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Analysis: Fatima trip shows pope’s respect for pilgrims’ faith

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is not shy about showing his love for Mary in public and, like many Latin American bishops, he strongly has resisted attempts to dismiss as superstitious or “simple,” in a negative sense, popular devotion to the mother of God. Read more »

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Maternity leave: Why the pope wants the church to be a loving mother

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Mother’s Day came early this year at the Vatican.

A number of feast days over the Advent and Christmas seasons gave Pope Francis a fresh opportunity to pay homage to the world’s mothers and insist further on how and why he wants the entire church to become more maternal.

But who is this archetypal mother figure the pope upholds? Pope Francis pointed to a few of his favorite biblical heroines, praising the seemingly contradictory qualities of each: Read more »

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New Year calls for courage, hope; no more hatred, selfishness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Whether the new year will be good or not depends on us choosing to do good each day, Pope Francis said.

“That is how one builds peace, saying ‘no’ to hatred and violence, with action, and ‘yes’ to fraternity and reconciliation,” he said Jan. 1, which the church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God and as World Peace Day.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Speaking to the some 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first noon Angelus of 2017, the pope referred to his peace day message in which he asked people to adopt the style of nonviolence for building a politics for peace.

Lamenting the brutal act of terrorism that struck during a night of “well-wishes and hope” in Istanbul, the pope offered his prayers for the entire nation of Turkey as well as those hurt and killed. A gunman opened fire during a New Year’s Eve celebration at a popular nightclub early Jan. 1, killing at least 39 people and wounding at least 70 more.

“I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who courageously roll up their sleeves in order to confront the scourge of terrorism and this bloodstain that is enveloping the world with the shadow of fear and confusion,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the pope spoke of how maternal tenderness, hope and self-sacrifice were the “strongest antidote” to the selfishness, indifference and “lack of openness” in the world today.

Celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was decorated with bright red anthuriums, evergreen boughs, white flowers and pinecones brushed with gold paint, the pope said that a community without mothers would be cold and heartless with “room only for calculation and speculation.”

The pope said he learned so much about unconditional love, hope and belonging from seeing mothers who never stop embracing, supporting and fighting for what is best for their children incarcerated in prisons, ill in hospitals, enslaved by drugs or suffering from war.

“Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children,” he said.

Just like all mothers of the world, Mary, Mother of God, “protects us from the corrosive disease of being ‘spiritual orphans,’” that is when the soul feels “motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim.”

“This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul,” which soon “forgets that life is a gift we have received and owe to others a gift we are called to share in this common home,” he said.

A “fragmented and divided culture” makes things worse, he said, leading to feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

“The lack of physical and not virtual contact is cauterizing our hearts and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion,” he said, as well as making us “forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.”

Remembering that Jesus handed his mother over to us “makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong” and can grow, that we are not just mere objects to “consume and be consumed,” that we are not “merchandise” to be exchanged or inert receptacles for information. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s people.”

Mary shows that humility and tenderness aren’t virtues of the weak, but of the strong, and that we don’t have to mistreat others in order to feel important, he said.

The pope also presided over an evening prayer service with eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God Dec. 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

As the year ends, he said in his homily, he asked people to reflect on how God has been present in their lives and to thank the Lord for all signs of his generosity, “seen in countless way through the witness of those people who quietly took a risk.”

Gazing upon the manger, we remember how Jesus “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.”

His sacrifice and love challenges people “not to give up on anything or anyone,” and to find the strength to forge ahead “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.”

He urged everyone to help make room for young people, who are often marginalized and forced to migrate or beg for undignified jobs. Everyone has a duty to help them grow and fulfill “the dreams of their ancestors” in their own nation and community.

After the prayer service, the pope walked into St. Peter’s Square instead of using the popemobile. He walked the entire periphery of the square, stopping to shake hands, receive cards and notes, offer happy New Year’s greetings, bless babies and chat with people lining the barricades.

In the center of the square, the pope prayed silently before the Vatican Nativity scene, which was created by a Maltese artist. He also stood before the twisted and crumbled spire from the St. Benedict Basilica in Norcia, which like dozens of villages and towns, was damaged in a series of earthquakes in central Italy.

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Pray for peace, sow harmony, look to Mary as model disciple, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Peace is a gift that comes through prayer and through small daily efforts to sow harmony in one’s family, parish and community, Pope Francis said.

“At the beginning of this new year, we are all called to reignite in our hearts a spark of hope, which must be translated into concrete works of peace: You don’t get along with that person? Make peace. In your home? Make peace. In the community? Make peace. At work? Make peace,” he said Jan. 4 during his midday recitation of the Angelus.

Pope Francis gestures as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis gestures as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Before announcing the names of the 20 new cardinals he will create Feb. 14, Pope Francis used his Sunday Angelus address to continue the reflection on peace, on Mary and on the church that he began during a Mass Jan. 1 marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

“Peace is not just an absence of war, but the general condition of the person who is in harmony with him- or herself, in harmony with nature and in harmony with others,” he said during the Angelus address.

Everyone says they want peace, Pope Francis said, but they continue to make war, even on a small scale. “How many families, how many communities — even parishes — are at war,” he said.

Describing Mary as the “queen of peace,” the pope said that during her earthly life she knew difficulty, “but she never lost her peace of heart, a fruit of having abandoned herself with trust to the mercy of God. We ask Mary, our tender mother, to point the whole world to the sure path of love and peace.”

Reciting the Angelus Jan. 1, he reminded people that the theme of his 2015 peace day message was “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.”

“War makes us slaves always,” he said. “We are all called to combat every form of slavery and build brotherhood. And remember, peace is possible.”

Faith helps make people free, and living the tenets of faith helps make them peacemakers, he said.

“Thanks to our baptism, we were introduced into communion with God and we are no longer at the whim of evil and sin, but we receive the love, tenderness and mercy of the heavenly Father,” he said.

Earlier Jan. 1, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and focused his homily on Mary as both the mother of God and mother of the church.

“Jesus,” he told the congregation, “cannot be understood without his mother,” the one who gave him human flesh, raised him and was near him always, even as he died on the cross and rose from the dead.

“Likewise inseparable are Christ and the church,” he said. And, just as Mary brought Jesus into the world more than 2,000 years ago, the church continues to bring him to the world, he said.

Pope Francis repeated what he has said in the past: “It is not possible to love Christ without the church, to listen to Christ but not the church, to belong to Christ but not the church.”

The church brings Christ to people, nourishes people with the sacraments and helps them understand what it means to belong to Christ, the pope said. “Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.”

“Where can we encounter him? We encounter him in the church, in our hierarchical, holy mother church,” he said. “It is the church which says today: ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’ It is the church which proclaims him. It is in the church that Jesus continues to accomplish his acts of grace which are the sacraments.”

“Without the church,” the pope said, “Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.”

 

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It’s time to stop violence, discord, and begin making peace at home, Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Welcoming in a new year, Pope Francis said it was time to stop provoking and ignoring violence, tragedy and conflict in the world, and begin building peace at home.

“Justice and peace at home, among us, you begin at home and then you move on to all of humanity. But we have to start at home,” he said Jan. 1, which the church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God and as World Peace Day.

Children bring Pope Francis a chalice during the offertory as he celebrates Mass in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters)

Speaking to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first noon Angelus of 2014, the pope referred to his peace day message, which he said called for building a world where everyone “respects each other, accepts others in their diversity and takes care of each and every one.”

People must not remain “indifferent and immobile” in the face of violence and injustice, but commit themselves to “build a truly more just and caring society,” he said.

The pope referred to a letter he had received the day before from a man struggling to understand why there were still so many tragedies and wars.

The pope said he wanted to ask the same question: “What is happening in people’s hearts? What is going on in the heart of humanity” that leads to violence?

“It’s time to stop,” Pope Francis said. “It will do us good to stop taking this path of violence.”

May God “help all of us walk the path of justice and peace with greater determination,” he said, and the Holy Spirit break down the obstinacy and barriers people construct between each other.

The pope also prayed to Mary that the “Gospel of fraternity” might “speak to every conscience and knock down the walls that hinder enemies from recognizing each other as brothers and sisters.”

Earlier in the day, the pope celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was decorated with white flowers, evergreens, gold trim and poinsettias. Two girls and one boy, wearing long capes and shiny gold paper crowns in memory of the magi who traveled to Bethlehem, brought the offertory gifts to the pope.

Prayers for peace were offered in five languages; the Spanish version asked that God “bless all women and all mothers, called to bring forth, to guard and to promote life.”

In his homily, the pope said Mary, the Mother of God, became the mother of all humanity when Jesus, dying on the cross, gave her to the world.

When she lost her divine son, “her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus,” he said.

Even before the church officially defined Mary as God’s mother in the fifth century, the faithful had already acknowledged her divine maternity and called for its recognition, the pope said, noting the case as an example of the “sensus fidei” (sense of the faith) “of holy people, the faithful of God, who, in their unity, are never ever wrong.”

Mary is a source of hope and true joy and continually strengthens people in their faith, vocation and mission, he said. “By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation.”

He asked the faithful to entrust with Mary their journey of faith, their hopes and needs as well as “the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice, peace and God.”

In his homily, Pope Francis also mentioned the Marian icon “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people) in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, which he said was the first Marian shrine in the West where the image of the Mother of God, the “Theotokos,” was venerated.

According to Vatican Radio, the pope visited St. Mary Major Dec. 31 to pray at length before the icon, repeating a pilgrimage he made on the first morning of his pontificate in March and on other subsequent occasions.

 

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