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Papal Message

VATICAN CITY (VIS) — In a traditional meeting just before Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI recently received a group of children from the group Italian Catholic Action, who came to the Vatican to wish him a happy Christmas.

Addressing the young people, the Holy Father referred to the slogan "Beautiful. True (Bello. Vero)" that the youth had chosen for their formative journey last year.

"Christmas," the pope told them, "is the great mystery of the truth and beauty of God who came among us for everyone’s salvation. The birth of Jesus is not a fable; it is a story that really happened, in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Faith brings us to recognize in that little Child born of the Virgin Mary, the true Son of God who, out of love, chose to become man.

"In the face of the little Jesus," the Holy Father said, "we contemplate the face of God, which is not revealed through force or power but in weakness and the fragile constitution of a child. This ‘Divine Child’ ... demonstrates the faithfulness and tenderness of the boundless love with which God surrounds each of us.
For this reason we rejoice at Christmas, reliving the same experience as the shepherds of Bethlehem.

"The wonder we feel before the enchantment of Christmas" is, said Pope Benedict, in some way reflected in the birth of all children, "and it invites us to recognize the Infant Jesus in all babies, who are the joy of the Church and the hope of the world."

The Pope assured the children of his trust in them and called upon them "to be friends and witnesses of Jesus ... Is it not a beautiful thing to make him better known among your friends, in cities, in parishes and in your families? ... Bear witness to the fact that Jesus takes away nothing of your joy, but makes you more human, more true, more beautiful."

Pope Benedict XVI’s general prayer intention for January is: "That in our time, unfortunately marked by many episodes of violence, the pastors of the Church may continue to indicate the way of peace and understanding among peoples."

His mission intention for January is: "That the Church in Africa may become a constantly more authentic witness of the Good News of Christ and be committed, in every nation, to the promotion of reconciliation and peace."

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World and National News Briefs

Priest honored for helping migrants

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — Scalabrinian Father Florencio Maria Rigoni has been awarded the 2006 Mexican Human Rights Award for his activism on behalf of migrants from Central America. During the recent award ceremony, Mexican President Felipe Calderon called Father Rigoni, a native of Italy, "a Samaritan" for helping people "he doesn’t know." Father Rigoni has been running a shelter for undocumented migrants for 10 years in the southern Mexican town of Tapachula, which borders Guatemala. He is also known for his outspoken criticism of Mexico’s migration policy as well as the U.S. plan to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border. The priest, who sports a long white beard and walks barefooted, has said: "In 1,000 years no wall has ever stopped migrants."

Court convicts priest in Rwandan deaths

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) — A United Nations war crimes court sentenced a priest to 15 years in prison for ordering militias to set fire to his church and bulldoze it, killing the 2,000 Tutsis who had sought safety inside during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, found Father Athanase Seromba guilty of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity Dec. 13. Father Seromba ordered the church destroyed after Tutsis seeking refuge in his church in Nyange Parish in Kibuye, in western Rwanda, repelled an assault by gendarmes and the Interahamwe, the Hutu militia that carried out many of the killings during the genocide. Father Seromba showed the structural weak points of the church to the bulldozer driver, said a statement released by the tribunal.

Australian Parliament OKs cloning

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) — Australian legislators have legalized the use of embryonic cloning for research despite objections from Australian Prime Minister John Howard. A Dec. 6 parliamentary vote lifted a four-year ban on human cloning by allowing the cloning of embryos through somatic cell nuclear transfer, commonly called therapeutic cloning. Both the Conservative Party prime minister and the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, were opposed to Parliament’s decision. "We lie in an age where we have slid too far into relativism. There are some absolutes in our society, and what we’re talking about here is a moral absolute," said Howard. Rudd, a Catholic from Queensland whose mother had Parkinson’s disease, said he could not support a bill designed for the "single and explicit purpose of conducting of experimentation on human life."

Shrine gets $1M Knights gift for mosaic

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington has received a $1 million gift from the Knights of Columbus to make and install a mosaic of scenes associated with the Incarnation. It would be in the ceiling dome above the south nave of the shrine’s upper church. The dome will be known as the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome. Its 3,780-square-foot mosaic will include artistic renderings of the Annunciation, the Nativity, the wedding feast at Cana and the Transfiguration. Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, shrine rector, said the Knights’ gift for the new dome was just the latest in the fraternal order’s long association with the shrine.

New Catholic music anthology in stores

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) — A two-CD set of contemporary Catholic music has been released featuring the contributions of 32 performers. "Catholic Music 2007: Illuminating the Darkness" was created by Gary Gersin of Cleveland and Mike Beloud of Los Angeles. The set resembles the popular "WOW" Christian music CDs released annually since 1995. It was released by Spirit Wing Records, whose Web address is www.spiritwingrecords.com, on Nov. 22, the feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

Papal Message

Meeting Dec. 15 with Roman university students after their traditional Mass at St. Peter

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