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Africa: Young Catholic media professionals begin online course

Forty young African media professionals, this week started a three-week online training programme organised by SIGNIS Africa under the banner: Citizen journalists of hope.

Cardinal Cantalamessa to preach Advent sermons at Vatican

The Preacher to the Pontifical Household, newly created Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, will begin a series of sermons for Advent this Friday, 4 December. The sermons will be delivered in the Paul VI Hall, due to the necessity of social distancing during the pandemic.

UN seek to ship aid to Tigray region

The United Nations says that Ethiopia will allow aid into the country's Tigray region.

International slavery abolition day highlights plight of victims of modern slavery

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is marked annually on 2 December. It is a day set aside to raise awareness and to reinforce global efforts in combatting the scourge of modern slavery.

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 IS 25:6-10A

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage. 
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.




R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there. 
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others. 
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. 
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole, 
the lame walking, 
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat. 
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.” 
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?” 
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” 
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” 
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 
They all ate and were satisfied. 
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Pope prays for Nigeria after terror attack on farmworkers

Pope Francis appeals for prayers for Nigeria, where a group of terrorists killed over 100 farm labourers in the country’s northeast.

Pope at Audience: God blesses us despite our sins

Reflecting on blessing as an essential dimension of prayer, Pope Francis in his General Audience says that our response to the God who blesses is also by blessing. We do it through the prayer of praise, adoration and thanksgiving.

Council of Cardinals reflects on life of the Church in midst of pandemic

The Council of Cardinals gathered virtually on Tuesday afternoon for their regularly scheduled meeting.

Next Buffalo bishop promises 'truth' and 'transparency'

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 1, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The newly-announced next Bishop of Buffalo has promised to be a pastor who will promote transparency in the scandal-ridden New York diocese.

“In all things, I pledge to be truthful and transparent in the decisions that we will need to make,” said Bishop Michael Fisher, currently auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C. Fisher was announced as Pope Francis’ choice to lead the Diocese of Buffalo on December 1. 

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, he promised “collaboration and consultation” with local Catholics.  

“I come to you as your new bishop. I am first and foremost your brother in faith,” he said. “I hope you will call me Bishop Mike.”

Fisher will be installed as Buffalo’s bishop on Jan. 15, 2021. The oldest of five children, he was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990 and has served on the archdiocese’s administrative board, clergy personnel board, priest council, and priest retirement board.

He will take over a diocese rocked by recent revelations of clergy sex abuse, allegations of a cover-up and mishandling of abuse by former Bishop Richard Malone and Edward Grosz, a lawsuit by New York state, and ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.

Last week, the office of New York’s Attorney General published a 216-page report documenting the years-long failure by the diocese to abide by the standards of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in handling cases of alleged clergy sex abuse of minors.

In December, 2019, Bishop Malone announced that the pope had accepted resignation. That announcement followed an apostolic visitation ordered the Vatican to investigate his handling of clergy sex abuse. Malone’s former secretary had leaked audio of the bishop appearing to acknowledge the credibility of claims of sexual harassment and violation of the seal of Confession made against a diocesan priest months before that priest was removed from active ministry.

Malone’s former executive assistant also leaked diocesan records in 2018 that appeared to show the diocese working with its lawyers to conceal the names of some diocesan priests with credible claims of sex abuse from the public.

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany was appointed as interim leader of the diocese after Malone’s resignation. In January, he told members of the media that he was “not given” the results of the 2019 Vatican-ordered investigation into the diocese. He also said that he “was not sent with a particular mission.”

On Tuesday, when asked by WKBW if he would seek Vatican permission to publish the conclusions of the 2019 investigation into the diocese, Fisher said he had not seen the report yet.

“That is something that I will need to look at. Again, I’ve just been named today, and have not been given the details of those things yet,” he said.

“But I will be certainly delving into those issues, and hopefully with proper collaboration and consultation, can be able hopefully to make those kinds of decisions later.

Fisher also said that the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, did not bring up the problems of the diocese when asking him if he would accept Pope Francis’ appointment to Buffalo.

“In terms of going into any of the problems,” Fisher recalled, “he [Pierre] didn’t get into that.”

When asked about the Attorney General’s lawsuit against the diocese, filed last week, Fisher said that it was “very serious” and that a “zero tolerance policy for any abuse of children, for the sexual harassment of adults, needs to be taken seriously and followed.”

He was also asked about concerns that diocesan staff who allegedly helped cover up clergy sex abuse might still hold their positions. Fisher responded that he would have to “meet people” first.

Fisher said that his first priority as bishop “will be to get to know the parishes and its people.”

His other priorities, he said, will be to “get to know the priests and pastors,” and to “continue the healing, and work of renewing the faith in ministries of the diocese that Bishop Scharfenberger and so many other devoted parish leaders have begun.”

“I am well aware of the challenges we face,” he said, noting the current coronavirus pandemic, the diocese’s ongoing bankruptcy process, and the revelations of clergy sex abuse in recent years.

'Mary on the Mantel'? Think 'Elf on the Shelf', but Catholic 

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2020 / 02:55 pm (CNA).- For the past 16 years, Elf on the Shelf has become a tradition, both hated and loved, for families in the days leading up to Christmas.

Based on a book and accompanying doll, the elf is a scout for Santa Claus, who watches children’s behavior during the day and reports back to the North Pole every night. There are rules about how to interact with the elf and a myriad of ideas for the things he can do.

Whether Elf on the Shelf is a “footless creep” or a beloved tradition, the concept sparked the idea for Mary on the Mantel, a traveling doll that aims help children enter more deeply into Advent.

Erica Tighe Campbell, founder of the Catholic lifestyle products company Be A Heart, was pregnant with her first child last year when she came up with the idea of creating a Mary doll.

“I was doing my baby registry, and..I saw a closet for a doll, and I thought, ‘What doll needs outfits?’” Campbell told CNA.

“Then I started thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, wait, Mary has so many outfits in all of her different apparitions. What if there was a really beautiful Mary doll that looked like other things that are selling?’”

The outfits could help teach children about Mary and her messages in the different apparitions she has made, Campbell added.

“On feast days, you could talk about the different apparitions with your children by getting out her Guadalupe dress or getting out her Fatima dress, and recognizing that she is the same person, but she appears to us differently,” Campbell said.

Campbell said she wanted the doll to help foster a deeper relationship with Mary for children.

“I wanted my daughter to have a doll to teach her about the comfort that Mary brings,” she said.

“In my own life, Mary’s motherly love and care is what has brought me through so many difficult times. As a child, going through things with my family in high school, I would always turn to the Hail Mary, that was my go-to,” she said. “And as I've grown as a woman, I really look to her yes...saying yes to God, even when things are uncertain.”

Campbell made her first Mary doll this year, with a simple blue veil and linen dress, available in three different skin tones.

The idea to use the Mary dolls for “Mary on the Mantel” first came from her web developer, who is the father of four children. He suggested that Mary somehow replaced Elf on the Shelf.

Campbell started thinking of ways to tweak the idea of the traveling elf to better suit Advent, and about the ways Christians can prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

“Elf on the Shelf reports back to Santa if girls and boys are good or bad, and really in my own spiritual life, I have had to kind of undo that theology of ‘I'm good when I do this and I'm bad when I do this, and God is watching,’” Campbell said.

God is not like Santa, she said, in that he’s not a “transactional God, where as long as I'm doing good, then I will reap the rewards of a gift under the Christmas tree. In my own parenting, I didn’t want to pass that message along to my children.”

“And so I started conceptualizing: what could Mary do instead of being this watchful tattletale? That's going to create a friendship with her? How do we teach children to be friends with Mary?”

“I started thinking about what Mary was doing, even before they got the census announcement? She was probably preparing her house, preparing all of these things. She went on a trip to see Elizabeth. There are so many ways that we can recognize the personhood of Mary, and talk about that with our children - that she was a girl, she had normal daily tasks that she needed to do.”

In late November, Campbell posted to social media, announcing the idea for Mary on the Mantel - a Mary doll that would show up in different places around the house every morning of Advent.

Instead of Elf on the Shelf’s brand of mischief, Mary would be caught doing things to prepare for the coming of baby Jesus, like washing baby clothes, or reading a pregnancy book, or planning her journey to Bethlehem for the census.

“I have this image of Mary taking our hands and leading us to her Son, a little bit like how I imagine for my own self, having the baby and wanting people to meet her,” Campbell said.

“We get to prepare ourselves for Christmas, and putting up our Advent wreath and our Christmas tree and cleaning the house and wrapping presents - that is similar to our preparation. We prepare homes just as a mother prepares her home to welcome her new baby.”

Instead of reporting on the children’s bad behavior, every morning Mary would be found with a message encouraging children to do a specific act of kindness each day. The notes can be left in Mary’s tote bag, which comes with each ‘Be A Heart Mary’ doll.

“How do we really become like the people who are prepared to meet the baby Jesus in the manger? We can do acts of kindness for others,” Campbell said. Because the parents can write whatever message they want and place it in Mary’s bag, they can choose acts of kindness that are tailored to their child’s development and what they are capable of accomplishing.

“There are simple things to do. You could read a book to your sibling, or you could do a chore without being asked, or you could write letters to your grandparents, or call a friend, little things like that,” she said.

“Children could go through their toys and find toys that they don't play with that are still good, that could be donated to another child who needs them. But the parents are in control, so it doesn't get overwhelming.” Mary’s linen dress has room for paper towel or tissue stuffing to make her belly “grow,” Campbell added, as Christmas nears and she prepares to give birth.

And for parents struggling to come up with new ideas, Campbell’s blog post on the idea includes long lists of ideas of activities that the Mary doll can do, and ideas for age-appropriate acts of kindness.

The Mary on the Mantel project can be done with any Mary doll or figurine, Campbell added. After her Mary on the Mantel post, the Be A Heart dolls sold out, though Campbell is hoping to have more in stock soon.

Campbell is also planning the first dress for Mary, which will be the Our Lady of Guadalupe dress. And she has plans for a St. Joseph doll, a baby Jesus doll, a donkey for them to ride on, and more.

The Mary on the Mantel tradition also differs from Elf on the Shelf in that parents do not have to put Mary away once Christmas arrives, Campbell said. In fact, the Mary doll is meant to be a companion all year long.

“We really just think that journeying with Mary is an important way for children to enter into the Advent season,” Campbell said.

“It allows for something fun, and something that parents can do that's not super complicated, hopefully, and that kids can wake up and be excited for, and be excited about doing things for other people every day,” she said. “I'm interested to see what comes of it as people use their own imaginations with it.”