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Pope Francis receives John XXIII Community

4 hours 44 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received nearly 8 thousand members and associates of the Pope St. John XXIII Community on Saturday. Now recognized as an Association of Lay Faithful, the  Pope John XXIII Community was founded by Fr. Oreste Benzi of the clergy of the Diocese of Rimini in 1968, on the basis of his decade of experience with young people – mostly teenagers – who had accepted his invitation and participated in his initiatives encouraging what he called, “A friendly encounter with Christ,” especially through service to and with the disabled, marginalized, the excluded, and forgotten. Click below to hear our report The work of the foundation has involved numberless teens who had drifted away from the Church, offering them the chance to have a truly liberating experience and choose to live the way Christ calls them to live.  In remarks prepared for the participants in the audience in Paul VI Hall on Saturday, Pope Francis said, "Providence has made you grow, proving the vitality of the charism of your Founder, who liked to say, 'In order to stand on your feet, you must get on your knees.'" Indeed, the centrality of prayer to the life of Christian service has been a keystone of the Community’s ethos from the beginning. The vocation of the members of the Community is to shape their lives in the image of Christ who constantly does the will of the Father. Prompted by the spirit to follow Jesus in his poverty and service, they undertake to share the lives of the least of their brothers and sisters by sharing their experiences and helping them to bear their plight. They place their shoulders under the Cross borne by others.  Love for their poor brothers and sisters must urge them to try to eliminate the causes of need, and lead the Community to make a commitment to build up a more just world, and to speak out for those without a voice. This vocation requires space for prayer and contemplation, living the life of the poor, being led by obedience, and practicing fellowship according to the Gospel. The John XXIII Community officially became an association of the faithful of Pontifical right in 1998, and is now present in 34 countries around the globe. (from Vatican Radio)...

Father Raniero Cantalamessa's Third Advent Reflection

5 hours 5 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday attended the Third Advent Reflection by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa. The theme was “Let the Peace of Christ rule in you hearts”, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians.   The Full text is below.   Father Raniero Cantalamessa Third Advent Reflection “LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS” (Colossians 3:15) Peace, Fruit of the Spirit   1. Peace Fruit of the Spirit After having reflected on peace as a gift of God in Christ Jesus to the whole of humanity, and peace as a task to work for, it remains to speak of peace as fruit of the Spirit. Saint Paul puts peace in the third place among the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). We discover what “the fruits of the Spirit” are in fact, by analyzing the context in which this idea recurs. The context is that of the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, that is, between the principle that regulates the old man’s life, full of concupiscence and earthly wishes, and that which regulates the life of the new man, led by the Spirit of Christ. In the expression “fruits of the spirit,” “spirit” does not indicate the Holy Spirit in himself, but the principle of the new life, or also “the man who lets himself be guided by the Spirit.” As opposed to charisms, which are the exclusive work of the Spirit that He gives to whomever He wills when He wills, the fruits are the result of collaboration between grace and liberty. Therefore, they are what today we understand as virtue, if we give this word the biblical meaning of habitual acting “according to Christ,” or “according to the Spirit,” rather than the Aristotelian philosophical meaning of habitual acting “according to right reason.” Again, as opposed to the gifts of the Spirit, which are different from person to person, the fruits of the Spirit are identical for all. Not all in the Church can be Apostles, prophets, Evangelists; however, all indistinctly, from the first to the last, can and must be charitable, patient, humble, peaceful. Peace that is fruit of the Spirit is, therefore, different from peace as gift of God and peace as a task for which to work. It indicates the habitual condition (habitus), the state of mind and style of life of one who, through effort and vigilance, has attained a certain interior pacification. Peace fruit of the Spirit is peace of heart. And it is of this very beautiful and very desired thing of which we shall speak today. It is, yes, different from the task to be peacemakers, but it also serves wonderfully to this end. The title of Pope John Paul II’s message for the 1984 World Day of Peace was: “Peace Is Born of a New Heart,” and Francis of Assisi, on sending his friars around the world, recommended to them: “The peace that you proclaim with your mouth, you must have first of all in your hearts.” 2. Interior Peace in the Spiritual Tradition of the Church In the course of the centuries, the attainment of interior peace or peace of the heart has committed all the great seekers of God. In the East, beginning with the desert Fathers, it was concretized in the ideal of hesychia, hesychasm, or stillness, rest, quiet, silence. One dared to propose to oneself or to others a very lofty, if not, in fact, superhuman, aim: to remove every thought from the mind, every desire from the will, every remembrance from the memory, to leave in the mind only the thought of God, in the will only the desire of God and in the memory only the remembrance of God and of Christ (the mneme Theou) -- a titanic struggle against thoughts (logismoi), not only evil ones but also good ones. An extreme example of this peace, obtained with a fierce war, has remained in the monastic tradition of monk Arsenius who, to the question “what must I do to be saved?” -- heard God respond: “Arsenius, flee, be silent and keep yourself in stillness”(literally, practice the hesychia) . Later this spiritual current gave place to the practice of the prayer of the heart, or uninterrupted prayer, still largely practiced in Eastern Christianity and of which “The Tales of a Russian Pilgrim” are the most fascinating expression. In the beginning, however, it was not identified with this. It was a way to attain perfect tranquillity of heart; not an empty tranquillity as an end in itself, but a full tranquillity, similar to that of the Blessed, a beginning to live on earth the conditions of the Saints in Heaven. The Western Tradition has pursued the same ideal but through other ways, accessible both to those who practice the contemplative life, and those who practice an active life. Reflection begins with Augustine. He dedicated a whole book of his work The City of God to reflect on the different forms of peace, giving for each a definition which has been a school up to now, among which is that of peace as “tranquillitas ordinis,” the tranquillity of order. However, it is above all what he says in the Confessions that has influenced in delineating the ideal of peace of heart. At the beginning of the book, he addresses to God, almost in passing, a word destined to have immense resonance in all subsequent thought: “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”  Further on he illustrates this affirmation with the example of gravity. “Our peace is in the good will [of God]. Every body, because of its weight, tends to the place that is proper to it. A weight does not only drag down, but it does so to the place that is proper to it. Fire tends to go up, stone to go down, both pushed by their weight to seek their place …My weight is my love; it takes me wherever I go.” As long as we are on this earth the place of our rest is the will of God, abandonment to His wishes. “Rest is not found if one does not consent to the will of God without resistance.”  Dante Alighieri summarized this Augustinian thought in his famous verse: “ And in his will is our trnquility”.” Only in Heaven will the place of rest be God Himself. Therefore, Augustine ends his treatment of the subject of peace with an impassioned praise of the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem, which it is worthwhile for us to hear, in order to also be inflamed with the desire for it: “Then there is the final peace […] In that peace it is not necessary for reason to control impulses because they will not be, but God will control man, the spiritual soul the body and so great will be the serenity and the willingness to submission, as great will be the delight of living and dominating. And then, this condition will be eternal in each and all, and there will be the certainty that it is eternal and, therefore, the peace of such happiness, namely the happiness of such peace will be the supreme good.” The hope of this eternal peace has marked the whole liturgy of the dead. Expressions such as “In the peace of Christ”(“In pace Christi”) or “May he rest in peace”  (“Requiescat in pace”) are the most frequent on the tombs of Christians and in the prayers of the Church. The heavenly Jerusalem, with allusion to the etymology of the name, is described  as “ a blessed vision of peace (“beata pacis visio”). 3. The Way of Peace Augustine’s concept of interior peace as adherence to the will of God finds a confirmation and deepening in the mystics. Meister Eckhart wrote: “Our Lord says: ‘In me you may have peace’ (cf. John 16:33). The more one penetrates in God, the more one penetrates in peace. Whoever now has his I in God has peace; whoever has his I outside of God does not have peace.”  Therefore, it is not only a question of adhering to the will of God, but about not having any other will than that of God, to die altogether to one’s will. The same thing is read, under the form of a lived experience, in Saint Angela of Foligno: “Successively the divine will makes of two wills one will, so that one cannot will other than as God wills. […] I do not find myself any longer in the usual condition, but I have been led to a peace, in which I am with Him and I am happy with everything.” A different development, ascetic more than mystic, is that of Saint Ignatius of Loyola with his doctrine of “holy indifference.”  It consists in placing oneself in a state of total willingness to accept the will of God, renouncing, giving up all personal preference, as a scale ready to incline to the side where the greatest weight is. The experience of interior peace thus becomes the main criterion in all discernment. The choice must be retained that, after long pondering and prayer, is accompanied by the greatest peace of heart. However, no healthy spiritual current, either in the East or in the West, has ever thought that peace of heart is peace at a low price and without effort. In the Medieval Age the sect “of the free Spirit” and the Quietist Movement in the 17th century tried to hold the contrary, but both were condemned by the hierarchy and by the conscience of the Church. To maintain and increase peace of heart one must put down, moment by moment, especially in the beginning, a revolt: that of the flesh against the spirit. Jesus said it in a thousand ways: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself,” “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it” (Mark 8:34 f.). There is a false peace that Jesus said He came to take away, not to bring to earth (cf. Matthew 10:34). Paul would translate all this in a sort of fundamental law of the Christian life: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God … for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live” (Romans 8:5-13). The last phrase contains a very important teaching. The Holy Spirit is not the recompense for our efforts of mortification, but what makes them possible and fruitful; it is not only at the end but also at the beginning of the process: “If, through the Spirit, you make the works of the flesh die, you will live.” In this sense it is said that peace is the fruit of the Spirit; it is the result of our effort, rendered possible by the Spirit of Christ. A voluntaristic and too confident mortification of oneself can become (and has often become) also a work of the flesh. Outstanding for his concreteness and realism, among those who in the course of the centuries have illustrated this way of peace of heart, is the author of the Imitation of Christ. He imagines a sort of dialogue between the Divine Teacher and the disciple, as between a father and his son:                 Teacher: “My son, now I will teach you the way of peace and of liberty.”                 Disciple: “Do, O Lord, as you say: I am pleased to hear your teaching.” Teacher: “Study, O son, to do the will of others, rather than your own. Always choose to have less than more. Always seek the lowest place and to be inferior to all. Always desire and pray that the will of God be done entirely in you. See, a man who does such things enters in the kingdom of peace and tranquillity.” Another means suggested to the disciple is to avoid vain curiosity: “Son, do not be curious; do not take on useless worries. What do you care about this or that? “You follow me” (John 21:22). Why do you care if that person is of this type or different, or that another acts and says this or that? You must not answer for others; on the contrary, you will render an account of yourself. Of what, then, are you encumbering yourself? Behold, I know all, I see everything that happens under the sun and I know everyone’s condition: what one thinks, what one desires, and to what one’s intention is directed. Therefore, everything should be placed in my hands. And you remain in sure peace letting others act as they believe, surrounded by agitation: what this one has done and what he has said will fall back on him because, as for me, he cannot deceive me.” 4. “Peace because He Trusts in You” Without pretending to substitute these traditional ascetic means, modern spirituality puts the accent on other more positive means to preserve interior peace. The first is trust and abandonment in God. “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,” one reads in Isaiah (26-3). In the Gospel, Jesus motivates his invitation not to fear and to be anxious about tomorrow, with the fact that our heavenly Father knows what we need, He who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field (Cf. Matthew 6:25 ff). This is the peace of which Therese of the Child Jesus becomes teacher and model. A heroic example of this peace, which also comes from trust in God, is the martyr of Nazism Dietrich Bonhoffer. While he was in prison awaiting capital punishment, he wrote some verses that became a liturgical hymn in many Anglo-Saxon countries. While all the powers of Good aid and attend us, boldly we’ll face the future, be it what may. At even, and at morn, God will befriend us, And oh, most surely on each new year’s day! In his book The Wisdom of a Poor Man, Eloi Leclerc, a Franciscan scholar, recounts how Francis of Assisi rediscovered peace at a moment of profound disturbance. He was saddened by the resistance of some to his ideal and felt the weight of the responsibility of the numerous family that God had entrusted to him. He left La Verna and went to San Damiano to find Clare. Clare listened to him and to encourage him, gave him an example. “Let’s suppose that one of our Sisters came to me to apologize for having broken an object. Well, without a doubt I would make an observation to her and, as usual, I would inflict a punishment on her. However, if she came to tell me that she set the convent on fire and that everything was burnt or almost so, I believe that in such a case I would have nothing to rebut. I would be astonished and overwhelmed by an event greater than myself. The destruction of the convent is too great an event for me to be profoundly disturbed. What God himself has built cannot be founded on the will or whim of a human creature. God’s edifice is founded on far more solid bases.” Francis understood the lesson and answered: “The future of this great religious family that the Lord has entrusted to my care constitutes too important an event for me to depend on myself alone and on my weak strength, for me to be disturbed. This is an event of God. You said it well. But pray that this word blossom in me as a seed of peace.” The Poverello returned to his own in better spirits, repeating to himself along the way: “God exists, and that’s enough! God exists and that’s enough!” It is not a historically documented episode, but it interprets well, in the style of the “Fioretti”, a moment of Francis’ life. We are approaching Christmas and I would like to bring to light what I believe is the most effective way for all to keep peace of heart, namely, the certainty of being loved by God. “Peace on earth to men that God loves,” to the letter: “Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased (eudokia)” (Luke 2:14). The Vulgate translated this term as “good will” (bonae voluntatis), intending with it the good will of men, or men of good will. However, it is an erroneous interpretation, recognized by all today as such, even if out of respect for the tradition, in the Gloria of the Mass, we continue to say “and peace on earth to men of good will.” The Qumran discoveries contributed the definitive proof. “Men, or children of benevolence” were called at Qumran, children of light, the elect of the sect.  Therefore it is about men who are the object of divine benevolence. With the Essenians of Qumran, “the divine consent” discriminates; it is only for the adept of the sect. In the Gospel “peace on earth to men with whom He is pleased,” the “divine benevolence” is for all men, without exception. It is as when one says “the men born of woman”; one does not understand it said that some are born of woman and others not, but only to characterize all men on the basis of the way they came to the world. If peace was accorded to men for their “good will,” then it would be limited to a few, to those who merit it; but as it is accorded by the good will of God, by grace, it is offered to all. “Assueta vilescunt,” the Latins said; things that are repeated often are debased, biting forgiveness, and this, unfortunately, also happens with God’s words. We must see to it that it does not happen also this Christmas. God’s words are like electric wires. If current passes through them, if touched one gets a shock; if no current passes, or if one has isolating gloves on, they can be managed as much as one wishes, they do not give a shock. The power and light of the Spirit is always acting, but it depends on us to receive it, through faith, desire and prayer. What force, what novelty those words contained: “Peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased,” when they were pronounced for the first time! We must remake for ourselves a virgin ear, the ear of the shepherds who heard for the first time and “without delay” went on the road. Saint Paul indicates a method for us to overcome all our anxieties and rediscover peace of heart every time, through the certainty of being loved by God. He writes: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? […] Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? […] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-37). Persecution, dangers, the sword: it is not an abstract or imaginary list; they are, in fact, reasons for anguish, which he experienced in his life. He describes them at length in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23 ff). The Apostle reviews them now in his mind and sees that no one of them is so strong as to hold a confrontation with the thought of the love of God. The Apostle invites us implicitly to do the same: to look at our life, as it presents itself, and to bring to light the fears and motives for sadness that nest themselves therein and that do not allow us to accept ourselves serenely: that complex, that physical or moral defect, that failure, that painful memory. Expose everything to the light of the thought that God loves us and conclude with the Apostle: “In all these things, I can be more than a conqueror through him who loved me.” From his personal life, the Apostle passes immediately after to consider the world that surrounds him. He writes: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). He observes his world, with the powers that rendered it threatening: death with its mystery, the present life with its allurements, the astral or infernal powers that instilled so much terror in ancient man. We are invited to do the same also here: to look, in the light of the love of God, at the world that surrounds us and that makes us fear. What Paul calls the “height” and the “depth,” are for us infinitely great up there and infinitely small down here, the universe and the atom. Everything is ready to crush us; man is weak and alone in a universe that is so much greater than himself and that has become, in addition, even more threatening, following its scientific discoveries, not to mention wars, incurable illnesses, terrorism today… However, nothing of all this can separate us from the love of God. God has created the universe and has it firmly in hand! God is, and that is enough! Saint Teresa of Avila left us a sort of testament, which it is useful to repeat to ourselves every time we are in need of finding peace of heart again: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing affright you; all things are passing, God never changes; patient endurance attains all things; whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.” May the Lord’s Birth, Holy Father, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters, be truly for us, as Saint Leo the Great said, “the birth of peace” !  -- of all three dimensions of peace: that between heaven and earth, that between all peoples and that in our hearts. ____________________________ Translated by Zenit (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope meets Italy’s National Olympic Committee

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 06:58
(Vatican Radio) “Sports are at home in the Church” – that’s what Pope Francis told managers and athletes of Italy’s National Olympic Committee Friday.  In a meeting in the Vatican, the Pope congratulated them on Rome’s candidacy as a possible venue for the 2024 Olympics, but quipped; “I won’t be here!” He observed that Italy’s National Olympic Committee celebrates its first centenary this year and recalled that it draws inspiration from the fundamental values laid out in the Olympic Charter, which places at the forefront the “centrality of the person and the harmonious development of humankind, the defence of human dignity.”  He remarked that the Charter stipulates that sport can contribute to the building of a better world, without wars and tensions, educating young people through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind ... in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and loyalty. “Sport has always favoured a universalism characterized by brotherhood and friendship among peoples, peace and harmony among nations; by respect, tolerance, harmony of diversity,” said the Pope. Sporting events, especially the Olympics, bring together representatives of nations with different histories, cultures, traditions, beliefs and values, he said.  They can open “new routes, sometimes unexpected,”  in overcoming conflicts caused by the violation of human rights. “The Olympic motto - "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - is not an incitement to the supremacy of one nation over another, of one people over another people,” he continued.  It is a challenge we are all called to – not just athletes, he added: “to make the effort, the sacrifice, to achieve important goals in life, accepting one’s own limitations without being hampered by them but trying to overcome them.” The Pope encouraged the Committee for its educational work to make sports accessible to everyone, including the weakest and the poorest sections of society - inclusive of people with different disabilities, foreigners, and those who live in the outskirts.  “Sport is not intended to profit, but to further the development of the human person,” added the Pope. He remarked that the Committee was among the first to welcome an Olympic chaplain: “a friendly presence” expressing the closeness of the Church and to stimulate in athletes a strong sense of “professional spirituality.” He pointed to the Saints who similarly demonstrated “passion, enthusiasm, perseverance, determination” in meeting the challenge of faith. Pope Francis said St. Paul invites us to train 'in the true faith, because physical exercise is useful for a little, while true faith is useful for all, bringing with it the promise of life – both present and future.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope thanks Verona and Catanzaro for crib and tree

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 06:58
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with religious and civil authorities from the Italian cities of Verona and Catanzaro to thank them for the Christmas tree and nativity scene that they donated for St Peter’s Square. The life sized crib figures, given by Verona’s Arena Foundation, and the giant fir tree from Calabria, he said, will be admired by many pilgrims coming to the Vatican from all corners of the globe. Philippa Hitchen reports: Listen  Christmas trees and Nativity scenes touch the hearts of all people with their message of light, hope and love, Pope Francis said. These symbols of Christmas, he continued, have permeated and enriched the culture, literature, music and art of the different Italian regions and remain an important heritage to hand on to future generations. Drawing inspiration from its operatic tradition, staged in the city’s famous amphitheatre, the nativity figures from Verona were originally created for a performance of Donizetti’s two act opera ‘The Elixir of Love’. Both the crib scene and the tree, Pope Francis said, recall the mystery of the Incarnation and the light that Jesus brought into our world. But they also touch the hearts of those who don’t believe in God because they speak of fraternity, intimacy and friendship, calling us to rediscover the beauty of simplicity, sharing and solidarity. These Christmas symbols are an invitation to unity and peace, the Pope said, urging us to find room in our lives for God, who does not try to impose himself with arrogance, but rather offers us his love through the fragile figure of a new born baby.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: The Church is not an entrepreneur but a mother

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 06:58
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said on Friday that there is much sterility within the Church and the people of God, a sterility that comes from power and egoism.  The Church, he stressed, is a mother and not an entrepreneur. His remarks came during his homily at morning Mass celebrated at the Santa Marta residence.   The Pope’s reflections on the themes of sterility and motherhood were taken from the biblical account of two miraculous births, those of Samson and John the Baptist, both born to women who were formerly sterile. He said this symbol of sterility as recounted in the Bible is seen as the sign of a human person incapable of moving forward. Therefore the Church, he said, wants to make us reflect on the issue of human sterility.    Sterility and new Creation “From sterility, the Lord is able to restart a new lineage, a new life.  And that is the message of today.  When humanity is exhausted and can no longer go forward, grace comes, the Son comes and Salvation comes. And that exhausted Creation gives way to a new creation.” Today’s message, the Pope continued, is this second Creation that comes when the earth is exhausted.  We are awaiting the newness of God and that’s what Christmas is about. He pointed out that the mothers of Samson and John the Baptist were able to give birth thanks to the action of the Spirit of the Lord and asked what is the message of these biblical accounts?  The reply, he said, is that we must open ourselves to the Spirit of God because we cannot do it by ourselves.    Openess to the newness of God “This too makes me think of our mother Church and of so much sterility within our Mother Church: when because of the weight of the hope in the Commandments, that pelagianism that all of us carry within our bones, she becomes sterile.  She believes she is capable of giving birth… no, she can’t!  The Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit.  When she says to herself: “I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!”, the Spirit comes.”   A mother and not an entrepreneur Pope Francis then went on to reflect on the sterility within the Church and her openness to becoming a mother through her faith. “And today is also a day to pray for our Mother Church, because of so much sterility within the people of God.  A sterility arising from egoism, from power … when the Church believes she can do everything, that she can take charge of the consciences of the people, walk along the road of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, along the road of hypocrisy, yes, the Church is sterile. Let’s pray. That this Christmas our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a mother Church. Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother.” The Pope concluded his homily by imploring the Lord for the grace of fertility and motherhood within our Church so that above all the Church is a mother, just like Mary.    (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 03:01
(Vatican Radio) Pilgrims visiting St Peter’s square during these final weeks of Advent can begin to enjoy a little reminder of Christmas at home, with the lighting up of  the Vatican’s Christmas tree and the unveiling of the Nativity Scene. For many years the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree was hardly followed in Italy, but in 1982 Pope John Paul II had a tree put up in the square, bringing the Polish tradition firmly into the Vatican. Since then, many different countries and regions of Europe have taken turns in donating a tree to the Pope. This year’s tree, which is 70 years old, was donated by the southern Italian region of Calabria, which Pope Francis visited in June of this year. In his encyclical “Lumen Fide” Pope Francis used the image of the branches of a tree to illustrate the spreading of faith out from God into the world.    The tree stands 25.5 metres tall, weighs 8 tons and has what’s known as a twin trunk, that is to say that two separate trunks have fused together to form single tree trunk. This feature is also used symbolically, to show that man is never alone on his journey through this life, but is always joined by the Lord. December 19 th will feature a double event in St Peter’s square, when both the tree’s decorations are lit up and this year’s life sized nativity scene is unveiled. The Nativity scene is titled “The Nativity scene in Opera,” The figures in the scene are donated by the “Verona for the Arena” foundation, and are inspired by the famous opera productions staged in the Verona Opera Arena, especially  Gaetano Donizetti’s comic opera “The Elixir of love.”  One hope is that the scene will help to showcase and promote Italian Opera in the world, but there’s also a more profound hope underneath. The title play’s on the two meanings of the Italian word “opera,” which can mean either the theatre production or the verb “To work.” So the “Nativity scene in Opera” also highlights the work that God brought about the Nativity of Jesus Christ.    (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope urges Lutherans and Catholics to take further steps towards unity

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 08:05
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with a delegation of German Lutheran and Catholic leaders, urging them to continue working towards the goal of unity among all Christians. The delegation was headed by the presiding bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, Gerhard Ulrich, together with members of the ecumenical commission of the German Catholic Bishops Conference. Philippa Hitchen reports: Listen :  In his words to the German Church leaders, the Pope said half a century of significant progress in the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics is grounded in sincere friendship and growing cooperation between the two communities. He said the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed 15 years ago in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, is a milestone which enables us to continue with confidence along the ecumenical journey  which St John Paul II described as an essential task of the Catholic Church. Noting how the bells in all cathedrals across Germany were rung last month to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decree on ecumenism, the Pope said we must celebrate past progress, while looking towards the future with hope. While the goal of full unity sometimes seems to be clouded by different views of the nature of Church, Pope Francis said we must never resign ourselves but rather be focused on the next step forward. The Pope noted with pleasure that the bilateral dialogue commission of the German bishops conference and the Lutheran Evangelical Church is concluding its work on the theme of God and human dignity. He noted that all questions regarding the family, marriage, sexuality and human life are essential issues that must not be ignored out of fear of jeopardising our ecumenical consensus. Finally Pope Francis looked ahead to the fifth centenary of the Reformation which Lutherans and Catholics will be commemorating together in 2017, not as “a triumphalistic celebration”, but as a “profession of our common faith in the One, Triune God”. He said may this event encourage us all, with the help of God and the support of the Holy Spirit, to take further steps towards reconciliation and unity.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Cardinal Parolin: on Holy See’s role in US/Cuba agreement

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 07:07
(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the (Vatican) Secretary of State, said on Thursday that Pope Francis played a very significant role in facilitating the rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Parolin spoke of the Holy See’s satisfaction over the agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to restore diplomatic ties and praised the leaders of the two nations for their courageous decision.   Please find below the full transcript of Cardinal Parolin’s remarks in English during the interview:     Q.  What was the specific role of Pope Francis – the first Pope to come from the South American continent?   A. I would like to repeat the satisfaction of the Holy See for this important step in the relations between the United States and Cuba.  And also to stress that the role of the Holy Father was very significant in this conclusion.  Of course, in the sense that since the beginning of his pontificate, he has stressed the importance for the person and the groups and people to meet together.  What we have called the culture of encounter.  I think that this is the proper word.  But his teaching then, his teaching which also pointed out this importance and this necessity.  At the same time, the help to the two parties, the United States and Cuba, writing to the two presidents and stressing the importance of finding a solution to their historical differences.    Q.  What was the Holy See’s diplomatic role in these negotiations?  A. In this case, the Holy See has tried to facilitate the dialogue between the two parties according to the, let’s say, the objective that the Holy Father Pope Francis has given to the diplomacy of the Holy See.  Which is of course traditional in its history, but now he (it) has (a) new  accent (emphasis) because of the situation, the particular situation of our world – which is to build bridges between persons and groups and nations.  And then it was, let’s say, a service of facilitating and of promoting the dialogue between the two parties. Q.  The roles of President Obama and the Cuban President were also important in these negotiations… A. Of course, of course.  I would like to, just to highlight the courage they had in this decision.  It is a decision, I think...very important and of course, not everybody agrees with that but I think that it was important from the side of the two presidents to have the courage and the strength to make such a decision.  And I think that we have really, finally, at the end, to thank God who inspired such good sentiments and intentions (of) the two leaders.  Hoping that this example could be taken by many other leaders in the region and in the world and to try, really, to overcome differences and conflict through negotiation and through dialogue. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: pleased about U.S. and Cuba agreement

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 07:07
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis spoke on Thursday at his joy over the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, two nations who have been estranged for many years, saying this was a result of diplomacy. His remarks came in a  brief off-the-cuff address to non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See; Bahamas, Bangladesh, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Malaysia, Mali, Mongolia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Tanzania  and Togo. He said the work of an Ambassador is to take small steps aimed at building peace, bringing the hearts of people closer together and sowing brotherhood between peoples and nations.  Please find below an English translation of the pope’s remarks to the non-resident Ambassadors: “I give you a warm welcome and I hope that every time you come here you feel as though at home. Our welcome and our respect (are) for you and also for your people and the Heads of your Governments.  I greet you all and hope your work will be fruitful. The work of an Ambassador is a job of taking small steps, doing small things but whose aim always is to build peace, to bring the hearts of people closer together and sow brotherhood between peoples.  This is your work, but done with small things, very small things.  And today we are all happy because yesterday we saw two nations, who were estranged for so many years, take a step to bring them closer together. This was achieved by Ambassadors, by diplomacy. Yours is a noble, very noble work. I hope it will be fruitful and may God bless you. Thank you.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to New Ambassadors: Task of Ambassador, through small steps, is to bring peace

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 06:54
Vatican City, 18 December 2014 (VIS) -This morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father received in audience the ambassadors of the following nations, presenting their Credential Letters:       - Mr. Vaanchig Purevdorj of Mongolia,       - Mr. Sean Mcweeney, Q.C., of The Bahamas,       - Mr. Edward D.A. Lambert of Dominica,       - Mr. Philip Sang’ka Marmo of Tanzania,       - Mrs. Louise Bang Jespersen of Denmark,       - Mr. Dato’ Mohd Zulkephli Bin Mohd Noor of Malaysia,       - Dr. Francois Xavier Ngarambe of Rwanda,       - Mr. Jari Petteri Luoto of Finland,       - Mrs. Janet Lowe of New Zealand,       - Sheikh Mouclary Diarra of Mali,       - Mr. Kokou Nayo Atsumikoa M’Beou of Togo,       - Mr. Shameem Ahsan of Bangladesh, and,       - Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser bin Ahmad Ali Al-Thani of Qatar. The Holy Father welcomed the new ambassadors with the following words: “I warmly welcome you and hope that every time you enter this house that you feel at home. I extend our welcome and respect for you and for your peoples and the heads of your governments. I greet you and wish your work to be fruitful, to be fertile. The work of an ambassador lies in small steps, small things, but they always end up making peace, bringing closer the hearts of people, sowing brotherhood among peoples. This is your job, but with little things, tiny things. Today we are all happy because we have seen how two peoples, distanced for so many years, made a step nearer one another yesterday. That was brought about by ambassadors, by diplomacy. Your job is noble work, very noble. I wish it to be fruitful, fertile, and may God bless you. Thank you.”...

Pope to children: Jesus is your best friend

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 06:16
(Vatican Radio) Italian Catholic Action is one of the most active lay movements in Italy today and is made up of both adults and children and it was to the children of this group that the Pope extended his Christmas greetings on Thursday. This year these boys and girls have been focusing on a particular theme "Everything to be discovered" and Pope Francis, reflecting on this slogan had some useful tips for the children present. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report Firstly, the Holy Father said, “never give up” because Jesus’ plan for you is to be built together with, parents,  brothers, sisters, friends, classmates, and catechism. Imparting more words of wisdom, the Pope told the children to concern themselves with the needs of the poorest and those who suffer and he also asked them to donate time to their parishes. In another point Pope Francis stressed how important it is to love the Church and to love oneself and he called on the young to be apostles of peace and serenity adding that misunderstandings can be overcome because united Jesus, everything is possible. He then urged all present to talk to Jesus who, he said, is the greatest friend that never leaves us. The Pope, then said to the children, “what do you think? Do you feel like putting into practice this proposal.” He continued by saying,"(I think you already living out a lot of these things.” Pope Francis concluded by saying, “with the grace of his birth, Jesus wants to help you take a step even stronger, more confident and more joyful to become his disciples.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: God walks in history with us and adjusts it's course

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 06:16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday invited the faithful to rely on God even in the darkest hours, even if sometimes we do not understand how He is working, because he always walks with us in the history of Salvation. The Pope’s words came during his homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta. "God’s will has been to save us in history" - the Pope said - our Salvation "is not sterile, as in a laboratory. No! It’s history. He has walked through history with his people. "Therefore – he said - "there is no salvation without history. And to get to the point: history goes back a long time": "And so, step by step, history is made. God makes history, we make history; and when we fail, God makes adjustments and sets history back on course, walking with us all the time. If this is not clear to us, we will never understand Christmas! We will never understand the Incarnation of the Word! Never! It’s a story that goes forward in time. 'Father, is history over with the story of Christmas?'; 'No! The Lord continues to save us in history. And he walks with his people. '" In this story - Pope Francis continued – there are those chosen by God, those people that He chooses "to help his people to move forward," like Abraham, Moses, Elijah. For them "there are some bad times", "dark moments, awkward moments, bothersome moments". Perhaps they are people who just want to live peacefully, but "the Lord inconveniences them. The Lord inconveniences us to make history! So often he puts us on roads that we don’t want to walk". So much so that Moses and Elijah, at a certain point, would rather die, but then they trust in the Lord. The Gospel of the day speaks of "another bad moment in the history of salvation", that of Joseph who discovers that his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant: "He suffers, he sees the village women chatting in the market; and he suffers. ‘This is a good one, I know her! She is a woman of God. What has she done to me? It’s not possible!” If he accuses her, she will be stoned. But that is not what he wants to do, even although he does not understand. He knows that Mary "is incapable of being unfaithful." "In difficult moments such as these" - the Pope said - "those chosen by God to make history, must take the problem on their shoulders, without understanding." Like that – he said - "the Lord makes history." "That’s what Joseph does. The man who in the worst moment of his life, the most obscure, takes the problem upon himself. And he takes the blame in the eyes of others in order to protect his bride. A psychoanalyst could perhaps say that this dream of Joseph’s is the condensation of anxiety, which seeks to be expressed... let them say what they will. But what did Joseph do? After awaking from the dream he took Mary as his bride. 'I do not understand, but the Lord spoke to me and said she will give birth to a son who will appear to be my son!'". "To make history with His people - the Pope said – for God means to walk and to put his chosen ones to test." In the end He saves them: "Let us always remember, with confidence, even in the worst moments, even in times of illness, when we realize we have to ask for the Last Rites because there is no way out, to say: 'Lord, history did not start with me and will not end with me! You go ahead, I am willing to come with you'. And to put ourselves in the hands of the Lord. "What then do those who are chosen by God teach us? "That God walks with us, that God makes history, that God puts us to the test and that God saves us in the worst moments, because He is our Father. And according to Paul He is our daddy. May the Lord help us to understand this mystery of Him walking with His people in history, of testing His elected ones, as well as the greatness of their hearts as they take upon themselves the pains, the problems, even the blame for our sins – Let us walk forward with Jesus across history. " (from Vatican Radio)...

Obama: Pope Francis instrumental in Cuba deal

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 02:11
(Vatican Radio) After more than a half-century of hostility, the United States and Cuba are to work toward the establishment of full diplomatic relations – and US President Barack Obama says that Pope Francis played an instrumental role in creating the conditions for the development. The Secretariat of State of the Holy See issued a statement offering Pope Francis’ expressions of  “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.” Click below to hear our report The announcement of efforts to normalize relations came in the context of the release of US aid worker Alan Gross and an exchange of intelligence officers being detained on the island and in the US. US President Barack Obama said that Pope Francis played a role in bringing him and Cuban leader Raul Castro together.  “His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years,” Obama said. Raul Castro also welcomed the exchange and the move to normalize relations. “[President] Obama’s decision,” said Castro, “deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.”   Relations between Cuba and the US deteriorated rapidly and eventually disintegrated entirely in the wake of the takeover of the island by Communist revolutionaries led by current Cuban president Raul Castro’s brother, Fidel, in 1959. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope welcomes U.S. and Cuban moves to normalise relations

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:56
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Wednesday offered his congratulations to the governments of the United States and Cuba, as they announced the two countries will start talks on resuming diplomatic relations. A statement from the Vatican Secretariat of State said that in recent months the Pope had written to both Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama, inviting them to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest”. The Holy See also met with delegations from both countries in the Vatican last October, providing what the statement calls “its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue”. The communiqué says the Holy See will continue to offer support for initiatives on the part of both countries to strengthen bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens. Please find below the full communiqué from the Secretariat of State The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history. In recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Mr Raúl Castro, and the President of the United States, The Honorable Barack H. Obama, and invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens. From the Vatican, 17th December 2014 (from Vatican Radio)...

Commission for the protection of minors is complete

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 07:49
As anticipated, Pope Francis has appointed new members to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, chosen from various parts of the world, so as to allow a broad representation of different situations and cultures. The Holy See Press Office announced this on Wednesday in a press release which indicated the complete composition of the Commission as follows:  — Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, ofm Cap., President; — Msgr Robert Oliver (United States), Secretary; — Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia); — Dr Catherine Bonnet (France); — Marie Collins (Ireland); — Dr Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines); — Baroness, Prof. Sheila Hollins (England); — Bill Kilgallon (New Zealand); — Sr Kayula Gertrude Lesa, rsc (Zambia); — Sr Hermenegild Makoro, cps (South Africa); — Kathleen McCormack, am (Australia); — Dr Claudio Papale (Italy); — Peter Saunders (England); — Hon. Hanna Suchocka (Poland); — Dr Krysten Winter-Green (United States); — Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, sj (Argentina); — Rev. Dr. Hans Zollner, sj (Germany). The next plenary session of the Commission will take place in the Vatican from 6–8 February 2015, as previously announced....

General Audience: Jesus chose to come to the world as part of a family

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 07:36
Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The family is the “great gift that the Lord has given to the world ever since the beginning, when he entrusted to Adam and Eve the mission of multiplying and filling the earth; the gift that Jesus confirmed and sealed in His Gospel”, said the Holy Father during this Wednesday's general audience, in the first of the new cycle of catechesis dedicated to the family, which will continue throughout the coming year. The proximity to Christmas illuminates the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, which opens a new chapter in the universal history of man and woman. “And this new beginning occurs within a family, in Nazareth. He could have come spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor… No – he came as the son of a family, in a family”, he emphasised. God chose to be born “in a human family, that He Himself had formed. He created this family in a remote village in the outer reaches of the Roman Empire. Not in Rome, the capital of the Empire, not in a great city, but in an almost invisible and somewhat notorious periphery. This is even noted in the Gospel, almost as if it were a turn of phrase: 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?'. Perhaps, in many parts of the world, we too still speak in this way when we hear the name of certain peripheral areas of large cities. And yet, it was precisely there, in the outskirts of the great Empire, that there began the most holy and good story of Jesus among mankind”. “Jesus chose to remain in the periphery for thirty years, during which there is no mention of miracles or healing, of preaching, of crowds who run after him. In Nazareth, everything seems to happen 'normally', according to the habits of a pious and hard-working family of Israelites. … The Gospels, in their sobriety, say nothing of Jesus' adolescence and leave this task to our affectionate imaginings. Art, literature and music have followed the path of the imagination. Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine how much mothers could learn from Mary's tender care for her Son! And how much fathers could benefit from the example of Joseph, a righteous man, who dedicated his life to supporting and defending his wife and child – is family – through difficult times. To say nothing of how much the young could be encouraged by the adolescent Jesus in understanding the necessity and beauty of cultivating their deepest vocation, and of having great dreams”, he added. “Every Christian family – as Mary and Joseph did – must first welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, shelter Him, protect Him, grow with Him; and in this way, make the world better. Let us make space in our heart and in our days for the Lord. This is what Mary and Joseph did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to overcome! It was not a false or unreal family. The family of Nazareth calls to us to rediscover the vocation and the mission of the family, of every family. And so what happened in those thirty years in Nazareth can also happen to us: making love, not hate, normal; mutual help common, instead of indifference and hostility. It is not by chance that Nazareth means 'she who preserves', like Mary who, as the Gospel tells us, 'treasured all these things in her heart'. From then on, whenever there is a family that preserves this mystery, even if it should be at the outer reaches of the world, the mystery of the Son of God is at work. And He comes to save the world”....

Pope Francis asks for prayers for the victims of terrorist attacks

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 07:35
Vatican City, 17 December 2014 (VIS) – The Pope, at the end of today's general audience, asked for prayers for the victims of the inhuman terrorist acts that have occurred in recent days in Yemen, Australia and Pakistan. “May the Lord receive the souls of the departed in His peace, console their families and convert the hearts of the perpetrators, whose violence does not cease even before children”. At the end of the audience, 2,500 people danced the milonga to the sound of the bandoneon in St. Peter's Square to celebrate Pope Francis' 78th birthday. The initiative, “A tango for Francis”, emerged on the social networks and, as was shown today, thousands of people joined in....

Clergy and Seminarians to gather in Rome for International Colloquium

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 06:07
(Vatican Radio) Over one hundred bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians will meet in Rome in January 2015 for the Second International Conference of the English-speaking Confraternities of Catholic Clergy. The conference brings together clergy from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Each of these countries has an active confraternity which assists its members to grow in zeal, learning and holiness. The 2015 conference takes up Pope Francis' call for the Church to contemplate Jesus Christ, and to go out from itself toward its existential peripheries. It is entitled: 'Quo vadis, Domine? The Church, Priests and Mission in the twenty-first century.' Conference speakers include Cardinal George Pell who heads the Secretariat for the Economy, Cardinal Angelo Amato who heads the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, and Archbishop Joseph Di Noia, who is Assistant Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  The conference will join the Holy Father for Mass in St Peter's Basilica on the Feast of the Epiphany.  The US and Australian Confraternities organised their first international clergy conference in 2010, in response to Pope Benedict's declaration of a Year for Priests. That conference proved so successful that it inspired newly-founded Confraternities in Britain and Ireland. A highlight of the 2015 conference is the opportunity to celebrate the sacred liturgy in Rome's major basilicas, assisted by Dublin's, Lassus Scholars, who excel at choral masterpieces sung in their authentic liturgical setting. Although booking is now closed, the conference was not restricted to confraternity members. An invitation was extended to all English-speaking clergy; with seminarians enjoying a generous subsidy, which expressed one of the Confraternities' particular concerns: the promotion of priestly vocations. For timetable details, and real-time coverage, visit www.ccc2015.com.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope prays for conversion of terrorists who do not even spare children

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 06:03
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the victims of the “inhuman terror attacks perpetrated in the past days in Sydney, Australia and in Peshawar, Pakistan”. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :  Concluding his address to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope asked those present to join him in his prayers to the Lord to receive the deceased in peace, to bring comfort to their families and to convert the hearts of the violent who do not hold back even before children. ” Taliban militants in Pakistan killed at least 132 children and 9 staff members at a school in Peshawar on Tuesday, whilst an Islamist militant killed 2 people during a siege on a Café in Sydney on Monday.   The Pope’s appeal came after his second catechesis in preparation for next October’s Ordinary Synod of Bishops.  He said that the Extraordinary Synod that took place last October represented the first step of a journey which will conclude next year with another Synodal Assembly on the theme “Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the World”. Francis said that his weekly Wednesday prayers and meditations are part of that common journey, and that is why he has chosen to reflect, this year, on the family: “this great gift of the Lord to the world, right from the beginning, when he entrusted Adam and Eve with the mission to “be fruitful, increase in number and fill the earth” (Genesis 1, 28). A gift – the Pope said – that Jesus confirmed and put his seal on in the Gospel. And the Pope pointed out that Christmas brings much light to this mystery. The incarnation of the Son of God – he said - opens a whole new chapter in the universal history of man and woman. This new beginning – he pointed out - took place within a little family, in Nazareth. The Son of God – he said – chose to be born into a human family in an obscure town on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Not in Rome, not in a great city, but in an almost invisible – even rough – periphery, as described by the Gospels “Nazareth, can anything good come from there?” (John 1, 46). Perhaps, the Pope said, in many parts of the world we too use that kind of language when we hear talk of some of the urban peripheries of our own cities: “Well, that’s exactly where the most holy of stories began, that of Jesus amongst mankind!” Jesus – he said – stayed in that periphery for over 30 years as narrated by Luke (2, 51 – 52). There is no talk of miracles or preaching, but of a very normal family life. And Pope Francis spoke of the tenderness aroused by the descriptions of Jesus’s life as an adolescent who was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion, learning from the words and examples of Mary and Joseph, and growing in wisdom, age and grace. In imitation of the Holy Family, the Pope said, every Christian family must make a place for Jesus in its home, for it is through the love of such “normal” families, even in the peripheries of the world, that God’s Son quietly comes to dwell among us bringing Salvation to our world.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 05:14
(Vatican Radio) There was a festive atmosphere at the weekly General Audience on Wednesday, as Pope Francis celebrated his 78th birthday. As he made his way through the crowds, Pope Francis stopped by a group of seminarians from the Legion of Christ, who offered him a birthday cake, complete with lighted candles. The Holy Father also took the opportunity to take a sip of maté, a traditional Argentinian drink, offered my pilgrims at the Audience. On the Via della Conciliazione, which leads up to St Peter's Square, tango enthusiasts danced in the street to celebrate the Pope's birthday. Pope Francis didn’t mention his birthday during the audience, but his reflections on the importance of simple, humble family life, lived on the peripheries, was certainly appropriate for the occasion. Vatican Radio joins Catholics from around the world in wishing Pope Francis a very happy birthday. Ad multos annos! A prayer for the Pope:  V. Let us pray for Francis, the Pope. R. May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and may the Lord not hand him over to the power of his enemies. V. May your hand be upon your holy servant. R. And upon your son whom you have anointed. Let us pray. O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in your mercy, upon your servant, Francis, whom you have appointed to preside over your Church; and grant, we beseech you, that both by word and example, he may edify all those under his charge; so that, with the flock entrusted to him, he may arrive at length unto life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.   (from Vatican Radio)...

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