Pope’s ‘Urbi et Orbi’ Blessing

At noon December 25, 2016  from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis addressed the following Christmas Message to a crowd of approximately 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace.” Let us welcome him!

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!

Today the Church once again experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Savior.

On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds:
“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be upon his shoulder;
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)

The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.

For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).

Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.

Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Above all in the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.

Peace to women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favored by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.

Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.

Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.

We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.

Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those who gravely and urgently need it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of cooperation.

Peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.

Peace – not merely the word, but a real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.

Peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.

Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.

Dear brothers and sisters,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!

[after the Blessing] 

To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other means of communication, I offer my greeting.

On this day of joy, we are all called to contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!

Pope: ‘Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the Child in the manger’

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Christians to allow themselves to be challenged by the Child in the manger, and also by the children of today’s world, so many of whom are suffering.

During the Holy Christmas Mass homily, celebrated in St. Peter’s  Basilica on Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, the Pope spoke of those children “who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father” , of those hiding underground to escape bombardment, of those  on the the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons” he said.

Please find below the official translation of  the full text of Pope Francis’ homily:

“The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (Tit 2:11).  The words of the Apostle Paul reveal the mystery of this holy night: the grace of God has appeared, his gift is free; in the Child given unto us the love of God is made visible. 

It is a night of glory, that glory proclaimed by the angels in Bethlehem and also by us today all over the world.  It is a night of joy, because from this day forth, and for all times, the infinite and eternal God is God with us: he is not far off, we need not search for him in the heavens or in mystical notions; he is close, he is been made man and will never distance himself from our humanity, which he has made his own.  It is a night of light: that light, prophesied by Isaiah (cf. 9:1), which would illumine those who walk in darkness, has appeared and enveloped the shepherds of Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:9).

The shepherds simply discover that “unto us a child is born” (Is 9:5) and they understand that all this glory, all this joy, all this light converges to one single point, that sign which the angel indicated to them: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).  This is the enduring sign to find Jesus.  Not just then, but also today.  If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes.  God is there.

With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox: it speaks of the emperor, the governor, the mighty of those times, but God does not make himself present there; he does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises.  In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small.  The Child who is born challenges us: he calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have.  It will help us to leave these things behind in order to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child, peace, joy and the meaning of life.

Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also allow ourselves to be challenged by the children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid “mangers that devour dignity”: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.  Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons.

The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness.  It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded.  This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7).  Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference.  Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized. 

Yet Christmas has essentially a flavour of hope because, notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light shines out.  His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us, as one of us.  He is born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”.  In this way he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love.  He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve.  Thus there is a direct thread joining the manger and the cross, where Jesus will become bread that is broken: it is the direct thread of love which is given and which saves us, which brings light to our lives, and peace to our hearts. 

The shepherds grasped this in that night.  They were among the marginalized of those times.  But no one is marginalized in the sight of God and it was precisely they who were invited to the Nativity.  Those who felt sure of themselves, self-sufficient, were at home with their possessions; the shepherds instead “went with haste” (cf. Lk 2:16).  Let us allow ourselves also to be challenged and convened tonight by Jesus.  Let us go to him with trust, from that area in us we feel to be marginalized, from our own limitations.  Let us touch the tenderness which saves.  Let us draw close to God who draws close to us, let us pause to look upon the crib, and imagine the birth of Jesus: light, peace, utmost poverty, and rejection.  Let us enter into the real Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds.  Then, in Jesus we will enjoy the flavour of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God.  With Mary and Joseph we pause before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for my life.

Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me.

Duterte: Give president sole power to declare martial law

President Rodrigo Duterte also wants to amend in the Constitution another ‘reckless reaction’ to the Marcos regime – the term limits on local officials
Jun A. Malig

Published 12:05 AM, December 23, 2016 | Updated 6:31 AM, December 23, 2016

Caption: CONSTI CHANGE? President Rodrigo Duterte points out difficulties in the current Constitution. Photo by Robinson Ninal/Presidential Photo

PAMPANGA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 22, said he wants the Constitution amended to make it less difficult for any president to declare martial law, saying the current safeguards were mere “reckless reaction” to what Filipinos experienced during Martial Law.

He also said there is a need to review the current term limit on local officials, where a maximum of 3 consecutive 3-year terms is allowed.

Article VII, Section 11, Paragraph 2 of the 1935 Constitution states: “The President shall be commander-in-chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and, whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent danger thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

But Section 18 of the same article of the 1987 Constitution replaced the martial law provision of the 1935 Constitution. It states that martial law may be declared by the president only in case of invasion or rebellion for a period of only 60 days.

The President is also required to submit a report to the Congress within 48 hours after the proclamation of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives would then vote jointly to revoke the proclamation or extend its effectivity if the invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.

The Supreme Court has the power to review the martial law declaration or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if any citizen questioned the sufficiency of the factual basis for the proclamation or suspension of the privilege of the writ and promulgate a decision within 30 days.

Flirting with martial law

“Kung mag-declare ako ng martial law at may invasion ngayon o giyera, I cannot proceed on and on, lalo na kung may gulo. Pupunta pa ako sa Congress, pupunta pa ako doon sa Supreme Court, if there is anybody who’d file a complaint to look into the factual, kung totoo ba, which you could not do,” Duterte said in a speech in Angeles City.

(If I declare martial law and there’s an invasion now or a war, I cannot proceed on and on, especially if there’s chaos. I’ll have to go to Congress, I’ll have to go to the Supreme Court, if there is anybody who’d file a complaint to look into the factual, if it’s true, which you could not do.)

“Eh kung iba ang Supreme Court, magsabi ang Congress yes, no ito, or no ito, yes itong isa? Saan mo ako ilagay? Kaya kailangan ko talagang palitan ‘yan,” Duterte said in a speech before community drug watch volunteers. (What if the Supreme Court says something else, Congress says yes, the other says no or the other says no and the other says yes? Where do I position myself? So I need to change that.)

The President, however, added: “There is a safety measure there. I’ll just tell you later.”

Duterte has flirted with the idea of declaring martial law in the past. In an October speech, he said the extent of the country’s drug problem has tempted him to declare martial law.

He has also said that if “forced,” he could suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus if lawlessness, particularly because of the illegal drug trade, persists.

In the past, Duterte had conceded that martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos did not improve Filipinos’ lives. But in his Thursday speech, Duterte pointed out that the provisions in laws then that allowed Marcos to declare martial law unilaterally was not his fault.

“But because nangyari sa atin, ‘yun… lahat ng ginawa ni Marcos, although, it was not Marcos’ Constitution, sinira, sinira. Pati ‘yung martial law powers ng presidente,” he said. Continue reading

Cardinal Quevedo is Pope Francis’ rep to beatification of 17 martyrs of Laos

By Mindanews  |  December 11, 2016

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 10 December) – Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, is Pope Francis’ personal representative to Sunday’s beatification in Vientiane, Laos of 17 martyrs, six of them members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI).

The Pope in September named Quevedo, a member of the OMI, as his representative to the beatification rites.

According to the OMI’s Oblate Communications website, the 17 were martyred between 1954 and1970 during the Indochina war.

“Seventeen  followers of Christ in Laos suffered martyrdom for the sake of His name,”  it said.

Pope Francis authorized the promulgation of the decrees for the beatification of Fr. Mario Borzaga, OMI of Italy and his Laotian catechist on May 5, 2015 and on June 5, of 15 others who were martyred in Laos, the Vatican Radio reported on August 27 last year.

The Martyrs of Laos, who will be collectively referred to as “Father Joseph Tiên and his Companions” are: Joseph Tien (1918 – 1954),  catechists Paul Thoj Xyooj (1941-1960), Joseph Outhany (1933-1961) Thomas Khampheuane Inthirath (1952-1968), Luc Sy (1938-1970), Maisam Pho Inpeng (1934-1970)]. Members of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris  (MEP) — Fr. Jean-Baptist Malo  (1899-1954), Fr. René Dubroux (1914-1959), Fr. Noel Tenaud (1904-1961), Fr. Marcel Denis (1919-1961), Fr. Lucien Galan (1921-1968)] and the six members of the OMI — Fr. Mario Borzaga  (1932-1960), Fr. Louis Leroy  (1923-1961), Fr. Michel Coquelet  (1931-1961), Fr. Vincent L’Hénoret (1921-1961), Fr. Jean Wauthier (1926-1967), Fr. Joseph Boissel  (1909-1969).

The OMI Martyrs of Laos

Two of the 17 – Denis and Tenaud – are desaparecidos. They disappeared in 1961.  Fr. Malo died from exhaustion in his march as a captive in 1954, Father Dubroux was killed in 1959, and Father Galan in 1968.

According to an account of the disappearance of Denis, cited in the liturgical text for the beatification published in the OMI website, the 17 were martyred during the Indochina war

“The vast expanse of his area was alternately crossed by government or revolutionary troops without one or the other able to impose their law. Depending on the ebb and flow of each, you could come across an ambush, or be caught in a skirmish or a shootout. Depending on the direction in which you were traveling, you could be accused of treason or espionage, and all this amid the looting, burnings, and denunciations, which led to bloody repression and vengeance. It is in this climate that the missionaries moved about every day, with the quiet conviction of doing their duty in an ordinary world,” wrote F. Marcel Vignalet-Verges, MEP in “In memory of Father Marcel Denis, missionary in Laos, who disappeared in 1961.”

The account said Denis was in Thakhek when he learned that the village of Phon Sa-at, some 30 kilometers away, “was threatened by the Viêts who had already taken the entire eastern part of his sector.”

“He had left his catechist Unla and his family there. He decided that he needed to go cover for them and take responsibility for all the complaints that the revolutionaries were surely going to make against the head of the small Christian community. He was fully aware of the risks and knew that he would be treated as an enemy of the people, a servant of imperialism, a spy of colonialism and other similar crimes. He knew how little concern the Viêts had for human rights, for the dignity or the lives of those who were not on their side. Yet he went to parry the blows and divert to himself the charges he foresaw.”

Unla last saw Denis leave Phon Sa-at “at the wheel of his jeep, surrounded by his jailers who could not drive.”  (MindaNews)

Duterte had 5 months to end Endo but failed – labor NGO

The Duterte administration had five months to end labor contractualization or the “endo scheme” but rampant hiring of temporary workers by companies via manpower agencies continues, according to a labor nongovernment organization.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said while the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has repeatedly vowed to address the issue of short-term hiring, no significant change has happened.

“If Duterte were a contractual worker, he would have been kicked out for the time that passed and for failing to deliver his promise to end contractualization,” said EILER Deputy Executive Director Rochelle Porras. “Efforts of the labor department such as the issuance of Department Order 162 and the holding of labor summits across the country make it appear that something is being done but in fact, these are just moves to appease the growing clamor to end contractualization,” she added.

The labor NGO noted that DOLE’s DO 162 only banned the issuance of licenses to new contractors and left already registered contractors untouched. The so-called “win-win solution” by Secretary Silvestre Bello III meanwhile is a rehash of Aquino’s Department Order 18-A or the order legalizing the use of contractors and subcontractors.

EILER said that under the win-win solution, contractual workers will only be regularized with the agencies and not with the principal employers. The labor NGO also expresses dismay over the pronouncement of Secretary Bello on the release of DO 30 on December 28. The new DO is set to be an improvement of DO 18-A, but this kind of reform is far from the workers’ demand to repeal all department orders and policies allowing labor contractualization in the country.

“In addition, the recently held Labor Summit became ‘Labor Sabit’, with labor representatives serving as mere attachments to the “win-win” solution to make it appear that it has the nod of workers. In reality, the solution is a double victory for capitalists and the government,” Porras said.

The labor institute also noted that DOLE mulled at inspecting retail giant and contractualization king SM owned by Henry Sy, but so far not a single inspection of SM malls has materialized.

Actual cases:

  • On June 22, 2015DOLE decided that the103 workers of Tanduay Distillers Inc. should be regularized, but untiltoday, their struggle continues as business tycoon Lucio Tan rejects this decision with the aid of local government and goons.
  • Sorosoro Ibaba Development Corporation (SIDC)in Batangas City has more than 300 regular and 300 contractual workers.They won a back-to-work order in favor of the dismissed contractuals, but this is not implemented as DOLEhas not yet issued the implementation order.
  • Manila Cordage Corporationand Manco Synthetics Inc.(MCC-MSI) have 461 workers, 400 of which are contractuals (employed by agencies), deemed illegal according to DOLE. However, this declaration was conveniently neglected by the Labor Arbiter in denying their union recognition after the certification election (CE) and they went on strike on May 4.
  • Ninety-eight workers ofSamahang Manggagawa ng Golden Fortune Workers Union-NFWUwent on strike two years ago, because the management preempted the formation of their union. The building they constructed is already finished, but their picket continues. The labor department recently ordered 14 of the workers to report back for work but without an implementation order.
  • Workers ofTopboss Plastics Corporationwere forming their union. Although some have already worked for the company through an agency for up to 10 years, they still have to sign every five months a new contract of employment. Three days before their certification election (CE) on July 3, the company closed shop.

These concrete examples show that contractualization continues to burden workers and violate their rights. Moreover, theseexpose that the promises of the current administration don’t hold much ground as no concrete implementation plans had been laid out in favor of the workers.

“The solution proposed is truly a win-win for both private sector and the government and not for the Filipino workers who remains shackled to low wages, unstable employment and are denied of union and bargaining rights,” Porras added. “What will bring genuine change to the workers’ conditions are the banning of all forms of contractualization, regularization of workers and the passing of a national minimum wage.” #

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER)

On the Coming of Hope Into the World: December 21, 2016 General Audience

“In its simplicity, the Crib transmits hope; each of the personages is immersed in this atmosphere of hope”

December 21, 2016 Zenit Staff   General Audience

Here is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis at this morning’s general audience, held in Paul VI Hall.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We have just begun a series of catecheses on the theme of hope, all the more appropriate in the Season of Advent. Up to now, the prophet Isaiah has been guiding us. Today, a few days from Christmas, I would like to reflect more specifically on the moment in which, so to speak, hope entered the world, with the Incarnation of the Son of God. Isaiah himself pre-announced the Messiah’s birth in some passages: “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”: (7:14); and also “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1). The meaning of Christmas shines through these passages: God fulfils the promise making Himself man; He does not abandon His people, He comes close to the point of despoiling Himself of his divinity. Thus God shows His fidelity and inaugurates a new Kingdom, which gives a new hope to humanity. And what is this hope? Eternal life.

When there is talk of hope, it refers often to that which is not in man’s power and which is not visible. In fact, what we hope for goes beyond our strength and our gaze. However, Christ’s birth, inaugurating the Redemption, speaks to us of a different hope, a reliable, visible and comprehensible hope, because it is founded on God. He entered the world and gave us the strength to walk with him: God walks with us in Jesus and to walk with Him towards the fullness of life gives us the strength to be in the present in a new way, though laborious. For the Christian to hope, therefore, means the certainty of being on the way with Christ towards the Father, who awaits us. Hope never stops, hope is always on the way and makes us walk forward. This hope, which the Child of Bethlehem gives us, offers a goal, a good destiny to the present, the salvation of humanity, beatitude to the one who entrusts himself to the merciful God. Saint Paul summarizes all this with the expression: “For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:24). That is, walking in this way, with hope, we are saved. And here, we can each ask ourselves the question: do I walk with hope or is my interior life stopped, closed? Is my heart a closed drawer or a drawer open to hope, which has me walk with Christ, and not alone?

During the Season of Advent, the Crib is prepared in Christians’ homes, according to the tradition that goes back to Saint Francis of Assisi. In its simplicity, the Crib transmits hope; each of the personages is immersed in this atmosphere of hope.

We note first of all the place where Jesus is born: Bethlehem. A small borough of Judea where a thousand years earlier David was born, the shepherd chosen by God as King of Israel. Bethlehem is not a capital, therefore it is preferred by Divine Providence, which loves to act through the little ones and humble ones. In that place, the much awaited “son of David” was born, Jesus, in whom God’s hope and man’s hope meet.

Then we look at Mary, Mother of Hope. With her “Yes” she opened the door of our world to God: her girl’s heart was full of hope, all animated by faith; and so God chose her and she believed in His word. She, who for nine months was the Ark of the new and eternal Covenant, contemplated the Child in the cavern and saw in Him the love of God, who comes to save His people and the whole of humanity.

At Mary’s side is Joseph, descendant of Jesse and David; he too believed in the Angel’s words and, looking at Jesus in the manger, he meditated that that Child came from the Holy Spirit, and that God Himself ordered him to call him thus, “Jesus.” In that name is every man’s hope, because through that son of woman, God will save humanity from death and sin. Therefore, it is important to look at the Crib!

Also at the Crib are the shepherds, who represent the humble and the poor who were awaiting the Messiah, the “consolation of Israel”  (Luke 2:25) and the “redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). In that Child they saw the fulfilment of the promises and they hope that God’s salvation will finally reach each one of them. One who trusts in his own securities, especially material, does not await God’s salvation. Let’s get this in our head: our securities will not save us; the only security that saves us is that of hope in God. He saves us because He is strong and makes us walk in life with joy, with the desire to do good, with the desire to become happy for eternity. Instead, the little ones, the shepherds, trust in God, hope in Him and rejoice when they recognize in that Child the sign indicated by the Angels (cf. Luke 2:12).

Continue reading

Pope Francis pleads for end to ‘homicidal madness’ of terrorism

Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 13, 2016| Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA.

by Elise Harris

Vatican City, Dec 20, 2016 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- What are being called two major acts of terrorism in just the past 24 hours have prompted Pope Francis to again beg for an even stronger commitment to putting such bloody attacks, which have marred many parts of the world over the past 18 months, to an end.

“Pope Francis unites to all men and women of good will who commit so that the homicidal madness of terrorism no longer finds space in our world,” a Dec. 20 telegram from the Vatican read.

“In this sense, His Holiness implores God the merciful Father for consolation, protection and his comforting blessing.”

The note, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was addressed to Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch after an apparent terrorist attack yesterday left 12 dead and 48 wounded.

According to CNN, a large truck barreled into crowds of shoppers at a Christmas market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin’s western Breitscheidplatz neighborhood around 8p.m. local time Dec. 19, going roughly 40 mph.

The driver of the truck fled the scene on foot, but is believed to have been arrested about a mile and a half from the crash site. However, the man apprehended by police, a Pakistani who had sought asylum, denies the act.

A passenger was found dead inside the truck, and a tweet by the Berlin police confirm that the man was a Polish citizen.

Berlin police have said they are confident the truck was driven into the crowd intentionally, and are treating the incident as a terrorist attack, though until now no claim of responsibility has been made.

In the telegram, Pope Francis said he learned of the attack with “deep emotion,” and expressed his own participation “in the mourning of their relatives expressing his compassion and assuring of his closeness to their pain.”

“In prayer he entrusts the deceased to the mercy of God beseeching him for the healing of the wounded,” the telegram read, expressing gratitude to emergency security services for their “active commitment” in the situation.

The Berlin attack came on the heels of another act of terrorism, when the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated Dec. 19 by an off-duty policeman, who shouted “allahu akbar,” meaning “God is great,” after firing eight rounds at the diplomat.

The ambassador, Mr. Andrei Karlov, 62, had been giving a speech at an art gallery in Ankawa at the time of his death.

According to statements the gunman made before being shot dead, such as “don’t forget Aleppo,” the attack is believed to have been in retaliation for Russian involvement in Syria.

In a separate Vatican telegram, also signed by Cardinal Parolin and addressed to Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis said he was “saddened” to learn of the ambassador’s assassination.

He offered his condolences to Karlov’s family, and entrusted his soul to God. The Pope assured Putin that he and all members of the Russian Federation of his “prayers and spiritual solidarity” at this time.

In addition, earlier this morning Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with the States, called the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, to offer his condolences for Karlov’s murder.

James Taylor cancels Philippine concert over EJKs

Photo taken on Nov. 6, 2016 shows singer-songwriter James Taylor performing during a Hillary Clinton campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. AP

(Associated Press) | Updated December 22, 2016 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Critics of the bloody war on drugs being waged by the Duterte administration have found a friend in James Taylor.

The American singer-songwriter has canceled his February concert in Manila, saying reports of summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines without judicial proceedings are “deeply concerning and unacceptable.”

Taylor, famous for songs such as “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Sweet Baby James,” tweeted yesterday that he had been looking forward to performing in Manila and that it saddened him to cancel the concert. He apologized to his Filipino fans and said all tickets sold for the Feb. 25 performance at Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena, ranging from P2,120 to P14,260, would be fully refunded.

Taylor said his scheduled concerts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand would not be affected.

Since taking office in June, President Duterte has overseen a crackdown on drugs that has left about 6,000 people dead, alarming Western governments and human rights watchdogs. Philippine government officials have defended police actions during the crackdown.

While acknowledging that drug addiction is a worldwide problem that seriously harms society, Taylor criticized the anti-drug campaign.

“For a sovereign nation to prosecute and punish, under the law, those responsible for illegal trade in drugs is, of course, understandable, even commendable,” Taylor tweeted. “But recent reports from the Philippines of summary executions of suspected offenders without trial or judicial process are deeply concerning and unacceptable to anyone who loves the rule of law.’’

Dozens of tweets from people reacting to Taylor’s message praised the musician and voiced respect for his stand. Others urged other artists to follow his lead, while a handful of Duterte supporters said Taylor should see the situation for himself instead of basing his opinion only on media reports.

Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said Taylor missed an opportunity to experience the hospitality of Filipinos.

“It is a loss for him to experience the warmth and hospitality of music-loving Filipino audience and also earn his purse from the concert,” Carlos said in a statement.

But Carlos said they respect Taylor’s decision, adding the musician should not be faulted for making a choice based on “incorrect information” about the country’s peace and order situation. – Emmanuel Tupas | Philippine Star

Bishop Barron: Why Christmas Should Bother Everybody

… a feast which, in its essence, is revolutionary, subversive, and, if properly understood, offensive to just about everyone.

December 20, 2016  BISHOP ROBERT BARRONFORUM

Just a few weeks ago, at a ceremony for the lighting of the national Christmas tree, President Obama remarked on the meaning of the season. Here are some of the things he said:

“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago—a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other. To let the light of our good deeds shine for all. To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden. And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It’s a message that grounds not just my family’s Christian faith but that of Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, non-believers—Americans of all backgrounds.”

Now in a way, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with these ideas and sentiments. Who could possibly be against treating others with respect, offering forgiveness for offenses, and caring for those in need? And I certainly don’t blame President Obama for making these remarks. Both Democrat and Republican presidents, in their capacity as chief magistrates of the civil religion, have expressed similar convictions for many years. What does bother me, however, is reducing Christmas to a level so low, so banal, that the great Christian feast is offensive to precisely no one. If President Obama is right, even those who profess no belief in God should welcome Christmas with nothing but enthusiasm! But this sort of reductionism is, in fact, directly repugnant to a feast which, in its essence, is revolutionary, subversive, and, if properly understood, offensive to just about everyone.

What could I possibly mean? Well, if we take an honest look at the Biblical texts dealing with Christmas, we will find that they have precious little to do with sentimentality, or the embracing of a common morality, or the cultivation of a “let’s all get along” attitude. In the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read of the visit of the Magi, astrologers from “the east,” probably from Babylon where a quasi-scientific star-gazing discipline was cultivated. They let it be known that they were in search of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had observed at its rising. When this news was spread about, was it met with delight, enthusiasm, excitement, and sentimental feelings? Hardly. Listen to what Matthew tells us: “When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Why would the arrival of a tiny baby, who would grow up to bear a message of love, have excited such negativity? We must remember that the child is described as a king, which means someone who comes to rule; more precisely, he is characterized as king of the Jews, and this was the very title that Herod claimed. Therefore, Herod, quite correctly, saw him as a threat to his prerogatives and position. But why would the entire capital be in an uproar? We must recall what the Bible consistently says about cities, that is, the way we human beings typically organize ourselves politically, socially, and culturally. Cain, the murderer of Abel, is the founder of cities; Babel, full of arrogance and imperialistic designs, is seen as a typical city; and Jesus himself implied that the devil controls all the cities of the world. The trembling of all of Jerusalem at the birth of the Continue reading

UN rights chief: Investigate Duterte for killings

By Jim Gomez (Associated Press) | Updated December 20, 2016 – 8:35pm

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, people and a policeman looking at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag of her child, are reflected in a pool of water after she was shot by still unidentified men while walking with her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — The UN human rights chief asked Philippine authorities Tuesday to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte for murder after he claimed to have killed people in the past and also to examine the “appalling epidemic of extra-judicial killings” committed during his anti-drug crackdown.

Philippine judicial authorities “must demonstrate their commitment to upholding the rule of law and their independence from the executive by launching a murder investigation,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, adding it’s “unthinkable for any functioning judicial system not to launch investigative and judicial proceedings when someone has openly admitted being a killer.”

Since taking office in June, Duterte has obsessively overseen the crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 6,000 people dead. Philippine government officials have defended police actions during the crackdown, and the president has met past such calls with angry tirades.

Zeid’s call, made in a statement issued in Geneva, was sparked by Duterte’s remarks in recent speeches that as a town mayor in southern Davao city in 1988, he killed three suspected kidnappers in a firefight where he was backed up by three police officers. He later clarified he was unsure whether the bullets from his M16 rifle killed the suspects.

An unidentified relative cries as people look at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, after she was shot by still unidentified men while about to bring her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

The brash-talking president has also suggested that he used to roam around his sprawling city as mayor on a big motorcycle to look for criminals to kill so policemen would emulate him.

“In Davao, I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys that, if I can do it, why can’t you?” Duterte said last week. “I go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble also. I was really looking for an encounter to be able to kill.”

Duterte’s acts “directly contravene the rights” enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and the killings recalled by the president “also violate international law,” Zeid said. The UN official also said Duterte’s encouragement of others may constitute incitement to violence and expressed concern about Duterte’s assurances that police officers who commit human rights violations would be immune from prosecution.

“The perpetrators must be brought to justice, sending a strong message that violence, killings and human rights violations will not be tolerated by the state and that no one is above the law,” he said.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, however, has defended Duterte, saying the president often exaggerates killings of criminals to send a chilling warning to lawbreakers.

Aguirre said Duterte may have been resorting to hyperbole in his description of roaming around Davao on his motorcycle.

Duterte previously threatened to withdraw the Philippines from the United Nations for its criticism of his drug crackdown, describing the world body as inutile in the face of genocidal killings in other places.

Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.