Pope Francis: the good always wins

(Vatican Radio) “How meaningful it is to be gathered together to give praise to the Lord at the end of the year!”

Those were the words of Pope Francis as he celebrated First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God in St Peter’s Basilica on Thursday evening.

The liturgy at the conclusion of the civil year included the singing of the Te Deum, the Church’s solemn hymn of praise and thanksgiving.

“The Church on so many occasions feels the joy and the duty of lifting up her song to God with these words of praise,” the Pope said in his homily. In particular, the final words of the hymn – “Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee” – have a special resonance during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The Te Deum, he continued, also helps us see the works of God in history and in our own lives, and gives us hope for the new year that lies before us.

Today, Pope Francis said, “our eyes need to focus on the particular signs God has given us, to see His merciful love first-hand.” The Holy Father recalled scenes of violence and death that marked the previous year, the untold suffering of many innocent people, the plight of refugees forced to leave their homes, of the homeless, and the hungry. But he also noted the many acts of kindness, love, and solidarity that often go unnoticed, but which should not be obscured by “the arrogance of evil.” “The good always wins,” the Pope said, “even if at times it can appear weak and hidden.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with a few words for the people of the local church of Rome, inviting Romans to “go beyond the difficulties of the present moment,” and never miss the opportunity to be “privileged interpreters of faith, welcome, fraternity, and peace.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis: a song for our Christian journey

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Pueri cantores on Thursday morning in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The international young choristers’ organization has been holding its annual meeting in Rome this week, six days of festivities, culminating on New Year’s Day with some of them participating in Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The motto of the Congress this year is Cantate spem vestram! “Sing out your hope!” – a theme on which Pope Francis reflected extensively in unscripted remarks to the choristers on Thursday morning. “Christian life is a journey,” said Pope Francis, “it is a joyful journey: sing, then, for this.”

The Holy Father offered his remarks in response to a series of questions from a select few of the more than 4 thousand participants, questions that ranged from whether Pope Francis ever gets angry, to what he wanted to be when he grew up. “When I was a boy,” said Pope Francis in answer to the second question, “I thought about becoming a butcher,” explaining that he always enjoyed to see the butchers about their trade in their market stalls in the Buenos Aires of his childhood.

In answer to the first, he said, “Yes, but I don’t bite,” and warned against letting what is a normal and inevitable human reaction to injustice or even irksome behavior in others, not become a habit. “Anger is poisons,” he said, “it poisons your soul,” if too long or too often indulged.

The third of Pope Francis’ young interlocutors asked him also whether the world will always be as we see it on the nightly news, which often seems full of nothing but bad, sad and even tragic stories. “This struggle between the devil and God,” answered Pope Francis, “will continue until the end of days.” He went on to say, “We all have inside each of us a battlefield – inside each of us there is a struggle between good and evil: we have graces and temptations, and we need to talk with the parish priest and with our catechists about these things, in order to understand them well.” Still, there are many bright spots. “There are many good things in the world,” he said, “and I wonder: why aren’t these good things publicized?” When we watch television, then, “think of the many, many people – so many holy people – who give their whole lives in order to help others,” in deed and in prayer – laity, priests and religious alike.

After a brief choral interlude, Pope Francis offered his blessing and best wishes for the New Year, and said, “We’ll see you tomorrow in St. Peter’s Basilica – it will be a pleasure.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis’ prayer intentions for January

Vatican City, 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father’s universal prayer intention for January 2016 is: “That sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice”.

His intention for evangelisation is: “That by means of dialogue and fraternal charity and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians may overcome divisions”.

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Participation of the faithful in encounters with Pope Francis during 2015

Vatican City, 30 December 2015 (VIS) – The Prefecture of the Papal Household today published a communique reporting that during the year 2015 a total of 3,210,860 faithful attended the various encounters with Pope Francis: general audiences (704,100), special audiences (408,760), liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and in St. Peter’s Square (513,000), and the Angelus and Regina Coeli prayers (1,585,000). These data refer only to events held in the Vatican and do not include others attended often by large numbers of faithful, for instance during the apostolic trips to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sarajevo, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States of America, Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, or during trips within Italy and pastoral visits in the diocese of Rome.

These are approximate data calculated on the basis of requests to participate in encounters with the Pope and invitations distributed by the Prefecture, which also specifies that estimates are given for attendance at events such as the Angelus or Regina Coeli and for celebrations in St. Peter’s Square.

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Pope Francis: Last General Audience of 2015 (full text)

With the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square for the last General Audience of 2015, Pope Francis spoke about Christmas and addressed a special thought to the victims of the recent natural disasters that struck the Americas and Great Britain.

God too “was a child”. With the Christmas reflection the Holy Father offered on Wednesday, 30 December, he invited the faithful to “look to the lives of children” in order to learn to welcome and love Jesus. The following is a translation of the Pope’s address, which he delivered in Italian.

Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

In these days of Christmas the Child Jesus is placed before us. I am certain that in our homes still many families have made a nativity scene, continuing this beautiful tradition brought about by St Francis of Assisi and which keeps alive in our hearts the mystery of God who became man.

Devotion to the Child Jesus is widespread. Many saints cultivated this devotion in their daily prayers, and wished to model their lives after that of the Child Jesus. I think in particular of St Thérèse of Lisieux, who as a Carmelite nun took the name of Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She is also a Doctor of the Church who knew how to live and witness to the “spiritual childhood” which is assimilated through meditation, as the Virgin Mary taught, on the humility of God who became small for us. This is a great mystery. God is humble! We who are proud, filled with vanity, believe we are something big: we are nothing! He, the Great One, is humble and becomes a child. This is a true mystery. God is humble. This is beautiful!

There was a time in which, in the divine-human Person of Christ, God was a child, and this must hold a particular significance for our faith. It is true that his death on the cross and his Resurrection are the highest expression of his redeeming love, however let us not forget that the whole of his earthly life is revelation and teaching. In the Christmas season we remember his childhood. In order to grow in faith we will need to contemplate the Child Jesus more often. Certainly, we know nothing of this period of his. The rare indications that we possess refer to the imposition of his name eight days after his birth and his presentation at the Temple (cf. Lk 2:21-28); in addition to this, to the visit of the Magi and the ensuing escape to Egypt (cf. Mt 2:1-23). Then, there is a great leap to 12 years of age, when with Mary and Joseph he goes in pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, and instead of returning with his parents, he remains in the Temple to speak with the doctors of the law.

As we see, we know little of the Child Jesus, but we can learn much about him if we look to the lives of children. It is a beautiful habit that parents and grandparents have, that of watching what the children do.

We discover, first of all, that children want our attention. They have to be at the centre — why? Because they are proud? No! Because they need to feel protected. It is important that we too place Jesus at the centre of our life and to know, even if it may seem paradoxical, that it is our responsibility to protect him. He wants to be in our embrace, he wants to be tended to and to be able to fix his gaze on ours. Additionally, make the Child Jesus smile in order to show him our love and our joy that he is in our midst. His smile is a sign of the love that gives us the assurance of being loved. Children, lastly, love to play. Playing with children, however, means abandoning our logic in order to enter theirs. If we want to have fun it is necessary to understand what they like, and not to be selfish and make them do the things that we like. It is a lesson for us. Before Jesus we are called to abandon our pretense of autonomy — and this is the crux of the matter: our pretense of autonomy — in order to instead accept the true form of liberty, which consists in knowing and serving whom we have before us. He, the Child, is the Son of God who comes to save us. He has come among us to show us the face of the Father abounding in love and mercy. Therefore, let us hold the Child Jesus tightly in our arms; let us place ourselves at his service. He is the font of love and serenity. It will be beautiful today, when we get home, to go to the nativity scene and kiss the Baby Jesus and say: “Jesus, I want to be humble like you, humble like God”, and to ask him for this grace.

Appeal

I invite prayers for the victims of the natural disasters that have recently struck the United States, Great Britain and South America, particularly Paraguay, sadly claiming lives, displacing many people and causing extensive damage. May the Lord give comfort to those peoples, and may fraternal solidarity support them in their needs.

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Pope Francis: Christ-child teaches us of God’s humility

(Vatican Radio) The figure of the Christ-child was the focus of Pope Francis’ catechesis on Wednesday at the weekly General Audience.

The humility of Our Divine Lord in the manger, and its stark contrast with our own often grandiose self-appraisal was a particular motif of the catechetical reflection the Holy Father offered to the pilgrims and visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the event.

“This is a great mystery,” said Pope Francis, departing from his prepared text in Italian, “God is humble.” He went on to say, “We, who are proud, full of vanity, and who think ourselves great stuff – we are nothing. He is the great one: He is humble, and He makes Himself a child.”

“This,” repeated Pope Francis, “is a true mystery: God is humble – and it is a beautiful thing.”

Below, please find the official English-language summary of the Holy Father’s catechesis, which was read following the main reflection at the audience on Wednesday

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  During this holy season it is customary in many places for each home to set up a Christmas crib, following a tradition begun by Saint Francis of Assisi.  The crib scene invites us to adore the Child Jesus and to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation as a revelation of God’s saving love.  Devotion to the Child Jesus can teach us much about our faith.  Although the Gospels tell us little about our Lord’s childhood, we know from experience the message which all newborn babies bring.  By contemplating the Infant Jesus, we come to understand more fully the meaning of his coming among us.  Like every baby, the Infant Jesus cries out for our attention; he asks us to care for and protect him.  Like every baby, he wants us to smile at him, as a sign of our delight in him and our sharing in the mystery of his love.  Finally, he wants us to play with him, to enter into his world and to become like a child ourselves, in order to please him.  In these days of Christmas, let us not only gaze upon the Child Jesus, but also take him into our arms and allow him to give us the joy and freedom born of the Father’s merciful love.

After the summary, Pope Francis greeted Anglophone pilgrims and visitors with the following words, through his interpreter

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from Norway, the Philippines and the United States of America.  I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song.  With prayerful good wishes that the the Church’s celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for all, I invoke upon you and your families an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.  Happy New Year!

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis: prayers for US, UK, South America storm victims

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called for prayerful solidarity with victims of natural disasters that recently struck parts of the United States, Great Britain, and South America (in particular Paraguay). The Holy Father’s appeal came at the end of his catechetical reflection during the General Audience on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square.

“I invite everyone to pray for the victims of the calamities which in these days have befallen the United States, Great Britain, and South America – particularly Paraguay,” said Pope Francis.

Paraguay is the country hardest hit by flooding in South America that has spread across Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay as well, causing several fatalities and inflicting massive damage, while driving at least 150 thousand people from their homes. Climatologists say the flooding is due to unusually heavy summer rains resulting from an intense “el Niño” weather phenomenon.

In the United States,  severe weather that included tornadoes and flooding killed dozens of people over the past weekend, and continues to advance across the United States, bringing heavy snow and freezing rain over a great stretch of the country from Texas to northern New England.

The United Kingdom was in the throes of another major north Atlantic storm on Wednesday, after several episodes of severe weather provoked flooding from western Scotland to Wales, and especially in Cumbria and Yorkshire. Storm Frank, as the latest disturbance has been called by meteorologists, was expected to produce more heavy rain and wind gusts in excess of 80 km/h throughout much of the UK through Wednesday.

“May the Lord give comfort to all these peoples,” prayed Pope Francis, “and may fraternal solidarity aid them in their need.”   

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope: Let us gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has celebrated Christmas Mass at St Peter’s Basilica. Below, you can find the prepared text of the Holy Father’s homily for the Holy Mass of the Nativity of the Lord “during the Night”:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Christmas Midnight Mass

24 December 2015

Tonight “a great light” shines forth (Is 9:1); the light of Jesus’ birth shines all about us. How true and timely are the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: “You have brought abundant joy and great rejoicing” (9:2)! Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled. Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the sceptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.

Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Saviour of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey’s end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Saviour lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims (cf. 9:5). The people who for two thousand years has traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy is now given the mission of making known “the Prince of peace” and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.

So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).

In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.

Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: “Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation” (Ps 85:8).

(from Vatican Radio)

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