Archive of December 2, 2010

New Archbishop of Seattle has 'nothing to offer,' except unchanging faith

Seattle, Wash., Dec 2, 2010 (CNA) - Seattle's new Archbishop J. Peter Sartain told the faithful that he has nothing to offer them, except the faith he has received in an unbroken tradition from the apostles.

“I have nothing at all of my own to offer you,” he told the congregation at St. James Cathedral during his installation Mass on Dec. 1. “Everything I have, I have received … What I have, I will offer you: the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The previous Bishop of Joliet, Ill. then reflected on his position of leadership.  He noted that the Church's leaders must see themselves primarily as followers, walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

A bishop, he said, must first be led and taught by the Church, in order to be a leader and teacher himself. “It is the Lord Jesus who leads, guides, protects, and nourishes the flock,” he explained. “It is first and foremost, in following him that we (bishops) shepherd the portion of the flock entrusted to our care.”

In his first address to the Catholics in his diocese, the new archbishop offered them clear and practical guidance for following Christ more closely. He advised them to recall God's presence throughout each day, and in all situations.

“He is always before us, and we are to follow,” Archbishop Sartain exhorted. “The name of Jesus should be on our lips: in every homily, at every meeting, in every counseling session, in every moment of prayer.”

“His name should be in every parish and school mission statement,” he continued, “and as we go through the day, we should pray his name silently to remind ourselves of his nearness, and seek his protection … for Satan does not like to hear his name, and he flees.”

“In union with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,” he announced, “and with Catholics around the world, we will follow the one whose name we call, day and night … We will proclaim his name, even when his name meets rejection and ridicule.”

“We would not be the Church,” he noted, “were we to be bashful about proclaiming Christ.”

The archbishop, who learned to speak Spanish in order to minister more effectively among Hispanic Catholics, delivered a portion of his homily in that language before delivering the same remarks in English.

“Perhaps some of you have arrived recently in the state of Washington,” he said in those remarks, “but you are not new to the Church.”

Archbishop Sartain reflected on the expanding ethnic diversity of the archdiocese and turned the observation into an object lesson on the value of all human life. “In every culture, and through every language, and in every human person, our heavenly Father reveals the face of his beloved Son.”

The archbishop expressed gratitude for the timing of his installation, during the first week of the Advent season that precedes the celebration of Christmas. He stressed the importance of taking time to pray and take stock of one's life during the traditionally penitential season, in order to appreciate the inestimable gift of Jesus' birth.

Following his resolution to pass on the Church's tradition faithfully, Archbishop Sartain explained the hope of Advent and the essence of Christmas by quoting a traditional prayer: “Come, break down the prison walls of death, for those who dwell in darkness … and lead your captive people into freedom.”

The new archbishop also kept his opening promise to preach the unchanging message of the gospel, without alteration.

“By his birth, his death, and his resurrection, the Lord Jesus has opened the door shut by our sin,” he taught.

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Respect for life leads to development of peoples, states Vatican archbishop

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care noted this week that respect for human life is what fosters the comprehensive development of nations.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski made his comments during a conference on Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in veritate.” The event was organized by the Political Charity International Association and held at Rome’s Sacro Cuore University.

Archbishop Zygmunt said the Church’s social doctrine pays special attention to the protection of human life. Since the 1970s, he explained, the threats to human life have increased as laws that protected the right to life against abortion, euthanasia, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization began to be undermined. Such actions led to the human embryo being “reduced to a mere thing,” he added.

These problems constitute “major challenges for Christian social teaching and demand an adequate response,” he added, pointing to John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium vitae” and Benedict XVI’s “Caritas in veritate” as cornerstones for addressing them.

Archbishop Zimowski warned against “an anti-life mentality” whose advocates attempt to pass it off to other countries as “cultural progress.” “This mentality has increased because of laws contrary to life that have been enacted in the most economically developed countries,” he continued.  These laws end up defending attacks on human life, such as abortion, as if they constituted “rights of individual freedom.”

The task for believers who deal with a society on these terms is “to develop an ethos capable of presenting arguments in psychological and socio-cultural terms about the meaning and value of the norms that respect human life,” the archbishop continued. “We must overcome very abstract or formal arguments that do not lend themselves to an adequate approach to the present experience,” he said.

The archbishop also urged a change in today’s idea of the “quality of life,” understood only in terms of financial success, physical beauty and unrestrained consumerism, with no room for the relational, spiritual and religious dimensions of existence. 

He also referred to the urgency of changing today’s paradigms. Life is not a product but rather a “gift that must be appropriately appreciated,” especially in families, “who have the task of supporting a culture of life.”

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Over 60,000 in Spain call for release of Asia Bibi

Madrid, Spain, Dec 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Representatives of, a civil rights organization in Spain, have delivered a petition calling for the release of a Christian woman in Pakistan.

Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, was convicted of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad and sentenced to death by hanging in the town of Sheikhupura, near the capital city, Lahore.

Bibi has said she is being persecuted for defending her faith to Muslim co-workers who claimed that Christianity was a "false religion." She was jailed days later, brought to trial and convicted for blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.

Over 60,000 Spaniards signed the petition that was delivered to the country's Pakistani embassy in Madrid on Dec. 2.  It calls on Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari to issue a pardon for Bibi.

“The government of Pakistan is taking note of the growing international pressure surrounding this case, but it is still not enough.”

The Lahore High Court, which has jurisdiction over the case, ruled Dec. 1, that President Zardari cannot issue a pardon while the case is under appeal. The president is disputing that decision.

Ignacio Arsuaga, president of, said Bibi’s case is a question of religious freedom.  “This has nothing to do with being Catholic Christians, Buddhists or Muslims.  This is about defending freedom of belief from the power of special interests or government officials,” he said.

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WikiLeaks' Vatican cables involve national security, intelligence and religious freedom issues

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The ongoing WikiLeaks “Cablegate” project could result in the release of more than 800 U.S. diplomatic cables involving the Vatican.

According to an exclusive analysis of preliminary data conducted by Catholic News Agency, many of the cables, which span a nine-year period from 2001-2010, concern human rights and religious freedom issues.

However, more than 50 of the cables reputedly originating from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See concern intelligence issues, and another five involve national security issues.

Other cables deal with the Vatican’s internal government and its relations with other states.

CNA contacted the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican Dec. 2 but calls had not been returned before publication time.

The Vatican has not yet officially reacted to the leaks, but its daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano stressed that the release of the cables does nothing to change diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Holy See.

U.S. Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, among others, is suspected of leaking the State Department cables.

However, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has voiced concern that amid the gossip about world leaders, some of the leaks appear to serve particular interests.

“It’s rather a question of whether WikiLeaks are being manipulated by interested parties that want to either complicate our relationship with other governments or want to undermine some governments. Because some of these items that are being emphasized are very pointed,” he told PBS News Hour on Nov. 29.

Without doubting that many of the cables came from “relatively unimportant sources,” he wondered whether intelligence services are also feeding information to WikiLeaks to exploit a “unique opportunity” to achieve “very specific objectives.”

While the WikiLeaks website has published only several hundred cables, the London-based newspaper The Guardian has released the place of origin, date, time, and subject tags of all of the leaked cables, which total over 250,000.

Of the more than 800 Vatican-related cables, tagged “VT,” 715 apparently originated at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

CNA’s study of the cable data found that among the cables from the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican more than 400 concern human rights and 245 involve religious freedom issues. These cables are respectively tagged as “PHUM” and “KIRF.”

More than 20 cables involve refugee issues and 16 are tagged “human trafficking.” Several dozen cables involve biotechnology and dozens others appear to be related to terrorism.

About 62 entries bear the “IZ” tag, signifying Iraq. Several of these cables were sent in the months before and after the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003.

A March 20, 2001 cable from the Vatican Embassy includes the subject tag “PROP.” According to a glossary provided by The Guardian, this abbreviation means “Propaganda and Psychological Operations.”

U.S. State Department cables from other countries are also tagged as Vatican-related. These cables are from embassies and consulates in countries including China, Israel, Iraq, Venezuela and Vietnam. They are frequently tagged as involving religious freedom and human rights topics.

Two such cables from the U.S. Consulate at Ho Chi Minh City were sent on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2008. This was a time of major conflict between Catholics and Vietnam’s communist government over confiscated church lands. Another cable came from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in early October, 2007.

Other State Department cables involving the Vatican originated at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong and the U.S. embassies to Germany, France, Italy, the Philippines, Lebanon and Colombia.

James Ball, a journalist working with the WikiLeaks project, on Nov. 29 told the British newspaper The Telegraph that some of the Vatican-related cables would be released “in the next few weeks.”

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Letter shows Pope Benedict pushed faster penalties for abuse in 1980s

Vatican City, Dec 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Previously unseen correspondence shows Pope Benedict XVI taking an active concern for “more rapid” prosecution of abusive priests, over two decades ago.

A letter from 1988, published for the first time on Dec. 2  in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, details the cardinal and future Pope's concern that Church officials were not able to act quickly enough to implement existing penalties in cases of priestly abuse.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger raised these concerns about how the Church was handling some priests' “grave and scandalous conduct” in a letter to Cardinal Jose Lara, then president of a Pontifical commission on canon law, on Feb. 19, 1988. At the time, the future Pope Benedict XVI was serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Ratzinger noted in the letter that canon law allowed such priests to be punished through the immediate penalty of “reduction to the lay state.” But, he complained, the “complexity of the penal process” required by canon law presented “considerable difficulty” for local bishops attempting to revoke the priestly status of offenders.

Because of the difficulty involved in administering this punishment, Cardinal Ratzinger said that local bishops were choosing instead to seek a “dispensation from priestly obligations” for abusers. The cardinal noted that while this procedure also had the effect of laicizing priests, it was not an appropriate way to handle men who had disgraced the priesthood.

He pointed out the significant difference between the punishment of revoking a priest's faculties, and the virtual favor of dispensing such a person from priestly obligations. A dispensation from vows, he said, “by its very nature, involves a 'grace' in favor of the petitioner.”

“For the good of the faithful,” he wrote, the penalty of revoking priests' status “ought in some cases … to take precedence over the request for dispensation from priestly obligations,” through a “more rapid and simplified penal process.” He sought Cardinal Lara's advice as to how Church authorities might speed up the process while following canon law.

Cardinal Lara concurred with Cardinal Ratzinger's concerns over “grave conduct,” but worried that swifter and stricter penalties might obstruct the “fundamental right” of accused priests to defend themselves against allegations not yet proven.

He appeared to agree with Cardinal Ratzinger's judgment that local bishops should not seek to revoke priests' status through a papal dispensation. Instead of seeking such dispensations from the priesthood, he said, local bishops should rely on their own “judicial and coercive power” according to existing canon law.

Cardinal Ratzinger's complaint, however, had hinged on the observation that canon law made it difficult for bishops to exercise such power, prompting their choice of recourse to Rome.

Although reforms during the 2000s gave the Vatican's doctrinal congregation greater freedom to punish abusive priests, the process remains difficult for local bishops due to the canonical complexities that  the future Pope noted in 1988. Canon lawyers have spent the last two years developing a draft version of new penal procedures, which a team of advisers will review next year.

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Americans 'overwhelmingly united' on moral issues, Knights of Columbus leader says

Washington D.C., Dec 2, 2010 (CNA) - Contrary to the conventional wisdom, America is not a house divided over moral issues. In fact, according to Carl Anderson, the head of the Knights of Columbus, Americans broadly agree on the problems facing the country and on the importance of moral leadership and values in solving those problems. 

“The American people see morality as the key to the future of this country, and not surprisingly, see a moral dimension to every issue,” said Anderson, author of the new book, “Beyond A House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored By Washington, Wall Street and the Media." The book is available from Doubleday Religious Publishing Group.

In an interview with CNA, Anderson suggested that political pundits and the mainstream media exaggerate the divisions in American public life and often confuse political differences with disagreement over moral principles.

Core “Judeo-Christian values are the guiding moral compass for the overwhelming majority of Americans,” Anderson stated.

His recently released book relies on a close reading of public opinion research to debunk the myth of an America polarized over issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and other issues.

Anderson said he was surprised by the degree to which Americans share similar core values. “On issue after issue, even on the issues that one would think divide us most — like abortion —  the unity was astounding,” he said.

Anderson's new book contains data from recent polling by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and other sources. One polling result showed that 49 percent of Americans believe that a “return to traditional moral values” is the greatest hope for the future of this nation. When asked what was most valuable in achieving personal economic success, over 75 percent of Americans said either individual effort, honesty and integrity, or education was most valuable, highlighting the importance of a personal moral based work ethic.

While he found a convergence of values among the American people, Anderson said that his research also revealed a growing gap between the values of the American people and many of the institutions of American life. Politicians see the world in terms of “right vs. left,” but Americans tend to see the world in terms of “right vs. wrong,” Anderson said.

Anderson is the top leader of the Knight of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization that promotes family life and works of public service such as education and charitable assistance. He has long career in government work and Church leadership, including serving in various positions in the U.S. President's Executive Office for several years in the 1980s. The Knights of Columbus leader has also been appointed to numerous Pontifical councils by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has served in education and has a background in philosophy and law.

Anderson said he wrote his new book in an effort to help move the country past “partisan bickering” and gridlock on key questions.

Overcoming the misconception of a “house divided” is an important first step, he said. One reason for partisan political gridlock on important issues, Anderson suggested, is that politicians tend to want to avoid talking in moral terms.

A morals-based political conversation would quickly find that agreement on such divisive political issues as same-sex “marriage” and abortion, he said. Moreover, politicians would find that “the vast majority of Americans support significant restriction on abortion and value and want to protect marriage.”

The Knights of Columbus leader also urged Catholic politicians and others to not fear talking about moral values and religious beliefs in framing political arguments and policy agenda.

“Judeo-Christian values are widely shared,” he said. “We need not feel like if we hold traditional values we are part of a small minority — far from it.”

“Now the time has come for all of us to act on our beliefs, to move forward with the expectation that our beliefs are not only correct, but widely shared and worthy.”

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Bishop calls out Catholic governor in Illinois for approving civil unions

Springfield, Ill., Dec 2, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Illinois legislature passed a bill on Dec. 1 that will establish same-sex civil unions in state law. While the state's Catholic governor Pat Quinn said his faith prompted him to support the bill, his bishop has warned that the governor's actions clearly contradict Church teaching.

“If the Governor wishes to pursue a secular agenda for political purposes, that is his prerogative, for which he is accountable to the voters,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., after the contentious vote.

“But if he wishes to speak as a Catholic, then he is accountable to Catholic authority,” he continued, “and the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.” In the governor's case, the local “Catholic authority” is Bishop Paprocki himself.

The Springfield Journal-Register quoted the governor as saying, “My religious faith animates me to support this bill.”

“He did not say what religious faith that would be,” Bishop Paprocki noted. “But it certainly is not the Catholic faith.”

Governor Quinn has promised to sign the civil union measure into law, following its passage in the state's House and Senate. Local reports indicated that the Democratic governor received a standing ovation from members of his own party, following the 61-52 vote in the Senate.

The governor joined Democratic Representative Greg Harris, the self-described “highest ranking openly gay elected official in the State of Illinois,” in supporting the initiative.

The bill drew opposition from Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, as well as the Catholic Conference of Illinois, due to its potential impact on the Church's work in adoption and foster care.

Cardinal George and the conference also expressed concerns that the bill would diminish the status of marriage in public life, by granting most of its benefits to any two consenting adults. They warned that the bill could substantially alter the law's definition of what constitutes a “family,” and said its supposed provisions for religious liberty were vague and subject to restrictive readings.

Robert Gilligan, Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, spoke to CNA Dec. 1 about the new law. He predicted that future generations might have to learn some harsh lessons about the unintended consequences of using the law for what he called “social engineering.”

Civil unions, he said, indicate America's trajectory toward a European model of living, in which adult romantic relationships have little or nothing to do with family or a lifetime commitment.

He noted that although individuals might enjoy this lifestyle or even deem it a “right,” a culture cannot sustain itself by functionally equating such arrangements with marriage. In time, he said, societies that choose to diminish marriage in this way will face the effects of shrinking populations and family breakdown.

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Anti-Catholicism contributes to violence against clergy, Scottish church spokesman laments

Glasgow, United Kingdom, Dec 2, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to comments made against Pope Benedict during his visit, a Scottish spokesman for the Catholic Church has decried “sectarianism” and popular blindness towards anti-Catholic bigotry, saying it contributes to thuggish violence against Catholic clergy.

A senior Scottish Football Association (SFA) official, head of referee development Hugh Dallas, allegedly sent an e-mail to other SFA staff on the day of Pope Benedict’s September visit to Scotland which joked about Catholic sex abuse scandals and implied the pontiff was a pedophile.

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote to the SFA two months after the e-mail was first reported to have been sent, asking for further action. Dallas resigned later that week, citing family reasons.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Kearney criticized “sectarianism” and said the reaction to his letter “has proved beyond doubt that Scotland has become completely inured to the corrosive effects of religious bigotry and may even have lost sight of what constitutes it.”

Comments defending Dallas claimed that many similar e-mails circulated widely before the papal visit. These claims do not lessen the culpability of those accused of bigotry, but instead “illuminate the reality of a layer of deep, wide and vicious anti-Catholic hostility in our country.”

Kearney also countered the “tortured logic” of those who said he should have been silent because of sex abuse scandals in the Church.

The Church represents the “broadest sweep of humanity,” and some priests, vowed religious and lay people have committed “the most heinous and vile crimes” for which they should be punished, he emphasized.

However, fewer than 0.5 percent of the about 2,000 Catholic priests who have worked in Scotland over the last 25 years have ever been convicted of sexual abuse.

“I am disturbed by the fact that in a country where over 99 percent of Catholic clergy are demonstrably innocent of any offense they can be so frequently subjected to hate fuelled opprobrium,” Kearney said. “I do not accept for an instant that such failures automatically condemn over 1 billion people to perpetual silence.”

He also noted that anti-Catholic bigotry has existed in Scotland for “a very long time” before any revelations of sexual abuse. “To pretend otherwise is simply delusional.”

Catholics have often tolerated anti-Catholicism in part because a desire to “assimilate and integrate” has overcome “a willingness to challenge.” According to Kearney, there is a new resolve to challenge anti-Catholicism especially among young Catholics.

“Beneath the surface of the nasty emails and the intemperate asides of public figures there are others whose malignancy is altogether more pernicious,” he warned.

Kearney cited several violent incidents. Attackers hit a Lanarkshire priest in the head with a concrete block and an intimidating mob surrounded a West Lothian priest’s car and shouted “vile invective” at him.

Thugs inspired by “the Catholic baiting of the chattering classes” are responsible for parish windows being barred and grilled after decades of vandalism and attack, the spokesman said.

“Such incidents are a mere snapshot of the daily tide of intolerance Catholics, especially clergy, have suffered and continue to suffer in what was once dubbed ‘the best small country in the world’.”

Emphasizing that Catholics do not represent extreme zealotry and do respect others’ beliefs, Kearney said his generation has been formed to play “a full and active part” in Scottish life.

“Let no one be in any doubt, with this shameful episode, Catholics in Scotland have drawn a line in the sand,” his Sunday Times piece concluded. “The bigotry, the bile, the sectarian undercurrents and innuendos must end. Such hateful attitudes have had their day, they poison the well of community life, they must be excised and cast out once and for all.”

Rev. Ian Galloway, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, supported Kearney in comments to the Scottish Sun. He said the Anglican body “wants to see Scotland rid of every last vestige of sectarianism.” He added he was “especially appalled” by acts of anti-Catholic violence.

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Catholics urged to hold off on Christmas celebrations until Dec. 24

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec 2, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City urged Catholics in his diocese to be “faithful” to the Advent Season this year and hold off on celebrating Christmas until Dec. 24.

In his first pastoral letter since his appointment as leader of the diocese's 300,000 Catholics, Bishop Wester stressed on Nov. 24 that Advent is a time of silence – of waiting and expectation.

“Few would disagree that we live in a busy and rushed society,” he said in his opening remarks. “We rush from one thing to the next; in the end, many of us are restless and tired, yearning for stability and peace in our community and family.”

He added that in “our hurried society,” many stores have already decorated for Christmas, radio stations are playing Christmas songs and parishes have begun preparing for Christmas parties for early December.

“In the midst of all this hurry, the Church teaches us to slow down, to be patient, and to wait,” he said. “What is the rush? Are we really so eager to get to all the decorations up, celebrate the event, and quickly dismantle all the decorations so we can move on to the next event?”

Bishop Wester said that if Catholics truly believe the Church is “the sacrament of Christ in the world,” then “we must authentically celebrate the story of salvation as it unfolds in the liturgical year so that we can witness God's profound love and mercy to the world.”

Celebrating Christmas early, he said, increases the danger of Christians being “burned out” by the time the solemnity actually arrives. “We are already tired of all the 'Christmas hype',” he said, adding that holiday has then become “anticlimactic.”

The bishop said that the word “advent” has a Latin root meaning "coming" or "arrival." So what “arrival are we waiting for?” he asked.

Bishop Wester then explained the meaning behind each week in Advent, starting with the first Sunday. The scripture readings on the first week, he said, speak of “the Lord's return” and urge watchfulness. On the second Sunday of Advent, he continued, “we hear John the Baptist's call to repentance and preparation.” The third Sunday – called Gaudete Sunday – is a joyful liturgy that “introduces Jesus as the one who will fulfill the covenant and bring forth the kingdom,” he said.

On the final week of the Advent season, “we hear the gospel stories that immediately precede Christ's birth.”

“As Catholics, we must celebrate Advent differently,” he stressed. “Our reckoning of time is itself a sacramental witness to the fullness of the paschal mystery.”

“If we were to skip the Advent season or any other season, we would impoverish that witness,” the bishop added. “We are very lucky to have a Church who has provided us with seasons to bear witness to the great mysteries of our faith.”

He then offered some practical suggestions, saying that Catholic schools should decorate with simple greenery at this time, families should not put up trees just yet, and parties – save for Gaudate Sunday celebrations – should wait until Christmas day.

“I encourage each home to display and bless an Advent wreath where the family can gather for prayer either in the morning, at dinner, or some other practical time, “ he said. “You may want to incorporate a Jesse Tree in your family's observance of the seasons.”

He also underscored that Christmas itself is a season that “stretches far beyond the 25th of December” and continues until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2011.

“Once Christmas comes,” he said, “we should leave the decorations which are testimonies to our joy up for the entire season. There is plenty of time for us to celebrate our joy at Christ's birth and we should make the most of it.”

“First, though, before we celebrate, comes a necessary time of waiting and of preparation,” the bishop noted. “The season of Advent refocuses us and reminds us that Christ has changed the world. Darkness has covered this hemisphere, and the world itself is quiet.”

“Because we know that Christ reigns over all of creation, we strain in the darkness to see the light of Christ, our coming King,” he concluded. “May our observance of this season renew us and be an example of patience, silence, and joy to our hurried and anxious society.”

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