(Vatican Radio) Jesus had authority because He served the people, He was close to persons and He was coherent, as opposed to the doctors of the law who considered themselves princes. These three characteristics of Jesus’ authority were highlighted by Pope Francis in his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father noted, on the other hand, that the doctors of the law taught with a clericalist authority: they were far distant from the people, and didn’t live what they preached.
The respective authority of Jesus and that of the Pharisees were the two poles around which the Pope’s homily revolved. The one was a real authority, the other was merely formal. The day’s Gospel speaks of the amazement of the people because Jesus taught “as one who has authority” and not like the scribes: they were the authorities of the people, the Pope said, but what they taught didn’t enter into their hearts, while Jesus had a real authority: He was not a “seducer,” He taught the Law “down to the last point,” He taught the Truth, but with authority.
Jesus served the people while the doctors of the law considered themselves princes
The Pope then entered into details, focusing on the three characteristics that distinguished the authority of Jesus from that of the doctors of the law. While Jesus “taught with humility,” and said to His disciples, “the greatest should be as one who serves: he should make himself small,” the Pharisees considered themselves princes:
Jesus served the people, He explained things because the people understood well: He was at the service of the people. He had an attitude of a servant, and this gave authority. On the other hand, these doctors of the law that the people… yes, they heard, they respected, but they didn’t feel that they had authority over them; these had a psychology of princes: ‘We are the masters, the princes, and we teach you. Not service: we command, you obey.’ And Jesus never passed Himself off like a prince: He was always the servant of all, and this is what gave Him authority.
The second characteristic of the authority of Jesus is closeness
It is being close to the people, in fact, that confers authority. Closeness, then, is the second characteristic that distinguishes the authority of Jesus from that of the Pharisees. “Jesus did not have an allergy to the people: touching the lepers, the sick, didn’t make Him shudder,” Pope Francis explained; while the Pharisees despised “the poor people, the ignorant,” they liked to walk about the piazzas, in nice clothing:
They were detached from the people, they were not close [to them]; Jesus was very close to the people, and this gave authority. Those detached people, these doctors, had a clericalist psychology: they taught with a clericalist authority – that’s clericalism . It is very pleasing to me when I read about the closeness to the people the Blessed Paul VI had; in number 48 of Evangelii nuntiandi one sees the heart of a pastor who is close [to the people]: that’s where you find the authority of the Pope, closeness. First, a servant, of service, of humility: the head is the one who serves, who turns everything upside down, like an iceberg. The summit of the iceberg is seen; Jesus, on the other hand, turns it upside down and the people are on top and he that commands is below, and gives commands from below. Second, closeness.
Jesus was coherent; the clericalist attitude is hypocritical
But there is a third point that distinguishes the authority of the scribes from that of Jesus, namely ‘coherence.’ Jesus “lived what He preached.” “There was something like a unity, a harmony between what He thought, felt, did.” Meanwhile, one who considers himself a prince has a “clericalist attitude” – that is, hypocritical – says one thing and does another:
On the other hand, this people was not coherent and their personality was divided on the point that Jesus counselled His disciples: ‘But, do what they tell you, but not what they do’: they said one thing and did another. Incoherence. They were incoherent. And the attitude Jesus uses of them so often is hypocritical . And it is understood that one who considers himself a prince, who has a clericalist attitude, who is a hypocrite, doesn’t have authority! He speaks the truth, but without authority. Jesus, on the other hand, who is humble, who is at the service of others, who is close, who does not despise the people, and who is coherent, has authority. And this is the authority that the people of God senses.
The amazement of the innkeeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan
In conclusion, the Pope, in order to make this better understood, recalled the parable of the Good Samaritan. Seeing the man left half-dead in the street by the robbers, the priest passed by, and kept on going, perhaps because there was blood and he thought that if he touched him, he would become impure. The Levite passed by and, the Pope said, “I believe that he thought” that if he got mixed up in the affair he would then have to go to court and give testimony, and he had many things to do. And so he, too, kept on going. Finally, the Samaritan came, and sinner, and he, instead, had mercy. But there was another person in the parable, Pope Francis noted: the innkeeper, who was amazed, not because of the assault of the robbers, because that was something that happened along that road; not because of the behaviour of the priest and the Levite, because he knew them; but because of the behaviour of the Samaritan. The amazement of the innkeeper at the Samaritan: “But this is crazy… He’s not Jew, he’s a sinner,” he could have thought. Pope Francis than connected this amazement to the amazement felt by the people in the day’s Gospel in the face of Jesus’ authority: “a humble authority, of service… an authority close to the people” and “coherent.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for January is for Christians serving the challenges facing humanity , in which he asks that full ecclesial communion be restored in order to serve the challenges facing humanity.
The Apostleship of Prayer has produced the Pope’s Video on this prayer intention.
The full text of the Pope’s Video is below:
In today’s world, many Christians from various churches work together to serve humanity in need, to defend human life and its dignity, to defend creation, and to combat injustice. 
This desire to walk together, to collaborate in service and in solidarity with the weakest and with those who suffer, is a source of joy for us all. 
Join your voice to mine in praying for all who contribute through prayer and fraternal charity to restoring full ecclesial communion in service of the challenges facing humanity. 
 Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity for the 50th anniversary of the decree " Unitatis Redintegratio ".
 Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian unity for the 50th anniversary of the decree " Unitatis Redintegratio ".
 Universal Prayer Intention of the Holy Father entrusted to the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer). January 2017.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday called on people of every religious tradition to join in condemning the misuse of God’s name to justify acts of violence.
Speaking in the Apostolic Palace to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See during the traditional exchange of New Year’s greetings with the diplomats, Pope Francis said, “[O]ne can never kill in God’s name,” adding that the world is, “dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.”
Pope Francis also said, “Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty.”
Click below to hear our report
“It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders,” he continued.
Security and peace were the twin focal points of the Holy Father’s broad-ranging address , which is often described as his "state of the world" address and this year was articulated in some thirty-four paragraphs and twenty footnotes.
“In today’s climate of general apprehension for the present, and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future, I feel it is important to speak a word of hope, which can also indicate a path on which to embark,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father pointed out some of the areas where conflict is affecting people’s lives.
“I think particularly of the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey,” he said.
“These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travelers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul,” he continued.
The Pope called on the international community to work for peace.
“Peace,” Pope Francis said, is a gift, a challenge and a commitment,” that each of us and all together are called to receive, to answer, and embrace with care and dedication.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Christian life is simple; a Christian does not need to do strange or difficult things, but put Jesus at the center of his or her daily choices.
This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis ’ homily on Monday during morning Mass.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Resuming the daily Santa Marta Mass after the Christmas break, the Pope remarked on the fact that we have begun a new liturgical season in ordinary time, highlighting however that Jesus is always at the center of Christian life:
"Jesus Christ manifested himself; we are invited to get to know him, to recognize him in our lives and in so many circumstances of life” he said.
The Pope also explained that Saints and apparitions are important, but without Jesus, he said, they would not exist.
Hence, he said, we must ask ourselves the question: “is Jesus Christ at the center of my life? And what is my relationship with Jesus Christ? "
Thus, the Pope continued, we have three tasks because "to be able to put Jesus at the center we must make sure that we know Him and that we are able to recognize Him.
“In His time many did not recognize him: the doctors of the law, the chief priests, the scribes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Indeed, they persecuted Him and they killed Him. We too must ask ourselves: ‘Am I interested in getting to know Jesus? Or am I perhaps more interested in watching soap operas, in gossiping, in pursuing an ambition or talking about the lives of others?’” he said.
To get to know Jesus, the Pope explained, there is prayer, there is the Holy Spirit, “there is also the Gospel, which we should carry with us and read a passage every day. It’s the only way to get to know Jesus. And then the Holy Spirit does the work afterwards. He who makes the seed sprout and grow is the Holy Spirit”.
The second task, Francis continued, is to worship Jesus: “not just asking things of Him and thanking Him”, but praying silently in adoration, and removing from our hearts other things we adore and that capture our interest. “All the rest, he said, is of use only if I am capable of worshiping God alone”.
And the Pope invited the faithful to pray the ‘Glory Be’: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit”.
Pointing out that too often we recite it like parrots, he said: “this prayer is adoration!” It is a way of worshiping the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A little prayer, in silence, before the greatness of God is a way to worship Jesus and say: 'You are the only one, you are the beginning and the end, and I want to stay with you throughout my life, throughout eternity. It is a way to chase away the things that prevent me from worshiping Jesus.”
The third task, the Pope said, is to follow Jesus, as illustrated in today's Gospel in which the Lord calls his first disciples. It means putting Jesus at the center of our lives:
“Christian life is simple, but we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to awaken the desire to know Jesus, to worship Jesus and to follow Him. That’s why, during the Collect we asked the Lord what we are called to do and we asked Him for the strength to do it” he said.
Christians, Pope Francis concluded, do not need to do strange, difficult or superfluous things, so let us ask the Lord for the grace to know Jesus, to worship Jesus and to follow Him.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Speaking to pilgrims gathered in a freezing St Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis asked for prayers for all those living and dying on the streets at this time of year.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
The Pope’s words came during his Angelus address at the end of Mass marking the feast of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. As Jesus came to be baptised, the Pope said, John the Baptist tries to stop him, saying he is the one who should be baptised by Jesus. But, the Pope continued, Jesus came down to earth to close the gap between God and man, to fulfill God’s will and to show that God remains close to us, his children.
Christians must be humble servants
As Jesus was baptized, the voice of God was heard saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and a dove was seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Pope said that was the moment when Jesus began his public mission, in the style of a humble servant. All disciples of Christ, he said, must use that same missionary style, not shouting or scolding people, not with arrogance or imposition, but firmly and gently with the example of their own lives.
After praying the Angelus prayer, the Pope remembered the homeless and especially those who’ve died during the extreme cold weather. May the Lord warm our hearts to be able to help those who live on the streets, he said.
Practical support for homeless
The Pope’s almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, told Vatican Radio yesterday that the three hostels run by the Vatican, close to St Peter’s and to Termini train station, will remain open 24 hours a day while the cold weather continues. He said a number of cars have also been made available as a place to sleep for those who wish to remain on the streets, while special thermal sleeping bags and gloves are being provided to try and protect the homeless from the freezing temperatures.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday baptised 28 babies during Mass in the Sistine chapel, telling their families that Jesus’ first sermon was the sound of his crying in the stable at Bethlehem.
Surrounded by the sounds of baby noises, the Pope gave a short, off-the-cuff homily on the faith which is given to children in Baptism. Faith, he said, does not just mean reciting the Creed on Sundays, but rather it means believing in the truth, trusting in God and teaching others with the example of our lives.
Listen to Philippa HItchen's report:
Faith, the Pope continued, is also the light which grows in our hearts – that’s why a lighted candle is given to every person being baptized. In the early years of the Church, he noted, baptism was called ‘illumination’ to show the way in which faith helps us see things in a different light. To the parents who had brought their children to be baptized, he said “you have the task of making that faith grow, of nurturing it, so that it may bear witness to others”.
As the sounds of crying grew louder, the Pope joked that the concert had begun. The babies are crying, he said, because they are in an unfamiliar place, or because they had to get up early, or sometimes simply because they hear another child crying. Jesus did just the same, Pope Francis said, adding that he liked to think of Our Lord’s first sermon as his crying in the stable. And if your children are crying because they are hungry, the Pope told the mothers present, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) "We learn from the Magi not to devote only spare time and some thoughts every now and then. Like the Magi, let us set out, clothe ourselves in the light following the star of Jesus, and love the Lord with all our might". Those were Pope Francis’ words to the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus of the Epiphany, to which he donated a book on Mercy distributed by the poor attendance.
Like the Magi chose to be guided by the star of Jesus - said the Pope, "even in our life there are several stars. It's up to us to choose which to follow."
"There are flashing lights that come and go, like the small pleasures of life: although good, they are not enough… “
The Magi invite us to follow the true light that is Lord - said Pope Francis - "a light that does not dazzle, but it accompanies and gives a unique joy. Follow today, among the many shooting stars in the world, the bright star of Jesus! Following it, we will have the joy, like that of the Magi. "
"I would like, the Pope said, to invite everyone not to be afraid of this light and open up to the Lord. Above all I would say to those who have lost the strength to look, to those who, are dominated by the darkness of life, …Courage, the light of Jesus can overcome the darkest darkness. "
"We learn from the Magi not to devote to Jesus only spare time and some thoughts every now and then…”
Concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis donated to those present in St Peter’s Square a small booklet on Mercy which was distributed by more than 300 poor people present in St Peter's Square to whom the Pope offered lunch.
"The Magi offered their gifts to Jesus, And speaking of gifts, I thought I'd give you a little gift: The "Icons of mercy" booklet. The gift of God is Jesus, the Father's mercy; and so, to remember this gift of God, I will give this gift that will be distributed by the poor, the homeless and refugees along with many volunteers and religious whom I cordially greet and thank you wholeheartedly. "
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday celebrated Mass for the feast of the Epiphany telling the faithful in St Peter's Basilica the Magi personify all those who believe and long for God.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report:
The 6th of January is synonymous with the Magi who, following a star are led to the Christ child in Bethlehem. And it was next to a manger containing the baby Jesus in St Peter’s Basilica that Pope Francis in his homily spoke about these three Kings who, he said, “personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.”
They reflect, he added, “the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.”
Like these kings, the Pope explained, “a holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.”
Longing for God, continued the Holy Father, “has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future. Pope Francis said, “believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them. They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord.”
But the Pope noted, “an entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, … He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience. He was bewildered, afraid. It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.” A bewilderment, the Holy Father stressed, “born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life.”
The Magi, underlined Pope Francis, “had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically. There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, the Pope said, “is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us.”
It is a merciful gaze, noted the Pope, that heals, forgives, and comforts those who suffer.
What the Magi found in Bethlehem concluded Pope Francis. “was a promise of newness. There something new was taking place. The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over Mass for the feast of the Epiphany which was celebrated on Friday in St Peter's Basilica.
Below is an English translation of the Pope's homily.
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).
With these words, the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the newborn King. To see and to worship. These two actions stand out in the Gospel account. We saw a star and we want to worship.
These men saw a star that made them set out. The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events. The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it. As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom). Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new.
The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland. They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.
A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present. A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom. That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.
This same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms. This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace. This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost. Mary Magdalen experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master. Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change. Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need. Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future. Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them. They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord. Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.
An entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, a short distance from Bethlehem, where no one realized what was taking place. As the Magi made their way, Jerusalem slept. It slept in collusion with a Herod who, rather than seeking, also slept. He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience. He was bewildered, afraid. It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes. The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it. The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone. The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for “winners”, whatever the price. A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life. Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime: “You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart” (SAINT QUODVULTDEUS, Sermon 2 on the Creed: PL 40, 655).
We want to worship. Those men came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace. Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects. For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement. One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated. True, but not necessarily loved. For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: the cult of power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement.
It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey. There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey. They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically. There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us. To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals. To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him. To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned. That his strength and his power are called mercy. For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!
Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things. He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him. He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him. Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.
The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness. There something new was taking place. The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with hundreds of Italians from the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes over the past six months. The central Italian town of Amatrice and surrounding areas were hit by a 6.3 magnitude quake in August which killed nearly 300 people. Other powerful quakes caused major damage in the same region on October 26th and 30th, with the latest tremors reported in Spoleto last Monday, January 2nd.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
Around 800 people, led by their Bishop Renato Boccardo and local civic authorities, travelled to Rome for the audience in the Paul VI hall. Many of them had lost their houses, livelihoods and friends or family members in the largest earthquakes which reduced parts of many towns and villages to piles of rubble.
Pope Francis sat and listened as a survivor and a local parish priest described the immense suffering of people, now seeking to rebuild their shattered communities. In his off-the-cuff response, the Pope said the worst thing to do in such circumstances was to offer a prepared sermon, but instead he reflected on the work of physical, mental and spiritual reconstruction that has been taking place throughout the region.
Pope Francis spoke of the wounds which have affected those who’ve lost their loved ones and the importance of crying together as they seek to heal the pain. He spoke too of the healing hands of doctors, nurses, firemen and all those who worked together to pull survivors from the rubble or offer help to those most in need.
Sharing and solidarity
Finally the Pope spoke of the spirit of solidarity and nearness which is vital for the reconstruction process. While everyone affected by the earthquakes will continue to bear scars, he said it’s important to find the courage to dream again. Sharing and remaining close together, he said, makes us more courageous and more human as we face this daunting task.
The Pope’s words come three months after he made a surprise visit to Amatrice and two neighbouring towns to meet with survivors and relatives of victims. During the visit, he said he had not come to make speeches, but simply to be close to those suffering and to pray with all those affected by the earthquakes.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with participants in a Conference organized by the national Office for Pastoral Care for Vocations of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
The theme of the conference is “Arise, go forth, and fear not. Vocations and sanctity: I am on a mission. ”
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
During the encounter, Pope Francis set aside his prepared remarks and spoke off-the-cuff to the 800 seminarians and religious men and women present.
Recalling the conference’s theme, the Holy Father asked himself aloud, “How many young people, boys and girls, today hear in their heart that ‘Arise’, and how many – priests, consecrated men and women – close the door? And they wind up frustrated.”
To remedy this situation, the Pope offered several thoughts on ways to increase vocations to religious life and the priesthood.
“The doors are opened through prayer, though good will, through risk,” he said. “Jesus told us that the first way to have vocations is prayer, but not all are convinced of this.”
Rather, he went on, “Pray with the heart, with your life, with everything.”
Speaking about the role of bishops in vocations, the Holy Father said their “first task is prayer; the second is to proclaim the Gospel”.
The third recommendation he offered was to “Open the doors so that [young people] may enter our churches.”
“To receive vocations, hospitality is key”, the Pope continued, it is necessary to be particularly devoted to listening, to be able to “waste time” in order to hear and understand the questions and desires of young people and to practice the “apostolate of the ear”.
The fourth and final recommendation Pope Francis made regarded the witness of the messenger. “May they see you live what you preach, that which brought you to become priests, sisters, and lay people who work with strength in the House of the Lord.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
The Catholic Church in Goa, India is hosting a six day Mother Teresa International Film Festival starting from January 5. The Festival will screen Indian and international films based on the life and work of the Albanian-born saint.
A press statement issued by the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, Goa, said that the aim of the festival "is to make known the life and works of Mother Teresa so that all may be inspired by her life to serve the society".
The event is a part of a series of celebratory events being organised by the Church in honour of Mother Teresa, the statement added. As part of the festival, films will be screened at venues in Panaji as well as in Margao.
Some of the films which will be screened at the six-day festival, which kicks off on January 5, are "In the name of God's poor" (USA), "All for God's Love" (India), "Mother Teresa and Me" (UK), "The Fifth World" (Spain) and "Nirmal Hriday" (India). (UCAN)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his series of reflections on Christian hope, speaking of the inconsolable pain of a parent losing a child. The Pope focused his words on the Old Testament figure of Rachel, wife of Jacob, who is described by the prophet Jeremiah as weeping bitter tears for her children in exile.
Philippa Hitchen reports:
In the book of Genesis, we learn that Rachel died in childbirth, giving life to her second son, Benjamin. But the prophet Jeremiah talks about her inconsolable grief at the loss of her children who’ve been sent into exile.
There are no words or gestures, the Pope said, that can console a mother faced with the tragedy of losing a child.
There are many mothers today, he went on, who are crying and inconsolable, unable to accept the senseless death of a child. Rachel’s pain, he said, encapsulates the suffering of all mothers and the tears of all people who weep for an irreparable loss.
This story, the Pope said, teaches us how delicate and difficult it is to console another person’s grief. Before speaking of hope, he said, we must share in their tears and if we can’t find words to do that, then it’s better to keep silent, offering only a gesture or a caress instead.
And yet God responds to Rachel’s tears, the Pope said, promising that her children will return to their homeland. The bitter tears of the woman who dies in childbirth become the seeds of new life and generate new hope.
In a similar way, he said, the death of Christ on the Cross offers life and hope to the innocent children of Bethlehem who are murdered by King Herod in the days following Jesus’ birth.
Pope Francis spoke of his own reaction to people who ask difficult questions about why children suffer. “I don’t know what to reply”, he said, “I simply say, ‘Look at the Cross: God gave us his Son, he suffered and perhaps you will find a reply there”.
The Son of God entered into our human suffering, the Pope concluded, sharing our pain and welcoming death. From the Cross, he gave new life to Mary, making her the mother of all believers. Through Mary’s and Rachel’s tears, he fulfills the words of the prophet and generates new hope.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his “sorrow and concern” upon hearing news of the prison riots that took place Monday in Brazil. More than 50 people were killed, making the riots the deadliest to hit Brazil in two decades.
During his General Audience on Wednesday, the Holy Father called for prayer “for those who have died, for their families, for all the inmates of that prison, and for those who work there.” The Pope also renewed his appeal “that prisons might be places of re-education and re-integration into society; and that the conditions of life of prisoners might be worthy of human persons.”
In improvised remarks following the appeal, Pope Francis led the crowd in a prayer for the prisoners involved in the riots, both living and dead, and for all prisoners throughout the world. He prayed to Mary, the Mother of prisoners, that prisons might not be overcrowded, but might be places of rehabilitation.
Brazil's justice minister on Tuesday proposed an overhaul of the penal system to tackle chronic prison overcrowding The minister, Alexandre de Moraes, said his country needed to improve conditions in jails, which are home to an estimated 600,000 inmates, after visiting the prison in the jungle city of Manaus.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On Thursday, 5 January, the Vigil of Epiphany, Pope Francis will meet at the Vatican with victims of the devastating earthquakes that struck central Italy in the course of the past year.
Almost 300 people were killed in an earthquake that struck near the town of Amatrice on August 24. Just over two months later, a series of quakes struck the same region, including a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on October 30 - the largest quake to strike Italy in over thirty years. Only two people died in the October quakes, although a number of towns, including Norcia, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, suffered serious damage.
The Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia, Renato Boccardo, said the meeting with the Pope “is dedicated especially to those who lost their loved ones, their homes, their economic security, those who have been displaced from their land.” The Pope, he said, wanted to welcome especially those who, in different ways, have been wounded by the quakes, and who are looking for “consolation and hope."
Approximately 800 people from the diocese, with their Archbishop and their pastors, will take part in the audience. Representatives of the civil authorities leading rebuilding efforts will also be present. The pastor of the Abbey of S. Eutizio near the town of Preci will address the Holy Father in the name of all those present.
A press release from the Archdiocese said the meeting will strengthen the local church in its principle task following the earthquake. The Church, it said, is called primarily to support “the interior-moral renewal of the people.” To that end, a further important gathering will take place next Sunday, when the Archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, will celebrate Mass for earthquake victims in the village of San Pellegrino di Norcia.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written to the Bishops of the world condemning all forms of oppression and exploitation of children. His words come in a letter signed on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which takes place each year on December 28, during the Octave of Christmas.
In his letter, the Holy Father calls the Bishops to foster in hearts of Christians the joy that comes from the proclamation of the birth of Christ. But in moving words, he notes that the Christmas story is also accompanied by tears. “Today, too,” the Pope said, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence.” He continued. “In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.”
Pope Francis speaks about the millions of children who are deprived of education and whose innocence is shattered by wars and forced immigation. He also once again begs forgiveness for the sufferings of children who were sexually abused by priests, saying "it is a sin that shames the Church."
Christian joy, he said, “is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day.” Pope Francis said the Bishops must find new courage to protect children and to be more sensitive to what is happening in the world around us.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s letter:
Today, on the feast of the Holy Innocents, as the words of the angel to the shepherds still resound in our hearts – “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour” ( Lk 2: 10-11) – I feel the need to write to you. We do well to listen to that proclamation again and again; to hear over and over again that God is present in the midst of our people. This certainty, which we renew each year, is the source of our joy and hope.
In these days we experience how the liturgy leads us to the heart of Christmas, into the Mystery which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy.
As pastors, we are called to help foster this joy among the faithful. We are charged with protecting this joy. I ask you once again that we not let ourselves be robbed of this joy, for we can be disillusioned at times, not unreasonably, with the world around us, with the Church, or even with ourselves, and feel tempted to indulge in a certain melancholy, lacking in hope, which can lay hold of our hearts (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 83).
Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They did not indulge in words that were comforting but unrelated to reality. For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary, they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest of terms: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2:18). It is the sobbing of mothers bewailing the death of their children in the face of Herod’s tyranny and unbridled thirst for power.
Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence. In our world – I write this with a heavy heart – we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, of so many families, for the death of their children, their innocent children.
To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbours, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today. To contemplate the manger in isolation from the world around us would make Christmas into a lovely story that inspires warm feelings but robs us of the creative power of the Good News that the Incarnate Word wants to give us. The temptation is real.
Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?
Saint Joseph was the first to be charged with protecting the joy of salvation. Faced with the atrocious crimes that were taking place, Saint Joseph – the model of an obedient and loyal man – was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to his will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.
The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to be men attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and hence more sensitive to what is happening all around us. Today, with Saint Joseph as our model, we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand (cf. Mt 2:20). The courage to guard this joy from the new Herods of our time, who devour the innocence of our children. An innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labour, prostitution and exploitation. An innocence shattered by wars and forced immigration, with the great loss that this entails. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death, who only devour and exploit their neediness.
To illustrate this point, there are at present 75 million children who, due to prolonged situations of emergency and crisis, have had to interrupt their education. In 2015, 68% of all persons who were victims of sexual exploitation were children. At the same time, a third of all children who have to live outside their homelands do so because forcibly displaced. We live in a world where almost half of the children who die under the age of five do so because of malnutrition. It is estimated that in 2016 there were 150 million child labourers, many of whom live in conditions of slavery. According to the most recent report presented by UNICEF, unless the world situation changes, in 2030 there will be 167 million children living in extreme poverty, 69 million children under the age of five will die between 2016 and 2030, and 16 million children will not receive basic schooling.
We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance”.
Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call – the same call that Saint Joseph received – to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us as bishops to find new courage. The courage that generates processes capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.
Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.
May we do this with the paternal fidelity of Saint Joseph and guided by Mary, Mother of tender love, so that our own hearts may never grow hard.
With fraternal affection,
From the Vatican, 28 December 2016
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is calling for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform global politics today, saying military responses to conflicts only breed further violence.
The Pope’s appeal comes in his annual message for the World Day of Peace, which is marked by the Catholic Church on January1st .
Listen to our report by Linda Bordoni:
Calling on political and religious leaders, on the heads of international institutions, on business and media executives and on all men and women of goodwill to become instruments of reconciliation and adopt nonviolence as a style of politics for peace, Pope Francis says that we find ourselves “engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal”, and that violence is clearly “not the cure for our broken world.”
Violence, he says in the message, leads to forced migrations and enormous suffering , devastation of the environment, terrorism and organized crime. It leads to retaliation and a deadly cycle that end up benefiting only a few warlords.
But, Pope Francis continues, Christ’s message offers a radically positive approach. He himself walked the path of nonviolence and became an instrument of reconciliation.
Citing historical figures like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King as models of nonviolent peacemakers, the Pope says nonviolence is more powerful than violence and it has produced impressive results.
He recalls the contribution of Christian communities in the fall of Communist regimes, pointing out that peaceful political transitions were made using only the weapons of truth and justice. And he notes that such efforts are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone but are typical of many religious traditions.
“I emphatically reaffirm, he says , that no religion is terrorist (…); and that the name of God cannot be used to justify violence”.
Emphasizing also the domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence Pope Francis says that while he pleads for disarmament and the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons, with equal urgency he pleads for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
My invitation to political, religious and economic leaders, the Pope says, is to take up the challenge of building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers, to choose solidarity as a way of making history.
In a world in which everything is connected, he says, active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is more powerful and more fruitful than conflict, and that differences can be faced constructively and non-violently preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.
“All of us want peace, Francis concluds: “in 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds: (…) Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’s message for the World Day of Peace:
"Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace"
1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, and make active nonviolence our way of life.
This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.
On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.
A broken world
2. While the last century knew the devastation of two deadly World Wars, the threat of nuclear war and a great number of other conflicts, today, sadly, we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal. It is not easy to know if our world is presently more or less violent than in the past, or to know whether modern means of communications and greater mobility have made us more aware of violence, or, on the other hand, increasingly inured to it.
In any case, we know that this “piecemeal” violence, of different kinds and levels, causes great suffering: wars in different countries and continents; terrorism, organized crime and unforeseen acts of violence; the abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking; and the devastation of the environment. Where does this lead? Can violence achieve any goal of lasting value? Or does it merely lead to retaliation and a cycle of deadly conflicts that benefit only a few “warlords”?
Violence is not the cure for our broken world. Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because vast amounts of resources are diverted to military ends and away from the everyday needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm and the great majority of people in our world. At worst, it can lead to the death, physical and spiritual, of many people, if not of all.
The Good News
3. Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come” (Mk 7:21). But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught his disciples to love their enemies (cf. Mt 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (cf. Mt 5:39). When he stopped her accusers from stoning the woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11), and when, on the night before he died, he told Peter to put away his sword (cf. Mt 26:52), Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence. He walked that path to the very end, to the cross, whereby he became our peace and put an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14-16). Whoever accepts the Good News of Jesus is able to acknowledge the violence within and be healed by God’s mercy, becoming in turn an instrument of reconciliation. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts”.
To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence. As my predecessor Benedict XVI observed, that teaching “is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This ‘more’ comes from God”. He went on to stress that: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’”. The Gospel command to love your enemies (cf. Lk 6:27) “is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian nonviolence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil…, but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:17-21), and thereby breaking the chain of injustice”.
More powerful than violence
4. Nonviolence is sometimes taken to mean surrender, lack of involvement and passivity, but this is not the case. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she clearly stated her own message of active nonviolence: “We in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another… And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world”. For the force of arms is deceptive. “While weapons traffickers do their work, there are poor peacemakers who give their lives to help one person, then another and another and another”; for such peacemakers, Mother Teresa is “a symbol, an icon of our times”. Last September, I had the great joy of proclaiming her a Saint. I praised her readiness to make herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded… She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crimes – the crimes! – of poverty they created”. In response, her mission – and she stands for thousands, even millions of persons – was to reach out to the suffering, with generous dedication, touching and binding up every wounded body, healing every broken life.
The decisive and consistent practice of nonviolence has produced impressive results. The achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in the liberation of India, and of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in combating racial discrimination will never be forgotten. Women in particular are often leaders of nonviolence, as for example, was Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of Liberian women, who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protest that resulted in high-level peace talks to end the second civil war in Liberia.
Nor can we forget the eventful decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe. The Christian communities made their own contribution by their insistent prayer and courageous action. Particularly influential were the ministry and teaching of Saint John Paul II. Reflecting on the events of 1989 in his 1991 Encyclical Centesimus Annus, my predecessor highlighted the fact that momentous change in the lives of people, nations and states had come about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice”. This peaceful political transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, while always refusing to yield to the force of power, succeeded time after time in finding effective ways of bearing witness to the truth”. Pope John Paul went on to say: “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones”.
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.
Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”. I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God. Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence. Peace alone is holy. Peace alone is holy, not war!”
The domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence
5. If violence has its source in the human heart, then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else within families. This is part of that joy of love which I described last March in my Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in the wake of two years of reflection by the Church on marriage and the family. The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society. An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between individuals and among peoples cannot be based on the logic of fear, violence and closed-mindedness, but on responsibility, respect and sincere dialogue. Hence, I plead for disarmament and for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons: nuclear deterrence and the threat of mutual assured destruction are incapable of grounding such an ethics. I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy that ended in November encouraged each one of us to look deeply within and to allow God’s mercy to enter there. The Jubilee taught us to realize how many and diverse are the individuals and social groups treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence. They too are part of our “family”; they too are our brothers and sisters. The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. “Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”.
6. Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application of moral norms; she does so by her participation in the work of international institutions and through the competent contribution made by so many Christians to the drafting of legislation at all levels. Jesus himself offers a “manual” for this strategy of peacemaking in the Sermon on the Mount. The eight Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-10) provide a portrait of the person we could describe as blessed, good and authentic. Blessed are the meek, Jesus tells us, the merciful and the peacemakers, those who are pure in heart, and those who hunger and thirst for justice.
This is also a programme and a challenge for political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, and business and media executives: to apply the Beatitudes in the exercise of their respective responsibilities. It is a challenge to build up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers. It is to show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost. To do so requires “the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process”. To act in this way means to choose solidarity as a way of making history and building friendship in society. Active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is truly more powerful and more fruitful than conflict. Everything in the world is inter-connected. Certainly differences can cause frictions. But let us face them constructively and non-violently, so that “tensions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity,” preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.
I pledge the assistance of the Church in every effort to build peace through active and creative nonviolence. On 1 January 2017, the new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will begin its work. It will help the Church to promote in an ever more effective way “the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”. Every such response, however modest, helps to build a world free of violence, the first step towards justice and peace.
8. As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers”. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to build nonviolent communities that care for our common home. “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace”.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2016
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On the morning of New Year’s Day, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated Mass to mark the Solemnity of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God.
In his homily, the Holy Father focused on the ecclesial, political, and social significance of Mary’s divine motherhood.
“To celebrate Mary as Mother of God and our mother at the beginning of the new year means recalling a certainty that will accompany our days,” said Pope Francis, “we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans.”
Click below to hear our report
The Holy Father went on to say, “To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors. We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.”
“Jesus,” Pope Francis said, “at the moment of his ultimate self-sacrifice, on the cross, sought to keep nothing for himself, and in handing over his life, he also handed over to us his Mother. He told Mary: Here is your son; here are your children. We too want to receive her into our homes, our families, our communities and nations.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has condemned the deadly New Year’s Eve terror attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, in which a gunman opened fire on New Year’s revelers in Istanbul’s popular Reina venue at 1:30 AM (22:30 GMT), killing at least 39 people and wounding scores of others.
At least 69 people were taken to hospital with injuries.
Speaking to pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the New Year’s Day Angelus , Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and their families, as well as the whole Turkish people.
Click below to hear our report
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “Deeply saddened, I express my closeness to the Turkish people, I pray for the many victims and the injured and for the whole nation in mourning, and I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who courageously roll up their sleeves to face the plague of terrorism and the bloody stain that envelops the world with a shadow of fear and bewilderment.”
The Holy Father’s words came following the traditional prayer of Marian devotion on New Year’s Day, which is also the day on which the Church marks the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God and the World Day of Peace.
This 50 th iteration of the World Day of Peace is centered on the theme: Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace .
(from Vatican Radio)...
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
1 January 2017
“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart! (Lk 2:19). In these words, Luke describes the attitude with which Mary took in all that they had experienced in those days. Far from trying to understand or master the situation, Mary is the woman who can treasure, that is to say, protect and guard in her heart, the passage of God in the life of his people. Deep within, she had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history. She learned how to be a mother, and in that learning process she gave Jesus the beautiful experience of knowing what it is to be a Son. In Mary, the eternal Word not only became flesh, but also learned to recognize the maternal tenderness of God. With Mary, the God-Child learned to listen to the yearnings, the troubles, the joys and the hopes of the people of the promise. With Mary, he discovered himself a Son of God’s faithful people.
In the Gospels, Mary appears as a woman of few words, with no great speeches or deeds, but with an attentive gaze capable of guarding the life and mission of her Son, and for this reason, of everything that he loves. She was able to watch over the beginnings of the first Christian community, and in this way she learned to be the mother of a multitude. She drew near to the most diverse situations in order to sow hope. She accompanied the crosses borne in the silence of her children’s hearts. How many devotions, shrines and chapels in the most far-off places, how many pictures in our homes, remind us of this great truth. Mary gave us a mother’s warmth, the warmth that shelters us amid troubles, the maternal warmth that keeps anything or anyone from extinguishing in the heart of the Church the revolution of tenderness inaugurated by her Son. Where there is a mother, there is tenderness. By her motherhood, Mary shows us that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong. She teaches us that we do not have to mistreat others in order to feel important (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 288). God’s holy people has always acknowledged and hailed her as the Holy Mother of God.
To celebrate Mary as Mother of God and our mother at the beginning of the new year means recalling a certainty that will accompany our days: we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans.
Mothers are the strongest antidote to our individualistic and egotistic tendencies, to our lack of openness and our indifference. A society without mothers would not only be a cold society, but a society that has lost its heart, lost the “feel of home”. A society without mothers would be a merciless society, one that has room only for calculation and speculation. Because mothers, even at the worst times, are capable of testifying to tenderness, unconditional self-sacrifice and the strength of hope. I have learned much from those mothers whose children are in prison, or lying in hospital beds, or in bondage to drugs, yet, come cold or heat, rain or draught, never stop fighting for what is best for them. Or those mothers who in refugee camps, or even the midst of war, unfailingly embrace and support their children’s sufferings. Mothers who literally give their lives so that none of their children will perish. Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children.
To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being “spiritual orphans”. It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim. This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home.
It was such a self-centred orphanhood that led Cain to ask: “Am I my brother's keeper?” (Gen 4:9). It was as if to say: he doesn’t belong to me; I do not recognize him. This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul. We become all the more debased, inasmuch as nobody belongs to us and we belong to no one. I debase the earth because it does not belong to me; I debase others because they do not belong to me; I debase God because I do not belong to him, and in the end we debase our very selves, since we forget who we are and the divine “family name” we bear. The loss of the ties that bind us, so typical of our fragmented and divided culture, increases this sense of orphanhood and, as a result, of great emptiness and loneliness. The lack of physical (and not virtual) contact is cauterizing our hearts (cf. Laudato Si’, 49) and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion. Spiritual orphanhood makes us forget what it means to be children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, friends and believers. It makes us forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.
Celebrating the feast of the Holy Mother of God makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the “climate”, the “warmth” that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to “consume and be consumed”. To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors. We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.
Celebrating the Holy Mother of God leads us to create and care for common places that can give us a sense of belonging, of being rooted, of feeling at home in our cities, in communities that unite and support us (cf. Laudato Si’, 151).
Jesus, at the moment of his ultimate self-sacrifice, on the cross, sought to keep nothing for himself, and in handing over his life, he also handed over to us his Mother. He told Mary: Here is your son; here are your children. We too want to receive her into our homes, our families, our communities and nations. We want to meet her maternal gaze. The gaze that frees us from being orphans; the gaze that reminds us that we are brothers and sisters, that I belong to you, that you belong to me, that we are of the same flesh. The gaze that teaches us that we have to learn how to care for life in the same way and with the same tenderness that she did: by sowing hope, by sowing a sense of belonging and of fraternity.
Celebrating the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we have a Mother. We are not orphans. We have a Mother. Together let us all confess this truth. I invite you to acclaim it three times, standing [ all stand ], like the faithful of Ephesus: Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God.
(from Vatican Radio)...