VATICAN CITY — The Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square was unveiled this afternoon with a focus on Mary, the Mother of God. There were traditional Christmas songs played during the event and Pope Benedict appeared at his studio window to light a “candle of peace,” setting the tone for tonight’s Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Here is the full text of the pope’s homily from tonight’s Mass:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Published in Vatican

The following is the 2011 Christmas message from Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Stars give us a sense of direction and brighten the night. In the Book of Genesis (22:17), they are also a sign of God’s blessing. They herald God’s promise to Abraham that his and Sarah’s descendants will be countless. In the Book of Numbers (24:17a), a star is again a sign and promise of what is to come: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near — a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.”

Published in Features

Creating a sculpture is like playing a game of chess, said sculptor Tim Schmalz of his expanding clay Nativity scene. 

"Your opponent does one move and that will determine your move," said Schmalz. "And with doing a multi-figured sculptural scene like this, I have to react with the central piece… I have to monitor what person plays what role within this drama."

Schmalz worked on his sculpture of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the sixth annual Friends of the Crèche International Convention in November and is currently working on adding the three wise men, shepherds, an angel and animals to the scene. He hopes to have the sculpture completed by Christmas.

Published in Arts News

TORONTO - Christmas has not been banished to churches and pious homes. Commercial Christmas may be everywhere — bigger, brighter  and louder than any tale of how Christ came into the world — but the insanely jovial Santas and blizzard of inane holiday songs on the radio are not the end of the story.

There are Christmas creches in businesses, out on the street, in offices, in all kinds of places around the city.

At Casa Manila in North York the only thing owners Rizalde and Mila Cuachon need to evoke the birth of Jesus is a star — or a couple dozen stars — hanging from the ceiling of their restaurant. The traditional Filipino parol is a lantern made from bamboo and Japanese paper. It evokes the star that led magi to Bethlehem. The Cuachons’ collection of parols joyously declare, “Christ is here.”

Published in Features

LONDON - Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in "great fear" because of the risk of new attacks.

All services and Masses have been scheduled for daylight hours, he said in an interview with Rome-based AsiaNews.

Published in International
December 22, 2011

A passion for creches

Markham, Ont. - When you arrive at the Patton home in Markham, there’s no mistaking that Christmas is coming. Not only are visitors greeted by a Nativity scene on the front lawn and a manger scene on an entire side wall, inside the house are more than 900 crèches.

Nativity scenes are a passion for Gwen Patton. She has some 450 of them on the main floor. They’re everywhere — in the living, family and dining rooms, the kitchen and along hallways. There are another 450 or so in the basement, with a few scattered in bedrooms.

Patton knows the story behind each one of them. Asked to name her favourite, she’s reluctant.

Published in Features

Mississauga, Ont. - It will be a special Christmas for the family of Dina Al-Sammak and Fawaz Fatohi; their son, David, turns a year old this Christmas season, which marks the family’s two-year anniversary in Canada.

Like many Catholic families in the multicultural Greater Toronto Area, the family will be celebrating with Christmas Mass and family get-togethers, integrating some of the cultural traditions of their Iraqi homeland into the festivities.

Before being sponsored as refugees by Mississauga’s St. Dominic Catholic Church in 2009, Al-Sammak says attending Christmas Mass and celebrating with family in Baghdad were luxuries they could not participate in because of the post-war violence in Iraq.

Published in Features

Do you think you or your children really know the story of Christmas? Tackle our children's trivia test and see how you get on!

Published in Youth Speak News

“Are you coming home for Christmas?”

“No, Uncle Buga, not this time.”

“Do you realize,” he said to me sounding emotional, “that you have not been home for Christmas since you left the country?”

Published in Vatican

North Bay’s Knights of Columbus are distributing 1,200 pins to parishioners this Advent to make sure they remember the reason for the season.

“They’re about an inch-and-a-half in diameter and it has ‘Christmas’ at the top and ‘birth of Christ’ at the bottom and a picture of the Holy Family,” said Donald Halsall, financial secretary of the North Bay Council 1007, which was chartered in 1905.

“It’s to remind our Christians what the real meaning of Christmas is. We get wrapped up in gifts… but we should be remembering the purpose of Christmas is the birth of Christ,” said Halsall.

Published in Canada

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI - A project begun a couple years ago to affirm the value of the family and the importance of unborn life has resulted in a statue of the Blessed Virgin as a pregnant young woman erected in Charlottetown’s St. Dunstan’s Basilica. 

Named Our Lady of Hope, the statue was a collaborative effort between the local Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League and PEI Right to Life.

“I can’t tell you how delighted I was when I was approached with this suggestion,” said Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco, who gave his blessing to the project.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - For the 19th year running, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is offering “room at the inn” for out-of-town families visiting hospitalized relatives at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, Casey House Hospice and Hospice Toronto.

The Room at the Inn program offers families up to 10 guest rooms for a maximum of seven nights free of charge.

“It relieves some financial burden especially at this most difficult time of year for them,” said Eduarda Costa, administrative secretary for the social work office at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It allows families to be at the patients’ bedside offering support for a longer period of time.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Christmas ornaments featuring a kneeling soldier and the words “Never Alone/Jamais Seul” are being sold in a campaign to raise awareness of Canada’s new war veterans.

The campaign is run by Jane Twohey, a Military Christian Fellowship of Canada volunteer from Port Perry, Ont., northeast of Toronto.

Twohey wants to commemorate the service of Canadian soldiers and chaplains serving in missions around the world through the Christmas ornaments.

Published in Features

A glance at the mantle this time of year can give the average Catholic entirely the wrong idea about the Bible.

“You see creche scenes — they cram everything from both Gospels (Matthew and Luke) in there, not realizing that if you line up both those Nativity stories there are inconsistencies and contradictions,” said Jesuit New Testament scholar Fr. Scott Lewis. “Don’t try to mix the four Gospels together. Then you just get a meaningless glop.”

The popular mash up of sentimental baby imagery found everywhere from creches to Christmas cards to movies on TV is a problem for priests preaching on Christmas morning, said St. Peter’s Seminary Scripture professor Fr. Richard Charrette.

Published in Features
December 13, 2011

Christmas wishes

Our consumer society is afflicted by a “commercial contamination” that spikes in December. As Christmas approaches, we stay busy decorating, partying, drafting our wish list or buying and wrapping gifts for others.

In this mad rush we too often become guilty of neglecting the authentic peace, joy and spirit of Christmas. This is a season to celebrate Christ’s coming with prayer and reflection and also a time to look beyond our own family and friends to reach out in joy, charity and prayer to the forlorn and forgotten.

Published in Editorial