Friday, December 25, 2015

Pope's Christmas Message Urbi et Orbi

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!

Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!

Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself.  Jesus is the radiant "day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity.  A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world.  A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety.  A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation.  A day of joy: a "great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary.  The Crib makes us see the "sign” which God has given us: "a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).  Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church.  Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ.  Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the "sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he "is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).  He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).  With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts.  This is something we all need!

He alone, he alone can save us.  Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst.  The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

Where God is born, hope is born.  He brings hope.  Where God is born, peace is born.  And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.  Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built.  May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.

We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people.  It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country.  May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples.  My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.

To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength.  They are our martyrs of today.

We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.

May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingess to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.

May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they  may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.

Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity.  Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection.  May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.

Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives.  May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.

On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many!; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.

Where God is born, mercy flourishes.  Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us.  May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.

Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation.   As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: "for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

Christmas Greetings of the Holy Father (after the Urbi et Orbi Blessing)

To you, dear brothers and sisters all over the world who have come to this Square and to all those who join us by radio, television and other media, I offer my most cordial good wishes.

It is Christmas of the Holy Year of Mercy, and so I pray that all can welcome into their lives the mercy of God which Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, so that we in turn can show mercy to our brothers and sisters.  In this way, we will make peace grow!  Happy Christmas!

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Pope Francis - December 23, 2015


Saint Peter's Square
- Wednesday, 23 December 2015 -

Three pieces of advice from Pope Francis
to think about during Christmas.

During his meeting with the delegations who donated the Nativity scene and Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis reflected on how to think about those pieces of art.


"I invite you, then, to pause before the Nativity scene, for there God's tenderness speaks to us. There we contemplate divine mercy, made flesh so that we gaze tenderly upon it.”

For the Catholic Church, Nativity scenes are not simple decorative objects. They contain a powerful message.


"Jesus did not simply appear on earth, and did not dedicate just a little of His time to us, but rather came to share our life and to receive our desires, as He wanted and still wants to live here, along with us and for us. Our world, which at Christmas became His world, is important to Him. The creche reminds us of this: God, in his great mercy, descended to us to stay with us.”

The Pope recalled that representations of the mystery of the Nativity are a proposition about the kind of life that Christians must lead.


"The Nativity also tells us that the Lord never imposes upon us with force. To save us, He did not change history by performing a grand miracle. Instead, He lived with simplicity, humility and meekness. God does not like the dramatic revolutions of the powerful of history, and does not use a magic wand to change situations. Instead He makes Himself small, He becomes a child, to attract us with love, to touch our hearts with His humble goodness, to draw attention through His poverty to those who worry about accumulating the false treasures of this world.”

Although it's normal to take down a Nativity scene after Christmas, the Vatican traditionally keeps the one in St. Peter's Square up until February 2nd. That day also marks the liturgical celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It leaves plenty of time to meditate on this scene.

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"The Best of China"
with Fr. Tomás Del Valle-Reyes

Map of China


 Discovering the 21st Century
330 West - 38 Street, Suite 503,
 New York, NY 10018
Ph: (212) 244-4778 

The Best of China: Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Suzhou & Shanghai
March 2 to 13, 2016

Day 1, Wednesday 
Board Air China CA 982 leaves JFK at 4:30pm (13 hours non-stop to Beijing). Cross International Dateline.

Day 2, Thursday 
Arrive Beijing International Airport at 18:30 hours in the evening. Meet your guide and transfer to Beijing Feitian Hotel. (D)

Day 3, Friday 
Beijing (B,L,D) 
Beijing is the capital city of China. It offers many of the sights that make China one of the world's most popular destinations. Start your tour with Tiananmen Square, the largest public plaza in the world and Lavish Royal Garden-Summer Palace built by Empress Dowager Cixi. Followed by Forbidden City which was the Imperial Palace for Ming and Qing emperors with 9,999 rooms full of legendary stories of the royal families/the Summer Palace which was the summer resort for the emperors of Qing Dynasty. Followed by The Forbiden City in the afternoon.

Day 4, Saturday 
Beijing (B,L,D) 
A whole day excursion to the Great Wall of China, over 3,000 miles long at an elevation of 1000 meters. It is a sight and feeling you will never forget. We will visit the most notorious Temple of Heaven.

Day 5, Sunday 
Beijing-Xian (B,L,D) 
After a few stops, Today we will fly to The City of Xian another Great City in China. Visit Ancient City Wall, which was built around the city to protect it from invators. The History Museum which was only opened in 1992 and is rated as the best museum in China. Days Hotel & Suites Xincing Xi'an

Day 6, Monday 
Xian (B,L,D) 
Visit the famous Terra Cotta Warriors Museum which was uncovered by farmers digging a well in 1974. It is an underground vault of earth and timber that eventually yielded 6,000 life-sized terra cotta soldiers and their horses in battle formation guarding the First Emperor's tombs. This magnificent sight is still under excavation. Enjoy Tang Dynasty Show in the evening.

Day 7, Tuesday 
Xian-Guilin (B,L,D) 
Today we Fly to Guilin, the most scenic city in China if not the World. Visit Duxiu Hill; and the Enchanted Reed Flute Cave, one of the most extraordinary scenery in Guilin. Universal Guilin Hotel

Day 8, Wednesday 
Guilin (B,L,D) 
A whole day luncheon cruise on the meandering, crystalling water of the Li River. You will have the most fascinated view of ancients limestone rocks. Stop in Yangshuo Free Market where it requires your best bargain skills and patience to obtain the most beautiful souvenirs. Deluxe Coach back to Guilin after your exhausting and satisfying nerve-competing bargain with peddlers.

Day 9, Thursday 
Guilin-Suzhou (B,L,D) 
Today we fly to Shanghai airport and transfer to Suzhou the city known as "Venice of Orient" by Marco Polo. It is a famed silk production center and a celebrated retreat brimming with gardens and canals. Visit magic Double Embroidery Research Institute. Castle Hotel.

Day 10 Friday 
Suzhou-Shanghai (B,L,D) 
Visit the masterpiece New Master Garden; A dragon boat cruise on the Grand Canal; Silk factory where you can purchase your silk shirts for the lowest prices. Half and hour train or bus to Shanghai. New Century Hotel Shanghai.

Day 11, Saturday 
Shanghai (B,L,D) 
Visit European styled BUND, symbol of Shanghai. Nanking Road which is the busiest shopping center in China and also a chance for you to have a close view of ordinary people's life. Followed by Jade Buddha Temple. In the Afternoon we will visit Yu Garden, an old section of Shanghai; Shanghai Museum which is one of the best Museums in China and Children’s Palace. Acrobatic Show in the evening.

Day 12, Sunday 
Shanghai (B) 
Free on your own to explore the city--- the Paris of Orient, do your last minute shopping.

Day 13 Monday
Leave Shanghai to New York. Arriving the same day.(B)

$4,395.00 - PP/ double occupancy
$5,045.00 - single occupancy (includes additional $650 fee a single room).


  • R/T Airfare
  • Ground transportation R/T airport - hotel and at destinations. 
  • All Local Flights/ or First Class High Speed Trains. 
  • All hotel accommodations. 
  • Entrance fees to all sites on itinerary. 
  • Tips 
  • All Taxes 
  • National and Local guides
  • Meals included as specified. 
  • $180.00 Visa Fee is Included. We will need your passport and a passport photo for processing of the visa.
For more information or to make a reservation, click here to contact Mercedes Torres.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

From Pope Francis - December 16, 2015


Saint Peter's Square
- Wednesday, 16 December 2015 -

Salvation can't be bought! Jesus is free!

Pilgrims always show plenty of love for Pope Francis ahead of the general audience. But on the day before his birthday, they seemed especially affectionate.

However, the best gift came from the Pope himself. He allowed this mother to get close enough to the Popemobile for her son to receive a blessing.

During his catechesis, the Pope explained some of the Jubilee of Mercy's most important symbols. One of them is walking through the Holy Door. It symbolizes when Jesus said in the Gospel that He is the door to salvation. Walking through it, the Pope explained, shows a true desire for conversion. But the Pope also included a warning.


"Be careful. There may be some that are ready to pass through, and a scammer tells them they must pay. Salvation can't be bought. The door is Jesus and Jesus is free.”

The Pope added that another great symbol of the Jubilee is confession, because it allows people to experience divine mercy directly. 

Further, he highlighted that a clear demonstration that people have converted is when they love and forgive, especially the worst among them.


"How many times have I told myself the same thing: 'Father, I am not capable of forgiveness.' But how can ask God to forgive us if afterward we are not capable of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a great thing. Forgiveness is not easy, because our heart is poor and with only its strengths we cannot do it. But if we open ourselves and leave ourselves for God to be merciful with us, we can be capable of forgiveness.”

Despite the winter weather and smaller crowd size during this time of year, the Pope still held the audience in St. Peter's Square instead of indoors.

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Thursday, December 10, 2015

From Pope Francis - December 9, 2015


Saint Peter's Square
- Wednesday, 9 December 2015 -

Pope Francis during the general audience explains why he 
convened the Jubilee of Mercy.

During his weekly general audience, Pope Francis explained why he decided to convene a Jubilee of Mercy. He said that the Church needed this extraordinary moment and that it could be a moment to experience the forgiveness of God in our lives.

The Pope also suggested that mercy is needed within institutions, especially the Church. He said that mercy must become more readily accessible to all.


"Dear Brothers and Sisters:

With the opening of the Holy Door yesterday in Saint Peter’s, we inaugurated the Jubilee of Mercy. This extraordinary Holy Year reminds us that, amid profound changes in our world, the Church is called to bear convincing witness to God’s mercy, which alone can triumph over human sin and bring true freedom.

God’s mercy, made present in our midst by the incarnation of his Son, is the very heart of the Gospel. This Year of Grace reminds us that mercy is what "pleases God most”, and that it has to find clear expression in our lives and in the Church’s structures. In today’s world, mercy and forgiveness often appear overwhelmed by self-interest, hedonism and venality, while in the Christian life they can be stifled by hypocrisy and worldliness. Forgetfulness of God’s mercy blinds us even to seeing sin for what it is. That is why this Holy Year of Mercy is so important. 

Let us ask the Lord to make us ever more aware of his mercy at work in our lives and ever more effective in testifying to its transforming power in our world.”

© Copyright 2015 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana