formed by the archbishop to promote a change in the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests in the Latin Church. Marianna Thompson, director of communications for the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., the diocese in which the ordinations took place, said in a statement that the archbishop’s “words and actions … fall outside the purview” of Paterson Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli and other local church officials. According to a report by The Associated Press, Archbishop Milingo told the two men to “teach the word of God and put into practice what you teach.” Riccio, 72, and his wife, Claire, have four children and two grandchildren. Grosswirth, 57, has been married since 1994 to his wife, Brenda.
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Newman Center at University of Illinois to expand
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (CNS) — Ground has been broken for a $26 million, 316-bed residence hall expansion at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign, which is in the Peoria Diocese. Father Gregory Ketcham, chaplain and director, called the beginning of construction on the long anticipated project “a momentous occasion for St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, for the Diocese of Peoria and for the Catholic Church throughout Illinois.” The new facility will address both an increasing demand for housing at Newman Hall — a 300-bed residence hall built in 1929 that has a waiting list of nearly 200 — and a lack of program space for outreach to the nearly 12,000 Catholic students at the University of Illinois. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria was scheduled to preside at the Dec. 2 groundbreaking and blessing ceremony, but was unable to attend because of heavy snow in the Peoria area. At a Nov. 21 press conference announcing the planned expansion, Bishop Jenky called St. John’s “the premier Newman Center in America.” It is staffed by six full-time priests and three women religious, and has a full-time lay staff of 55. In addition to the residence hall, it includes St. John’s Catholic Chapel as well as the Institute of Catholic Thought.
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Chicago cardinal rededicates chapel on campus of Iowa university
DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) — Christ the King Chapel on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport has been renovated and rededicated in hopes of energizing, renewing and rejuvenating students on their spiritual journey for years to come. Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago presided at the Dec. 10 rededication Mass attended by about 550 people. Overflow seating was placed throughout the chapel, including the reconciliation room. Cardinal George processed into the chapel with the bishops, abbot and about 25 priests. As a sign of repentance and a reminder of baptism, the cardinal blessed the congregation and the chapel with holy water. During his homily, Cardinal George referred to the Gospel reading from Matthew in which Christ promises to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The cardinal said the passage reminded him of the April 2005 conclave in which he participated to choose a successor to Pope John Paul II. The cardinal had a sense that “we had done our work and done it well” when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected and chose the name Benedict, in part, because Pope Benedict XV was a man of peace.
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Doubleday acquires rights to Pope Benedict’s first book as pontiff
NEW YORK (CNS) — Doubleday has acquired rights to publish the first book Pope Benedict XVI has written as the Holy Father. Bill Barry, vice president and publisher of the company’s religious publishing division, made the announcement Dec. 12 in New York. The book, titled “Jesus of Nazareth: From His Baptism to His Transfiguration,” is written for the general reader. It will be published next spring. The announcement said Doubleday acquired world English, first serial, audio and exclusive Spanish-language rights in North America from the Italian publisher Rizzoli, which licensed international rights to the book at the request of Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the Vatican publishing house.
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Moving in fast forward: 2006 saw acceleration of Benedict’s papacy
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The year 2006 saw an acceleration of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, highlighted by publication of the pope’s first encyclical, four foreign trips and important appointments at the Vatican and around the world. For what was supposed to be a pared-back papacy, it was a busy 12 months. The world will remember the big events: the pope’s November visit to Turkey and his prayer in the Blue Mosque, the earlier controversy over the pope’s remarks on Islam at the University of Regensburg, his encyclical proclaiming the simple Christian message that “God is love,” and his first consistory to induct 15 new cardinals. But most of the pope’s work did not make headlines and took place in quiet offices behind the Vatican’s walls. On this day-to-day level, the pace quickened for the pontiff, who turned 79 April 16 — three days before the first anniversary of his election. During 2005, it seemed the pope was easing into office; in 2006, his daily schedule was starting to look like that of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict held more than 700 private audiences during 2006, including some 360 “ad limina” meetings with individual bishops from dioceses on three continents. He gave more than 300 speeches or talks, celebrated more than 50 public Masses or prayer services and addressed close to a million people in his weekly general audiences.
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Vatican official: World has not been effective in helping Darfur
ROME (CNS) — The international community has failed to act effectively in putting an end to the tragic conflict and “horrific violation of human rights” taking place in the Darfur region of western Sudan, a Vatican official said. The “killing of children, sexual abuse and rape of girls and women, forced uprooting of (the) population, burning of villages, attacks on internally-displaced-people camps, targeting of unarmed civilians” are all part of the human and environmental disaster continuing to unfold in the region, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi. The Vatican’s representative to U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva spoke Dec. 12 at an emergency session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on the human rights situation in Darfur. Catholic News Service in Rome obtained a copy of his text. “The crisis under discussion has provoked debates and international complaints,” he said, but so far the international community has only responded with “insufficient effective actions.” The No. 1 priority should be concrete measures to end the killings, not wrangling over “political arrangements and commercial interests,” he said.
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Pope, Israeli official discuss problems of Christians in Holy Land
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Pope Benedict XVI raised questions regarding the situation of the dwindling Catholic population in the Holy Land, including in Bethlehem, the Vatican said. The Vatican said the pope voiced his concerns particularly in light of the approaching celebration of Christmas. The pope and prime minister met for 26 minutes Dec. 13 in a small meeting room in the back of the Vatican’s audience hall. Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh told a press conference Dec. 11 that a serious drop in Christian tourism to his town, emigration and Israel’s erection of a security fence cutting many Bethlehem residents off from jobs in nearby Jerusalem were having a disastrous impact on Bethlehem and its residents. Oded Ben-Hur, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, told Catholic News Service that the pope spoke about “the difficult situation of the Christian community in Bethlehem.” “The prime minister promised to do everything possible to alleviate” the community’s suffering and to ease Christians’ access to Bethlehem over the Christmas holidays, the ambassador said.
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Pope urges collaboration in fulfillment of church’s mission
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Preaching the Gospel and keeping the Christian community united requires the collaboration of all the church’s members, Pope Benedict XVI said. At his Dec. 13 weekly general audience, Pope Benedict focused on Timothy and Titus, “two close associates of St. Paul in his missionary journeys” to the earliest Christian communities. In St. Paul’s New Testament letters to Timothy and to Titus, the pope said, it is clear that although he was a tireless, authoritative preacher and founder of many Christian communities, “Paul relied on collaborators in fulfilling his mission.” “It is clear that he did not do everything himself, but counted on the support of trusted persons who shared his trials and his responsibilities,” the pope said. On the other hand, the letters illustrate “the willingness of these men to collaborate” and their readiness to assist St. Paul and to serve as his representative “even in difficult situations.” “They teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, thus contributing to building up Christ’s church,” he said.
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Pope laments deaths from curable diseases, sees right to treatment
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The incurably and terminally ill have a right to medical treatment and spiritual assistance to ease their suffering and help them die with dignity, Pope Benedict XVI said. In his annual message for the World Day of the Sick, the pope also decried the fact that too many poor people and people in underdeveloped nations are dying of diseases that are curable. “The church wishes to support the incurably and terminally ill by calling for just social policies which can help to eliminate the causes of many diseases and by urging improved care for the dying and those for whom no medical remedy is available,” the pope said in the message published Dec. 13. The World Day of the Sick is celebrated Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Benedict said the world needs to do more “to promote policies which create conditions where human beings can bear even incurable illnesses and death in a dignified manner.” In addition, he said, more structures must be put in place to ensure the dying have pain medication, human assistance and spiritual accompaniment as they end their earthly lives. “This is a right belonging to every human being, one which we must all be committed to defend,” he wrote.
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Millions flock to Mexican basilica to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe
MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Millions flocked to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe to mark the Marian feast and pay homage to the dark-skinned Mary often referred to as “mother of Mexico” and “patroness of the Americas.” In cars and caravans, on bicycles and on foot, pilgrims from across the nation — some traveling the last miles on their knees — converged on the basilica in northern Mexico City on the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and in the days leading up to it. City authorities estimated that more than 5 million people visited the basilica Dec. 12 and millions more in the preceding days. Many camped out on the surrounding streets, with only blankets to fend off temperatures that dipped close to freezing at night. On Dec. 12, crowds of the faithful filled the plaza adjacent to the basilica, mixing with scores of Aztec dancers in tribal garb who moved to booming drum beats. Some pilgrims strained to hear Mass celebrated in the crowded basilica, while others climbed nearby Tepeyac Hill, where Mary appeared 475 years ago. In 1531, Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego on the hillside where the basilica stands. When local clergy were dubious of Juan Diego’s claims, Mary gave him a cloak upon which her image was emblazoned — reportedly the same cloak that hangs in the basilica today.
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Vatican launches Christmas appeal for people with HIV/AIDS
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican has launched its annual Christmas appeal for urgently needed funding to treat the world’s poorest victims of HIV/AIDS. The head of the Vatican’s Good Samaritan Foundation, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, said with just $10 a donor can “light a Christmas candle on the tree of life” and help brighten the future by saving the life of an African with HIV/AIDS. A $10 donation marks just the start of a full year’s treatment of essential antiretroviral drugs, he said Dec. 11 on Vatican Radio. “If we have $220 we are able to treat an AIDS patient for all of 2007,” he said, “so why not light 22 candles on the Christmas tree and make it brighter with one human life saved in Africa?” Since its inception in September 2004 by the late Pope John Paul II, the foundation has distributed more than $600,000 in free medicine to some of the world’s poorest people who suffer from sometimes deadly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and AIDS. Much of the funding goes to AIDS patients, especially in Africa, Cardinal Lozano said. The foundation seeks to fill the gaps and provide treatment to people in the poorest countries where “there are many people abandoned and without anyone to help them,” he said.
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Children’s decision to be baptized brings Wyoming family to church
CASPER, Wyo. (CNS) — Joanne Demorest felt her sons would fare better in a small Catholic school than in public school and wouldn’t have to be so tough, as she put it, to survive socially. She was raised Catholic as a girl in Canada, but she had left the church some time ago, and was more interested in the academics at St. Anthony Tri-Parish School in Casper than the spiritual lessons. But shortly after they were enrolled, her boys decided they wanted to be baptized and their decision brought the whole family to church. In an interview with the Wyoming Register, newspaper of the Cheyenne Diocese, Demorest said she had to use the old “Because I’m the mom and you’re the kid” line to convince Connor, 9, and Carson, 6, to leave their friends at public school to attend St. Anthony. After about a month in the third grade, Connor came home with a question, “Mom, was I baptized?” She gulped and admitted, “No.” So Connor surprised her when he said he wanted to be baptized in the Catholic Church. Carson, who looks up to his big brother, wanted to be baptized too. “If Connor says it’s a great idea, it’s a great idea,” Demorest said. Demorest has been attending the school’s Mass along with her boys and is excited about what she sees as changes in the church. She’s even taking Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes to reconnect with the church’s teachings.
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Bend it like Al Bandak: Palestinian women faces challenges in soccer
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (CNS) — Every week as 17-year-old Marian Al Bandak takes off for soccer practice, she hears her grandmother’s criticism ringing in her ears: She is wasting her time playing a man’s sport; the boys won’t be interested in her; she should fix herself up. But Al Bandak, a tall, lithe outside midfielder on the Palestinian women’s national team, braces herself against the harsh words and determinedly slips out the door to make it to the weekly practice. The 12th grader at St. Joseph’s School in Bethlehem is not the only one on the team who faces family opposition. Sarab Shaer, 21, a Muslim, refuses to wear a veil. She defies her adoptive parents to come to practices from a neighboring village every week, taking a shared taxi through checkpoints for an almost-45-minute ride each way. The team lost its star goalie, Heba Said, who at age 22 succumbed to family opposition and quit the team when she reached marriageable age. “I don’t care. I love to play, and I keep playing,” said Al Bandak, whose family moved to Chile when she was 3 years old and returned two years ago. “I played when I was in Chile, and my mother and father support me. My father is a big soccer fan. Sometimes I get nervous listening to my grandmother, but then I go play and I relax. I’m crazy about soccer. I am going to play it all my life.”