Pope Francis Christmas Message and Blessing

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Text of Christmas message

By Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s official English-language translation of Pope Francis’ Christmas message, delivered on Wednesday in Italian from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors (Luke 2:14)

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Christmas!

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.

I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

Glory to God!

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.

May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.

Peace to mankind.

True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ. Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick. Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state. Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

Full text of Pope Francis’s homily at Christmas night Mass at St Peter’s

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking: this verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country toward the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way toward the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

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Pope Francis Reuters Video

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11).

On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’s birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks.

Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.
On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.

To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

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BBC News Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Message December 25, 2013

Queen Elizabeth II's 2013 Christmas Broadcast

I once knew someone who spent a year in a plaster cast recovering from an operation on his back. He read a lot, and thought a lot, and felt miserable.

Later, he realised this time of forced retreat from the world had helped him to understand the world more clearly.

We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock. Be it through contemplation, prayer, or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding, even discovering greater spiritual depth to their lives.

Reflection can take many forms. When families and friends come together at Christmas, it’s often a time for happy memories and reminiscing. Our thoughts are with those we have loved who are no longer with us. We also remember those who through doing their duty cannot be at home for Christmas, such as workers in essential or emergency services.

And especially at this time of year we think of the men and women serving overseas in our armed forces. We are forever grateful to all those who put themselves at risk to keep us safe.

Service and duty are not just the guiding principles of yesteryear; they have an enduring value which spans the generations.

I myself had cause to reflect this year, at Westminster Abbey, on my own pledge of service made in that great church on Coronation Day 60 years earlier.

The anniversary reminded me of the remarkable changes that have occurred since the Coronation, many of them for the better; and of the things that have remained constant, such as the importance of family, friendship and good neighbourliness.

But reflection is not just about looking back. I and many others are looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.

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The baton relay left London in October and is now the other side of the world, on its way across 70 nations and territories before arriving in Scotland next summer. Its journey is a reminder that the Commonwealth can offer us a fresh view of life.

My son Charles summed this up at the recent meeting in Sri Lanka. He spoke of the Commonwealth’s ‘family ties’ that are a source of encouragement to many. Like any family there can be differences of opinion. But however strongly they’re expressed they are held within the common bond of friendship and shared experiences.

Here at home my own family is a little larger this Christmas.

As so many of you will know, the arrival of a baby gives everyone the chance to contemplate the future with renewed happiness and hope. For the new parents, life will never be quite the same again.

As with all who are christened, George was baptised into a joyful faith of Christian duty and service. After the christening, we gathered for the traditional photograph.

It was a happy occasion, bringing together four generations.

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In the year ahead, I hope you will have time to pause for moments of quiet reflection. As the man in the plaster cast discovered, the results can sometimes be surprising.

For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.

On the first Christmas, in the fields above Bethlehem, as they sat in the cold of night watching their resting sheep, the local shepherds must have had no shortage of time for reflection. Suddenly all this was to change. These humble shepherds were the first to hear and ponder the wondrous news of the birth of Christ – the first noel – the joy of which we celebrate today.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

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Prince George spends his first Christmas at Sandringham as the royals enjoy church service

The Royal Family then returned to the Sandringham estate for a traditional Christmas dinner.

On a bright but bitterly cold morning, his parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, walked hand in hand from the 270-room mansion down to St Mary Magdalene church on the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate in a long procession of royals headed by the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Andrew.

See Photos At Express UK 

Prince Harry, still bearded from his trek to the South Pole, brought up the rear before the Queen, in a Stewart Parvin rusted orange cashmere coat, arrived in a maroon State Bentley accompanied by eight months pregnant Zara Phillips.

Kate, 31, was wearing an Alexander McQueen tartan coat and Gina Foster hat. Earlier, wearing a cream coat, she joined the Queen at communion and was spotted kissing the 87-year-old monarch after curtseying to her.

More than 2,000 well-wishers, some arriving as early as 4am, braved the cold to see the royals attend the traditional service.

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It was a bumper turnout with around 30 members of the Royal Family staying at Sandringham, the Queen’s private residence near King’s Lynn.

She was joined by a host of relatives including Prince Charles, Camilla, Edward and Sophie and their children Louise and James, Beatrice, Eugenie, Anne and her husband Tim Laurence, Zara’s husband Mike Tindall, Peter and Autumn Phillips and their daughters Savannah and Isla. The late Princess Margaret’s children, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, were also there with their families.

“I’ve not seen so many members of the Royal Family at church since Diana’s days,” said veteran royal watcher Mary Relph, 79, who has been coming to Sandringham on Christmas Day since 1988.

I’m not disappointed to not see Prince George. I wouldn’t expect them to bring a baby out in the cold.”

After the 45-minute service, the royals spent 20 minutes chatting to the crowd. William and Kate, both 31, said they had enjoyed a good morning with five-month-old George.

Kate told Cicely Howard, 75, from Rollesby, near Great Yarmouth: “George has opened his presents but he was more interested in the wrapping paper.”

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William said: “We’ve had a good morning but we can’t wait until next year when he’s bigger.”

Harry joked with fans that he might keep his beard, as it was becoming a royal tradition following William’s decision to sport a beard for. Few weeks after a spell in the Royal Navy a few years ago.

The Queen was helped by four elegant royal ladies – Sophie, wearing a stunning white coat, Beatrice in pale blue, Eugenie in black and Zara in pink – who were all acting as ladies-in-waiting to take flowers proffered to the monarch by a long line of children.

That left Zara’s husband Mike Tindall to walk back to the house ahead of his wife. “I feel a bit empty walking on my own without a partner,” he confessed to the crowd.

But the prize for the funniest comment of the morning went to Prince Edward, who went over to some well-wishers and said: “I bet you don’t know who I am.”

During the service, overseen by the Rev Jonathan Riviere, Rector of Sandringham, the Royal Family sang four Christmas carols: Christians awake; Once in royal David’s city: O Come all ye faithful; and Hark the herald angels sing.

This year marks a special occassion after the Duke and Duchess chose to spend Christmas Day with Kate’s family in Berkshire last year, while Prince Harry was serving in Afghanistan.

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In 2011 Duke of Edinburgh also missed out on the service while recovering from a heart operation, but this year the whole family is expected to enjoy the celebrations in traditional style.

Other family members such as Mike and Zara Tindall also arrived.

It is believed the party is so big that staff have had to make up rooms in the servants’ quarters for some royal guests.

The Royal Family take breakfast in the morning before heading to church, their only Christmas Day public appearance.

Afterwards they return to the house for a traditional Christmas meal of Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings.

At 3pm the royal party gathers to watch the Queen’s Christmas message.

It is believed that the Queen prefers to watch the message alone, and does not join the guests for that part of the celebrations.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travelled to Sandringham on Thursday on a scheduled train from Kings Cross to Kings Lyn.

Other members of the Royal Family arrived on the same day and are expected to stay until at least Boxing Day.

The family are thought to prefer to open their gifts on Christmas Eve.

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US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Happy Holiday Message

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In their Christmas message, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and thank the troops!

Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Wish Everyone a Happy Holiday Season 

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  They also thanked our brave troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and reminded everyone to visit JoiningForces.gov to find ways to give back to our military families this year.  Both the President and First Lady said that during this holiday season, we should all come together to find ways to support our communities, continue caring for each other and keep working to be the best parents, children, friends, neighbors, and citizens we can be.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 25, 2013

THE PRESIDENTHello everybody, and happy holidays.

THE FIRST LADY: We know how busy this time of year is for everyone, so we’re not going to take much of your time.

But we did want to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas, from our family to yours.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a season for millions of Americans to be together with family, to continue long-held holiday traditions, and to show our gratitude to those we love.  And along the way, some of us might even watch a little basketball or eat some Christmas cookies, too.

THE FIRST LADY: Here at the White House, over the past few weeks, we’ve had about 70,000 people from all across the country come visit us and look at our holiday decorations.

This year’s theme was “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.”

And in every room of the house, we tried to tell a story about who we are as Americans and how we celebrate the holidays together.

And we made certain to highlight some of the most powerful stories we know – the stories of our outstanding troops, veterans, and military families and their service and sacrifice for our country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Our extraordinary men and women in uniform are serving so that the rest of us can enjoy the blessings we cherish during the holidays.  But that means many of our troops are far from home and far from family.  They’re spending some extra time on the phone with their loved ones back home. Or they’re setting up video chats so they can watch as the presents are opened.  So today, we want all of our troops to know that you’re in our thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

And here’s the good news: For many of our troops and newest veterans, this might be the first time in years that they’ve been with their families on Christmas.  In fact, with the Iraq war over and the transition in Afghanistan, fewer of our men and women in uniform are deployed in harm’s way than at any time in the last decade.

THE FIRST LADY: And that’s something we all can be thankful for.

And with more and more of our troops back here at home, now it’s our turn to serve – it’s our turn to step up and show our gratitude for the military families who have given us so much.

And that’s why Jill Biden and I started our Joining Forces initiative – to rally all Americans to support our military families in ways large and small.

And again and again, we have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve gotten as folks from across the country have found new ways to give back to these families through their schools, businesses, and houses of worship.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s the same spirit of giving that connects all of us during the holidays.  So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors.  For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.  And for all of us as Americans, regardless of our faith, those are values that can drive us to be better parents and friends, better neighbors and better citizens.

THE FIRST LADY: So as we look to the New Year, let’s pledge ourselves to living out those values by reaching out and lifting up those in our communities who could use a hand up.

THE PRESIDENT:  So Merry Christmas, everyone.  And from the two of us, as well as Malia, Sasha, Grandma, Bo…

THE FIRST LADY: And Sunny, the newest Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  We wish you all a blessed and safe holiday season.

THE FIRST LADY: Happy holidays everybody, and God bless.

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Prince Harry and Team of Servicemen and Women Reach South Pole Are Back Home

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Prince Harry and his fellow adventurers in the Walking With The Wounded expedition have arrived at the South Pole, the organizers have said.

Walking Wounded Website 

Aol Video South Pole Adventurers 

The group stood at the bottom of the world at 12:00 GMT after more than three weeks of pulling sleds. Twelve injured servicemen and women from the UK, the US and the Commonwealth were on the 200-mile walk.

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actor Dominic West and Prince Harry

Ed Parker, the expedition’s director and co-founder of the Walking With The Wounded charity that organised the challenge, said: “We always knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, but that is what makes the challenge so exciting.

“Our aim was to show that, despite injury, young men and women from our armed forces can still achieve great things.

“We came down here, determined to get 12 men and women, all injured in conflict, to the South Pole, and this is what we have done. The feeling is incredible.” – BBC News

Harry Hailed As Trek Soldiers Return Home

The injured service personnel who took part in a charity expedition to the South Pole are welcomed back to the UK

By Paul Harrison, Royal Correspondent

Prince Harry has been praised by his trekking team-mates as they received a heroes’ welcome after successfully walking to the South Pole.

The injured service personnel who formed the Walking With The Wounded charity expedition arrived at Heathrow to spend Christmas at home.

While some fought back tears as they were reunited with loved ones at the airport, tributes were paid to their royal patron, who returned to Britain separately.

Speaking about the prince, British team member Guy Disney told Sky News: “He’s just a really good honest bloke and brings a lot to the party.

“Harry brought a hell of a lot to the team, he carried extra weight for some of the other guys.

“He was always up for a laugh and you need that, you need to keep the banter going.”

Family and friends cheered and clapped as the team walked into the arrivals hall at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 after a flight from Cape Town in South Africa.

The competitive element of the South Pole Allied Challenge was called off just a few days into the race after some members of the three teams began to suffer from altitude sickness.

With the British, US and Commonwealth teams instead joining forces, they completed the 210-mile course, arriving at the South Pole in just 13 days.

“Arriving back here is quite surreal after the peace and quiet out in the South Pole where you’re in your own mind for nine to 10 hours a day skiing, to this kind of welcome”, explained Ibrar Ali.

“The way we look at it, we were just a group of guys that went off to the South Pole to raise some money for some other guys who’ve been injured on operations.”

A total of 12 wounded servicemen and women who have overcome life-changing injuries took part in the challenge.

Sky News understands Prince Harry chose not to join the British team’s welcome home in order that the focus should be on others rather than himself. – Sky News

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