CATHOLIC ONLINE REPORT: Many American cities join in the festivities
Pilgrims arrive by the thousands, many of them by bicycle and make their way to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City on the eve of the feast. Among them, dancers, musicians, singers and other performers come to offer their performances in honor of La Virgen Morena (the dark Virgin).
As the patron of Mexico, the faithful from all over the nation begin to arrive on the day before the celebration at the Basilica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, home of the miraculous image of La Virgin Morena (the dark Virgin).
Pilgrims arrive by the thousands, many of them by bicycle and make their way into the atrium of the Basilica. Among them, dancers, musicians, singers and other performers come to offer their performances in honor of La Morenita.
At night a Mass is offered in the Basilica and the festivities continue through the night until the next day including lots of fireworks. Fiestas like this are actually held in places all over the country in honor of their Patroness - Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Parades and fiestas are also taking place in U.S. cities. Rocco Palma, on his blogsite Whispers in the Loggia, has placed video reports from such diverse locations as New York; Bridgeport, CT; Atlanta, San Francisco; Sacramento and Philadelphia.
The appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego changed the history of Mexico and has made a long-term impact throughout the Americas.
On December 9, 1531, Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, was walking to Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when a woman appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill.
She identified herself as the "ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God," speaking in the Aztec dialect.
"I am your compassionate Mother," she went on to say, "yours and that of all the people that live together in this land and also of all the other various lineages of men."
He was told to pass on a request to his local bishop that a house dedicated to her Son be constructed on the site of a former pagan temple. This house would be used to exalt him to the people of Mexico and allow him to be exalted throughout the world.
"I want very much that they build my sacred little house here" - a house dedicated to her son Jesus Christ, on the site of a former pagan temple, that would "show Him" to all Mexicans and "exalt Him" throughout the world.
The new convert met with Bishop Juan de Zumárraga who received the message with skepticism and said he needed a sign, proof that this message was real.
Diego's uncle was dying and needed attention. On December 12 he was on his way to the church, this time to ask the priest to come and give his uncle last rites.
The woman again appeared to him. She assured him that his uncle would be healed and told him that she would give him a sign for the bishop. He would find roses and other flowers on Tepeyac hill even though it was winter. He brought the flowers to the Virgin Mary who told him to put them in his tilma - a winter outer garment . She told him not to unfold the tilma with the flowers until he was with the bishop.
Bishop Zumárraga was astounded as the tilma was unwrapped and the image of the Virgin Mary, just as Diego has met her on the hill, was imprinted on the tilma.
UCAN REPORT: The Chin people of north-western Myanmar are in a “dire and desperate” situation, according to Baroness Cox, a member of the British House of Lords who recently returned from a fact-finding trip.
A delegation she led to the India-Myanmar border region was told that discrimination against Chin Christians is systematic and widespread and that the Chin people are denied health care and education and remain in acute poverty.
They are also subjected to widespread forced labor, community health workers and pastors told her team.
“This regime has made us poor,” one pastor told the delegation. “In development, culture and psychologically we are poor. But if I stand against the military they will catch my wife or son or me and so no one dares to speak out.”
There has been severe famine in Chin state since 2006 caused by an infestation of rats following the blossoming of bamboo, which happens every 20 years.
The pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Party provided rice and salt in the run-up to last month’s election in an attempt to win votes, but there are no signs that this has continued after the poll.
Instead there were complaints of intimidation, harassment and vote-rigging from the interviewees.
“The humanitarian situation in Chin State is dire and desperate and requires urgent relief,” said Baroness Cox, founder and chief executive of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which campaigns for the Chin among other causes.
“We urge the international community … to make it a priority to support health and education in Chin state and provide much-needed relief for [its] people.”
Also in the delegation was Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader of the rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
“We received overwhelming evidence that the severe human rights violations and chronic humanitarian needs continue to cause intense suffering in Chin State,” he said.
“Murders, rapes, armed attacks and looting are part of a long list of crimes perpetrated against a defenceless and exhausted civilian population. They are the evil consequences of shady arms trafficking and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources,” accuse missionaries. Recently Bishop Mélchisédech Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni, together with all the local clergy complained that in North Kivu, “there is a genocide in the making” (see Fides 27/11/2010).
“We know that in the West politics is conditioned by the interests of finance and economics. For this reason, the international community, who are the beneficiaries of the mineral resources from the DRC, fear a clash with the multinationals, the real holders of power and silent in the face of the Congolese tragedy. It is true that, internationally, some initial proposals are being drafted to defeat the illegal trade of natural resources. In this sense, the U.S. Congress has passed a law to prevent imports of minerals supplied by armed groups, requiring U.S. multinationals to establish the source of the minerals in the DRC. This is a small step forward, but it is just the beginning,” says the Peace Network for the Congo.
The illegal exploitation of mineral resources also has, unfortunately, local accomplices: armed groups and Congolese military officers and politicians who easily allow themselves to be corrupted by foreign multinationals, in view of personal enrichment at the expense of the common good of the entire population.
On 26 November a round table discussion entitled “Remove the veil of silence about the Congo. The massacres in the DRC and the plundering of resources in the recent UN report” was held in Parma. This is a report of about six hundred pages, by the UN High Commission for Human Rights, officially published on 1 October 2010, entitled “Report of the Mapping Project on the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, committed between March 1993 and June 2003 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo”. The roundtable was sponsored by the Peace Network in the Congo, by the Department of Political and Social Studies and by the School of Journalism and Publishing Culture at the University of Parma. Among the speakers was Mathilde Muhindo Mwamini, former National Deputy of the Congo, committed to supporting women in Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, which led to the testimony of the extreme plight of women in eastern DRC, targets of war violence, subject to rapes and abuses of every kind, inflicted to humiliate an entire people and destroy the future.
Inside the card is the coat of arms and a simple message: "Wishing you a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson."
Ms Gillard's first Christmas card as PM is a departure from the happy family snaps sent by former PMs and still used by other senior MPs.
Kevin Rudd favoured a photo at The Lodge with wife Therese and pet dog Abby.
John Howard often used a full family photo with his three children, although in later years it was just him and wife Janette.
The same card with the photo by Celeste Brignac - minus the PM's greeting - is on sale at Oxfam shops.
"Money raised through the sale of Oxfam's Christmas cards supports the broad work of Oxfam Australia in combating poverty and injustice worldwide, including responding to emergencies and international program work," Oxfam director of trading Nadine Silverberg said, welcoming the PM's support.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feast: December 12