Violence Against Christians in India

The greatest violence against Christians is witnessed in the Indian state of Karnataka. It is no coincidence that the party in power is the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is backed by Hindu extremists. According to a representative of the Christian Legal Association, lawyer Nova Bethamia, Christians or their property are attacked on average three times a week in Karnatake. In recent weeks, there has been a significant increase in violence, including an attempt to cut the throat of a Protestant pastor while he was in hospital recovering from a previous attack. 

Christian Demonstration in India
A number of Indian states are affected by inter-religious tensions and Hindu extremists always seem to be at the center. But Karnataka comes first in the national rankings for anti-Christian violence. According to the Indian Evangelical association, there were 49 such cases last year, 56 in 2010 and 48 in 2009. But the real problem, according to Christian lawyers, is that “No serious investigations are carried out into these cases and those responsible are never tracked down or called to account for their actions. And this makes them bolder and ready to expand their activity.” 

It is usually, though not exclusively, Protestant Churches that come under attack for their missionary activities among the rural populations. For example, last 2 November, Hindu extremists forced four Christians from the Zion Prayer Hall, to undergo a “Hindu bath ritual” and threatened to kill the pastor. They ordered them to publicly renounce Christianity and to embrace Hinduism, otherwise they would ostracise them, making it so that they lost their government contributions as members of the Bhovi ethnic community. The Christians refused and so were made to go through the bathing ritual by force. 

The police was informed about the incident but did nothing. Such attacks, including physical ones, happen frequently. The most serious case was that witnessed in the village of Kannur, near Kolar, where pastor Samuel Kim from the Jerusalem Prayer House, reported he had been beaten senseless by Hindu extremists who left him unconscious on the street. He was taken to hospital with broken ribs and wounds to the neck and head, then, in the early hours of the morning, his assailants returned and tried to strangle him, before going on to hold a razor to his throat. In the end, they fled, after some people heard the pastor’s screams and came to see what was going on. The police protected him for seven days after that but no one was arrested because the aggressors had gone into hiding. Police inspector, Davendra Prasad advised him to cease his activity to avoid “graver consequences.” 

The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and conversion from one faith to another is legal. But Hindu nationalists claim that all those born in India are Hindus by default. This is despite the fact that many tribal populations have indigenous religions and there are millions of Christians living in Southern India, whose faith dates back to the time of the Apostles and to the preaching of St. Thomas.

Caritas Lebanon Helping Refugees From Syria

When Syrian refugees arrive in Lebanon, help begins with a phone call to the U.N. refugee agency, if they can get through. In most refugee areas, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has no fixed office; its staffers make only sporadic visits for which refugees make appointments over the phone. It's that phone call that is the problem.

"We have called UNHCR several times, but they never answer the phone, and there's no permanent office to go to," said Ghaziya al-Houmaydan, a refugee who, six months ago, fled bombing in her hometown of Homs, Syria, and who now lives in a tent in the Bekaa Valley.

Hessen Sayah, project manager for Syrian refugees for Caritas Lebanon, the local church's charitable agency, said she hears about the problem all the time. "People call our Caritas hotline to ask for help with calling UNHCR, saying it's always busy or no one answers. We tell them to call again. And we take their names to tell UNHCR about them, especially the most vulnerable or urgent cases, like people who need medical assistance," Sayah said. "And once you get UNHCR on the phone, it can take up to two or three months to get registered," she said. "But if a family has needs now, Caritas is here to help them."

No one is sure how many refugees from Syria have already arrived in Lebanon. According to the UNHCR, more than 131,000 Syrian refugees were either registered in Lebanon or had made appointments to be registered as of Nov. 16. The UNHCR said nearly 316,000 additional Syrian refugees have registered or have registrations pending in other neighboring countries.

A mother  refugee from Syria, holds her newborn child in a makeshift shelter
 in the village of Jeb Jennine, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. 

Sayah said she thinks the official number for Lebanon is too low. "We can't get an accurate count, because many are afraid to register. I think the number is at least double what the UNHCR says," Sayah told CNS. Many refugees are reluctant to register because of misconceptions about the implications. "When we first arrived in Lebanon, people told us that if we registered, we wouldn't be able to return home. We planned on returning, so we put off registration," said al-Houmaydan, who acknowledges she received bad advice.

Sayah said some Syrian minorities, such as Christians and Kurds, are reluctant to register with the UNHCR. "They're afraid that if they register, their names will be given to Syrian security, or if the situation improves they will not be able to return. We can't force them to do it, but we try to convince them that it's better to be registered," Sayah said. 

On top of Syrian nationals who've been forced to flee to Lebanon and other countries, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees living in Syria also have fled the fighting. Caritas has helped them, too. It persuaded the government to grant longer visas to the Palestinians and has continued its work with Iraqi refugees in the region.

"Almost all the (non governmental organizations) here are involved in the Syrian refugee crisis, but Caritas isn't neglecting the Iraqis," she said. Like Syrian nationals, they get help from Caritas in the form of food parcels and coupons, cooking equipment, hygiene kits, baby kits, blankets, mattresses, children's school fees and, as winter approaches, heaters and winter kits to better seal their homes against the cold. Caritas has a mobile clinic that tours the Bekaa Valley offering free consultations and medicines to all refugees. Its staff includes a gynecologist and a pediatrician.

Psycho-social support is also provided, Sayah said, especially for children who have been traumatized by the violence they witnessed. Caritas, which has years of experience working with migrants in Lebanon and is the only NGO present in Beirut's infamous underground migrant detention facility, also keeps an eye out for women and girls who have been victims of human trafficking.

Logistically, it would be easier to monitor and provide services to many refugees if they were housed in a massive camp setting. That's what the neighboring kingdom of Jordan has done in establishing the massive Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, where as many as 45,000 Syrian refugees are living, with more arriving every day.

But in Lebanon, the government has opposed the idea of big camps, in part because Lebanon's political culture - with deep links to Syria's political factions - is sharply divided over how to respond. "There's a power struggle in Lebanon, and nobody can agree on something like this," said George Antoun, the Beirut-based Middle East regional director for International Orthodox Christian Charities. "Lebanon doesn't control its borders, and it has a long and porous border with Syria. People fear a refugee camp might become a base for Syrian militants, or a place that could be attacked by a certain faction within Lebanon, and that would create conflict. It would be hard to prove who attacked the camp, and it could bring Lebanon back to civil war."

Sayah said she's not optimistic about the near future. The U.N. predicts Lebanon will have 300,000 Syrian refugees by June, but Sayah reiterated that she thinks the official numbers are too conservative. Meanwhile, as more refugees flow in, the demand for living space and services is testing the country's capacity to host them. 

"These days you cannot rent a house, because the prices are increasing day by day. And even if you can afford it, it's hard to find a place that's available," Sayah said. "Many families now coming to the Bekaa Valley are searching for agricultural land to rent where they can put up a tent. Or they're moving in with families who have already built their tents. And many Lebanese families have welcomed Syrian families into their own homes. They're not relatives, they're just people in need, and they've been welcomed. But the welcome is wearing thin."

Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience on November 28, 2012

During the weekly General Audience on Wednesday which was held at Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict XVI continued his catechesis and reflections for the Year of Faith, focusing specifically on the way in which we are to speak about God to our contemporaries, communicating the Christian faith as a response to the deepest longings of the human heart. “The first step, he said, “is to listen to what God has told us.” Speaking in English, Pope Benedict said that communicating the faith, “means bearing quiet and humble witness each day to the core of the Gospel message,” the heart of which is the Good News of the God who is Love and who – in His Son – has drawn near to us, giving Himself for us on the Cross, bringing us in His resurrection the hope and promise of eternal life. He also spoke of the privileged role that families play, saying that in families, “The life of faith is lived daily in joy, dialogue, forgiveness and love. Family is first school of faith, spend time together, listen, understand & love each other. Be ready to answer kids' questions about God."

"God is everywhere, present in our daily lives, "if we pay attention, we can encounter him. God is not a hypothesis, a mathematical formula, abstract idea; he's real, he loves us, speaks with us. He is so great, he has the time to busy himself with our needs, worries." The Pope added: "Faith is not a burden, it is source of deep joy, it's seeing with God's eyes, recognizing the good amid suffering of world."

“Jesus,” he said, “gave us an example: by his loving concern for people’s questions, struggles and needs, he led them to the Father. The God of Jesus Christ has revealed our grandeur as persons redeemed by love and called, in the Church, to renew the city of man, so that it can become the city of God. 

Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal on Wednesday on behalf of efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. The call came at the end of his weekly General Audience in Paul VI Hall, and looked forward to the UN-sponsored World Day against AIDS, which will be marked this coming Saturday, December 1st. The Holy Father spoke of the millions of deaths and the tragic human suffering that the disease has caused. “Suffering,” he said, “that is particularly great in the poorest regions of the world, where people have great difficulty in accessing effective drugs.” Pope Benedict also noted the great number of children each year who contract the virus from their mothers, who do not have access to or knowledge of treatments capable of preventing mother-to-child transmission. Concluding his appeal, Pope Benedict offered his encouragement to the many initiatives that the Church, in Her missionary work, promotes and carries out in order to eradicate the disease. 

Cardinal Al Rahi Feels Greater Responsibility

Now that he is a cardinal, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al Rahi says he feels more responsible for improving Muslim and Christian dialogue in the Middle East. Cardinal Al Rahi told the media that he "feels the great responsibility to move forward in building communion with Muslims and Christians in a very divided and conflicted Middle East."

Cardinal Al Rahi celebrating his first Mass as Cardinal at Saint Peter's
Basilica in the Vatican

He is one of the six cardinals Pope Benedict created on Nov. 24, but the only one representing Arab Christians in the Vatican. There are around 13 million Christians in the Arab world, and Lebanon is home to 1.2 million Catholics.

"We have a very rich content in the life of the Christians in the Middle East, and in our coexistence with Muslims," the head of the Maronite Catholic Churches aid. Three of the six new men who were named cardinals come from countries with a large Muslim population.

Cardinal Al Rahi was informed he would receive the honor after Pope Benedict's three day visit to Lebanon in September 2012. "For me it's been a great honor for which I am very grateful to the Holy Father, but I know that he wanted to gratify the Church in Lebanon," Cardinal Rahi said.

"He's seen with his own eyes that Muslims and Christians received him with a die hard enthusiasm," added the cardinal, who was born in Himlaya, Lebanon. The Maronite patriarch believes that Pope Benedict thought it was important to elevate him to the level of cardinal "to give a push to our presence and to the new evangelization in the Middle East."

The Pope addressed all Arab Catholics in his apostolic exhortation titled “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness” during his visit to Lebanon. “He returned from Lebanon as someone who has discovered the reality of this country,” Cardinal Rahi suggested. “The reality and strength of the Church is that there is a population opened to Islamic-Christian coexistence, which is also opened to generosity.”

And now that he has received the “great honor,” Cardinal Rahi says he has a “great responsibility to move forward in applying the apostolic exhortation and what the Pope said in some of his speeches.” “He said that the Middle East is a land chosen by God, because on this land the whole mystery of God was revealed as one and three,” he added.

The Middle East has also “seen the incarnation of the word of God. It has seen the cross of redemption. It's assisted the Resurrection. It has seen the event of the Pentecost and the creation of the Church. Like he (Pope Benedict) said, this is a land of peace, not a land of war and conflicts. That's how I read the consistory's ceremony, and I have a lot of trust, a lot of joy and a lot of courage," the patriarch stated. 

"Nearly 1,500 people came to the vatican for the ceremony , including Muslims and Christians, people of all political parties, bishops, religious and priests. We're here with joy, and I think that it's with joy that we can give with impetus, responding to the optimal intentions of Pope Benedict."

In Lebanon the Poor Are Getting Even Poorer

With more than 22% of the population out of work, deep political divisions and recurring violence, Lebanon is struggling with a growing number of poor. Caritas Lebanon President Fr. Simon Faddoul says “one third of the Lebanese population is under the poverty level…this is not just fiction, it’s real numbers.”

Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged the country’s economy. Over the last two decades, much of its war-torn physical and financial infrastructure was rebuilt but the reconstruction has left the government heavily in debt and slowed development.

“The poor are getting poorer,” says a concerned Fr. Simon who appeals to Vatican Radio listeners and friends for financial help for Caritas Lebanon’s humanitarian assistance programs. “We have a shortage… we have a serious problem in that respect…we are really having a hard time providing for these people.”

The Catholic aid agency is also struggling to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country seeking refuge in neighboring Lebanon. But Fr. Simon is worried that his country’s social services fall well below international standards, adding to the plight of the poor.

“52% of the Lebanese population are not covered by any medical insurance or any medical coverage of any kind. Unless you have some strings to pull within the government you cannot be covered by the Ministry of Health and the social security system is limited to those who are employed.”

“Once they go on pension after (age) 64, they lose the social security. It’s not like the rest of the world…there is no pension! One of our major challenges,” observes Fr. Simon, “ is to provide for the third age – for the elderly in Lebanon.” Caritas Lebanon operates seven day care centers, says Fr. Simon, “so we can provide them with a hot meal a day or to have a nurse check their blood pressure. Unfortunately, I am saying (this) with much pain in my heart, but this is (the reality).”

For more information about Caritas Lebanon’s humanitarian assistance programs and learn how you can help, visit:

Syrian Conflict Becoming Forgotten Yet more Acute

"The violence in Syria in danger of becoming a forgotten conflict. Early deaths were on the news, now the victims are increasing day by day, it also speaks of hundreds of killed, but no one says anything, is now a routine. Like all wars for the Syrian will be forgetting. "With this dramatic confession Mgr. Mario Zenari, Vatican nuncio in Syria, describes the plight of the people of Damascus, the last town in time to be officially entered the war. "Because of the embargo - he explains - it is difficult to get humanitarian aid, but in the upcoming season of Advent invite you all to pray for Syria to take a moment of the day to the suffering of these people. Do not let the pain suffered by Syrians be forgotten. " 

A Bulldozer removing the rubble next to the "Al Shifa" Hospital in Aleppo

The prelate said that from the beginning of November, "the humanitarian situation is hell, which also involved the capital, transformed into an armored city." The drama is especially acute in the suburbs: Darayya, Qudssaya, Irbin. Here you fight day and night, the bombs pulverized even the few houses left standing. Yesterday, 76 people died in the bombings. Among these 10 children also affected by a cluster bomb while playing in a soccer field located in a southern district of the capital.

"Several of my employees - said Msgr. Zenari - have been living in the home of the Nunciature, because they can not return to their homes, others no longer have a roof and spend the night in the basement, or in makeshift shelters. Parishes have become dormitories. Convents try to offer hospitality to all, even in the garden. ""But now - continues the nuncio - with the arrival of displaced people are likely to die of starvation and cold. Every day I receive calls from religious and priests who ask me: What can we do for these people?. Church put every available space, the rooms of the offices, stores to the same places of worship. Yet without external aid and the possibility of a ceasefire even these efforts are likely to be a small drop in the bucket. " 

Archbishop Zenari confesses that the most common question among the Syrians is: "How long will this war?". Since the last attempt in June of Kofi Annan for a ceasefire, the conflict is not a more temporary emergency, it has become a daily reality that appears endless. "This insecurity - said the nuncio - kills the hope of returning to normal, which adds to the pain for their loved ones killed."

Recently returned from a trip to Italy, the prelate has assisted in a short time to deterioration of the war: "Now the population live in conditions even more dramatic than a few months ago. Sorrow for the bombings, revenge among political and religious groups, was also added to the local crime, which is not with anyone. In the country, there are hundreds of kidnappings that wiped out the family, not just the rich, but now even the poorest. these criminals by their own admission do not support any political faction or military. They exploit the climate of instability for their own interests. unfortunately the media does not talk about it, but many families, even here in Damascus are affected by this scourge, which made it even more painful their lives. "

The diplomat explained that there are two types of seizure. The first is political and serves groups of the two sides to demand the release of prisoners. The second is motivated by ransom.

This is very common and forcing the population to do also raise public funds to free their loved ones, who are often at risk of being killed anyway indifference. The Nuncio said that the Church is also active in this field and in all the parishes in which there are such cases have been set up committees to negotiate with the kidnappers. "She - she says - is the only true institution remained intact in the country, where any State body is decomposing and private. All apply to you: Christians, Muslims, Alawites and Sunnis. Clergy, priests, religious men and women often try to risking their lives to bring reconciliation and forgiveness even where it seems impossible. "

According to the prelate, avoid this war into oblivion. The West has a duty to inform, to try to understand this situation, even if the media and governments are prone to easy answers. Archbishop Zenari states that Syria is not implementing a Arab Spring as in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya. After a year of riots and demonstrations in this war have entered too many external factors. The population has no voice and has only one desire: to return to normal life. 

The Vatican and Saudi Arabia Work Together for Dialogue

A major new international inter-religious dialogue initiative, in which the Holy See is participating as Founding Observer, was inaugurated Monday evening in Vienna, Austria. An initiative originally of the king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, and named after him, the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, or KAICIID, has come to involve the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Republic of Austria, as Founders, with the Holy See participating as a Founding Observer.

Conceived as a major international hub of interfaith and inter-religious dialogue in which the sharing of practical know-how developed through hard work at building concord, understanding and peaceful co-existence can take place, and grievances be addressed and remedies to them proposed, KAICIID has the recognition and full support of the United Nations. UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon was in attendance Monday as one of the guests of honor, and spoke words of encouragement. "I fully support your vision of religion as an enabler of respect and reconciliation," said Ban in his remarks to some 800 guests, including guests of honor, among whom were major religious leaders: His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; the Chief Rabbi of Moscow and President of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt; the President of the Islamic League, Dr. Abdullah Al Turki. High-ranking government officials were among the guests of honour as well, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Austria, Dr. Michael Spindlegger, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Spain, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo y Marfil, all of whom also offered their countries’ official auspices for the KAICIID initiative in terms and tones of palpable urgency. 

There is no denying KAICIID is an ambitious project: King Abdullah has offered three years of support to it, during which KAICIID is to become financially self-sufficient, and after which KAICIID must stand and walk on its own, or stumble and fall. Indeed, one might define the formal inauguration ceremony Monday evening at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna as an evening of Imperatives. Expressions like, “the Centre must succeed,” and, “this initiative must not fail,” were on the lips of each of the guests of honour who delivered remarks. 

The Holy See was represented by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who perhaps said it best when he called attention to the inescapable fact that the eyes of the world are on KAICIID. “We are being watched,” he said, and went on to say, “Everyone is expecting from the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah, supported by the governments of Austria and Spain, with the assistance of the Holy See as Founding Observer, honesty, vision and credibility.” Cardinal Tauran went on to say, “This Centre presents another opportunity for open dialogue on many issues, including those related to fundamental human rights, in particular religious freedom in all its aspects, for everybody, for every community, everywhere.”

“In this regard,” he continued, “you will understand that the Holy See is particularly attentive to the fate of Christian communities in countries where such a freedom is not adequately guaranteed. Information, new initiatives, aspirations, and perhaps also failures will be brought to our attention,” and that, when such things do come to members’ attention, “It then will be the task of the Centre – and when possible with the cooperation of other organizations – to verify their authenticity and to act consequently, in order that our contemporaries not be deprived of the light and the resources that religion offers for the happiness of every human being.”

Message of the Virgin Mary to the World on November 25, 2012 From Medjugorje

“Dear children! In this time of grace, I call all of you to renew prayer. Open yourselves to Holy Confession so that each of you may accept my call with the whole heart. I am with you and I protect you from the ruin of sin, but you must open yourselves to the way of conversion and holiness, that your heart may burn out of love for God. Give Him time and He will give Himself to you and thus, in the will of God you will discover the love and the joy of living. Thank you for having responded to my call.” 

Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates the Holy Mass with the New Cardinals. Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in St Peter's Basilica this morning to mark the final Sunday of the liturgical year - the solemnity of Christ the King. Concelebrating with the Pope were the six new cardinals who received their red hats at the consistory on Saturday. 

At the beginning of the Mass, Cardinal. Harvey, on behalf of all the new cardinals, had a brief speech of welcome to Benedict XVI. After saying his gratitude at being called in college, card. Harvey has expressed a profound judgment on the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI: "Holy Father, when he accepted the burden of the Petrine Ministry in 2005, the Church and the world will know how a mind elected as one of the great theologians of our time. Now, after more than seven and a half years, the Church and the world have been able to know you better, they have realized that his extraordinary mastery of the truth of Christian doctrine and his unique ability to make live these truths through catechesis and homilies, sink rooted in a deep faith: that your faith, we are sure, has been enriched by a long life of study and teaching, guided by the regula fidei and nourished by the Liturgy of the Church. His life as a scholar - as a priest and teacher, as diocesan bishop, as Prefect of the Roman Curia, and most recently as the Bishop of Rome - was a living lesson stating that the deeper theology is not that articulated at the table, but that elaborated on his knees. "

He then concluded with the decision to participate with the Pope to the new evangelization: "The Church exists to respond to the Great Mission to preach the Gospel ad gentes . providential In this Year of Faith, we will try to put more force in the service of the world the most beautiful gift of which we are enabled: share with all humanity the Way, the Truth and the Life, the One who gently approaching the brothers and sisters to the Throne of Grace to be fully accomplished their human destiny. In accepting from His hands the honor of Cardinalate, we are committed with full intention, sustained by the grace of God, to be persevering and operators responsible for the New Evangelization. " 

In his homily the Pope told the new cardinals they had the demanding responsibility of making God's Kingdom known in the world - not a kingdom of political power obtained through weapons and violence, but a kingdom of truth, love and service. The Pope said: "We invoke the kingdom daily in the prayer of the “Our Father” with the words “Thy kingdom come”; in effect we say to Jesus: Lord, make us yours, live in us, gather together a scattered and suffering humanity, so that in you all may be subjected to the Father of mercy and love."

Below is the full text of Pope Benedict's homily:

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, is enriched by our reception into the College of Cardinals of six new members whom, following tradition, I have invited to celebrate the Eucharist with me this morning. I greet each of them most cordially and I thank Cardinal James Michael Harvey for the gracious words which he addressed to me in the name of all. I greet the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as the distinguished civil Authorities, Ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful, especially those coming from the Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral care of the new Cardinals. 

In this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to celebrate the Lord Jesus as King of the Universe. She calls us to look to the future, or more properly into the depths, to the ultimate goal of history, which will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ. He was with the Father in the beginning, when the world was created, and he will fully manifest his lordship at the end of time, when he will judge all mankind. Today’s three readings speak to us of this kingdom. In the Gospel passage which we have just heard, drawn from the account of Saint John, Jesus appears in humiliating circumstances – he stands accused – before the might of Rome. He had been arrested, insulted, mocked, and now his enemies hope to obtain his condemnation to death by crucifixion. They had presented him to Pilate as one who sought political power, as the self-proclaimed King of the Jews. The Roman procurator conducts his enquiry and asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18:33). In reply to this question, Jesus clarifies the nature of his kingship and his messiahship itself, which is no worldly power but a love which serves. He states that his kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world … is not from the world” (v. 36). 

Jesus clearly had no political ambitions. After the multiplication of the loaves, the people, enthralled by the miracle, wanted to take him away and make him their king, in order to overthrow the power of Rome and thus establish a new political kingdom which would be considered the long-awaited kingdom of God. But Jesus knows that God’s kingdom is of a completely different kind; it is not built on arms and violence. The multiplication of the loaves itself becomes both the sign that he is the Messiah and a watershed in his activity: henceforth the path to the Cross becomes ever clearer; there, in the supreme act of love, the promised kingdom, the kingdom of God, will shine forth. But the crowd does not understand this; they are disappointed and Jesus retires to the mountain to pray in solitude (cf. Jn 6:1-15). In the Passion narrative we see how even the disciples, though they had shared Jesus’ life and listened to his words, were still thinking of a political kingdom, brought about also by force. In Gethsemane, Peter had unsheathed his sword and began to fight, but Jesus stopped him (cf. Jn 18:10-11). He does not wish to be defended by arms, but to accomplish the Father’s will to the end, and to establish his kingdom not by armed conflict, but by the apparent weakness of life-giving love. The kingdom of God is a kingdom utterly different from earthly kingdoms. 

That is why, faced with a defenceless, weak and humiliated man, as Jesus was, a man of power like Pilate is taken aback; taken aback because he hears of a kingdom and servants. So he asks an apparently odd question: “So you are a king?” What sort of king can such a man as this be? But Jesus answers in the affirmative: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (18:37). Jesus speaks of kings and kingship, yet he is not referring to power but to truth. Pilate fails to understand: can there be a power not obtained by human means? A power which does not respond to the logic of domination and force? Jesus came to reveal and bring a new kingship, that of God; he came to bear witness to the truth of a God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8,16), who wants to establish a kingdom of justice, love and peace (cf. Preface). Whoever is open to love hears this testimony and accepts it with faith, to enter the kingdom of God. 

We find this same perspective in the first reading we heard. The prophet Daniel foretells the power of a mysterious personage set between heaven and earth: “Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (7:13-14). These words present a king who reigns from sea to sea, to the very ends of the earth, possessed of an absolute power which will never be destroyed. This vision of the prophet, a messianic vision, is made clear and brought to fulfilment in Christ: the power of the true Messiah, the power which will never pass away or be destroyed, is not the power of the kingdoms of the earth which rise and fall, but the power of truth and love. In this way we understand how the kingship proclaimed by Jesus in the parables and openly and explicitly revealed before the Roman procurator, is the kingship of truth, the one which gives all things their light and grandeur. 

In the second reading, the author of the Book of Revelation states that we too share in Christ’s kingship. In the acclamation addressed “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”, he declares that Christ “has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (1:5-6). Here too it is clear that we are speaking of a kingdom based on a relationship with God, with truth, and not a political kingdom. By his sacrifice, Jesus has opened for us the path to a profound relationship with God: in him we have become true adopted children and thus sharers in his kingship over the world. To be disciples of Jesus, then, means not letting ourselves be allured by the worldly logic of power, but bringing into the world the light of truth and God’s love. The author of the Book of Revelation broadens his gaze to include Jesus’ second coming to judge mankind and to establish forever his divine kingdom, and he reminds us that conversion, as a response to God’s grace, is the condition for the establishment of this kingdom (cf. 1:7). It is a pressing invitation addressed to each and all: to be converted ever anew to the kingdom of God, to the lordship of God, of Truth, in our lives. We invoke the kingdom daily in the prayer of the “Our Father” with the words “Thy kingdom come”; in effect we say to Jesus: Lord, make us yours, live in us, gather together a scattered and suffering humanity, so that in you all may be subjected to the Father of mercy and love. 

To you, dear and venerable Brother Cardinals – I think in particular of those created yesterday – is is entrusted this demanding responsibility: to bear witness to the kingdom of God, to the truth. This means working to bring out ever more clearly the priority of God and his will over the interests of the world and its powers. Become imitators of Jesus, who, before Pilate, in the humiliating scene described by the Gospel, manifested his glory: that of loving to the utmost, giving his own life for those whom he loves. This is the revelation of the kingdom of Jesus. And for this reason, with one heart and one soul, let us pray: Adveniat regnum tuum – Thy kingdom come. Amen.

After the Holy Mass, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful in St. Peter's Square. He still remembered the value of today's feast and the kingship of Jesus Christ: "The whole mission of Jesus and the content of his message - he said - consist in proclaiming the Kingdom of God and its practical application in the midst of men with signs and wonders. "But - as recalled by the Second Vatican Council - first the Kingdom manifests itself in the person of Christ" (Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium , 5), which has established through his death on the cross and his resurrection, with which was manifested as Lord and Messiah and Priest forever. This Kingdom of Christ has been given to the Church, which is "the seed" and "beginning" and has the task to proclaim and spread it among all nations by the power of Holy Spirit (cf. ibid.). At the end of the prescribed time, the Lord will deliver the kingdom to God the Father and to offer him all those who have lived according to the commandment of love. "

The pontiff then invited the faithful to pray for the new cardinals: "These new members of the College of Cardinals - he said - well represent the universal dimension of the Church are pastors of churches in Lebanon, India, Nigeria, Colombia, in Philippines, and one of them has long been at the service of the Holy See. invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary on each of them and the faithful entrusted to their service. Our Lady help us all to live the present time awaiting the return of the Lord , asking forcefully God: "Thy kingdom come," and by doing the works of light that we draw ever closer to heaven, knowing that, in the troubled events of history, God continues to build His Kingdom of love. "

Photos Of the Ceremony of Creation of the Six New Cardinals in the Vatican

The six Cardinals "to be" arriving to Saint Peter's Basilica

Waiting for the Pope to Arrive...

Pope Benedict XVI Arrives to Saint Peter's Basilica and Kneels Down
in Front of the Holy Eucharist

President Michel Sleiman, the First Lady  and Several Lebanese Officials
Attending the Ceremony

Beginning of the Ceremony

Each of the New Cardinals Reads a Text From the Holy Scriptures

The Papal Seat in Front of the Altar
The Fabulous Saint Peter's Basilica and Architectural Masterpiece

The Great Looking Altar Built Over Saint Peter's Tomb

Mar Bechara Peter Al Rahi Kneels Down Before the Successor of Peter
to Receive the Red Hat

The Pope Makes Bechara Peter Al Rahi Cardinal By Laying on His Hand
over His Head

Pope Benedict XVI Congratulates the New Cardinal

Carinal Al Rahi is Congratulated by His Fellow Cardinals

The Pope Prepares to Leave the Basilica

Pope Benedict XVI Greets President Sleiman in the Midst of Heavy Applause
Especially From Lebanese Attendance 

A Formal Reception Honoring the Solemn Event

President Sleiman Grants the New Cardinal the Highest Decoration of the
Lebanese Republic 

Holy Gospel on the Sunday of the Announcement to the Virgin Mary

Letter to the Galatians 3:15-22. 
Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, ‘And to offsprings’, as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring’, that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to
Saint Luke 1:26-38. 
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Pope Benedict XVI Creates Six New Cardinals Among Them Mar Bechara Peter Al Rahi

Pope Benedict XVI created six new Cardinals on Saturday in an Ordinary Public Consistory for the purpose here at the Vatican. The six new “Princes of the Church” are: Archbishop James M. Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household; His Beatitude, Bechara Boutros Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch in Lebanon; His Beatitude, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum in India and head of the Syro-Malankara Church; Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria; Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogotá, Colombia; and Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines. The Cardinals are the “Clergy of Rome”. They are responsible for electing the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope: the Successor to St. Peter, and Vicar of Christ on Earth – the universal Pastor of the universal Church. Pope Benedict XVI took the universality of the Church as the theme of his allocution to the participants in the Consistory, focusing the meaning of the word, “Catholic” – “A word,” he said, “which indicates an essential feature of the Church and her mission.” 

Below, is the full text of the Holy Father's allocution: 

“I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These words, which the new Cardinals are soon to proclaim in the course of their solemn profession of faith, come from the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed, the synthesis of the Church’s faith that each of us receives at baptism. Only by professing and preserving this rule of truth intact can we be authentic disciples of the Lord. In this Consistory, I would like to reflect in particular on the meaning of the word “catholic”, a word which indicates an essential feature of the Church and her mission. Much could be said on this subject and various different approaches could be adopted: today I shall limit myself to one or two thoughts. 

The characteristic marks of the Church are in accordance with God’s plan, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities” (no. 811). Specifically, what makes the Church catholic is the fact that Christ in his saving mission embraces all humanity. While during his earthly life Jesus’ mission was limited to the Jewish people, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24), from the beginning it was meant to bring the light of the Gospel to all peoples and lead all nations into the kingdom of God. When he saw the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, Jesus cried out: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8:11). This universalist perspective can be seen, among other things, from the way Jesus applied to himself not only the title “Son of David”, but also “Son of Man” (Mk 10:33), as in the Gospel passage that we have just heard. The expression “Son of Man”, in the language of Jewish apocalyptic literature inspired by the vision of history found in the book of the prophet Daniel (cf. 7:13-14), calls to mind the figure who appears “with the clouds of heaven” (v. 13). This is an image that prophesies a completely new kingdom, sustained not by human powers, but by the true power that comes from God. Jesus takes up this rich and complex expression and refers it to himself in order to manifest the true character of his Messianism: a mission directed to the whole man and to every man, transcending all ethnic, national and religious particularities. And it is actually by following Jesus, by allowing oneself to be drawn into his humanity and hence into communion with God, that one enters this new kingdom proclaimed and anticipated by the Church, a kingdom that conquers fragmentation and dispersal. 

Jesus sends his Church not to a single group, then, but to the whole human race, and thus he unites it, in faith, in one people, in order to save it. The Second Vatican Council expresses this succinctly in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium: “All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Therefore this people, while remaining one and unique, is to be spread throughout the whole world and through every age, so that the design of God's will may be fulfilled” (no. 13). Hence the universality of the Church flows from the universality of God’s unique plan of salvation for the world. This universal character emerges clearly on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fills the first Christian community with his presence, so that the Gospel may spread to all nations, causing the one People of God to grow in all peoples. From its origins, then, the Church is oriented kat’holon, it embraces the whole universe. The Apostles bear witness to Christ, addressing people from all over the world, and each of their hearers understands them as if they were speaking his native language (cf. Acts 2:7-8). From that day, in the “power of the Holy Spirit”, according to Jesus’ promise, the Church proclaims the dead and risen Lord “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Church’s universal mission does not arise from below, but descends from above, from the Holy Spirit: from the beginning it seeks to express itself in every culture so as to form the one People of God. Rather than beginning as a local community that slowly grows and spreads outwards, it is like yeast oriented towards a universal horizon, towards the whole: universality is inscribed within it. 

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15); “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). With these words, Jesus sends the Apostles to all creation, so that God’s saving action may reach everywhere. But if we consider the moment of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the disciples are still closed in their thinking, looking to the restoration of a new Davidic kingdom. They ask the Lord: “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). How does Jesus answer? He answers by broadening their horizons and giving them both a promise and a task: he promises that they will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and he confers upon them the task of bearing witness to him all over the world, transcending the cultural and religious confines within which they were accustomed to think and live, so as to open themselves to the universal Kingdom of God. At the beginning of the Church’s journey, the Apostles and disciples set off without any human security, purely in the strength of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and the faith. This is the yeast that spreads round the world, enters into different events and into a wide range of cultural and social contexts, while remaining a single Church. Around the Apostles, Christian communities spring up, but these are “the” Church which is always the same, one and universal, whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome. And when the Apostles speak of the Church, they are not referring to a community of their own, but to the Church of Christ, and they insist on the unique, universal and all-inclusive identity of the Catholics that is realized in every local church. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, she reflects in herself the source of her life and her journey: the unity and communion of the Trinity. 

Situated within the context and the perspective of the Church’s unity and universality is the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church. In this Consistory, I want to highlight in particular the fact that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents. She is the Church of Pentecost: amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God. 

I cordially greet the official Delegations of the different countries, the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and lay faithful of the various diocesan communities and all those who share in the joy of the new members of the College of Cardinals – their family, friends and co-workers. The new Cardinals, who represent different dioceses around the world, are henceforth associated by a special title with the Church of Rome, and in this way they reinforce the spiritual bonds that unite the whole Church, brought to life by Christ and gathered around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, today’s rite expresses the supreme value of fidelity. Indeed, the oath that you are about to take, venerable brothers, contains words filled with profound spiritual and ecclesial significance: “I promise and I swear, from now on and for as long as I live, to remain faithful to Christ and his Gospel, constantly obedient to the Holy Apostolic Roman Church”. And when you receive the red biretta, you will be reminded that it means “you must be ready to conduct yourselves with fortitude, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and well-being of the people of God”. Whereas the consignment of the ring is accompanied by the admonition: “Know that your love for the Church is strengthened by your love for the Prince of the Apostles”. 

In these gestures and the words that accompany them, we see an indication of the identity that you assume today in the Church. From now on, you will be even more closely and intimately linked to the See of Peter: the titles and deaconries of the churches of Rome will remind you of the bond that joins you, as members by a very special title, to this Church of Rome, which presides in universal charity. Particularly through the work you do for the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, you will be my valued co-workers, first and foremost in my apostolic ministry for the fullness of catholicity, as Pastor of the whole flock of Christ and prime guarantor of its doctrine, discipline and morals. 

Dear friends, let us praise the Lord, who “with manifold gifts does not cease to enrich his Church spread throughout the world” (Oration), and reinvigorates her in the perennial youth that he has bestowed upon her. To him we entrust the new ecclesial service of these our esteemed and venerable Brothers, that they may bear courageous witness to Christ, with a lively growing faith and unceasing sacrificial love.

Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday morning at the Paul VI hall, during which he continued his catechetical reflections on the Year of Faith. Below, is a translation of some of his remarks:

"In our continuing catechesis for the Year of Faith, we now consider the reasonableness of faith as an encounter with the splendor of God’s truth. Through faith we come to true knowledge of God and ourselves, and learn to live wisely in this world as we await the fullness of life and happiness in the next. Faith and reason are meant to work together in opening the human mind to God’s truth. By its nature, faith seeks understanding, while the mind’s search for truth finds inspiration, guidance and fulfillment in the encounter with God’s revealed word. Far from being in conflict, faith and science go hand in hand in the service of man’s moral advancement and his wise stewardship of creation. The Gospel message of our salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offers us a true humanism, a “grammar” by which we come to understand the mystery of man and the universe. In this Year of Faith, may we open our minds more fully to the light of God’s truth, which reveals the grandeur of our human dignity and vocation." 

Pope Benedict XVI also called during the general audience for a halt to violence between Israeli military forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. He said: "I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Along with my prayerful recollection of the victims and for all those who are suffering, I feel the duty to reiterate once again that hatred and violence are not the solution to problems. I also encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are trying to obtain a ceasefire and to promote negotiations. I also urge the authorities of both Parties to take courageous decisions in favor of peace and put an end to a conflict with negative repercussions throughout the entire Middle East region, which is troubled by too many conflicts and is in need of peace and reconciliation." 

Finally the Pope offered his traditional greetings: "I offer a cordial greeting to the participants in the conference on Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world. I also greet the group from CAFOD, with gratitude for the agency’s fifty years of charitable activity on behalf of the Church in England and Wales. Upon all present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Sri Lanka and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings!"

Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus Message on November 18, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus this Sunday with the faithful gathered beneath his window in St. Peter’s Square. The focus of his remarks ahead of the traditional Marian prayer was this Sunday’s Gospel reading, taken from the 13th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark, which deals with the end times and is known as the eschatological discourse. 

"Jesus does not describe the end of the world, and when he uses apocalyptic images, does not behave as a" visionary. "On the contrary, he wants to steal his disciples of every age with curiosity as to dates, predictions, and instead wants to give them a key to profound and essential, and especially indicate the right path to walk on, today and tomorrow, to enter into eternal life. "

With these words before the Angelus prayer today in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI "demitizza" false images on the end of the world that are based on bogus interpretations related to biblical expressions. Citing the Gospel of the Mass today (33rd Sunday in the year, B, Mark 13.24-32), the Pope recalled "some cosmic images of apocalyptic:" The sun shall be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken "(v. 24-25)." These images feed a market apocalyptic, catastrophic, soothsayers and magicians dates characteristics and seven pseudocristiane, such as Jehovah's Witnesses.

The Pope says that "Jesus uses images and words taken from the Old Testament, but also inserts a new center, which is Christ himself, the mystery of his person and of his death and resurrection."

And if "today's passage opens with some cosmic pictures of the apocalyptic genre", this element is relativized by the following: "Then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (v. 26) ".

"The" Son of Man "- continues the pope - is Jesus himself, which connects the present with the future, the ancient words of the prophets have finally found one in the person of the Messiah Nazarene: He is the true event which, in the middle the upheavals in the world, remains firm and stable. Confirming this is another expression of the Gospel today. Jesus says: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (v. 31). In fact, we know that in the Bible the Word of God is the source of creation, all creatures, from the cosmic elements - sun, moon, sky - obey the Word of God, because there are "called" by it. This creative power of God's Word has focused in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and also passes through its human words, which are the true "firmament" that directs the thoughts and man's journey on earth. This is why Jesus does not describe the end of the world, and when he uses apocalyptic images, does not behave as a "visionary." On the contrary, he wants to steal his disciples of every age with curiosity as to dates, forecasts, and instead wants to give them a clue profound and essential, and especially indicate the right path to walk on, today and tomorrow, to enter into eternal life. Everything passes - reminds us of the Lord - but the Word of God does not change, and in front of it each of us is responsible for their own behavior. Based on this we will be judged. "

"Dear friends, - concluded Benedict XVI - even in our times there are natural disasters, and unfortunately even wars and violence. Even today we need a stable foundation for our life and our hope, the more so because of relativism in which we are immersed. May the Virgin Mary help us to welcome this center in the person of Christ and his Word. " 

It was a theme to which the Holy Father returned in his English-language remarks to pilgrims and visitors after the Angelus prayer:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, as the liturgical year draws to a close, Jesus tells us that although heaven and earth will pass away, his words will remain. Let us pledge ourselves to build our lives more and more on the solid foundation of his holy word, the true source of life and joy. May God bless all of you!

Speaking in Spanish, the Holy Father recalled the beatification – on Saturday – of María Pérez Crescencia, a religious of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden, who lived in the early part of the last century. Pope Benedict celebrated the newly Blessed Maria as, “a model of evangelical gentleness animated by faith.”

Holy Gospel on Sunday of the Announcement to Zechariah

Letter to the Romans 4:13-25. 
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’) in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 1:1-25. 
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’ Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

Feast of Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, November 17

Born to a wealthy and distinguished pagan family, trained in law and rhetoric in his youth, brother-in-law to the Roman governor of Palestine, his father died when Theodore was age 14. The boy had originally planned to study at the law school in Beirut, but when he arrived at Caesarea with his brother-in-law’s entourage, he encountered Origen, head of the catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt. He and his brother Athenodorus each gave up the idea of law school, became students of Origen, and converted to Christianity; Theodore changed his name to Gregory. Studied philosophy and theology for seven years under Origen. Returned to Pontus c.238.

Bishop of Caesarea, a diocese with only 17 Christians when he arrived, Gregory converted most of his bishopric; tradition says there were only 17 pagans left at the time of his death. He instituted the celebration of martyrs, teachings about the saints, and celebration of saint feast days as a way to interest pagans in the Church. During the Decian persecutions c.250, he and his flock fled into the desert. Worked among the sick when the plague struck soon after, and with refugees during the invasion of Pontus by the Goths in 252. Attended the First Council of Antioch in 264 and 265. Opposed the heresies of Sabellianism and Tritheism. Used his legal training to help his parishioners, and settle disputes between them without taking their problems to the civil courts controlled by pagans. Oversaw the council that chose Saint Alexander the Charcoal Burner as the first bishop of Comana. Saint Macrina the Elder heard Gregory preach many times in her youth, and passed his wisdom onto her grandsons Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nyssa. He was acclaimed as "The Theologian".

As one might expect from someone surnamed the Wonder Worker, there were many miraculous events in Gregory’s life:

- Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes that the Wonder-Worker was the first person known to receive a vision of the Theotokus. The Virgin and Saint John the Baptist appeared to him in a vision, and gave him what became a statement of doctrine on the Trinity.

- Gregory had the power of healing by laying on of his hands. Often the healing was so powerful that the patient was cured of his illness, and became a fervent convert on the spot.

- During the construction of a church for his growing flock, the builders ran into a problem with a huge buried boulder. Gregory ordered the rock to move out of the way of his church; it did.

- In order to stop the River Lycus from its frequent and damaging floods, Gregory planted his staff at a safe point near the river bank. He then prayed that the river would never rise past the staff. The staff took root, grew into a large tree, and the river never flooded past it again. This act led to his patronage against floods and flooding.

- Two local pagans, hearing that Gregory was a soft touch for money, decided to con the bishop. One lay beside the road where Gregory was travelling, and pretended to be dead. The other stopped the bishop, pleaded poverty, and asked for money to bury his dead friend. Gregory had no money with him, so he took off his cloak and threw it over the “dead” man, telling the “live” one to sell the cloak and use the funds. When Gregory had moved on, the “live” con-man found that his friend had died.

- Two brothers in Gregory’s diocese had inherited a piece of land that contained a lake. Unable to decide how to divide the lake, the two settled on armed combat to settle the matter. On the night before the battle, Gregory prayed for a peaceful solution to the matter. The next morning the brothers found that the lake had dried up leaving easily dividable farm land.

- During Gregory’s time in the desert during the Decian persecutions, an informer told the authorities where to find the bishop. Guards went to the site, but found nothing but two trees standing in isolation in the desert. The informer went back to the place and found that what the soldiers had seen as trees were actually Gregory and a deacon in prayer. This convinced the informer of the reality of Gregory’s God, and he converted.

- When returning from the wilderness, Gregory had to seek shelter from a sudden and violent storm. The only structure nearby was a pagan temple. Gregory made the sign of the cross to purify the place, then spent the night there in prayer, waiting out the storm. The next morning, the pagan priest arrived to receive his morning oracles. The demons who had been masquerading as pagan gods advised him that they could not stay in the purified temple or near the holy man. The priest threatened to summon the anti-Christian authorities to arrest Gregory. The bishop wrote out a note reading “Gregory to Satan: Enter”. With this “permission slip” in hand, the pagan priest was able to summon his demons again.

- The same pagan priest, realizing that his gods unquestioningly obeyed Gregory’s single God, found the bishop and asked how it was done. Gregory taught the priest the truth of Christianity. Lacking faith, the priest asked for a sign of God’s power. Gregory ordered a large rock to move from one place to another; it did. The priest immediately abandoned his old life, and eventually became a deacon under bishop Gregory. This ordering about of boulders led to Gregory’s patronage against earthquakes.