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Cardinal Arborelius named 'Swede of the year'

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Anders Arborelius has been named “Swede of the Year”, the first ever Catholic prelate to receive the prestigious accolade.

“Swede of the Year” is a title given annually, since 1984, to a person who during the year has distinguished her or himself in a way that has changed Sweden for the better.

An independent jury set up by the nation’s leading news magazine Fokus revealed on Thursday evening that Cardinal Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm came out tops on its list of candidates who are “interesting and challenging: not simply well-known.”

This is the motivation of the jury:

"Nineteen years ago, the Swede of the year stepped into a role that no Swede had played since the 16th century. This year he became the first Swede ever to wear the red biretta. The Swede of the year has already made history, but he is also a person who, ever since his appointment in 1998, has been part of Swedish public debate. To represent the Catholic Church in a country, whose identity is mainly secular and otherwise Lutheran, requires a fearless attitude. As bishop of the diocese of Stockholm the Swede of the year also plays an essential role in bringing native Swedes and immigrant Swedes together. The Swede of the year is Anders Arborelius, bishop and cardinal."

Commenting on the recognition, Cardinal Arborelius told Vatican Radio that people sometimes ask him whether he really is Swedish because they think that it is impossible for a Swede to be a Catholic priest, bishop and cardinal!

“I am happy for the nomination and I think Fokus showed courage in having chosen me. It is a sign that the Catholic Church is increasingly becoming a reality in Sweden and part of Swedish culture. It is part of a process of integration that one can be Swedish and a cardinal at the same time” he said. 

Vatican Weekend for December 17th, 2017

Vatican Weekend for December 17th, 2017 features our weekly reflections on the Sunday Gospel reading, “There’s More in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye,” plus our resident Vatican watcher Joan Lewis reviews the past week’s events in the Vatican.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges: 


Vatican Weekend for December 16th , 2017

Vatican Weekend for December 16, 2017 features a report on the surprisingly large number of lonely people who have nobody with whom to spend Christmas, the origins of the tradition of making nativity scenes and where you can find a relic of the Christ Child’s crib in Rome and the latest in a series of reflections for this Advent season prepared by Monsignor William Millea.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges:



Pope Francis holds General Audience: English summary

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Eucharist at the Wednesday General Audience, saying Sunday is the Christian holy day par excellence.

Please find below the official English-language summary of the Pope's catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Our continuing catechesis on the Eucharist today centres on the importance of Sunday Mass.  As Christians, we celebrate the Eucharist in order to encounter the Lord, to hear his word, eat at his table and, by his grace to fulfil our mission in the world as members of his Mystical Body the Church.  As the day of the resurrection and the pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Sunday is the Christian holy day par excellence.  How could we pass this day without encountering the Lord?  Sadly, in many secularized societies, we have lost the sense of Sunday.  The Second Vatican Council asked us to celebrate the Lord’s Day as a day of joy and rest from servile work, precisely as a sign of our dignity as children of God.  Each Sunday is meant to be a foretaste of the eternal bliss and repose to which we are called and which we share, even now, in Holy Communion.  In the end, we go to Mass not to givesomething to God, but to receive from him the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, to follow his commandments and, through his living presence within us, to be witnesses of his goodness and love before the world.

Pope thanks his envoy to UN for promoting Vatican viewpoint

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday thanked his envoy to the United Nations in New York for all the hard work he is doing to raise the Holy See’s concerns regarding urgent issues and policies that have a direct impact on mankind.

He was receiving in audience Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, who was in the Vatican to update the Pope on ongoing work.

Speaking to Vatican Radio immediately after the audience, Archbishop Auza told Linda Bordoni that it was really him thanking the Pope “for making his work easy: I just have to cite him and then elaborate on what he says to make our position clear!”


The Archbishop said that during their conversation the Pope expressed appreciation for the work of the Holy See Mission at the UN and said he is aware of the demanding kind of work it is and of the challenges faced in certain questions.

Treaty on Nuclear Weapons

“I thanked him for having not only signed, but ratified the new treaty on nuclear weapons, he said, I told him how he played a major role in pushing forward the treaty and inspiring countries who are the leaders of this process to go forward”.

Auza explained how the Pope’s message calling for a treaty on the elimination of nuclear weapons was read at the opening of the negotiations and of how the Holy See had a delegation of experts pushing forward its agenda on all fronts.

He said that they were very united in pushing for the “final objective of trying to move forward the question of the prohibition of nuclear weapons towards total elimination.”

“I thanked the Pope for that, and he said it is a moral imperative of our time” he said.

Global Compact for Migration

Secondly, Auza said, “I updated him on where we stand on the Global Compact for Migration” as we work towards the summit for the adoption of the Global Compact next year.

He said they also spoke of  questions related to the respect for life, for religious freedom – some of them with strong moral and ethical implications like sexual and reproductive rights, “ and then the question of gender”.

2017 difficult year

Auza said there have been many specific issues this year that have made it a difficult year for our negotiations but, overall he said, “We try to maintain good relations with everybody”.

The Archbishop revealed they also chatted about his family as the Pope met his parents in New York and asked about his mother whom, he said, “is turning 96 and about his father who is 95 as they prepare to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary – all very exciting!”

“I was very happy about the audience, he concluded, and I think the Holy Father was also pleased to hear this little update about all the things we do in New York!”  


Holy See at WTO urges for multilateral inclusive trade

by Robin Gomes

According to the Holy See, an unbalanced and unjust trade creates social exclusion and inequality, offends human dignity  and neglects the common good of humanity.  A healthy world economy needs a more efficient way of interacting which ensures the economic and well-being of all countries, not just a few, said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. 

He was addressing the 11th Session of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that is taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1-13.   WTO’s goal is to ensure that global trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible for the benefit of all.

Unequal distribution of benefits

While commending that fact that trade over recent decades has helped lift over a billion people out of poverty in developing countries leading to a decline in global extreme poverty, Arch. Jurkovic however noted that these benefits have not be shared equally, especially among the Least Developed Countries (LDC).  According to Holy See, what is needed is a multilateral and inclusive trade system guided by a spirit of solidarity that avoids being a closed economy seeking to defend privileged positions.   This will safeguard weaker and smaller countries, Arch. Jurkovic said, recalling that the aim of multilateral institutions is to seek the common good by respecting the dignity of every single person.  In this perspective of international  trade, the Holy See official talked about issues such as agriculture, women’s role, e-commerce and fisheries.  

Food security

The archbishop noted that despite the generally fast growth of agricultural trade, the problem of ensuring food security remains an enduring challenge, especially for developing countries, with more than 800 million hungry and undernourished people in the world. According to the Holy See, tackling the problem of food insecurity requires eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries, especially small-scale agriculture, the mainstay of the rural economy in the LDCs. 


The Holy See also noted the crucial role of women in the development not only of the family but also the entire economic system.  Studies have revealed that a higher participation of women is associated with stronger economic growth and with more equitable societies.  Yet women are often discriminated against and marginalized, particularly in education, Arch. Jurkovic said, encouraging among things training and skills development for them.  

C9 Cardinals updated on the ongoing Curial reform

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Greg Burke, briefed reporters at the Sala Stampa on Wednesday, regarding the work of the “C9” small council of Cardinals studying the reform of the Roman Curia. The members met for three days this week, starting Monday, to discuss specific issues related to the ongoing process of Curial reform.

Listen to the report by Christopher Altieri:

Vatican Media reform

At the center of the meetings were topics including the imminent launch of the new VaticanNews multimedia portal, which the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication of the Holy See, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, presented to the council members during the course of the three days of working sessions.

Following the briefing, Press Office Director Greg Burke told Vatican Media this latest round of meetings was essentially a look at the progress of the work accomplished, and a chance to make any adjustments needed. “The C9 meeting these three days has been, in a way, a kind of ‘check up’ – the kind of thing you do with a car: you check up after 10 thousand miles, or 20 thousand miles,” Burke explained.

Curia: instrument of evangelization and service 

This week’s meetings were also in part dedicated to a reflection on the Curia as an instrument of evangelization and service for the Pope and for local churches. The Cardinal-members participating examined in great detail four dicasteries: the Congregations for Clergy, for the Evangelization of Peoples, and for Catholic Education; the Pontifical Council for Culture.

New Dicasteries

A significant portion of the work was devoted to the examination of a report from the head of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, and another from the two priests responsible for day-to-day operations at the Section for Migrants and Refugees of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Fr. Michael Czerny and Fr. Fabio Baggio.

The over-arching concern, according to Burke, is to inculcate a spirit of service in the various departments of the Roman Curia.

Reforming mentality

“For the Pope, the reform is not only a reform of structures, and changing documents,” he said. “It is above all, creating a mentality – and that is a mentality of service: that the Holy See is at the service of the local Churches.” Burke went on to say this mentality must be, “a spirit of service and of evangelization.” 

The meetings this week, which took place with the participation of Pope Francis, were the 22nd of the C9 working sessions, and the last of 2017. The next round of meetings will be held February 26-28, 2018.


Hong Kong Bishop declares 2018 ‘Year of Youth’

Bishop of Hong Kong has declared 2018 as the ‘Year of Youth’ for his diocese. 

In his message for advent 2017 Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said that the Year of the Youth commences on the First Sunday of Advent 2017 and will close on the feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King 2018.

His decision came as a result of his many meetings and consultations with young people since he was installed as the bishop of Hong Kong in August this year. The Bishop’s decision also comes to complement the 2018 Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, the Diocese had decided.

Praising their frank views he said  the young people have given him much to listen to and food for thought.

Personally agreeing with their suggestions, the Bishop promises to make every effort to achieve what they have suggested with God’s help and theirs,  in consultation and with the cooperation of the clergy, the laity and others concerned.

He recalled Pope Francis’ exhortation during World Youth Day Prayer Vigil on 31 July 2016, to leave their mark on history and not to be couch potatoes that confuse true happiness with comfortable sofas (sofa happiness).

Thanking them for their initiative and their enthusiastic, courageous and creative response to the call of the Church in different ways he invites them to walk the talk and through solidarity, prayer and action, help build a better world together with God and for His greater glory. (HK bishop’s advent letter)

UN joins Bangladesh in immunizing Rohingya children against diphtheria

Bangladesh is being supported by the United Nations agencies in a campaign it launched on
Tuesday to immunize Rohingya refugee children against diphtheria in camps in the south-east of the country, after an outbreak of the disease that has killed 9.      

The campaign will cover nearly 255,000 Rohingya children, and are supported by the UN’s children’s fund. UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

Recent data from WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) shows 722 probable diphtheria cases, including nine deaths, in the camps and makeshift settlements, between 12 November and 10 December.

Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Bangladesh said the outbreak is an indicator of the “extreme vulnerability of children” which he said calls for “immediate action” to protect them from the killer disease.

 Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, WHO Representative in Bangladesh said they are trying to contain the emergency before it “spins out of control”.  Besides vaccinations, health workers are being helped to manage suspected cases and ensure medicine supply.   WHO is procuring 2 000 doses of diphtheria anti-toxins to treat diphtheria patients. Nearly 345 doses were hand carried by WHO from India's Delhi to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

Diphtheria is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a potent toxin produced by certain strains of the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. It spreads through air droplets by coughing or sneezing. Risk factors include crowding, poor hygiene and lack of immunization.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are nearly 860,000 Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar – of whom 646,000 have arrived since 25 August. Not only has the pace of new arrivals since 25 August made this the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, the concentration of refugees in Cox's Bazar is now amongst the densest in the world.

Advent 3rd Sunday - Dec 17, 2017

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11, I Thes 5:16-24, Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

Homily starter anecdote: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) and Advent joy: Through her ministry in Jesus’ name, Mother Teresa brought untold blessings and joy to the poor who lay unattended and forgotten on our streets. When asked the source of her joy, Mother Teresa replied: “Joy is prayer -- joy is strength -- joy is love -- joy is a net of love. . . A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love . . . loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, rescuing as He rescues, being with Him twenty-four hours, touching Him in His distressing disguise.” (Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God, Harper and Row, San Francisco: 1971). When Advent arrived every year, Mother Teresa’s life, continued to witness the joy which is true hallmark of every Christian and the rightful inheritance of all the poor. (

Introduction: Today is called “Gaudete Sunday” because today’s Mass (in its Latin, pre-Vatican II form), began with the opening   antiphon: “Gaudete   in   Domino semper” --“Rejoice in the Lord always.” In the past, when Advent was a season of penance, the celebrant of the liturgy used to wear vestments with the penitential color of purple or violet.  In order to remind the people that they were preparing for the very joyful occasion of the birth of Jesus, the celebrant wore rose-colored vestments on the third Sunday.  (By the way, we have a similar break--Laetare Sunday-- during the Lenten season).  Today we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus, our Savior.  The primary common theme running through today’s readings is that of encouraging joy as we meet our need for the preparation required of us who await the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives. The second common theme is that of bearing witness. The prophet Isaiah, Mary and John the Baptizer all bear joyful witness to what God has done and will do for His people.

Scripture readings summarized: The readings for the third Sunday of Advent remind us that the coming of Jesus, past, present and future, is the reason for our rejoicing.  The first reading tells us that we should rejoice because the promised Messiah is coming as our Savior and liberator, saving us by liberating us from our bondages.  The Responsorial Psalm of the day is taken from Mary's Magnificat, in which she exclaims:  "My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior."  Paul, in the second reading, advises us to “rejoice always” by leading blameless, holy and   thankful   lives guided by the Holy Spirit, because Christ is faithful to his promise that he will come again to reward us.  Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptizer came as a witness to testify to the Light, i.e., Jesus. The coming of Jesus, the Light, into the world is cause for rejoicing as he removes darkness from the world.  We should be glad and rejoice also because, like John the Baptizer, we, too, are chosen to bear witness to Christ Jesus, the Light of the world. We are to reflect Jesus’ Light in our lives so that we may radiate it and illuminate the dark lives of others around us.    The joyful message of today’s liturgy is clear.  The salvation we await with rejoicing will liberate both the individual and the community, and its special focus will be the poor and lowly, not the rich and powerful.

First reading explained, Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11: This section of Isaiah comes from the turbulent period when the Jews were trying to re-establish themselves in their homeland after enduring a generation of exile in Babylon.  The prophet says of himself that God has anointed him with the Spirit and sent him to bring good news to those in need of it.  The good news consists of the healing of the broken-hearted and the liberation of prisoners.  Then the prophet expresses Israel's joy at the coming of God's salvation, using the image of wearing exceptionally beautiful clothes, as a bride and groom do at the wedding.  He also uses the image of the earth in its bringing forth of new vegetation in the spring.  He says, "I rejoice heartily in the Lord; in my God is the joy of my soul."  This hope for the coming of salvation finds its fulfillment in the life, death and Resurrection  of  Jesus.    Inaugurating his public ministry in Nazareth, Jesus declared He was the fulfillment of this passage from Isaiah (Luke 4:16-21), because he had been anointed by the Spirit of God to bring good news to the poor.  We rejoice at the fulfillment of the prophecy about Jesus in this passage.

Second Reading explained, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24: Paul was fond of the Thessalonians because they had received Jesus’ Gospel enthusiastically, and their example had helped others to embrace the Faith.  But he was convinced that they needed the continued moral instruction which he offered them in this letter.  The selection we read today contains Paul's practical suggestions for anyone trying to be a follower of God: "Do not stifle the spirit.  Do not despise prophecies.  Test everything; retain what is good.  Avoid any semblance of evil." He also commands us to "rejoice always and pray without ceasing.”  We are to give thanks in all circumstances because that is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.  We, who believe in Jesus and have been united with him in his death and Resurrection, should be in a constant state of rejoicing, giving thanks to God for all that He has done for us in Jesus.  Our joy here on earth, however, is not the fullness of joy waiting for us at Jesus’ second coming.  Hence, Paul concludes his instruction with the prayer: "May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Gospel Exegesis: The context:  Biblical studies made of the Dead Sea Scrolls during the past 50 years suggest that John was probably a member of the Judean Qumran wilderness community, the Essenes. This community was a group of people who had left Jerusalem a century before Jesus' birth because of a conflict with the Temple authorities.  They waited there, a few miles from Jericho, for the Messiah to come and rectify the horrible injustice they had experienced.  They occupied themselves with Scripture studies and purification, continually studying, copying and commenting on God's word.  They also went through frequent baptismal rituals to symbolize their total dedication to God's will in living a life of spiritual purity.  John's ministry seems to fit into what we know about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls’ community.  John preached a baptism of repentance, announced the imminent coming of God and gathered followers who, though not "official" Qumran members, followed some of its teachings.

The Biblical importance of today’s text: Bible scholars generally agree that the prologue (1:1-18) in John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus' origins as "Word," "true Light" and the "only Son."  Verses 6-8(9) introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light." Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect of John’s disciples claiming that John the Baptist was the light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light.  In John's Gospel, however, recurring references to the Baptist suggest that Jesus and John preached and baptized concurrently for some time (see John 3:22-30; 10:40-42).  But, in all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and his Messianic identity (John 1:6-8(9).  “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the Light.”  John 1:19-28 is an Advent text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus.  John the Baptizer demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.

The why of Sanhedrin intervention: Why did the religious authorities in Jerusalem show concern for a marginal figure like John, who was attracting crowds to the wilderness and baptizing repentant sinners in the Jordan?  The main reason was that, although John was the son of a devout rural priest, Zechariah, he did not behave like a priest.  By his dress and diet, the Baptizer had distanced himself from the Jerusalem priests. He presented himself more like one of the older prophets who declared the will of God for the Jews.  Hence, the Sanhedrin might well have felt it their duty to check up on John in case he was a false prophet.  The Jerusalem priests also wanted to know whether John was an “action prophet,”  attempting  to  lead  a  liberation  movement  against Roman rule.  After questioning John, the delegation from the Jerusalem authorities concluded that John was only a harmless “oracular prophet,” who did not claim to be the Messiah.  Another reason why the Sanhedrin kept a close eye on John was to find out why he baptized the locals.  Baptism at the hands of men was not for Israelites, but rather for proselytes from other faiths.  If he had been the Messiah, or even Elijah or the prophet, John had the right to baptize.  The Jerusalem delegation finally came to the conclusion that John's baptismal rite was only a symbolic action, a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," a rite symbolizing purification and cleansing, a return to God before the promised Messiah arrived in their midst.  Thus, they decided that there was no need to take any disciplinary action against John.

John’s humility: The evangelist John presents John the Baptizer as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, "a voice in the desert" calling for Israelites to prepare a way for the coming of Jesus.  John in his Gospel takes special care to stress the fact that Jesus surpasses John the Baptist.  The Baptizer declares: "I am baptizing only with water; but there is One among you--you don't recognize him--and I am not worthy to untie the straps of his shoes.”   There was a Rabbinic saying which stated that a disciple might do for his master anything that a servant did, except only to untie his sandals.  That was too menial a service for even a disciple to render.  So John said: "One is coming whose slave I am not fit to be." John's mission was only to “prepare the way.”  Any greatness he possessed came from the greatness of the one whose coming he foretold.   John is thus the great example of the man prepared to obliterate himself for Jesus.  He lived only to point the way to Christ.

Bearing witness to Jesus is our mission as well as John’s: The idea that the Baptizer came as a witness to testify to the Light (Jesus), is found only in the Gospel of John.  According John, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12).  Just as the dawn of each new day brings joy, the coming of Jesus, the Light of the world, causes us to rejoice.  We, the Church, are called to bear witness to Christ by word and deed, in good times and bad—when it suits us and when it doesn't.  The witness of the Church, ironically, has often been more faithful under persecution than under prosperity.  We need to be messengers who point out Christ to others, just as John did.  John the Baptist’s role as a joyful witness prepared the way for Jesus. John also provides an example for us because our vocation as Christians is to bear “witness” to Christ by our transparent Christian lives.

Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world.  Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.”  Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of his Church is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun.  It is especially important during the Advent season that we reflect Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness.  There are too many people who live in darkness and poverty, and who lack real freedom.  There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world.  Also, many feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, and marginalized.  All these people are waiting for us to reflect the Light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity.  The joy of Jesus, the joy of Christmas can only be ours to the extent that we work with Jesus to bring joy into the lives of others.  Let us remember that Christmas is not complete unless we show real generosity to those who have nothing to give us in return. 

2) What should we do in preparation for Christmas?  The Jews asked the same question of John.  His answer was: “Repent and reform your lives, and prayerfully wait for the Messiah.”  This means that we have to pray from the heart and pray more often.  Our Blessed Mother, in her many apparitions, has urgently reminded us of the need for more fervent and more frequent  prayer.   Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers.  We must become a Eucharistic people, receiving the living presence of Jesus in our hearts so that we may be transformed into His image and likeness.  We encounter Jesus in all the Sacraments.  Regular monthly Confession makes us strong and enables us to receive more grace in the Eucharist.  Let us also listen daily to God speaking to us through the Bible.  Perhaps, we may want to pray the rosary daily and fast once a week all year round, not just during Advent and Lent.  After all, we sin all year round, so why not fast also all year round? Let us also find some spare time to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Let us forgive those who have offended us and pray for those whom we have offended.  Finally, let us share our love with others in selfless and humble service, “doing small things but with great love" (Mother Teresa).  As we prepare to celebrate Christmas and the coming of God into our lives we need also to remind ourselves that we have been called to be the means of bringing Jesus into other people's lives. (Fr. Antony Kadavil)