By: The Huffington Post
President Obama addressed the Boston Marathon explosions on Monday evening, saying that the "American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight" in the wake of the "senseless loss."
"On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats," Obama said. "We are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens ... We still do not know who did this, or why. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this. We'll find out who did this, we'll find out why they did this."
"Boston is a tough and resilient town," Obama continued. "So are its people. I am supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other & move forward – as one proud city."
Just before 3:00 p.m., two explosions went off at the race's finish line, causing dozens of injuries as well as multiple casualties. Earlier Monday, the White House said the president had been briefed on the situation and was in touch with state and local authorities regarding the response.
2013 Blessing of the Animals in LA
CNN PRODUCER NOTE - Marie Sager attended the Blessing of the Animals in downtown Los Angeles, California, on March 30. She says this event is held the Saturday before Easter each year and has been a tradition in the area since 1930. Pet owners come out to the event in hopes of having their pet blessed by the archbishop of the Catholic Church, but she explains all are welcomed to participate.
'The highlight of the event is walking in the procession and being blessed with the holy water by the Archbishop,' she said. 'He tosses the Holy Water on the animals, and owners as well.' Archbishop Jose Gomez blessed cows, horses, goats, dogs, cats, turtles, snakes, and the list goes on.
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
Blessing of the Animals 2013 - Olvera Street - Los Angeles, California
By: Nicole Winfield - Associated Press
ROME — Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in a Holy Thursday ritual that he celebrated for years as archbishop and is continuing now that he is pope. Two of the 12 were young women, a remarkable choice given that the rite re-enacts Jesus' washing of the feet of his male disciples.
The Mass was held in the Casal del Marmo facility in Rome, where 46 young men and women currently are detained. Many of them are Gypsies or North African migrants, and the 12 selected for the foot-washing rite included Orthodox and Muslim detainees as well, news reports said.
Because the inmates were mostly minors — the facility houses inmates aged 14-to-21 — the Vatican and Italian Justice Ministry limited media access inside. But Vatican Radio carried the Mass live, and Francis told the detainees that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.
"This is a symbol, it is a sign — washing your feet means I am at your service," Francis told the youngsters. "Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service."
Later, the Vatican released a limited video of the ritual, showing Francis washing black feet, white feet, male feet, female feet and even a foot with tattoos. Kneeling on the stone floor as the 12 youngsters sat above him, the 76-year-old Francis poured water from a silver chalice over each foot, dried it with a simple cotton towel and then bent over to kiss each one.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would celebrate the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices — part of his ministry to the poorest and most marginalized of society. It's a message that he is continuing now that he is pope, saying he wants a church "for the poor."
Previous popes would carry out the foot-washing ritual on Holy Thursday in Rome's grand St. John Lateran basilica and the 12 people chosen for the ritual would always be priests to represent the 12 disciples.
That Francis would include women in this re-enactment is noteworthy given the insistence of some in the church that the ritual be reserved for men only: The argument is that Jesus' disciples were all male, and the Catholic priesthood that evolved from the original 12 disciples is restricted to men.
"The pope's washing the feet of women is hugely significant because including women in this part of the Holy Thursday Mass has been frowned on — and even banned — in some dioceses," said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of "The Jesuit Guide."
"It shows the all-embracing love of Christ, who ministered to all he met: man or woman, slave or free, Jew or Gentile," he said.
After the Mass, Francis greeted each of the inmates and gave each one an Easter egg.
"Don't lose hope," he said. "Understand? With hope you can always go on."
Sistine gets spruced up for Tuesday's conclave
By: Rachel Zoll - AP Religion Writer
Cardinals took a break from maneuvering ahead of this week's papal conclave to fan out across Rome and celebrate Sunday Mass at local parishes.
The worship services provided a chance to see the cardinals up close and hear them preach two days before they enter the conclave. Roman Catholics and others packed the churches, holding up cell phones to take photos and video.
The cardinals said Mass in their titular churches, the parishes that according to church tradition are assigned to them as clergy of Rome, creating a symbolic bond with the pope. The conclave, with 115 cardinal-electors, is scheduled to start Tuesday.
The cardinals have been holding meetings and informal gatherings ahead of electing a successor to Benedict XVI. Several church leaders acknowledged the historic moment at Mass.
"This Sunday is also special because today we prepare for the conclave," said Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, in his sermon at Holy Mary of Victory church. "Let us pray that the Holy Spirit illumines the church to choose a new pope who will confirm us in our faith and make more visible the love of the good shepherd." The parish priest who introduced the cardinal was more direct, describing O'Malley as "humble, but decisive," and saying he hoped his next visit to the church would be as pontiff. The leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, has cited the Boston archbishop as a favorite, despite past resistance to the idea of a superpower pope.
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, considered a top papal contender, distributed communion at Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, and spoke on the mission of the church.
"It is to announce over and over again, even to the modern man who is so sophisticated but sometimes lost in the new millennium, to announce always and repeatedly that the Lord's mercy is a source of hope even in these difficult times," he said. Scola waved to well-wishers as he was driven away from the church.
At Church of St. Andrew at the Quirinal, a crowd greeted Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, considered Brazil's best hope of filling the papacy. Scherer, who lived in Rome as a young priest, shook hands and hugged the faithful before celebrating Mass. He asked for prayers for the church, calling this period "certainly a difficult time, but also a joyful one and full of hope."
At the relatively young age of 63, Scherer embraces new approaches for reaching nonbelievers, while upholding Catholic orthodoxy, including rejecting same-sex marriage. Scherer joined Twitter in 2011 and in his second tweet said: "If Jesus preached the gospel today, he would also use print media, radio, TV, the Internet and Twitter. Give Him a chance!"
Cardinal Peter Erdo, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said Mass at Basilica of Santa Balbina on the Aventine hill, where the first known Hungarian cardinal, Istvan Vancsa, was buried in the 13th century. Erdo, a canon lawyer and theologian, is considered a possible compromise candidate. He would be the second pontiff to come from eastern Europe, following Pope John Paul II.
"Let us all pray for the Conclave that will gather the day after tomorrow," Erdo said. "Let's call the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Holy Church."
Pope Benedict XVI stepped out of his signature shoes Thurs
By: Eric J. Lyman - Special for USA TODAY
VATICAN CITY -- The process of picking a successor to Pope Benedict XVI officially got underway Monday with more than 100 of the electors meeting in "congregations," but press officials said the dates of the papal conclave will not be set until all the cardinal electors are in town.
Of the 115 cardinals who can vote, 103 were in Rome for the pre-conclave meeting in which the cardinals a chance to get to know one another better. The Vatican said the cardinals prayed together and talked over coffee.
Twelve more cardinals had yet to arrive. The dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, has said a date won't be finalized until all the cardinals are at the Vatican.
Fr. Federico Lombardy, Vatican spokesman, characterized the talks as "positive, serine, warm, cordial, and constructive." He did not speak about specific topics of discussion.
On Monday each cardinal present took an oath pledging to honor "rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff." The cardinals also agreed to send pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned Friday, a message on behalf of the group, the Vatican said.
The meetings are being translated into five languages -- English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish -- with the translators sworn to secrecy about what they hear.
Benedict XVI remained at the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, his temporary retirement home while cardinals pick his successor, as television crews swarmed around the red-capped churchmen outside the Vatican.
"A Latin American Pope is possible, everything is possible!" said Portuguese Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins as he entered.
The cardinals discussed procedures for closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out. It was revealed that someone dressed as a bishop and with a staff of fake priests tried unsuccessfully to sneak into the meetings.
Lombardy declined to elaborate, saying only: "All I can say is that everyone seated for the congregation is a real cardinal."
All 142 of 207 cardinals -- including those aged 80 or older, who cannot vote for the next pope -- participated in the morning meetings. Most of the remaining cardinal electors are expected to arrive later Monday or on Tuesday. Lombardi did not exclude the possibility that the full contingent might not be gathered until Wednesday or later.
One cardinal who will not be arriving is Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who admitted Sunday that he was guilty of "inappropriate" relations with priests in the 1980s. Also absent will be Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, who is too frail to travel.
Lombardi said the structure of the meetings has been designed to allow for ample time for informal discussions. He said at the last conclave, in 2005, when Benedict was selected to succeed John Paul II, such early discussions were essential in determining the leading candidacies for the papacy especially among cardinals working far from Rome and unfamiliar with many of their fellow cardinals.
The meetings are being led by Sodano, the dean, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, camerlengo of the camera, and Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the congregation of bishops. They were joined by three cardinals selected as assistants, one from each order: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, and Cardinal Franc Rode, respectively. These assistants will serve for three days each, after which a new group will be selected.
Bertone, Battista Re, and Sepe are among those cardinals who may be leading candidates to become pope.How the conclave elects a new pope
The College of Cardinals elects a new pope in conclave, which is the process of sequestering the voting members of the college in Vatican City so that they have no contact with the outside world. The word "conclave" comes from the Latin phrase cum clavis, meaning "with key." The term is suitable since the cardinals are locked inside the Sistine Chapel in theApostolic Palace during the voting process.Rules for electing a new pope:
- A two-thirds-plus-one majority is required to elect a pope.
- Two ballots each are held in the morning and afternoon, for a total of four per day.
- If a new pope is not selected after 12 to 13 days, the cardinals may choose to impose a majority vote, which would allow selection of a new pope by a simple majority.
Each rectangular ballot is inscribed at the top with the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem
, meaning "I elect as supreme pontiff." Below these words, each cardinal writes down the name of the person he chooses as the pope. The vote is done in secret with paper and pen. The voting cardinal then folds the ballot twice, holds it in the air, and carries it the chapel's altar. He then says, "I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected." The cardinal places the ballot on a plate that sits atop the ballot receptacle and uses the plate to drop the ballot into the receptacle. After bowing before the altar, he returns to his seat.
Three Scrutineers, who are selected by all of the cardinals, are charged with counting the ballots. Once the ballots are collected, the Scrutineers count the ballots to determine if everyone has voted. If the number of ballots doesn't match the number of electors, the ballots are immediately burned and another vote is taken.Steps for the Scrutineers:
- The first Scrutineer takes a ballot, notes the name on it, and passes it to the next Scrutineer.
- The second Scrutineer notes the name and passes it to the third Scrutineer.
- The third Scrutineer reads aloud the name on the ballot, pierces the ballot with a needle through the word Eligo at the top of the ballot, and slides the ballot onto a string of thread.
- Each elector notes the name that is read.
- Once all ballots are read, the Scrutineers write down the official count on a separate sheet of paper.
- The third Scrutineer ties the ends of the thread on which the ballots are placed in a knot to preserve the vote.
- The ballots are placed in a receptacle.
After each vote, the ballots and any notes regarding them are burned. Smoke from the burning of the ballots appears over the Vatican Palace. If no pope has been chosen, a chemical is applied to the ballots in order to create black smoke when burned. White smoke - with no added chemicals - signals that a pope has been elected.
The newly elected pope then selects his papal name, which may be one of the first clues in terms of the course he intends to steer for the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Pope Benedict held his final public audience Feb 27
By: Daniel J. Wakin - The NY Times
VATICAN CITY — He circumnavigated St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile for the last time. He gave his final waves to cheering masses. And most profoundly, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed his valedictory words to the world on Wednesday in a heartfelt, sometimes wistful address that highlighted the price of being a pope — and its rays of happiness.
His eight-year papacy held moments of “joy and light,” at times resembling the boat carrying Peter and the other apostles on the Sea of Galilee, enjoying many days of sun, gentle breezes and abundant fish, Benedict told tens of thousands of people during his general audience, which was moved to a sun-soaked St. Peter’s Square from the usual auditorium to accommodate the crowd.
“There were also moments in which the waters were agitated and the wind contrary,” he said. “The Lord seemed to be sleeping.”
Benedict, 85, resigns on Thursday, exiting the papacy at 8 p.m. In the morning, he meets the cardinals who will elect his successor sometime next month. At 5 p.m. a helicopter will fly him to his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, where he is expected to wave to well-wishers and utter a few words. By 8:01 p.m., he will have the title “pope emeritus.”
Church officials said 150,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. They waved flags, applauded and chanted “Benedetto” under a brilliant blue sky, as the pope, clad in a white, double-breasted overcoat, spoke to them mainly in Italian but also gave brief remarks in other languages. The popemobile halted several times so its occupant could kiss babies handed up to him.
In the most personal part of his speech, Benedict drove home a central truth for any world-renowned figure, much less a pontiff: Privacy does not exist — a message that could be considered a warning to his successor.
Recalling the day he was elected pope on April 19, 2005, Benedict said he took on a forever job. “He who assumes the ministry of Peter no longer has any privacy,” he said. “He belongs forever and totally to all people, to all the church. The private dimension is totally, so to speak, removed from his life.”
And that will not change, he said, even though he has given up his ministry and is turning to a life of prayer, without the trips, meetings, receptions and conferences that make up so much of a pope’s life. “There is no returning to the private,” Benedict said, but he will serve the church “in a new way.”
Benedict, the first pope in nearly 600 years to step down voluntarily, repeated the explanation he proffered in making the announcement on Feb. 11. “In these last months, I felt that my strength was diminished,” he said. He asked God to help him make the decision “not for my good, but for the good of the church.”
He said he took the step fully aware of its seriousness and novelty, “but with a profound serenity of spirit.”
In an Academy Awards-like passage, Benedict also gave thanks to a list of people: his “brother cardinals”; the members of the Vatican Curia, or administrative body; the Holy See’s diplomatic corps; the bishops; and the “ordinary people” who had sent their good wishes.
Many in the square traveled from outside Rome. “We came to give the pope our support,” said Giovanni Sali, 25, a student who had arrived from central Italy. “We want him to know we are close to him.”
About 70 cardinals, some of whom had arrived in recent days in anticipation of the conclave to elect a new pope, were seated in the square, rising to join in several minutes of applause at the end of the speech. The cardinals plan to gather on Monday to set the date for the conclave to begin.
After the speech, it was on to those routine meetings with dignitaries that popes hold — but again, freighted with significance because they were the last in Benedict’s pontificate. According to a list provided by the Vatican, the pope met, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the president of Slovakia, Ivan Gasparovic, and officials of the tiny republic of San Marino, the principality of Andorra, the German state of Bavaria (Benedict’s home state) and the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.
-Rachel Donadio contributed reporting.
By: Brandy McDonnell - BAM Entertainment
Country music superstar and Checotah native Carrie Underwood is planning to make the hills come alive with the sound of music in late 2013.
The 2005 “American Idol” winner will take on the legendary role of Maria Von Trapp in a live television broadcast of “The Sound of Music.” The five-time Grammy winner already has a bit of experience with the musical’s memorable title theme: Check out this YouTube video of her rendition of “The Sound of Music” theme on CBS’ “Movies Rock” special.
Based on the beloved original Broadway musical, the three-hour live telecast will air around the 2013 holiday season on NBC, Robert Greenblatt, the network’s entertainment chairman announced.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producing team behind NBC’s musical series “Smash” as well as the acclaimed film versions of the song-and-dance hits “Chicago” and “Hairspray,” are partnering with the network for its broadcast of “The Sound of Music.”
“We’re thrilled to be presenting the Broadway version of ‘The Sound of Music’ live,” said Zadan and Meron in the announcement, “and having Carrie Underwood as the star brings it to a new generation who will fall in love with it for the first time as many millions of people already have. It’s a particular joy to us as producers to see this amazing artist stretch into new territory with this classic musical.”
Set in Austria just before the start of World War II, “The Sound of Music,” is based on the memoir of Maria Von Trapp, an aspiring nun who becomes a governess for widowed navy Captain von Trapp’s seven children, eventually falling in love with her employer and questioning her religious calling. The final musical for the famed team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein I, it premiered on Broadway in 1959, breaking box-office records and winning the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer played the lead roles in the musical’s 1965 film adaptation, which earned five Oscars and briefly supplanted “Gone with the Wind” as the highest-grossing movie of all time. Adjusted for inflation, the total gross for the movie musical ranks third all-time at the domestic box office, behind “Gone with the Wind” and “Star Wars,” according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
Powered by Andrews’ four-octave range and Oscar-nominated performance, the film made “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss,” “So Long, Farewell” and the title theme iconic. It will be interesting to see and hear how Underwood uses her big, clear voice to deliver such indelible material.
The five-time Grammy winner already has a couple of acting credits on her resume: a 2010 guest role on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and a supporting part in the 2011 film “Soul Surfer,” which, like “The Sound of Music,” boasts an inspirational, fact-based storyline. She also earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song for “There’s a Place for Us” from the 2010 big-screen adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” She both recorded and co-wrote the song.
In a 2010 interview shortly after she wrapped filming on “Soul Surfer,” Underwood told me that she is devoted to music but tries to stay open-minded about other projects that come her way, like movies and TV shows:
“I’ve said this before, but things just have a way of coming up. I’m all about doing what I love, and if something else gets thrown in the mix, then I definitely have an open mind towards it,” she said. “I want to do things to have fun and that I can look back on my life and be proud of and my kids can look back and see what I’ve done and maybe think their mom’s kind of cool.”
Pope announces resignation (L'Osservatore Romano)
By: CBS News
Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign his position as the head of the Roman Catholic Church on February 28, shocking the Christian world and even many close to him.
Benedict, 85, announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning, explaining that because of his advanced age and diminishing strength, he didn't feel he could carry on the job.
In his remarks to the cardinals, Benedict said his age and health left him with a level of energy, "no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry." The Petrine ministry is the Vatican's official description of the office of the pontiff.
When he became pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. He's now 85, and in recent years he has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.
The pope now travels to the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the 100-yard walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane. Late last year, people who were spending time with the pontiff emerged saying they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.
The Vatican stressed on Monday that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
The pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, told a news agency in Germany that the pontiff had been advised by his doctor not to take any more transatlantic trips and had been considering stepping down for months.
Talking from his home in Regensburg to the news agency dpa, Georg Ratzinger said his brother was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a "natural process."
"His age is weighing on him," the 89-year-old said of his 85-year-old brother. "At this age my brother wants more rest."
The 265th Pontiff, Benedict will be the first leader of the Church to step down voluntarily in almost six centuries. He has led the Church since 2005 through a tumultuous time that has seen him criticized for his handling of the scandal related to years of sexual abuse of young parishioners by priests and other clergy, and senior church officials' alleged moves to hide those actions.
Benedict has also had to deal with the fallout of a traitor in his own ranks -- his butler was convicted in 2012 (video)
of stealing personal documents from Benedict's living quarters and leaking them to the media.
Benedict's decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. Vatican communications advisor Greg Burke told "CBS This Morning" that the pontiff's sudden departure doesn't leave a lot of time for Church officials to pick a replacement if they want the post filled before Easter, but he also noted that there won't be the usual delay of nine days mourning for a pope who dies in office.
"We certainly hope to have a new pope by Easter," said Burke. Burke said he only found out about the pope's decision a couple hours before Benedict announced it to the cardinals.
"It was a surprise, but maybe not a shock," said Burke, who had worried about the aging pontiff's health increasingly in recent weeks. "I was always very nervous when I saw him going up and down steps," added Burke, noting that Benedict had problems with at least one of his knees. He said the pontiff did not, however, have any immediate, grave medical condition that he was aware of.
New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said electing a new pope would be all new to him since he's still learning what it means to be archbishop. At a news conference Monday, Dolan quipped he was "still writing thank-you notes from when I was made a cardinal" last year.
As cardinal, Dolan will be part of the College of Cardinals electing a new pope. In replying to questions, he said it would be "highly improbable" for him to be considered for the papacy.
The following is a transcription of part of the remarks Pope Benedict made in Latin to his cardinals on Monday morning, which was released to the media by the Vatican (Click here
to read the full text):
"I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
When people find no room for God in their lives, they will soon find no room for others. -Pope Benedict XVI
By: Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, leading the world's Roman Catholics into Christmas, on Monday urged people to find room for God in their fast-paced lives filled with the latest technological gadgets.
The 85-year-old pope, marking the eighth Christmas season of his pontificate, celebrated a solemn Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's Basilica, during which he appealed for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and an end to the civil war in Syria.
At the mass for some 10,000 people in the basilica and broadcast to millions of others on television, the pope wove his homily around the theme of God's place in today's modern world.
"Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him," said the pope, wearing gold and white vestments.
"The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full," he said.
The leader of the world's some 1.2 billion Roman Catholics said societies had reached the point where many people's thinking processes did not leave any room even for the existence of God."Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the 'God hypothesis' becomes superfluous," he said.
"There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so 'full' of ourselves that there is no room left for God."
Bells inside and outside the basilica chimed when the pope said "Glory to God in the Highest," the words the gospels say the angels sang at the moment of Jesus' birth.
Earlier on Monday the pope appeared at the window of his apartments in the apostolic palace and lit a peace candle, as a larger-than-life nativity scene was unveiled in St Peter's Square below.
Reflecting on the gospel account of Jesus born in a stable because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn, he said when people find no room for God in their lives, they will soon find no room for others.
"Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing.
"Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognise him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world," he said.
He asked for prayers for the people who "live and suffer" in the Holy Land today.
The pope called for peace among Israelis and Palestinians and for the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and prayed that "Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side-by-side in God's peace."
The Vatican is concerned about the exodus from the Middle East of Christians, many of whom leave because they fear for their safety. Christians now comprise five percent of the population of the region, down from 20 percent a century ago.
According to some estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the Middle East could halve by 2020 if security and birth rates continue to decline.
At noon (1100 GMT/6 AM ET) the pope delivered his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica. (Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
Mourners gather in St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church
By: Steven Erteit - LifeNews.com
Pro-life groups and leaders share their faith through the shock and horror Americans are feeling following the travesty in Connecticut, where two dozen adults and children were brutally slayed by a gunman at an elementary school. Some responses include:
Rick Santorum: “If there were ever a day to hug your child a little longer, a little closer, today is the day. It is with a heavy heart that Karen and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and family members of those affected by the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. May God bless the students, teachers, and emergency responders who are suffering unthinkable pain delivered at a place meant to be a sanctuary of safety and learning. The loss of life and innocence is devastating, and I pray for healing for the entire Newtown community and our country.”
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer: “Details are still unfolding, but initial reports suggest as many as 27 people, including 14 children, may be dead. The evil of such an atrocity is incomprehensible, particularly at the time of year when we celebrate the birth of the Child who was sent to save us from sin. Please be in prayer for the victims, their families and the Newtown community.”
Family Research Council: “What was meant to be a season of peace and joy has been shattered by the news of a school shooting in a small Connecticut town. It is a solemn reminder of why God sent His Son as a baby in a manger over 2,000 years ago to save us from our sins. As a father of five children, my heart goes out to the parents of these little ones whose lives were ended far before their time, and to the families of the innocent adults killed. This afternoon, many on our team gathered to pray for these grieving families. We ask that you join us in praying, not only for this suffering community and those directly touched by this tragedy, but for our nation — where senseless acts of violence like this have become all too common. “
Concerned Women for America CEO and President Penny Nance: “Please join Concerned Women for America as we pray for the students, faculty, and victims’ families of the senseless shooting this morning in Newtown, Connecticut. As a mother, I know this is every parent’s worst nightmare. The nation mourns for those killed by another deranged, evil person who wreaks havoc and murder on innocent people in situations that should be safe. May we hug our families closer this holiday season, realizing tomorrow is never promised to anyone. We pray that God provides the comfort of His presence to all those who are grieving and injured. Revelations 21:4 reminds us, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”
Missouri Right to Life: “Born or unborn, it’s always a tragedy when innocent human beings are the victims of unspeakable violence.”
Americans United for Life: “We are grieved by the loss of 26 innocent lives killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We know that all life is precious and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”