(Vatican Radio) On the final day of the civil year, Pope Francis celebrated First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God in St Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony also included the chanting of the hymn Te Deum in thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year.
Below, please find the official English translation of Pope Francis’ prepared homily for the liturgy:
First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God,
and Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the Past Year
Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saturday, 31 December 2016
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” ( Gal 4:4-5).
These words of Saint Paul are powerful. In a brief and concise way, they introduce God’s plan for us: he wants us to live as his sons and daughters. The whole of salvation history echoes in these words. He who was not subject to the law chose, out of love, to set aside every privilege and to appear in the most unexpected place in order to free us who were under the law. What is so surprising is that God accomplishes this through the smallness and vulnerability of a newborn child. He decides personally to draw near to us and in his flesh to embrace our flesh, in his weakness to embrace our weakness, in his littleness to envelop our littleness. In Christ, God did not put on a human mask; instead he became man and shared completely in our human condition. Far from remaining an idea or an abstract essence, he wanted to be close to all those who felt lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened. Close to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that sin, shame, hurt, despair and exclusion would not have the final word in the lives of his sons and daughters.
The manger invites us to make this divine “logic” our own. It is not a logic centred on privilege, exemptions or favours but one of encounter and closeness. The manger invites us to break with the logic of exceptions for some and exclusion for others. God himself comes to shatter the chains of privilege that always cause exclusion, in order to introduce the caress of compassion that brings inclusion, that makes the dignity of each person shine forth, the dignity for which he or she was created. A child in swaddling clothes shows us the power of God who approaches us as a gift, an offering, a leaven and opportunity for creating a culture of encounter.
We cannot allow ourselves to be naïve. We know that we are tempted in various ways to adopt the logic of privilege that separates, excludes and closes us off, while separating, excluding and closing off the dreams and lives of so many of our brothers and sisters.
Today, before the little Child of Bethlehem, we should acknowledge that we need the Lord to enlighten us, because all too often we end up being narrow-minded or prisoners of all-or-nothing attitude that would force others to conform to our own ideas. We need this light, which helps us learn from our mistakes and failed attempts in order to improve and surpass ourselves; this light born of the humble and courageous awareness of those who find the strength, time and time again, to rise up and start anew.
As another year draws to an end, let us pause before the manger and express our gratitude to God for all the signs of his generosity in our life and our history, seen in countless ways through the witness of those people who quietly took a risk. A gratitude that is no sterile nostalgia or empty recollection of an idealized and disembodied past, but a living memory, one that helps to generate personal and communal creativity because we know that God is with us.
Let us pause before the manger to contemplate how God has been present throughout this year and to remind ourselves that every age, every moment is the bearer of graces and blessings. The manger challenges us not to give up on anything or anyone. To look upon the manger means to find the strength to take our place in history without complaining or being resentful, without closing in on ourselves or seeking a means of escape, looking for shortcuts in our own interest. Looking at the manger means recognizing that the times ahead call for bold and hope-filled initiatives, as well as the renunciation of vain self-promotion and endless concern with appearances.
Looking at the manger means seeing how God gets involved by involving us, making us part of his work, inviting us to welcome the future courageously and decisively.
Looking at the manger, we see Joseph and Mary, their young faces full of hopes and aspirations, full of questions. Young faces that look to the future conscious of the difficult task of helping the God-Child to grow. We cannot speak of the future without reflecting on these young faces and accepting the responsibility we have for our young; more than a responsibility, the right word would be debt, yes, the debt we owe them. To speak of a year’s end is to feel the need to reflect on how concerned we are about the place of young people in our society.
We have created a culture that idolizes youth and seeks to make it eternal. Yet at the same time, paradoxically, we have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future. We have preferred speculation over dignified and genuine work that can allow young people to take active part in the life of society. We expect and demand that they be a leaven for the future, but we discriminate against them and “condemn” them to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed.
We are asked to be something other than the innkeeper in Bethlehem who told the young couple: there is no room here. There was no room for life, for the future. Each of us is asked to take some responsibility, however small, for helping our young people to find, here in their land, in their own country, real possibilities for building a future. Let us not be deprived of the strength of their hands, their minds, and their ability to prophesy the dreams of their ancestors (cf. Jl 2:28). If we wish to secure a future worthy of them, we should do so by staking it on true inclusion: one that provides work that is worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary (cf. Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize , 6 May 2016).
Looking at the manger challenges us to help our young people not to become disillusioned by our own immaturity, and to spur them on so that they can be capable of dreaming and fighting for their dreams, capable of growing and becoming fathers and mothers of our people.
As we come to the end of this year, we do well to contemplate the God-Child! Doing so invites us to return to the sources and roots of our faith. In Jesus, faith becomes hope; it becomes a leaven and a blessing. “With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, Christ makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 3)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a message for the first edition of the weekly Osservatore Romano newspaper for Argentina.
The first issue of the new Spanish edition was published on 30 December 2016 with the headline: “The Service of the Pope”.
The handwritten message by Pope Francis was printed on the front page, wherein the Holy Father recognized the newspaper as a “project at the service of the Kingdom of God”.
His message read: “With joy I greet the new presence of the Osservatore Romano in Argentina. Through the Holy See’s newspaper, [readers] will be able to become directly acquainted with the service of the Pope. I pray that our Lord bless all who labor in this project at the service of the Kingdom of God, and that the Virgin Mary watch over them. And, please, I ask all readers not to forget to pray for me.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
As always, to coincide with the end of the year, the Prefecture of the Papal Household has published a note summing up the participation of the faithful during meetings and audiences with the Pope in the Vatican.
It notes that in the course of the year 2016 Pope Francis received some 4 million people.
That’s counting General and Special Audiences, Jubilee Audiences, liturgical celebrations, Angelus and Regina Coeli.
March and September were the months with the highest numbers of faithful present in the Vatican during the Pope’s activities – in March during Holy week, and in September for the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
It is clear that the numbers refer uniquely to the Pope’s activities inside the Vatican and do not include visits to Rome Dioceses or apostolic visits and journeys to Italy and abroad, where Pope Francis met with millions of people.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis returned to the theme of “Christian Hope” in the catechesis during the weekly General Audience. On Wednesday, he focused his attention on the figure of Abram, who became Abraham, our “father in faith and in hope.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
Saint Paul himself pointed to Abram “to indicate the way of faith and of hope.” Abram’s confidence in God’s promise to give him a son was truly a hope “against every hope”, precisely because of his advanced age, and the sterility of Sara, his wife. But Abram believed, and his faith gave way to a new hope, a hope which, to all appearances was unreasonable. His hope “opens new horizons, making him capable of dreaming what is unimaginable.” Hope, the Holy Father said, allows us “to enter into the darkness of an uncertain future to journey in the light.”
It is a difficult journey, though, he continued. Even Abram had moments of crisis and discouragement. In the Gospel passage, the scene where Abram questions God takes place at night – but, the Pope said, in the heart of Abram there is the darkness of disappointment, of discouragement. Even though he spoke familiarly with God, Abram in these moments felt alone, old and tired, with death on his doorstep.
Pope Francis said that even this moment of questioning by Abram is a form of Faith. Despite his disappointment, Abram continued to believe in God – or else why would he complain to Him? Faith, the Pope said, “is not only silence that accepts everything without reply, hope is not a certainty that makes you secure from doubts and perplexity.” Faith can also be “struggling with God, showing our bitterness without ‘pious’ fictions.” And hope, he continued, “is also not being afraid to see reality for what it is and to accept the contradictions.”
The sign that God gives to Abram – “Look at the heavens and count the stars… just so will your descendants be” – is “a call to continue to believe and to hope.” To believe, the Pope concluded, “it is necessary to know how to see with the eyes of faith: They are only stars, which everyone can see, but for Abram they have to become the sign of the faithfulness of God.”
And this, Pope Francis said, is the journey of hope that each one of us must walk.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to young people from the ecumenical community of Taizé who are participating in a European Meeting of Young Adults taking place in Riga, Latvia, from 28 December to 1 January. It is the first time a European Meeting is taking place in a Baltic State.
Listen to our report:
The Holy Father’s letter to the young people dwelt especially on the virtue of hope. “The Pope is particularly close to you,” it said, “because he has often called you to not let anyone rob you of your hope.”
Pope Francis thanked them for leaving their “comfortable homes” to take part in the meeting in Riga. Their participation, he said, shows that they desire to be “protagonists of history,” and that they desire to not let others determine their future. He encouraged them “to stand firm in hope by letting the Lord live in your hearts and your daily lives,” saying, “with Jesus, the faithful friend who never disappoints, you will be able to walk along the path toward the future with joy, and devote your talents and abilities to the good of all.”
Precisely because so many people feel discouraged by violence and suffering, and believe that evil is “stronger than anything,” Pope Francis invited the young people “to show in your words and deeds that evil is not the last word in our history.”
Pope Francis expressed his hope that the meeting in Riga would help young people to not be afraid of their limits, but “to grow in trust in Jesus, who believes and hopes in you.” Invoking the simplicity of Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize community, he prayed that the young people might “build bridges of friendship and make visible the love with which God loves us."
Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ letter to the young people of the Taize community who are meeting in Riga:
Dear young people,
Coming from every part of Europe, and from a number of other continents, several thousand of you have gathered in Riga, Latvia, for the 39th meeting organized and led by the Taizé Community. With the theme of bearing witness to hope that will be at the heart of your reflection and prayers, Pope Francis is particularly close to you because he has often called you to not let anyone rob you of your hope. During the WYD prayer vigil in Kraków he strongly emphasized this essential reality of the Christian faith: “At the moment when the Lord calls us, he looks at all that we might be able to do, all the love we are capable of sharing. He always wagers on the future, on tomorrow. Jesus urges you on toward the horizon, never toward the museum” (30 July 2016).
The Holy Father thanks you for choosing to leave your comfortable homes to live out this pilgrimage of trust in response to the call of God’s Spirit.
Young Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians, by these days lived in real fraternity you manifest your desire to be protagonists of history and not let others decide your future. The Pope encourages you to stand firm in hope by letting the Lord live in your hearts and your daily lives. With Jesus, the faithful friend who never disappoints, you will be able to walk along the path toward the future with joy and devote your talents and abilities for the good of all.
Today, many people are disconcerted and discouraged by violence, injustice, suffering and divisions. They have the impression that evil is stronger than anything. Therefore, Pope Francis invites you to show in your words and deeds that evil is not the last word in our history. For “it is the time of mercy for each and all, since no one can think that he or she is cut off from God’s closeness and the power of his tender love” (Apostolic Letter, Misericordia and Misera, section 21).
The Pope hopes that these days that bring you together in Riga will help you not to be afraid of your limits but to grow in trust in Jesus, the Christ and Lord, who believes and hopes in you. May you, in the simplicity to which Brother Roger bore witness, build bridges of friendship and make visible the love with which God loves us.
From the depths of his heart, the Holy Father gives you his blessing, to you young people participating in this meeting, to the Brothers of Taizé, and to all the people who welcome you in Riga and the surrounding region.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday called on Christians to “overcome evil with good and hatred with love.” In a tweet marking the Feast of Saint Stephen, the Church’s first martyr, the Pope said, “let us remember the martyrs of today and yesterday.” It was a theme the Holy Father picked up in his Angelus address to the thousands of pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter’s Square on this, the day after Christmas.
Here is Vatican Radio's translation of the Pope’s remarks at the Angelus 26 December 2016:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The joy of Christmas also fills our hearts today, as the liturgy has us celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the first martyr, inviting us to receive the witness that through his sacrifice he has left us. It is the testimony with which his sacrifice became glorious, precisely the glory of Christian martyrdom, suffered for love of Jesus Christ; martyrdom which continues to be present in the history of the Church, since Stephen up to this day.
Of this witness we are told in today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:17-22). Jesus forewarns his disciples of the rejection and persecution that they will encounter and he says this: “and you will be hated by all for my name's sake” (v. 22). But why does the world persecute Christians? The world hates Christians for the same reason it hated Jesus because He brought the light of God and the world prefers the darkness to hide its wicked works. We remember that Jesus himself, at the Last Supper, prayed to the Father to defend him from the spirit of worldly wickedness. There is conflict between the mentality of the Gospel and that of the world. To follow Jesus means to follow his light, which was lit on that Bethlehem night, and to abandon the darkness of the world.
The first martyr Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, was stoned because he confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The only Son who comes into the world invites every believer to choose the path of light and life. This is the meaning of his coming among us. Loving the Lord and obeying his voice, the deacon Stephen chose Christ, Life and Light for every man. By choosing the truth, he became at the same time, the victim of the mystery of evil present in the world. But in Christ, Stephen triumphed!
Today too the Church, to bear witness to light and truth, experiences harsh persecution in different places, [to the point of] the supreme test of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated for Jesus’ sake! I’ll tell you something. The martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the early centuries, here in Rome, we read about so much cruelty towards Christians. I tell you, there is this same cruelty today, and in greater numbers with Christians. Today we want to think about them and to be close to them with our affection, our prayer and our tears. Yesterday, Christmas Day, the persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed Cathedral. [Theirs] is an example of fidelity to the Gospel. Despite the trials and the dangers, they bear witness with courage to their belonging to Christ and they live the Gospel committing themselves on behalf of the least, the most overlooked, doing good to all without distinction; they bear witness in this way to charity in truth.
In making space within our heart for the Son of God who gives himself to us at Christmas, we renew the joyous and courageous willingness to follow him faithfully as our only guide, persevering in living in accordance with the Gospel mentality and refusing the mentality of those who dominate this world.
To the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, we raise our prayer, so that she may guide us and always sustain us in our journey of following Jesus Christ, whom we contemplate in the manger crib and that who is the faithful Witness of God the Father.
After the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the Russian people and the families of victims of the Christmas day plane crash that took the lives of 92 people near Sochi.
I express my sincere condolences for the sad news of the Russian plane that crashed into the Black Sea. May the Lord console the dear Russian people and the families of the passengers who were on board: journalists, crew and the excellent choir and orchestra of the armed forces. May the blessed Virgin Mary sustain the search operations underway. In 2004, the choir performed in the Vatican for the 26 th year of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II. Let us pray for them
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
in the climate of Christian joy that emanates from the Birth of Jesus, I greet you and thank you for your presence.
To all of you who have come from Italy and from different Nations, I renew my good wishes for peace and serenity: may these, for you and for your family, be days of joy and brotherhood. Greetings and I send best wishes to all of the people named Stephen or Stefanie!
In recent weeks I have received many well-wishing messages from around the world. Not being possible for me to answer each one, I express my heartfelt thanks to all today, especially for the gift of prayer. Thank you so much! May the Lord reward you with his generosity!
Have a happy feast day! Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and goodbye.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday called for prayerful and concrete solidarity with Christians throughout the world suffering because of the faith.
The Holy Father’s appeal came in remarks ahead of the Angelus prayer on Monday, the Feast of St. Stephen the Deacon, who was the first Christian to give his life in witness to Christ.
Click below to hear our report
“The protomartyr Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, was stoned because he confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” said Pope Francis. “The only begotten Son who comes into the world invites every believer to choose the path of light and life,” he continued. “This is the profound meaning of his coming among us: loving the Lord and obeying his voice, the deacon Stephen chose Christ, [who is] Life and Light for every man.”
Pope Francis went on to say, “By choosing the truth, he became at the same time the victim of the mystery of evil present in the world – but Christ has conquered.”
Pope Francis then spoke of the plight of Christians suffering all manner of adversity for the sake of the Gospel.
“Today too the Church, to bear witness to the light and the truth, is experiencing severe persecution in different places, up to the supreme test of martyrdom,” he said. “How many of our brothers and sisters in faith suffer abuse, violence, and are hated because of Jesus,” he reflected. “Today we want to think about them and be close to them with our affection, our prayer, and also our tears.”
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said, “I'll tell you something: the martyrs of today are greater in number than those of the first centuries. When we read the history of the early centuries, here in Rome, we read about so much cruelty towards Christians. I tell you, there is this same cruelty today, and in greater numbers with Christians.”
“Yesterday,” Pope Francis continued, “Christmas Day, the persecuted Christians in Iraq celebrated Christmas in their destroyed Cathedral. [Theirs] is an example of fidelity to the Gospel.”
“Despite trials and dangers,” he went on to say, “they bear witness with courage that they belong to Christ, and they live the Gospel, dedicated to the least, the most forgotten, doing good to all without distinction; they bear witness to charity in truth.”
The Holy Father concluded his remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, with a call for renewed commitment to living the faith we profess as Christians.
“In making space within our heart to the Son of God who gives himself to us at Christmas,” he said, “let us renew the joyous and courageous willingness to follow him faithfully as our only guide, persevering in living according to the mind of the Gospel and refusing the mentality of the rulers of this world.”
Pope Francis then asked the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, to intercede for us and for all Christians everywhere, asking her to accompany and sustain us always in our pilgrim way, as we live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness to God the Father, and the one whom we contemplate in the crèche.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) After the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square on the Feast of Saint Stephen, Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the Russian people and the families of victims of the Christmas day plane crash that took the lives of 92 people near Sochi.
"I express my sincere condolences for the sad news of the Russian plane that crashed into the Black Sea," the Pope said. "May the Lord console the dear Russian people and the families of the passengers who were on board: journalists, crew and the excellent choir and orchestra of the armed forces. May the blessed Virgin Mary sustain the search operations underway. In 2004, the choir performed in the Vatican for the 26th year of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II. Let us pray for them."
Click below to hear our full Angelus report, including the Holy Father's condolences
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for peace on Sunday in a world broken by conflict, terrorism and injustice.
Speaking to an estimated 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and to the world during his traditional Christmas Day “ Urbi et Orbi ” address, the Pope wished Christmas peace for people scarred by wars and for those who have lost loved ones to terrorism.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Today, Pope Francis said, the Church experiences the wonder and the joy that derives from the birth of the Son of God, the Prince of Peace.
And in a heartfelt cry for peace in a world disfigured by violence, the Pope said Jesus’ message of hope goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.
Francis forgot no one. He cited those suffering in Syria and recalled the ``most awful recent battles'' in Aleppo and pressed the international community to find a negotiated solution.
He mentioned the beloved Holy land and urged Israelis and Palestinians to “have the courage and determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony”.
He remembered Iraq, Libya and Yemen – whose peoples, he said, suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.
He lamented that in Nigeria ``fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children,'' and decried conflicts and tensions in South Sudan, in DRC, in eastern Ukraine, Myanmar, the Korean peninsula, Colombia and Venezuela, where he called for dialogue and reconciliation..
Pope Francis also spoke of the victims of terrorism and prayed for peace for those who have lost a person dear to them, or who were wounded, as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, that have sown fear and death in the hearts of so many countries and cities”.
Peace – not merely the word, he said, but real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who are subject to human trafficking, to those who suffer because of the economic ambitions of a few, to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
And the Pope concluded with a special wish for peace for children: on this special day on which God became a child- the Pope highlighted the suffering of those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Only with peace, he said, is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ Christmas Message Urbi et Orbi , to the City of Rome, and to the whole World:
URBI ET ORBI
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once again experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Saviour.
On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds:
“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be upon his shoulder;
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (
The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.
For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (
Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.
Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Above all in the city of Aleppo, site of the most awful battles in recent weeks, it is most urgent that assistance and support be guaranteed to the exhausted civil populace, with respect for humanitarian law. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.
Peace to women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and the determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.
Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.
Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.
We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.
Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those who gravely and urgently need it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of cooperation.
Peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.
Peace – not merely the word, but a real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.
Peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.
Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.
Dear brothers and sisters,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!
[after the Blessing]
To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other means of communication, I offer my greeting.
On this day of joy, we are all called to contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!
(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Christians to allow themselves to be challenged by the Child in the manger, and also by the children of today’s world, so many of whom are suffering.
During the Holy Christmas Mass homily, celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, the Pope spoke of those children “who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father” , of those hiding underground to escape bombardment, of those on the the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants.
“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons” he said.
Please find below the official translation of the full text of Pope Francis’ homily:
“The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men” (Tit 2:11). The words of the Apostle Paul reveal the mystery of this holy night: the grace of God has appeared, his gift is free; in the Child given unto us the love of God is made visible.
It is a night of glory, that glory proclaimed by the angels in Bethlehem and also by us today all over the world. It is a night of joy, because from this day forth, and for all times, the infinite and eternal God is God with us: he is not far off, we need not search for him in the heavens or in mystical notions; he is close, he is been made man and will never distance himself from our humanity, which he has made his own. It is a night of light: that light, prophesied by Isaiah (cf. 9:1), which would illumine those who walk in darkness, has appeared and enveloped the shepherds of Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:9).
The shepherds simply discover that “unto us a child is born” (Is 9:5) and they understand that all this glory, all this joy, all this light converges to one single point, that sign which the angel indicated to them: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). This is the enduring sign to find Jesus. Not just then, but also today. If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there.
With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox: it speaks of the emperor, the governor, the mighty of those times, but God does not make himself present there; he does not appear in the grand hall of a royal palace, but in the poverty of a stable; not in pomp and show, but in the simplicity of life; not in power, but in a smallness which surprises. In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small. The Child who is born challenges us: he calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and go to the essence, to renounce our insatiable claims, to abandon our endless dissatisfaction and sadness for something we will never have. It will help us to leave these things behind in order to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child, peace, joy and the meaning of life.
Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also allow ourselves to be challenged by the children of today’s world, who are not lying in a cot caressed with the affection of a mother and father, but rather suffer the squalid “mangers that devour dignity”: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants. Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons.
The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, questions and unsettles us, because it is at once both a mystery of hope and of sadness. It bears within itself the taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded. This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found the doors closed, and placed Jesus in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn” (v. 7). Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.
Yet Christmas has essentially a flavour of hope because, notwithstanding the darker aspects of our lives, God’s light shines out. His gentle light does not make us fear; God who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, born poor and fragile among us, as one of us. He is born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread”. In this way he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love. He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve. Thus there is a direct thread joining the manger and the cross, where Jesus will become bread that is broken: it is the direct thread of love which is given and which saves us, which brings light to our lives, and peace to our hearts.
The shepherds grasped this in that night. They were among the marginalized of those times. But no one is marginalized in the sight of God and it was precisely they who were invited to the Nativity. Those who felt sure of themselves, self-sufficient, were at home with their possessions; the shepherds instead “went with haste” (cf. Lk 2:16). Let us allow ourselves also to be challenged and convened tonight by Jesus. Let us go to him with trust, from that area in us we feel to be marginalized, from our own limitations. Let us touch the tenderness which saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us, let us pause to look upon the crib, and imagine the birth of Jesus: light, peace, utmost poverty, and rejection. Let us enter into the real Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds. Then, in Jesus we will enjoy the flavour of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God. With Mary and Joseph we pause before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for my life.
Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has visited the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, to convey to him his Christmas greetings.
The visit took place on Friday afternoon, when Francis knocked at the door of the “Mater Ecclesiae” monastery in the Vatican where Benedict resides.
As they do each year during the Christmas season, the two men spent some time together, first in prayer and then in conversation.
The Pope’s gesture and good wishes for Holy Christmas are part of the simplicity of a daily relationship that exists between the Holy Father and the Pope Emeritus.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has a busy schedule during the Octave of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the Holy Father will celebrate Christmas Mass “during the Night” in St Peter’s Basilica, beginning at 9:30 Rome time.
On Sunday, at noon on Christmas day, Pope Francis will deliver his annual Christmas message, ahead of the traditional blessing Urbi et orbi : of the City of Rome, and of the whole world.
Both the Mass on Christmas Eve and the Pope’s Christmas message will be broadcast by Vatican Radio with live commentary in English.
Pope Francis will lead the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square in the Angelus for the feast of St Stephen the first martyr at noon on Monday, the first day after Christmas, also known in many English-speaking countries as Boxing Day.
The fourth day of the Christmas Octave, the feast of the Holy Innocents, will see Pope Francis returning to St Peter’s Square for his Wednesday General Audience, beginning at the usual hour of 10 am Rome time.
On Saturday 31 December, New Year’s Eve, the Holy Father will lead the celebration of First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God in the Vatican Basilica. The liturgy will begin at 5 pm Rome time. Following Vespers, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed on the altar for a period of Adoration, and the traditional hymn Te Deum will be sung in thanksgiving at the conclusion of the civil year. The liturgical celebration will conclude with Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament.
After the ceremonies within St Peter’s, Pope Francis will visit the crèche set up outside the Basilica in St Peter’s Square, where he is expected to spend some time in silent prayer.
The following day, Sunday, the last day of the Octave of Christmas, Pope Francis will offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God. The Mass will begin at 10 am Rome time, and will be broadcast with live English commentary.
Finally, at the conclusion of the Mass on New Year’s Day, Pope Francis will pray the Angelus at noon with all the faithful in St Peter’s Square and around the world.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) In his fourth and last Advent sermon of the Christmas season, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, reflected Friday on the theme “by the Holy Spirit He ‘was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.’”
Listen to the report by Tracey McClure :
Below, please find the English text of Fr. Cantalamessa’s sermon, translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson:
Christmas, a Mystery “for Us”
In continuing our reflections on the Holy Spirit, and given the imminence of Christmas, let us meditate on the article in the creed that speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation. In the creed, we say, “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
St. Augustine distinguished between two ways of celebrating an event in salvation history: as a mystery ( in sacramento ) or as a simple anniversary. In the celebration of an anniversary, he said, we only need to “indicate with a religious solemnity the day of the year in which the remembrance of the event itself occurs.” In the celebration of a mystery, however, “not only is the event commemorated, but we do so in a way that its significance for us is understood and received devoutly.”
Christmas is not a celebration in the category of an anniversary. (As we know, the choice of December 25 as the date was chosen for symbolic rather than historical reasons.) It is a celebration in the category of a mystery that needs to be understood in terms of its significance for us. St. Leo the Great had already highlighted the mystical significance of the “the sacrament of the Nativity of Christ” saying, “Just as we have been crucified with him in his passion, been raised with him in his resurrection, . . . so too have we been born along with him in his Nativity.”
At the basis of it all is the biblical event accomplished once and for all in Mary: the Virgin became the Mother of Jesus by the action of the Holy Spirit. This historical mystery, like all the events of salvation, is extended at a sacramental level in the Church and at a moral level in the life of the individual believer. Mary, as the Virgin Mother who generates Christ by the Holy Spirit, appears as the “type,” or the perfect exemplar, of the Church and of the believer. Let us listen to an author in the Middle Ages, Blessed Isaac of Stella, summarize the thinking of the Fathers in this regard:
Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more than one mother; one virgin, yet more than one virgin. Both are mothers, both are virgins. . . . In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the Virgin Mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary. . . In a way every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. 
This patristic vision was brought to light by the Second Vatican Council in the chapters of the constitution Lumen gentium dedicated to Mary. In three separate paragraphs in fact, the document speaks of the Virgin Mother Mary as the exemplar and model of the Church (no. 63), which is also called to be a virgin and mother in faith (no. 64), and of the believer who, imitating Mary’s virtue, gives birth to and allows Jesus to increase in his or her heart and in the hearts of brothers and sisters (no. 65).
2.“By the Holy Spirit”
Let us meditate next on the role of each of the two protagonists, the Holy Spirit and Mary, to seek to draw inspiration for our own Christmas. St. Ambrose writes,
The birth from the Virgin is the work of the Spirit. . . . We cannot doubt that the Spirit is the Creator whom we know was the Author of the Lord’s Incarnation. . . . If the Virgin conceived as of His operation and power of the Spirit, who will deny the Spirit as Creator?
In this text Ambrose perfectly interprets the role that the Gospel attributes to the Holy Spirit in the Incarnation, which calls him successively “the Holy Spirit” and “the power of the Most High” (Lk 1:35). He is the “Creator Spirit” who acts to bring beings into existence (as in Gen 1:2), to create a new and higher form of life. It is the Spirit who is “the Lord, the giver of life,” as we proclaim in the same creed.
Here also, as at the beginning, the Spirit, creates “from nothing,” that is, from the complete absence of human possibilities, without any need for assistance or support. And this “nothing,” this void, this absence of explanations and natural causes, is called, in this case, the virginity of Mary. “‘How shall this be, since I have no husband?’ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God’” (Lk 1:34-35). Her virginity here is a magnificent sign that cannot be eliminated or nullified without tearing the whole fabric of the Gospel account and its significance.
The Spirit that descended upon Mary is, then, the Creator Spirit who miraculously formed the flesh of Christ from the Virgin. But there is even more. In addition to being the “Creator Spirit” he is also for Mary “ fons vivus, ignis, carita, / et spiritalis unctio ,” “fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.” The mystery becomes enormously impoverished if it is reduced merely to its objective dimension, to its dogmatic implications (duality of nature, unity of person), while overlooking its subjective and existential aspects.
St. Paul speaks of “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3). The Holy Spirit wrote this marvelous letter that is Christ above all in Mary’s heart so that, as Augustine says, Christ “was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man.” The famous saying, also by Augustine, that “Mary conceived Christ first in her heart and then in her body” (“ prius concepit mente quam corpore ”) means that the Holy Spirit worked in Mary’s heart, illuminating it and inflaming it with Christ even before filling her womb with Christ.
Only the saints and mystics who have had a personal experience of God’s eruption in their lives can help us understand what Mary must have experienced at the moment of the Incarnation of the Word in her womb. One of them, St. Bonaventure, writes,
When she gave her consent to him, the Holy Spirit came upon her like a divine fire inflaming her soul and sanctifying her flesh in perfect purity. But the power of the Most High overshadowed her (Luke 1:35) so that she could endure such a fire. . . . Oh, if you could feel in some way the quality and intensity of that fire sent from heaven, the refreshing coolness that accompanied it, the consolation it imparted; if you could realize the great exaltation of the Virgin Mother, the ennobling of the human race, the condescension of the divine majesty, . . . then I am sure you would sing in sweet tones with the Blessed Virgin that sacred hymn: My soul magnifies the Lord .
The Incarnation was experienced by Mary as a charismatic event of the highest degree that made her the model of a soul who is “aglow with the Spirit” (Rom 12:11). It was her Pentecost. Many of Mary’s actions and words, especially in the account of her visit to St. Elizabeth, cannot be understood unless we see them in the light of a mystical experience that is beyond compare. Everything that we see operating visibly in someone who is visited by grace (love, joy, peace, light) we should recognize in unique measure in Mary at the Annunciation. Mary was the first to experience “the sober intoxication of the Spirit” that I spoke about last time, and her “ Magnificat ” is the best evidence of that.
It is, however, a “sober” intoxication, a humble one. Mary’s humility after the Incarnation seems to us like one of the greatest miracles of divine grace. How was Mary able to carry the weight of this thought: “You are the Mother of God! You are the highest of all creatures!”? Lucifer was not able to handle this tension righteously and, seized by headiness of his own lofty stature, was cast down. Not so Mary. She remains humble, modest, as if nothing had happened in her life for which she could make any claims. On one occasion the Gospel shows her to us in the act of begging others for even the chance to see her Son: “Your mother and your brethren,” they tell Jesus, “are standing outside, desiring to see you” (Lk 8:20).
3.“Of the Virgin Mary”
Let us now look more closely at Mary’s part in the Incarnation, her response to the action of the Holy Spirit. Objectively Mary’s part consisted in having given flesh and blood to the Word of God in her divine maternity. Let us quickly retrace the historical path through which the Church arrived at contemplating in its full light this unheard of truth: Mother of God! A creature, the Mother of the Creator! In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy St. Bernard salutes her as “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, / more humble yet more exalted than any other creature.”
At the beginning and for the entire period dominated by the struggle against the gnostic and docetist heresy, Mary’s motherhood comes to be seen almost only as a physical motherhood . These heretics denied that Christ had a real human body, or, if he did, they denied that his human body was born of a woman, or, if it was indeed born of woman, they denied that it was really taken from her flesh and blood. The truth needed to be asserted forcefully against them that Jesus was the son of Mary and “the fruit of her womb” (see Lk 1:42) and that Mary was the true and natural Mother of Jesus.
During this ancient period in which the real or natural motherhood of Mary was affirmed against the Gnostics and the Docetists, the use of the title Theotokos , Mother of God, appeared for the first time, probably with Origenes in the III century. From that point on, it would be the use of that title in particular that would lead the Church to a discovery of a more profound motherhood, one that we could call a metaphysical motherhood , insofar as it pertains to the person of the Word.
This occurred in the 5th century during the period of the great christological controversies when the central problem regarding Jesus was no longer his true humanity but the unity of his person. Mary’s motherhood no longer comes to be seen only in relation to Christ’s human nature but, more correctly, in relation to the unique person of the Word made man. And since this unique person that Mary generates according to the flesh is none other than the divine Person of the Son, she consequently appears as the true “Mother of God.”
There is no longer a relationship just on the physical level between Mary and Christ. There is also a relationship on the metaphysical level, and that places her at a dizzying height, creating a unique relationship between her and the Father. St. Ignatius of Antioch calls Jesus the son both “of Mary and of God,” almost the way that we say that a person is the son of this man and this woman. With the Council of Ephesus the issue became forever a settled matter for the Church. One of the texts approved by the whole council says, “If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is truly God and for this reason the holy Virgin is the Mother of God [ Theotokos ] (since she begot, according to the flesh, the Word of God made flesh), let him be anathema.”
But even this conclusion was not the final one. There was another level to discover in the divine motherhood of Mary beyond the physical and metaphysical levels. During the christological controversies, the title of Theotokos was valued more in terms of the person of Christ than of the person of Mary, even though it was a Marian title. People had not yet drawn the logical consequences from that title regarding the person of Mary and in particular her unique holiness.
The title Theotokos risked becoming a weapon of war between opposing theological currents instead of being an expression of the Church’s faith and piety toward Mary. One particular regrettable event that should not be left unsaid demonstrates this. Cyril of Alexander, who himself fought like a tiger for the title of Theotokos , is the man who represents among the Fathers of the Church a singularly false note concerning Mary’s holiness. He was among the few to say openly that there were weaknesses and defects in the life of Mary, primarily at the foot of the cross. Here, according to Cyril, the Mother of God vacillated in her faith: he writes that the Lord at that juncture “gave forethought to his mother” who was “not understanding the mystery,” and “since he knew her thoughts . . . he commended her to the disciple [John] . . . who could explain the depths of the mystery fully and adequately.”
Cyril could not accept that a woman, even if she were the Mother of Jesus, could have had greater faith than the apostles who, as human beings, vacillated at the time of the passion! His words reflect the general lack of esteem for women in the ancient world and demonstrate how little benefit there was to recognizing Mary’s physical and metaphysical motherhood in relation to Jesus if one did not also recognize a spiritual motherhood in her, one of the heart beyond that of the body.
Here lies the great contribution of the Latin authors, and in particular that of St. Augustine, to the development of Mariology. Mary’s motherhood is seen by them as a motherhood in faith. Commenting on Jesus’ saying that “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21), Augustine writes,
Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her—did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother.
The physical and metaphysical maternity of Mary now comes to be crowned by the recognition of her spiritual motherhood, or of faith, which makes Mary the first and most docile disciple of Christ. The most beautiful fruit of this new perspective on the Virgin is the importance that the theme of Mary’s “holiness” takes on now. Again, St. Augustine, when discussing human sinfulness, writes, “I make an exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose case, out of respect for the Lord, I wish to raise no question at all when the discussion concerns sins.” The Latin Church will express this prerogative with the title “Immaculate,” and the Greek Church will express it as “All-holy” ( Panhagia ).
4.The Third Birth of Jesus
Now let us try to see what the “mystery” of Jesus’ birth by Mary through the Holy Spirit means “for us.” There is a bold thought about Christmas that returns from age to age on the lips of the greatest Doctors and spiritual teachers in the Church: Origen, St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and many others. It says, “What good does it do me that Christ was born of Mary once in Bethlehem if he is not born by faith in my heart as well?” St. Ambrose asks, “But where is Christ born, in the most profound sense, if not in your heart and your soul?”
St. Thomas Aquinas sums up the enduring tradition of the Church when he explains the three Masses that are celebrated at Christmas in reference to the triple birth of the Word: his eternal generation by the Father, his historical birth by the Virgin, and his spiritual birth in the believer. Echoing this very tradition, St. John XXIII, in his Christmas message of 1962, lifted up this fervent prayer: “O eternal Word of the Father, Son of God and Son of Mary, renew again today in the secret recesses of our hearts the wonderful marvel of your birth.”
Where does the bold idea that Jesus is not only born “for” us but also “in” us come from? St. Paul speaks of Christ who must “be formed” in us (Gal 4:19). He also says that in baptism Christians “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14) and that Christ must come to “dwell in our hearts through faith” (see Eph 3:17). The concept of Christ’s birth in a soul is based primarily on the doctrine of the mystical body. According to that doctrine, Christ mystically repeats “in us” what he once did “for us” in history. This applies to the Paschal Mystery but also to the mystery of the Incarnation. St. Maximus the Confessor writes that the Word of God desires to repeat in all men the mystery of his Incarnation.
The Holy Spirit invites us, then, to “return to our hearts” to celebrate in them a more intimate and true Christmas, one that makes “real” the Christmas we celebrate outwardly in rituals and traditions. The Father wants to generate his Word in us so that he can always proclaim anew this sweet word addressed both to Jesus and to us: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” (Heb 1:5). Jesus himself desires to be born in our hearts. And this is how we should think about it in faith: as if, in these last days of Advent, he is walking among us and is going door to door knocking, like that night in Bethlehem, in search of a heart in which he can be born spiritually.
St. Bonaventure wrote a booklet called “The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus.” In it he explains concretely what it means to have Jesus born in our hearts. He writes that the devout soul can spiritually conceive the Word of God as Mary did at the Annunciation, give birth to him as Mary did at Christmas, name him as was done at the circumcision, seek him and adore him with the Magi as they did at the Epiphany, and, finally, offer him to the Father as was done in the presentation in the Temple.
The soul conceives Jesus, he explains, when—dissatisfied with the life it leads and spurred on by holy inspirations, set aflame with holy fervor, and finally resolutely setting aside old habits and faults—it becomes spiritually fertile by the grace of the Holy Spirit and conceives the intention to live in a new way. The conception of Christ has taken place!
This plan for a new life, however, needs to be translated without delay into something concrete, a transformation, possibly even external and visible, of our lives and our habits. If the plan is not put into action, Jesus is conceived, but he is not “brought to birth.” The “second feast” of the child Jesus, Christmas, is not celebrated! It is a spiritual abortion, one of the countless deferrals with which life is punctuated, and one of the main reasons so few people become saints.
If you decide to change your lifestyle, St. Bonaventure says, you will face two kinds of temptation. First, carnal people in your circle come and tell you, “What you are undertaking is too hard; you will never be able to do it, you won’t have the strength, and you will harm your health. These things do not add to your state in life and will compromise your good name and the dignity of your position.”
Once that obstacle is overcome, others will come who are eager to be, and perhaps actually are, pious people, but they do not truly believe in the power of God and of his Holy Spirit. They will tell you that if you begin to live this way—making so much room for prayer, avoiding useless chatter, doing works of charity—you will soon be regarded as a saint, a spiritual person, but since you know very well you are not yet a saint, you will end up deceiving people and being a hypocrite, drawing down on yourself the wrath of God who searches people’s hearts. Forget it; just be like everyone else.
To all these temptations it is necessary to respond in faith, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save!” (Is 59:1). And almost as if we were angry with ourselves, we need to exclaim, as Augustine did on the eve of his conversion, “Are you incapable of doing what these men and women have done?”
Let us conclude by reciting together a prayer found on a Greek papyrus that according to some goes back to the 3rd century, in which the Virgin is invoked with the title “ Theotokos ,” Dei genetrix , Mother of God:
Sub tuum praesidium confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.
English Translation by Marsha Daigle Williamson
 St. Augustine, “Letter 55,” 1, 2, in Letters 1-99 , trans. Roland Teske, Part II, vol. 1, The Works of Saint Augustine , ed. John E Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City, 2001), p. 216; see also CSEL 34, 1, p. 170.
 Leo the Great, “On the Feast of the Incarnation,” 6, 2, in Leo the Great: Sermons , trans. Jane P. Freeland and Agnes J. Conway (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p. 105; see also PL 54, p. 213.
 Blessed Isaac of Stella, “Sermon 51,” in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for the Saturday of the Second Week of Advent; italics added. See also PL 194, pp. 1862-1863, 1865.
 St. Ambrose, “On the Holy Spirit,” [ De Spiritu Sancto ], II, 38, 41, 43, in Saint Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works , trans. Roy J. Deferrari (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), pp. 110-111.
 Verses from the hymn “Veni, Creator Spiritus” (“Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest”) in the Roman Breviary.
 St. Augustine, “Sermon 25,” 7 (Denis), in The Office of Readings for November 21 (Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul, 1983), p. 1640; see also PL 46, p. 938.
 St. Augustine, “Sermon 215,” 4, in The Works of Saint Augustine , Part 3, vol. 6, trans. Edmund Hill, ed. John Rotelle (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1993), p. 160. See also PL 38, p. 1074.
 St. Bonaventure, Lignum vitae [ The Tree of Life ], 1, 3, in Bonaventure, trans. and intro. Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), pp. 127-128; italics original.
 Dante, Paradiso 33:1, in The Divine Comedy : “Vergine madre, figlia del tuo figlio, / umile e alta più che creatura.”
 St. Ignatius, “Epistle to the Ephesians,” 7, 2, in Saint Ignatius of Antioch: The Epistles , ed. Paul A. Boer Sr. (N.p.: Veritatis Splendor, 2012), p. 59.
 St. Cyril of Alexandria, “Anathemas against Nestorius,” in Denzinger #252, English version, p. 97.
 St. Cyril of Alexander, Commentary on Joh , XII, 19: 25-27, trans. David R. Maxell, ed. Joel C. Elowsky, vol. 1, Ancient Christian Texts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2015), pp. 347-349; see also PG 74, pp. 661-665.
 Augustine, “Sermon 25” (Denis), in the Office of Readings for November 21 (Boston, MA: Daughters of St. Paul 1983), p. 1640; see also “Sermon 72A” in Miscellanea Agostiniana , I, p. 162.
 St. Augustine, On Nature and Grace , 36, 42, in Saint Augustine: Four Anti-Pelagian Writings , trans. John A. Mourant and William J. Collinge (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1992), pp. 53-54; see also CSEL 60, p. 263ff.
 See, for example, Origen, “Sermon 22,” 3, in Origen: Homilies on Luke , trans. Joseph T. Lienhard, vol. 94, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), p. 93: “What profit is it to you if Christ once came in the flesh, unless he also comes into your soul?”; see also SCh 87, p. 302.
 See Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Luke , II, 38, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 2003), p. 59.
 St. Thomas Aquinas , Summa theologica , III, q. 83, 2.
 See St. Maximus the Confessor, “Ambigua to John,” 7.22, in On Difficulties in the Church Fathers , vol. 1, ed. and trans. Nicholas Constans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 107: “The Logos of God (who is God) wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment.” See also PG 91, p. 1084.
 See this recommendation in St. Augustine, Confessions 4, 19.
 St. Bonaventure, “Bring Forth Christ: The Five Feasts of the Child Jesus,” trans. Eric Doyle (Oxford, SLG Press, 1984), pp. 1-16.
 St. Augustine, Confessions , 8, 11, 27, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 151 (“ Si isti et istae, cur non ego? ”).
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Thanks to Pope Francis over 2 million people affected by the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine will receive a first installment of much needed aid in time for Christmas.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
A communiqué released by the Papal charitable office ‘ Cor Unum ’ reveals that about 6 million euros, out of the 12 million that have been collected so far, will reach vulnerable people in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, Zaporozhe, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk.
The press release points out that aid will be distributed regardless of religion or ethnic group.
The money was collected by Catholic churches across Europe in response to a personal appeal by the Pope for a collection on April 24, 2016, in aid of Ukrainians affected by the conflict in the east of the nation.
He then set up a committee presided over ‘in loco’ by the Auxiliary Bishop of Kharkiv- Zaporozhe, Jan Sobilo, and coordinated by the Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, to oversee the distribution of the funds.
The committee has since selected and evaluated a series of aid programmes presented by Christian and international humanitarian organizations.
So far it has decided to fund 20 large-scale projects and 39 smaller ‘solidarity’ initiatives.
In collaboration with the Apostolic Nunciature, the money will be used to fund food, housing, medical and health care projects.
According to a recent UNHCR report, the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine has killed 9758 people and injured almost 23000 since it began in mid-2014.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received employees of the Holy See’s curial dicasteries and Vatican offices on Thursday morning, along with their families, for an exchange of Christmas greetings and well-wishes.
In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis spoke to his guests of the duty to be grateful to heaven for the gift of work, and of the duty employers have to respect the rights and dignity of the people who work for them.
“Work is very important for the person who works, and for that person’s family,” said Pope Francis. “While we give thanks [for the work we have], let us pray for the persons and the families – in Italy and in all the world – who do not have work, or who so often do unworthy jobs, poor-paying jobs, jobs that are harmful to their health,” he continued.
The Holy Father went on to say, “We must commit ourselves, each of us according to his responsibility, to guaranteeing that work be always worthy and dignified (It. degno ): that it be respectful of the person and of the family; that it be just.”
“Here in the Vatican,” Pope Francis explained, “we have an additional reason to do this: we have the Gospel, and we must follow the directives of the Social Doctrine of the Church.”
“No keeping employees ‘off book’ (or ‘paying them under the table’) [It. lavoro in nero ],” Pope Francis specified, adding emphatically, “No sneaky games and tricks [It. sotterfugi , literally ‘subterfuges’].”
“Les us all give thanks to the Lord, therefore,” Pope Francis continued.
“For my part, however, I would like today to thank you for your work,” the Pope told his employees. “I thank each one of you, for the dedication each one of you puts into his work each day, trying to do it well, even when one is perhaps not feeling well, or when there are worries at home,” Pope Francis added.
The Holy Father went on to discuss one of the things that makes the Vatican a special place to work.
“A nice thing about the Vatican is that, since it is a very small operation, it is possible to perceive it as a whole, with the various tasks that make up the whole, and each is important: the various areas of work are close and connected,” he said, “[and] everyone knows more or less everyone else.”
Pope Francis went on to say that it is satisfying to be able to participate in such an orderly and well-ordered operation.
“One can feel the satisfaction,” the Pope said, “of seeing a certain order, [of seeing] that things work, with all the limitations, of course – one can always do better and one must always must [try to] – but it is good to hear that each sector does its part and that the whole works well to the advantage of all.”
“Here, this is easier,” Pope Francis continued, “because we are a small outfit – but this does not detract from [your] commitment and personal merit, and therefore I feel the desire to thank you.”
The Holy Father concluded with special thanks for the work done during the course of the recently-concluded Jubilee of Mercy, and promised prayers for all the employees and their families – especially for those who are sick, or elderly, or too young to come – even as he asked theirs for himself.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis invited the Roman Curia to embrace the process of reform on Thursday, telling them Christmas is “the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order”.
His words came in his annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
“At Christmas,” Pope Francis said, “we are called to say ‘yes’ with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even the most noble ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.”
In his address to the Roman Curia, the Holy Father returned, as during the previous two year’s addresses, to the theme of Curial reform, laying out the framework, guiding principles, and what is yet to come.
He said, “Since the Curia is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus, reform is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda , in need of reform because she is alive.”
The Pope said reform must “ con-form to the Good News which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast” and that it “must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium , as is the service of the Bishop of Rome”.
He said the aim of reform is not aesthetic, like a facelift, for “it isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!”
Pope Francis said curial reform will only work if the men and women who work in the Curia are renewed and not simply replaced.
“Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.”
He said resistance to the process of reform is healthy, provided it does not come from ill intentions.
Describing three types of resistance, the Pope said open resistance is “born of goodwill and sincere dialogue” and hidden resistance comes from “hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform”, while malicious resistance springs up “in misguided minds and comes to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions… [which] hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation”.
Pope Francis then laid out the guiding principles of the reform, which are:
- Individual responsibility (personal conversion)
- Pastoral concern (pastoral conversion)
- Missionary spirit (Christocentrism)
- Clear organization
- Improved functioning
- Modernization (updating)
- Gradualism (discernment)
In conclusion, the Holy Father reiterated that Christmas is the feast of God’s loving humility and repeated a prayer of Fr. Matta el Meskin, addressing the Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem.
“Grant us to become small like you, so that we can draw near to you and receive from you abundant humility and meekness. Do not deprive us of your revelation, the epiphany of your infancy in our hearts, so that with it we can heal all our pride and all our arrogance. We greatly need… for you to reveal in us your simplicity, by drawing us, and indeed the Church and the whole world, to yourself.”
Please find below the official English translation of Pope Francis’ address:
Greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Roman Curia
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to begin this meeting of ours by offering cordial good wishes to all of you, superiors and officials, papal representatives and staff of the Nunciatures worldwide, all those working in the Roman Curia and to your families. Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas and a happy New Year 2017!
Saint Augustine, contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus, exclaimed: “immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave”. To describe the mystery of the Incarnation, Saint Macarius, the fourth-century monk and disciple of Saint Anthony Abbot, used the Greek verb “ smikryno ”, to become small, to reduce to the bare minimum. He says: “Listen attentively: the infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished his glory”.
Christmas is thus the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order, the order of the dialectician and the mathematician. In this upset lies all the richness of God’s own thinking, which overturns our limited human ways of thinking (cf. Is 55: 8-9). As Romano Guardini said: “What an overturning of all our familiar values – not only human values but also divine values! Truly this God upsets everything that we claim to build up on our own”. At Christmas, we are called to say “yes” with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even to the most noble of ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.
Blessed Paul VI, on Christmas of 1971, said: “God could have come wrapped in glory, splendour, light and power, to instill fear, to make us rub our eyes in amazement. But instead he came as the smallest, the frailest and weakest of beings. Why? So that no one would be ashamed to approach him, so that no one would be afraid, so that all would be close to him and draw near him, so that there would be no distance between us and him. God made the effort to plunge, to dive deep within us, so that each of us, each of you, could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near him and realize that he thinks of you and loves you… He loves you! Think about what this means! If you understand this, if you remember what I am saying, you will have understood the whole of Christianity”.
God chose to be born a tiny child because he wanted to be loved. Here we see, as it were, how the logic of Christmas is the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.
In this gentle yet overpowering light of the divine countenance of the Christ Child, I have chosen as the theme of this, our yearly meeting, the reform of the Roman Curia. It seemed to me right and fitting to share with you the framework of the reform, to point out its guiding principles, the steps taken so far, but above all the logic behind every step already taken and what is yet to come.
Here I spontaneously think of the ancient adage that describes the process of the Spiritual Exercises in the Ignatian method: deformata reformare, reformata conformare, conformata confirmare et confirmata transformare .
There can be no doubt that, for the Curia, the word reform is to be understood in two ways. First of all, it has to make the Curia con-form “to the Good News which must be proclaimed joyously and courageously to all, especially to the poor, the least and the outcast”. To make it con-form “to the signs of our time and to all its human achievements”, so as “better to meet the demands of the men and women whom we are called to serve”. At the same time, this means con-forming the Curia ever more fully to its purpose, which is that of cooperating in the ministry of the Successor of Peter ( cum ipso consociatam operam prosequuntur , as the Motu Proprio Humanam Progressionem puts it), and supporting the Roman Pontiff in the exercise of his singular, ordinary, full, supreme, immediate and universal power.
Consequently, the reform of the Roman Curia must be guided by ecclesiology and directed in bonum et in servitium, as is the service of the Bishop of Rome. This finds eloquent expression in the words of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, quoted in the third chapter of the Constitution Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council: “My honour is that of the universal Church. My honour is the solid strength of my brothers. I feel truly honoured when none of them is denied his due honour”.
Since the Curia is not an immobile bureaucratic apparatus, reform is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda , in need of reform because she is alive.
Here it must clearly be said that reform is not an end unto itself, but rather a process of growth and above all of conversion.
Consequently, the aim of reform is not aesthetic, an effort to improve the looks of the Curia, nor can it be understood as a sort of facelift, using make-up and cosmetics to embellish its aging body, nor even as an operation of plastic surgery to take away its wrinkles.
Dear brothers and sisters, it isn’t wrinkles we need to worry about in the Church, but blemishes!
Seen in this light, we need to realize that the reform will be effective only if it is carried out with men and women who are renewed and not simply new. We cannot be content simply with changing personnel, but need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia. The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of persons – something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen – but with a conversion in persons. Permanent formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is permanent conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.
That is why, in our last two meetings at Christmas, I discussed certain “diseases”, drawing on the teaching of the Desert Fathers (2014), and compiled, on the basis of the word “mercy”, a catalogue of virtues necessary for curial officials and all those who wish their consecration or service to the Church to become more fruitful (2015). The underlying reason is that, as in the case of the Church overall, the semper reformanda must also become, in the case of the Curia, a permanent personal and structural process of conversion.
It was necessary to speak of disease and cures because every surgical operation, if it is to be successful, must be preceded by detailed diagnosis and careful analysis, and needs to be accompanied and followed up by precise prescriptions.
In this process, it is normal, and indeed healthy, to encounter difficulties, which in the case of the reform, might present themselves as different types of resistance. There can be cases of open resistance, often born of goodwill and sincere dialogue, and cases of hidden resistance, born of fearful or hardened hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform, on the part of those who say they are ready for change, but want everything to remain as it is. There are also cases of malicious resistance, which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions (often cloaked in sheep’s clothing). This last kind of resistance hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor, and the action.
The absence of reaction is a sign of death! Consequently, the good cases of resistance – and even those not quite so good – are necessary and merit being listened to, welcomed and their expression encouraged.
All this is to say that the reform of the Curia is a delicate process that has to take place in fidelity to essentials, with constant discernment, evangelical courage and ecclesial wisdom, careful listening, persevering action, positive silence and firm decisions. It requires much prayer, profound humility, farsightedness, concrete steps forward and – whenever necessary – even with steps backward, with determination, vitality, responsible exercise of power, unconditioned obedience, but above all by abandonment to the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust in his necessary support.
SOME GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE REFORM
These are principally twelve: individualism; pastoral concern; missionary spirit; clear organization; improved functioning; modernization; sobriety; subsidiarity; synodality; catholicity; professionalism and gradualism.
1. Individual responsibility (personal conversion)
Once again I reaffirm the importance of individual conversion, without which all structural change would prove useless. The true soul of the reform are the men and women who are part of it and make it possible. Indeed, personal conversion supports and reinforces communal conversion.
There is a powerful interplay between personal and communal attitudes. A single person can bring great good to the entire body, but also bring great harm and lead to sickness. A healthy body is one that can recover, accept, reinforce, care for and sanctify its members.
2. Pastoral concern (pastoral conversion)
Mindful of the figure of the shepherd (cf. Ez 34:16; Jn 10:1-21) and recognizing that the Curia is a community of service, “it is good for us too, called to be pastors in the Church, to let the face of God the Good Shepherd enlighten us, purify us and transform us, fully renewed, to our mission. That even in our workplaces we may feel, cultivate and practise a sound pastoral sense, especially towards the people whom we meet each day. May no one feel overlooked or mistreated, but may everyone experience, here first of all, the care and concern of the Good Shepherd”.
The efforts of all who work in the Curia must be inspired by pastoral concern and a spirituality of service and communion, for this is the antidote to all the venoms of vain ambition and illusory rivalry. Paul VI cautioned that “the Roman Curia should not be a bureaucracy, as some wrongly judge it, pretentious and apathetic, merely legalistic and ritualistic, a training ground of concealed ambitions and veiled antagonisms, as others would have it. Rather, it should be a true community of faith and charity, of prayer and of activity, of brothers and sons of the Pope, who carry out their duties respecting one another’s competence and with a sense of collaboration, in order to serve him as he serves his brothers and sons of the universal Church and of the entire world”.
3. Missionary spirit (Christocentrism)
As the Council taught, it is the chief aim of all forms of service in the Church to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth. For “there are Church structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s fidelity to her own calling, any new structure will soon prove ineffective.”
4. Clear organization
On the basis of the principle that all Dicasteries are juridically equal, a clearer organization of the offices of the Roman Curia was needed, in order to bring out the fact that each Dicastery has its own areas of competence. These areas of competence must be respected, but they must also be distributed in a reasonable, efficient and productive way. No Dicastery can therefore appropriate the competence of another Dicastery, in accordance with what is laid down by law. On the other hand, all Dicasteries report directly to the Pope.
5. Improved functioning
The eventual merging of two or more Dicasteries competent in similar or closely connected matters to create a single Dicastery serves on the one hand to give the latter greater importance (even externally). On the other hand, the closeness and interaction of individual bodies within a single Dicastery contributes to improved functioning (as shown by the two recently created Dicasteries).
Improved functioning also demands an ongoing review of roles, the relevance of areas of competence, and the responsibilities of the personnel, and consequently of the process of reassignment, hiring, interruption of work and also promotions.
6. Modernization (updating)
This involves an ability to interpret and attend to “the signs of the times.” In this sense, “We are concerned to make provisions that the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia be suited to the circumstances of our time and adapted to the needs of the universal Church”. Such was the request of the Second Vatican Council: “the departments of the Roman Curia should be reorganized in a manner more appropriate to the needs of our time and of different regions and rites, especially in regard to their number, their titles, their competence, their procedures and how they coordinate their activities”.
Here what is called for is a simplification and streamlining of the Curia. This involves the combination or merging of Dicasteries based on their areas of competence; simplification within individual Dicasteries; the eventual suppression of offices no longer responding to contingent needs; the integration into Dicasteries or the reduction of Commissions, Academies, Committees, etc., all in view of the essential sobriety needed for a proper and authentic witness.
This involves the reordering of areas of competence specific to the various Dicasteries, transferring them if necessary from one Dicastery to another, in order to achieve autonomy, coordination and subsidiarity in areas of competence and effective interaction in service.
Here too, respect must be shown for the principles of subsidiarity and clear organization with regard to relations with the Secretariat of State and, within the latter, among its various areas of competence, so that carrying out its proper duties it will be of direct and immediate assistance to the Pope. This will also improve coordination between the various sectors of the Dicasteries and the Offices of the Curia themselves. The Secretariat of State will be able to carry out its important function precisely in achieving unity, interdependence and coordination between its sections and different sectors.
The work of the Curia must be synodal, with regular meetings of Heads of the Dicasteries, presided over by the Roman Pontiff; regularly scheduled Audiences of Heads of the Dicasteries with the Pope, and the customary interdicasterial meetings. The reduced number of Dicasteries will allow for more frequent and systematic meetings of individual Prefects with the Pope and productive meetings of Heads of Dicasteries, since this cannot be the case when groups are too large.
Synodality must also be evident in the work of each Dicastery, with particular attention to the Congress and at least a greater frequency of the Ordinary Sessions. Each Dicastery must avoid the fragmentation caused by factors such as the multiplication of specialized sectors, which can tend to become self-absorbed. Their coordination must be the task of the Secretary, or the Undersecretary.
Among the Officials, in addition to priests and consecrated persons, the catholicity of the Church must be reflected in the hiring of personnel from throughout the world, of permanent deacons and lay faithful carefully selected on the basis of their unexceptionable spiritual and moral life and their professional competence. It is fitting to provide for the hiring of greater numbers of the lay faithful, especially in those Dicasteries where they can be more competent than clerics or consecrated persons. Also of great importance is an enhanced role for women and lay people in the life of the Church and their integration into roles of leadership in the Dicasteries, with particular attention to multiculturalism.
Every Dicastery must adopt a policy of continuing formation for its personnel, to avoid their falling into a rut or becoming stuck in a bureaucratic routine.
Likewise essential is the definitive abolition of the practice of promoveatur ut amoveatur.
12. Gradualism (discernment)
Gradualism has to do with the necessary discernment entailed by historical processes, the passage of time and stages of development, assessment, correction, experimentation, and approvals ad experimentum. In these cases, it is not a matter of indecision, but of the flexibility needed to be able to achieve a true reform.
STEPS ALREADY TAKEN
I will now mention briefly and concisely some steps already taken to put into practice these guiding principles and the recommendations made by the Cardinals in the plenary meetings before the Conclave, by the COSEA, by the Council of Cardinals (C9), and by the Heads of the Dicasteries and other experts and individuals:
- On 13 April 2013 it was announced that the Council of Cardinals (Consilium Cardinalium Summo Pontifici) – the C8 and, after 1 July 2014, the C9 – was created, primarily to counsel the Pope on the governance of the universal Church and on other related topics, also with the specific task of proposing the revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.
- With the Chirograph of 24 June 2013, the Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Institute for Works of Religion was established, in order to study the legal status of the IOR and to allow for its greater ”harmonization” with “the universal mission of the Apostolic See”. This was “to ensure that economic and financial activities be permeated by Gospel principles” and to achieve a complete and acknowledged transparency in its operation.
- With the Motu Proprio of 11 July 2013, provisions were made to define the jurisdiction of the judicial authorities of Vatican City State in criminal matters.
- With the Chirograph of 18 July 2013, the COSEA (Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure) was instituted and given the task of research, analysis and the gathering of information, in cooperation with the Council of Cardinals for the study of the organizational and economic problems of the Holy See.
- With the Motu Proprio of 8 August 2013, the Holy See’s Financial Security Committee was established for the prevention and countering of money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This was to bring the IOR and the entire Vatican economic system to the regular adoption of, and fully committed and diligent compliance with, all international legal norms on financial transparency.
- With the Motu Proprio of 15 November 2013, the Financial Intelligence Authority (AIF), established by Benedict XVI with his Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010 for the prevention and countering of illegal activities in the area of monetary and financial dealings, was consolidated.
- With the Motu Proprio 24 February 2014 (Fidelis Dispensator et Prudens), the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy were established to replace the Council of 15 Cardinals, with the task of harmonizing the policies of control in regard to the economic management of the Holy See and the Vatican City.
- With the same Motu Proprio of 24 February 2014, the Office of General Auditor (URG) was established as a new agency of the Holy See, charged with auditing the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the institutions connected with to the Holy See or associated with it, and the administrations of the Governatorate of Vatican City.
- With the Chirograph of 22 March 2014, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established, in order “to promote the protection of the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults, using the forms and methods, consonant with the nature of the Church, which they consider most appropriate”.
- With the Motu Proprio of 8 July 2014, the Ordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See was transferred to the Secretariat for the Economy.
- On 22 February 2015, the Statutes of the new economic agencies were approved.
- With the Motu Proprio of 27 June 2015, the Secretariat for Communication was established and charged “to respond to the current context of communication, characterized by the presence and evolution of digital media, and by factors of convergence and interactivity”. The Secreariat was also charged with overall restructuring, through a process of reorganization and merging, of “all the realities which in various ways up to the present have dealt with communications”, so as to “respond ever better to the needs of the mission of the Church”
- On 6 September 2016, the Statutes of the Secretariat for Communication were promulgated; they took effect last October.
With the two Motu Proprios of 15 August 2015, provisions were made for the reform of the canonical process in cases of declaration of marital nullity: Mitis et Misericors Iesus for the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, and Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus for the Code of Canon Law.
- With the Motu Proprio of 4 June 2016 (Come una madre amorevole), an effort was made to prevent negligence on the part of bishops in the exercise of their office, especially with regard to cases of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
- With the Motu Proprio of 15 August 2016 (Sedula Mater), the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life was established, in the light of the general pastoral purpose of the Petrine ministry: “I hasten to arrange all things necessary in order that the richness of Christ Jesus may be poured forth appropriately and profusely among the faithful”.
- With the Motu Proprio of 17 August 2016 (Humanum progressionem), the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was established, so that development can take place “by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace and the care of creation”. Beginning in January 2017, four Pontifical Councils - Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and Healthcare Workers – will be merged into this Dicastery. For the time being, I will directly head the section for the pastoral care of migrants in the new Dicastery.
- On 18 October 2016, the Statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life were approved.
Our meeting today began by speaking of the meaning of Christmas as the overturning of our human criteria, in order to emphasize that the heart and centre of the reform is Christ (Christocentrism).
I would like to conclude simply with a word and a prayer. The word is to reiterate that Christmas is the feast of God’s loving humility. The prayer is the Christmas message of Father Matta el Meskin, a monk of our time, who, addressing the Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem, said: “If for us the experience of (your) infancy is so difficult, it is not so for you, O Son of God. If we stumble along the way that leads to communion with you because of your smallness, you are capable of removing all the obstacles that prevent us from doing this. We know that you will not be at peace until you find us in your likeness and with this (same) smallness. Allow us today, O Son of God, to draw dear to your heart. Grant that we may not consider ourselves great in our experiences. Grant us instead to become small like you, so that we can draw near to you and receive from you abundant humility and meekness. Do not deprive us of your revelation, the epiphany of your infancy in our hearts, so that with it we can heal all our pride and all our arrogance. We greatly need… for you to reveal in us your simplicity, by drawing us, and indeed the Church and the whole world, to yourself. Our world is weary and exhausted, because everyone is vying to see who is the greatest. There is a ruthless competition between governments, churches, peoples, within families, from one parish to another: Who of us is the greatest? The world is festering with painful wounds because of this great illness: Who is the greatest? But today we have found in you, O Son of God, our one medicine. We, and the whole world, will not find salvation or peace unless we go back to encounter you anew in the manger of Bethlehem. Amen.
Thank you, and I wish you a Holy Christmas and a Blessed New Year 2017!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorizing the congregation to promulgate the decrees regarding:
- A miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Faustino Miguez, professed priest of the Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools (Piarists), founder of the Congregation of the Sisters Calasation Daughters of the Divine Shepherdess; born March 24, 1831 and died on 8 March 1925;
- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Leopoldina Naudet, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family; born May 31, 1773, and died August 17, 1834;
- The martyrdom of the Servants of God Matthew Casals, professed priest, Theophilus Casajus, Scholastic professed Ferdinand Saperas, professed brother, and 106 companions of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary; killed in hatred of the faith during the civil war in Spain between 1936 and 1937;
- The heroic virtues of Servant of God Giovanni Battista Fouque, diocesan priest; born September 12, 1851 and died December 5, 1926;
- The heroic virtues of Servant of God the Holy Spirit Lorenzo (nee Egidio Marcelli), professed religious of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ; born August 30, 1874 and died October 14, 1953;
- The heroic virtues of Servant of God Maria Raffaella of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (nee Sebastiana Lladó y Sala), foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; born January 2, 1814 and died on March 8, 1899;
- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Clelia Merloni, Foundress of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; born March 10, 1861 and died November 21, 1930;
- The heroic virtues of Servant of God Isidoro Ledesma, Layman, of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei; born September 13, 1902 and died July 15, 1943.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday urged the faithful to open their hearts to the Good News of the Saviour’s birth.
The Pope was addressing the pilgrims gathered in the Vatican Paul VI Hall for the weekly General Audience .
His catechesis on Christian hope focused on these last days of Advent and on how we prepare to receive the message embodied in the nativity.
Reflecting on the fact that a catechesis focusing on Christian hope is more than appropriate during the time of Advent, Pope Francis recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah, “the Lord himself will give you a sign: the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” and also “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”
He said that the sense of Christmas transpires in both of these verses: “God fulfills his promise by coming in the flesh, (…) and He gives his people a new hope for humanity: eternal life”.
The Pope said this hope is realistic and reliable, it is a hope that redeems and saves, for Christ, by coming in the flesh, has opened the way for us to ascend to the Father.
He also said it is especially visible in these days preceding Christmas.
“When we prepare the Christmas crib in our homes and churches, he said, let us be attentive to the message of hope it embodies”.
And with our gaze on the nativity scene that takes us to the little town of Bethlehem, the Pope said we can see revealed God’s love for each of us, however small or lowly.
We see it in Mary, who trusted in God’s word: “She is the Mother of Hope”.
Next to Mary is Joseph. He too, the Pope said, is the man of hope, who gave Jesus his name, which means “God saves”.
In the crib, he continued, we see the joy of the shepherds who represent the humble and the poor who were awaiting the Messiah
They were the ones, he said, to receive with joy the peace proclaimed by the angels.
“Dear brothers and sisters: every time we say ‘yes’ to Jesus a bud blossoms into hope. May we trust in this bud of hope” and open our hearts to the Good News of the birth of Jesus who came to save us”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to all people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to be artisans of reconciliation and peace.
The Pope’s heartfelt appeal came at the end of his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Remarking on the fact that he has recently met with the President and Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference of the DRC, Francis said “I renew my heartfelt appeal to all Congolese so that in this delicate moment of their history, may they be artisans of reconciliation and peace”.
“May those, the Pope continued, who are in positions of political responsibility listen to the voice of their conscience, learn to see the cruel sufferings of their fellow citizens and have at heart the common good”.
The Pope assured the beloved people of DRC of his support and love, and he invited them to let themselves be guided by the light of the Redeemer of the world.
“I pray that the birth of the Lord may open paths of hope” he said.
The Pope's appeal came as political violence flares in the DRC.
UN officials say over 20 people have been killed in rencent hours in clashes between protesters and security forces in the capital, Kinshasa, over President Joseph Kabila's failure to give up power.
Kabila's 15-year rule was due to have ended on Monday at midnight, but has been extended to 2018. The President's main rival said the refusal to give up power amounted to a coup.
The electoral commission cancelled elections that were scheduled for last month, citing logistical and financial difficulties in organising them.
Kabila has now formed a 74-member transitional government to lead the vast central African state until elections are held in 2018.
(from Vatican Radio)...