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Archive of December 21, 2012

Pope's childhood letter to Baby Jesus shows his faith

Marktl am Inn, Germany, Dec 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Christmas letter that Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Baby Jesus when he was seven years-old demonstrates his devotion to the Sacred Heart and his desire to be a priest.

The letter is on display this Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was born.

"Dear Baby Jesus, quickly come down to earth. You will bring joy to children. Also bring me joy," he wrote in the 1934 letter, published on the Church-affiliated Italian website Korazym.org.

"I would like a Volks-Schott (a Mass prayers book), green clothing for Mass (clerical clothing) and a heart of Jesus. I will always be good. Greetings from Joseph Ratzinger," he wrote in German cursive hard writing called Sütterlinschrift.

The letter, found during the renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger's occupied when he was a professor in Regensburg, was published on Dec. 18. The message was discovered in the estate of his sister Mary, who kept the letter after the Pope's house was converted into a small museum dedicated to him.

In Korazym’s view, the “letter was uncommon for a seven-year-old since he did not ask for toys or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family's nativity for his three brothers."

The first thing the Pope wanted was a Schott, one of the first prayer books with the missal in German and a parallel text in Latin. At the time there were two editions in the country, one for adults and one for children.

But little Joseph also asked for "green clothing for Mass."

The Pope and his brothers used to play the "game of the priest," and their mother, a seamstress, would help them by making clothes similar to those worn by priests, according to an "Inside the Vatican" interview his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.

He also asked for a heart of Jesus, referring to an image of the Sacred Heart, which his family was very devoted to.

His brother noted that "each year the Nativity would have an extra miniature statue, which was a great joy … We would go with dad into the woods to gather moss and twigs of fir."

In his biography, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote that the volumes he received were "something precious and I could not dream them to have been more beautiful."

Along with his letter is another one by then 10-year-old Georg, who wanted sheet music for a song and a white chasuble, the outer vestment worn by priests when they celebrate Mass.

A third letter by "Mary," a 13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also discovered.

According to Korazym, "the letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was not rich."

Pope Benedict and his family lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932 to 1937.

"The Pope was very glad to find the letter and its contents made him smile," said his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, when he inaugurated the small museum at the end of summer.

 "For him, the smell of musk still belongs to Christmas," he added.

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Children's music group wishes world Merry Christmas

Vienna, Austria, Dec 21, 2012 (CNA) - An Austria-based singing group of children and teens has made a music video wishing a merry Christmas to the world as part of their mission to tell stories of faith through music.

The group KISI - God’s Singing Kids has released the video “We sing merry, merry Christmas.” It shows the children and teens singing in cheerful settings and styles inspired by the classic movie “The Sound of Music.”

They play in the snow, bake Christmas treats and place a baby doll in a manger while wishing Merry Christmas “to every child on earth.”

The music group has over 400 members from five countries who use their music to evangelize. They practice singing and dancing after school and perform on weekends.

Hannes and Birgit Minichmayr founded the group in 1993. Its members include their three children.

“For us the children are the most important. We look for their talents and train them individually,” Hannes said. He said the music group provides the children with community, faith, joy and emotional growth.

“Our performance also inspires parents, who might have lost touch with their Christian faith. Kids enjoy biblical stories in an entertaining way – and their parents are often deeply moved,” he said.

The group has performed a 90-minute musical on the story of St. Paul, a Christmas musical and a concert on the beauty of faith.

“KISI is our way of evangelizing and renewing parishes. This is what our hearts burn for,” Hannes said.

The group sings during church services and hosts children’s clubs in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. Their music is available on iTunes.

KISI’s Christmas video was directed by Manuel de Teffé in cooperation with Music Visions, a Catholic non-profit that promotes music artists with messages  of faith, hope and joy.

The “We sing merry, merry Christmas” video can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm3W8BUnWbs.

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'Holiday tree' dispute wins governor annual Scrooge award

Washington D.C., Dec 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - A law firm has given Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee its 2012 “Ebenezer Award” for his insistence that the 17.5-foot fir tree in the local state house rotunda is a “holiday tree,” not a Christmas tree.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-partisan, interfaith group of attorneys, said the award is given to “the public figure responsible for the most ridiculous affront to Christmas and Hanukkah.”

It takes its name from Ebenezer Scrooge, the churlish character from Charles Dickens' famous 19th  work “A Christmas Carol.”

The dubious honor continues a controversy over a year old.

Last year protesters showed up at the governor's tree lighting ceremony in Providence to sing “O Christmas Tree” to show their objections to the tree's generic name.

The law firm said that this year Chafee announced the lighting ceremony only 30 minutes ahead of time so that no protest could happen.

“Heaven forbid the joyful singing of  'O Christmas Tree' would happen again by the tree…at Christmas time,” the Becket Fund said Dec. 19.

In various interviews, Chafee has said his office calls the tree a holiday tree because that is what his predecessor did. He said the name of the tree is also inclusive.

“There are many religions in Rhode Island. And everybody pays for the State House,” he told CNSNews.com Dec. 5.

He additionally told the Providence Journal he didn’t want the ceremony to be turned into a controversial event.

Last year, the governor’s office received 3,500 calls of protest, though only 700 came from in state.

The Catholic Diocese of Providence had also held a Christmas tree lighting at St. Patrick’s Church one block from the Statehouse to provide an alternative to the governor’s.

The diocese’s chancellor Fr. Timothy Reilly in December 2011 told the New York Daily News that the governor’s effort to be inclusive was laudable but he chose the wrong way to do it. Fr. Reilly said he hoped reflection on Christmas would outweigh the dispute over the tree’s name.

“He probably had the best of intentions but somewhere, somehow we lost hold of the true meaning of the season,” Fr. Reilly said of the governor. “It's all about the baby Jesus. We tend to almost forget this.”

The Becket Fund didn’t criticize only Gov. Chafee in its 2012 announcement. It also singled out the U.S. Navy, which canceled a live nativity scene in Bahrain after a military atheist group complained.

The law firm criticized the City of Santa Monica, Calif., which ended the more than 50-year-old tradition of having a nativity scene in a city park. Some objectors to the move then staged a living nativity scene in the same park.

In its announcement, the Becket Fund also praised actions nationwide in support of Christmas.

This year the State of Pennsylvania reinstated the practice of placing a Christmas tree on the front steps of the state capitol, a tradition that had been neglected for 30 years.

The Becket Fund has successfully defended the place of Christmas and Hanukah in public life. It defended a Utah public school that include religious songs in holiday concerts and two New Jersey cities that faced lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union that sought to remove their holiday displays.

The law firm has also defended the federal government’s recognition of Christmas as a federal holiday.

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Knights in Newtown organize nationwide prayer drive

Newtown, Conn., Dec 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Knights of Columbus at St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, Conn. have organized a prayer drive for the benefit of those affected by the town's recent tragedy.

“There's a very important message, that the Rosary is a very powerful prayer, and one that can bring miracles. And we hope for that,” Council 185’s Grand Knight Tim Haas said in a Dec. 20 interview with EWTN News.

“This is a special way for us to remember the holy innocents who were lost. There were 12 little girls, 8 boys, and they were taken from us without warning or cause, and we need to pray for their families.”

The council's message promoting the prayer drive was released Dec. 19. Haas said that within only 24 hours, they had gathered over 60,000 Hail Marys prayed for the intentions of Newtown.

“We have one gentleman logging the e-mails,” he explained, “so I'm sure he's behind, trying to catch up with it.”

The Knights are asking that those who participate say at least three Hail Marys for three intentions: “one for the victims and their families, one for the first responders and teachers, and one for our town to give us strength to support the afflicted.”

Those praying are then invited to notify the council by e-mail at HailMary@kofc185.org, reporting the number of people praying, the number of prayers said and the location. They have already received responses from “all around the country,” Haas stated.

“We pray for Newtown that we may remain strong, and that we can all come together to make the world a better place for all of us,” said Haas.

“And I think that will happen when we seek and move toward our faith. The Rosary helps us to do that; it's a wonderful prayer.”

In a similar move, the sister of one of St. Rose of Lima's priests is asking that prayers be offered for her brother and the other priests in Newtown.

“He now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years,” she said on Facebook.

She is also encouraging that people “please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement.”

She hopes for “an outpouring of love” to “sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry – impossible on their own, but possible with God.”

St. Rose has already had eight funerals this week, most of them for children.

“The mothers gave eulogies for their precious children. When you see the faith and fortitude of those women, speaking of how they cherished those children so deeply, and yet could overcome their pain, to communicate to us that love, it is a miracle.”

Haas also reflected on the way that the Virgin Mary “knows the pain of that loss … the mothers have that parallel experience with the Holy Mother. And she is able to support, uplift, shower them with her spirit and love, and bring us all closer to Christ.”

He also noted that prayer, particularly the Hail Mary, is perhaps a person's best response to evil.

“When we become knights we all get a Rosary, and we need to pray that at least once a week, so we can be strong when we're called to a higher duty like the one many of us were called to this week.”

“There aren't too many ways to prepare for it, but certainly praying the holy Rosary and attending Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and going to confession, are the gifts that we are given in order to be able to handle this kind of thing, because this is tough,” he said.

“I'm grand knight, but I could not do any of this without my brother knights and my faith. I'm grateful for my faith.”

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CNA services to resume in 2013

Denver, Colo., Dec 21, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Beginning Dec. 21, Catholic News Agency will suspend its daily news service in celebration of Christmas and the New Year. It will resume Jan. 2, 2013.

CNA will provide coverage of the Pope's Christmas homily and his New Year's address. Members of our staff will also be working during this time to improve our services for 2013.

We sincerely thank all of our readers for their interest in our news site as well as our donors and benefactors whose generous support has made the substantial growth CNA has seen this past year a possibility.

We ask that you keep our agency in your prayers this Christmas season as the Church celebrates Christ's birth. You will be in all of ours.

Considering the present economic situation, coupled with the demands of the season, we understand the challenges that come in making financial contributions. However, we ask you to prayerfully consider supporting CNA in the coming year.

Your donations help to make our mission of providing free, up-to the-minute news affecting the Universal Church a reality.

To contribute, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/donation.php.

We wish you and yours a blessed Christmas and joyous New Year!

In Christ,
Catholic News Agency

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