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Philippine rebels declare Christmas truce
MANILA (UCAN): Church leaders in The Philippines have welcomed ceasefire declarations from both the government and insurgents from the Communist-led New People’s Army (NPA), expressing hope that this would lead to the resumption of peace talks.
The NPA declared a split truce over Christmas and New Year in response to the Philippine government ceasefire.
A spokesperson for the rebels, Comrade Oris, said there would be two truce periods to mark “the Filipino people’s traditional holidays” and the Communist Party of The Philippines’ 49th anniversary celebration on December 26.
The ceasefires were slated to last from December 23 to 26; and December 30 to January 2.
Oris said the rebels would remain on “active defensive mode” during the ceasefire periods and maintain a “high degree of alertness and preparation against any hostile actions.”
On December 20, Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, declared a Christmas truce period from December 24 to January 2 to “lessen the apprehension of the public this Christmas season.”
Bishop Ruperto Santos, from Balanga, said the ceasefire is “our best Christmas gift,” adding that everybody should “always work for peace.”
He called on both sides to respect the ceasefire “as partners for peace, and denounce violence and atrocities.”
Pope Benedict says bishops never really retire
VATICAN (CNS): Marking the 70th birthday of Cardinal Gerhard Muller of Germany, Pope Benedict XVI said that even though the cardinal is no longer prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he would continue to have a public role of serving the Church. 
The former bishop of Rome wrote the introduction to a book of essays, The Triune God: Christian Faith in the Secular Age, honouring Cardinal Muller on his 70th birthday on December 31 and in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination in February. 
He added that Pope Paul VI wanted the more demanding positions in the Roman Curia, particularly the posts of prefect and secretary of the congregations, “to be limited to only five years in order to protect the freedom of the pope and the flexibility of the Curia.”  
At least 23 Church workers killed in 2017
VATICAN (CNS): The majority of Catholic Church workers violently killed in 2017 were victims of attempted robberies, the Fides news agency reported on December 28, with Nigeria and Mexico topping the list countries where the most brutal murders were carried out. 
Fides said that worldwide, 23 people—13 priests, one religious brother, one religious sister and eight lay people—died in violent circumstances in 2017. That number was down from 28 in 2016. 
Each year Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, publishes a list of pastoral workers who died violently. 
For the ninth year in a row, the Americas continued to be the continent most affected by violence against Catholic Church workers with 11 people killed in 2017. 
Four of those deaths occurred in Mexico, giving the country the dubious distinction of being the place where the greatest number of priests in Latin America are killed, Fides said.
New instruction on relics
VATICAN (CNS): Only relics that have been certified as authentic can be exposed for veneration, a new Vatican instruction published on December 16 in Italian by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes says.
The instruction clarifies and details canonical procedures to be followed by local bishops to verify the authenticity of relics and mortal remains of saints and blesseds, as well as giving a better guarantee of their preservation, track their movements and promote their veneration. 
The instruction outlines the specific procedures and personnel necessary for canonical recognition. It also specifies that any action taken regarding the relics or remains must also conform with local government laws and have the consent of the Vatican and the person recognised as the deceased’s heir.
Imam condemns attack on Egytian Coptics
CAIRO (CWNews): The grand imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, condemned the deadly December 29 terrorist attack on a Coptic Orthodox church in Helwan, near Cairo, in which 10 people were killed. He called on Egypt’s Muslims to celebrate Christmas to show their solidarity with Christians.
“All Egyptian people are urged to stand firm against this evil conspiracy” and to join “their Coptic brethren in celebrating the anniversary of Christ’s birth,” he said.

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