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Monday, December 29, 2014

Francis' visit to Naples to begin in Pompeii

Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – Pompeii will be the first port of call on Pope Francis' trip to the Italian region of Campania. On 21 March the Holy Father will begin his pilgrimage to Naples, starting from the statue dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii, according to the prelate archbishop and pontifical delegate of the shrine, Tommaso Caputo, who added that the Pope's visit constitutes an event of extraordinary ecclesial importance.

“The filial and tender Marian devotion that the Pope continues to show is also at the root of the Church of Pompeii's strong commitment towards the humblest and neediest among us”, explained the prelate. “Today, more than ever before, the motivating forces of charity, intimately linked to the needs of justice and respect for the dignity of every person, are strongly felt. Aside from our joy for his visit, we hope that Pope Francis will show us the path to take to be even closer to and more united with our people”.

St. John Paul II also visited Pompeii on 21 October 1979, during his visit to Naples, and he returned there on 7 October 2003 for the conclusion of the Year of the Rosary. Benedict XVI also visited the shrine, again during the month of the Rosary, October 2008.

Enthusiastic participation in Pope Francis' encounters with the faithful in 2014

Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – In a communique published today, the Prefecture of the Papal Household reports that during the year 2014, more than 5,900,000 faithful participated in the various encounters with Pope Francis: audiences, both general (1,199,000) and special (567,100); liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and St. Peter's Square (1,110,700), and the Angelus and Regina Coeli (3,040,000). These data refer only to the encounters that took place in the Vatican and do not include other activities that involved a high level of participation among the faithful, such as the apostolic trips to the Republic of Korea, Turkey or the Holy Land, or the various trips in Italy and visits within the diocese of Rome. The total number of faithful involved in the Vatican events is estimated at 5,916,800.

The Prefecture of the Papal Household reiterates that these are approximate data, calculated on the basis of requests for attendance at events and the invitations distributed by the Prefecture. Similarly, the data regarding participation in the Angelus and large celebrations in St. Peter's Square are based on estimates.

Angelus: Jesus brings the generations together

Vatican City, 28 December 2014 (VIS) – “Jesus brings the generations together”, affirmed Pope Francis, addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square today for the midday Angelus. The Gospel reading narrated the episode of the Presentation in the Temple, when Mary and Joseph, forty days after Jesus' birth, take Him to the temple in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Law of Moses. There, they meet the elderly people Simeon and Anna.

“We can imagine this little family, in the midst of so many people, in the great courtyard of the temple. They do not stand out, they are not distinguished. However”, observed the Holy Father, “they do not go unnoticed. Two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, approach them and praise God for that Child, in Whom they recognise the Messiah, the light of the peoples and the salvation of Israel. It is a simple moment, yet rich in prophecy: the meeting between a young couple full of joy and faith by the grace of the Lord, and two elderly people also full of joy and faith by the action of the Spirit. Who brings them together? Jesus. Jesus brings about the encounter between the young and the elderly. Jesus is the One who brings the generations together. He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all distrust, all isolation, every distance. … Good relations between the young and the elderly are fundamental to the path of civil and ecclesial community. Looking at these two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, we greet with applause all the grandparents in the world”, exclaimed Francis.

“The message that comes from the Holy Family is above all a message of faith”, he continued. “This is why the family of Nazareth is holy. Why? Because it is centred on Jesus. When parents and children breathe together the same climate of faith, they possess an energy that allows them to face difficult trials, as shown by the experience of the Holy Family, for example, during the dramatic events of the flight into Egypt”.

The child Jesus with his mother Mary and St. Joseph are the icon of the family, simple yet illuminating. The light they radiate is a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, a light of truth for every man, for the human family. … The light that comes from the Holy Family encourages us to offer human warmth in those family situations that, for various reasons, lack peace, harmony or forgiveness. Our concrete solidarity is not lacking, especially in relation to those families who experience difficult situations such as sickness, unemployment, discrimination, or the need to migrate”. He concluded by asking those present to pray a moment in silence for these families.

Following the Angelus prayer, the Pope mentioned the passengers on the aircraft that disappeared in flight between Indonesia and Singapore, and those on the ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea. "I am close, with affection and prayer, to the relatives of the victims, those who are living through these difficult situations with anxiety and suffering, and those involved in the rescue operations”.

Large families are the hope of society

Vatican City, 28 December 2014 (VIS) – On the feast day of the Holy Family, Pope Francis received in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall a group of large Italian families, present in Rome for to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Associazione Nazionale Famiglie Numerose (National Association for Large Families). The audience was also attended by families from other countries throughout Europe.

“You have come here with the most beautiful fruits of your love. Maternity and paternity are gifts from God, your task is to receive this gift, to be amazed by its beauty and to let it shine in society. Each one of your children is a unique creation that will never be repeated in the history of humanity. When we understand this, that each person is willed by God, we are astonished by the great miracle that is a child”.

“And you, boys and girls”, he continued, addressing the children present, “are precisely this: each one of you is the unique fruit of love, you come from love and grow in love. You are unique, but you are not alone. And the fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you: the sons and daughters of large families are more inclined to fraternal communion from early childhood. In a world that is frequently marked by selfishness, the large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and these attitudes are of benefit to all society”.

“You, children and young people, are the fruit of the tree that is the family: you are good fruit when the tree has good roots – grandparents – and a good trunk – the parents. … The presence of large families is a hope for society. This is why the presence of grandparents is very important: a valuable presence both in terms of practical assistance, but above all for their contribution to education. Grandparents conserve the values of a people, of a family, and they help parents transmit them to their children. Throughout the last century, in many countries in Europe, it was the grandparents who transmitted faith”.

“Dear parents, thank you for your example of love for life that you protect from conception to its natural end, in spite of all the difficulties and burdens of life, that unfortunately public institutions do not always help you to bear. … Every family is a cell of society, but the large family is a richer, more vital cell, and the state has much to gain by investing in it”, Francis remarked. He concluded by praying for those families who are most affected by the economic crisis, those in which the mother or father have lost their jobs and in which the young are unable to find work, and those families in which the closest relationships are marked by suffering and who are tempted to give in to loneliness and separation”.

Telegram for the death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J.

Vatican City, 2 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to the Prepositor General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, for the death in Tokyo, Japan of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J., former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, at the age of 86.

The Pope describes the archbishop as an “exemplary minister of God, who lived for the cause of the Gospel” and underlines his “generous missionary apostleship” in Japan, where his earthly existence came to an end. He also gives thanks to the Lord for the service Archbishop Pittau rendered to the Apostolic See as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, for his commitment as rector of the Sophia University of Tokyo, and as Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome, as well as for his devotion to the Society of Jesus. The Pope entrusts the soul of the departed to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, “in the light of Christ's resurrection”, and imparts an apostolic blessing to those who mourn the late archbishop's passing.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Angel Javier Perez Pueyo as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon (area 8,321, population 101,320, Catholics 95,127, priests 96, permanent deacons 3, religious 171), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Ejea de los Caballeros, Spain in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1980. He holds a licentiate in philosophy and science of education from the Civil University of Salamanca, Spain. He has served in a number of roles, including formator and professor in the seminaries of Tarragona and Salmanca and member of the Central Council of the Fraternity of Working Diocesan Priests and pastoral coordinator of the same Fraternity. He has collaborated in courses for formators in various seminaries in Latin America and in those organised by the Episcopal Commission of Seminaries of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. He is currently rector of the “San Jose” Pontifical Spanish College in Rome. He succeeds Bishop Alfonso Milian Sorribas, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

The Nativity of the Lord

Midnight Mass: “do I allow God to love me?”

Vatican City, 24 December 2014 (VIS) – This evening at 10 p.m. the Holy Father celebrated Midnight Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, 2014. During the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Holy Gospel, Pope Francis pronounced the following homily:

“'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined'. 'An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them'. This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

“We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the 'great light'. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.

“The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel. As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. God was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself. Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples. The patience of God. How difficult it is to comprehend this: God’s patience towards us.

“Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns; and every day, with patience. The patience of God.

“Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: 'This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger'. The 'sign' is in fact the humility of God, the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

“On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? 'But I am searching for the Lord' – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?

“More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.

“The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realise that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: 'Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict'.

“'Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light'. People who were unassuming, people open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: 'O Mary, show us Jesus!'”.

Christmas Message: “many tears, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus”

Vatican City, 25 December 2014 (VIS) – At midday today, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Pope gave his traditional Christmas message from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica and imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!

“Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is born for us, born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies. The Virgin’s name is Mary, the wife of Joseph.

“Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognise him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognised in Jesus the Messiah. 'My eyes have seen your salvation', Simeon exclaimed, 'the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples'.

“Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!

Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

“May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.

“May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.

“May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic, above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea. As I thank all who are courageously dedicated to assisting the sick and their family members, I once more make an urgent appeal that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided.

“The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods. Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit today enlighten our hearts, that we may recognise in the Infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth. May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalisation of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness. Then we will be able to cry out with joy: 'Our eyes have seen your salvation'.

“With these thoughts I wish you all a Happy Christmas!”

The gift of Christian integrity is coherence: think, feel and live as Christians

Vatican City, 26 December 2014 (VIS) – At midday the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff gave a brief address to those present, on the subject of coherence with faith.

“The Gospel of this feast day shows a part of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples in the moment in which He sends them on their mission. Among other things, He says, 'You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved'. These words of the Lord do not disrupt the celebration of Christmas, but strip it of that false saccharine-sweetness that does not belong to it. It makes us understand that in the trials accepted on account of the faith, violence is overcome by love, death by life. To truly welcome Jesus in our existence, and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is precisely the one indicated in this Gospel: that is, to bear witness in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the current, able to pay in person. While not all of us are called, as St. Stephen was, to shed their own blood, every Christian is nonetheless required in every circumstance to lead a life coherent with the faith he or she professes. Christian integrity is a grace that we must ask of the Lord. To be coherent, to live as Christians rather than merely saying, 'I am Christian' while living like a pagan. Coherence is a grace we must ask for today”.

Francis explained that following the Gospel is a “demanding but beautiful path, and those who follow it with devotion and courage receive the gift promised by the Lord to men and women of goodwill”. He asked those present to pray “in a special way for those who are discriminated against, persecuted and killed for their witness of Christ … so that due to the sacrifice of these latter-day martyrs, of whom there are many, the commitment to recognising and guaranteeing religious freedom, an inalienable right of every human being, may be reinforced in every part of the world”.

After the Angelus prayer, the Pope conveyed his wishes for peace to all those present and prayed to St. Stephen for the grace of Christian coherence: “thinking, feeling and living as a Christian, not thinking as a Christian and living as a pagan”.
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