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Tuesday, December 28, 2004


VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2004 (VIS) - In his traditional Christmas Message, which he read at midday today in St. Peter's Square, the Pope called for an end to all forms of violence and encouraged dialogue and reconciliation.

John Paul II said, "Let there be an end to the spread of violence in its many forms, the source of untold suffering; let there be an end to the numerous situations of unrest which risk degenerating into open conflict; let there arise a firm will to seek peaceful solutions, respectful of the legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples."

"Babe of Bethlehem, Prophet of peace, encourage attempts to promote dialogue and reconciliation, sustain the efforts to build peace, which hesitantly, yet not without hope, are being made to bring about a more tranquil present and future for so many of our brothers and sisters in the world."

Referring to the continent of Africa, the Holy Father recalled the "tragedy of Darfur in Sudan, of the Ivory Coast and of the Great Lakes Region. With great apprehension I follow the situation in Iraq. And how can I fail to look with anxious concern, but also invincible confidence, towards that Land of which you are a son?"

"Everywhere peace is needed!" the Pope exclaimed. "You, Prince of true peace, help us to understand that the only way to build peace is to flee in horror from evil, and to pursue goodness with courage and perseverance. Men and women of good will, of every people on the earth, come confidently to the crib of the Savior! 'He who bestows the Kingdom of heaven does not take away human kingdoms'. Hasten to meet him; he comes to teach us the way of truth, peace and love."

After reading the message, the Pope, making a notable effort, wished the faithful present in St. Peter's Square and people all over the world tuned in via radio or television in 62 languages. Later he imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing.
MESS/URBI ET ORBI/... VIS 20041228 (360)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 28, 2004 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" published a communique stating that the Holy Father "has approved a first installment of aid to the populations of the countries struck by the earthquake and tsunami that violently hit Southeast Asia as well as some parts of Africa."  Following is the rest of communique:
  "On behalf of the Holy Father, the dicastery has sent emergency aid to Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Somalia through the respective pontifical representatives.

  "In the Church, as in other parts of the world, a unanimous chorus of fraternal solidarity has risen up with concrete responses to the appeals made by the afflicted populations: the Italian Episcopal Conference has donated 3,000,000 Euro, the Caritas network has already collected the sum of more than 2,000,000 USD.  Some branches of Caritas (Austria, Netherlands, United States) have already sent experts to the region to help the various national branches of Caritas.  In addition, the Jesuit Refugee Services is helping local Churches.

  "Cor Unum, which in the Pope's name is closely following the evolution of events and the work of different Church organizations, appeals to the faithful to generously support, individually and collectively, the efforts of the respective local Churches and charitable organizations so that a rehabilitation program for the people, so harshly affected by this devastating calamity, can start up.

  "Those who would like to contribute to the Holy Father's efforts with a gesture of solidarity toward our unfortunate Asian brothers and sisters can do so by making a donation to bank account n. 603035, made out to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, 00120, Vatican City, indicating that it is for the 'Asian emergency'."
.../HUMANITARIAN AID/COR UNUM                    VIS 20041228 (270)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 26, 2004 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus, John Paul II made an appeal for aid to the populations of Southeast Asia, struck by tsunamis early this morning.

  "The Christmas holiday has been saddened by the news that comes from Southeast Asia about the powerful tsunamis which struck Indonesia, with consequences in other countries, including Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and the Maldives."

  "Let us pray for the victims of this tremendous tragedy.  We assure those who are suffering of our solidarity, and we hope that the international community acts to bring relief to the stricken populations," concluded the Pope.
ANG/EARTHQUAKE SOUTHEAST ASIA/...                VIS 20041228 (100)


VATICAN CITY, DEC 26, 2004 (VIS) - John Paul II reflected on the feast of the Holy Family, celebrated today, before praying the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

  "The Son of God," he explained, "prepares himself to fulfill his mission as redeemer, living and working hard in the holy house in Nazareth.  In this way, He, united to every man through the Incarnation, sanctified the human family."

  "May the Holy Family, who had to overcome many painful trials, watch over all the families in the world, especially those who are experiencing difficult situations," he said.  "May the Holy Family also help men and women of culture and political leaders so that they may defend the institution of the family, based on marriage, and so that they may sustain the family as it confronts the grave challenges of the modern age!"

  "During this Year of the Eucharist," he concluded, "may Christian families find the light and strength to be united and to grow as the 'domestic church' especially in their diligent participation in the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday."
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VATICAN CITY, DEC 25, 2004 (VIS) - At midnight the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Birth of Our  Lord.  Thirty cardinals concelebrated with the Pope. During the Gloria, children from Peru, Guatemala, Poland, Italy, Korea, Australia and the Democratic Republic of Congo laid flowers before the image of the Child Jesus.

  In this year specially dedicated to the Eucharist, John Paul II spoke about the link between the birth of Jesus and the Eucharist in his homily. 

  The Pope said that in "the Son of the Virgin, 'wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,' we acknowledge and adore 'the Bread which came down from heaven,' the Redeemer who came among us in order to bring life to the world."

  After recalling that Bethlehem means "house of bread" in Hebrew, the Holy Father indicated that it was there that the "One, who under the sign of broken bread, would leave us the memorial of his Pasch. On this Holy Night, adoration of the Child Jesus becomes Eucharistic adoration."

  "We adore you, Lord, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar, the living Bread which gives life to humanity.  We acknowledge you as our one God, a little Child lying helpless in the manger!  In the fullness of time, you became a man among men, to unite the end to the beginning , that is, man to God."

  "You are born on this Night, our divine Redeemer, and, in our journey along the paths of time, you become for us the food of eternal life," he said. "All humanity, with its burden of trials and troubles, stands in need of you."  The Holy Father concluded by saying, "Stay with us, living Bread which came down from heaven for our salvation! Stay with us forever!"

  Included in the prayers of the faithful were petitions for leaders of nations and heads of international organizations so that they may do all they can to establish peace.  The faithful also prayed that the Holy Land may live "times of prosperity and peaceful coexistence in mutual respect of its inhabitants" and with respect for human life, street children, the sick and those marginalized in society.
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