from issue no.12 - 2007


“Heaven has come down to earth”

Benedict XVI during the Christmas midnight mass

Benedict XVI during the Christmas midnight mass

The conclusion of the homily of the Christmas midnight mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI was as follows: “In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there; for this reason song is born there. At the end of our Christmas meditation I should like to quote a remarkable passage from Saint Augustine. Interpreting the invocation in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Our Father who art in Heaven’, he asks: what is this – Heaven? And where is Heaven? Then comes a surprising response: ‘… who art in Heaven – that means: in the saints and in the just. Yes, the heavens are the highest bodies in the universe, but they are still bodies, which cannot exist except in a given location. Yet if we believe that God is located in the heavens, meaning in the highest parts of the world, then the birds would be more fortunate than we, since they would live closer to God. Yet it is not written: ‘The Lord is close to those who dwell on the heights or on the mountains’, but rather: ‘the Lord is close to the contrite in heart’ (Ps 34:18 [33:19]), an expression which refers to humility. Just as the sinner is called ‘Earth’, so by contrast the just man can be called ‘Heaven’’ (Sermo in monte II 5, 17). Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart. And the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven. And if we approach this humility, then we touch Heaven. Then the Earth too is made new. With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God’s humility, God’s heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant. Amen”.


The parish priest of Gaza, the Pope and the tragedy of the Palestinians

Palestinian women and children in Gaza

Palestinian women and children in Gaza

On the occasion of Christmas, Manuel Musalam, the only Catholic parish priest present in Gaza, and Jamal N. El Khoudary, political exponent of the Gaza Strip and coordinator of the Popular Committee against Siege, sent an anguished appeal to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to intervene in the dramatic situation in which the Gaza Strip finds itself, as a result of the closing of the borders by the State of Israel. We report part of the appeal: “This illegal siege has produced serious consequences, while transparent violations of the laws on human rights are committed continuously. People are not allowed to obtain medicines or to go abroad for treatment! The most basic medical instruments are by now unsuable and the Israelis prohibit the entrance into Gaza of replacement parts, causing even more serious complications for patients. Up to today, 51 patients have died because of the closure ordered by Israel and the scarcity of medicines that is the unavoidable result. In addition, more than 1,500 people are for the same reason close to certain death and other patients are exposed to further worsening of their health, including people who suffer from chronic diseases, babies and old people.
As if this were not enough, the projects for infrastructures, for construction and development have all been frozen! Access to the Gaza Strip for all the raw materials necessary for these projects is forbidden. Moreover, more than 3,900 small companies have been closed, causing 140,000 job losses! Figures on poverty have reached unheard-of levels, and more and more people find themselves in extreme poverty, with an income below the poverty threshold. All this brings with it an ever worsening humanitarian crisis.
Therefore, we appeal to Your Holiness that you may hear us and be able to alleviate our pain, our suffering and the torments caused by the occupation. We appeal to you to intervene with your sermons capable of touching the hearts and consciences of people, to ask for an end to this siege. The siege is an evident violation of the laws on human rights, of the conventions of Geneva and every international document on human rights”.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Mahmud Ahmadinejad

The Iranian President Ahmadinejad writes to the Pope

“Surprisingly, among the many Christmas messages sent to Benedict XVI, one arrived from President Ahmadinejad. The Iranian leader wishes that 2008 brings peace and tranquility to the international community on the basis of ‘justice and spirituality’ and hopes that oppression and discrimination in respect of the rights of people are eliminated. The message recalls that Jesus Christ is one of the more important prophets for the Muslims. ‘The actual world at present’, Ahmadinejad concludes, ‘needs to follow the precepts of the divine prophets more than at any other moment in history’”. Thus in la Repubblica of 27 December, in an article by Marco Politi.

The Child Jesus and Father Christmas

“If I had the power, I would forbid by law – as an offence to the pietas of a tradition that for generations has made childhood feel how close and interchangeable are the sacred, the fabled and the familiar – the image and the very term Father Christmas itself. There is a limit of decency even for secularization. To transform the mystery of the Incarnation – the eternal that makes itself history, fleeting time, fragile and perishing flesh – or also even the childish poetry of Gesù Bambino or of the angel who brings the gifts, into the figure of an old obese and crazy man, with flushed face and jocosely thick, is a little too much”. Thus Claudio Magris in an editorial that appeared in Corriere della Sera of 24 December.

Hu Jintao and help for believers in difficulty

“Perhaps it is only a timid and partial sign of opening, but what happened Wednesday in Beijing is at least a novelty. For the first time in its history, the Politburo, in fact, dedicated one of its meetings to religion and invited two experts to speak about the history and the situation of religion in China.
It was the Chinese president Hu Jintao himself – in a meeting of the political office of the Chinese Communist Party – to emphasize that Beijing supports ‘religious freedom’ and that it proposes ‘to help the believers of all religions if they are in difficulty’”. Thus the beginning of an article that appeared in Avvenire of 21 December.

Walesa and the border between Poland and Russia

From 21 December nine countries, nearly all from Eastern European, entered the so-called ‘Shengen area’, that presumes the abolition of systematic border controls of the member States (and other things). Among these States, also Poland. Asked about the event, the former leader of Solidarnosc, Lech Walesa, declared: “For us it is a joy and a commitment. A mental problem also. Our eastern border becomes today the border of the whole Union and must provide the maintenance of standards. This we promise. We cannot and we do not want, though, to promise that this border will become a ‘glass curtain’ always higher and always better guarded. It is our aim to make it melt away, in a responsible and planned way, because a situation in which barbed wire obstructions against our neighbors must be strengthened would be for us, a nation that has fought for years for freedom, singularly unpleasant”. The interview appeared in la Repubblica of 22 December.

New nuncios nominated to Australia and Zimbabwe

On 22 December 65 year-old Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, from the Venetian area, papal representative in Ireland since 2000 and previously (since 1994) apostolic nuncio to Jordan and Iraq, was nominated apostolic nuncio to Australia.
On 22 December also 62 year-old Archbishop George Kocherry, Indian, since 2000 papal representative in Ghana, was nominated apostolic nuncio to Zimbabwe.

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