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Christmas eve mass from St. Peter’s Basilica


On Christmas Eve Pope Francis leads the church in celebrating the birth of Christ with Mass at The Vatican. S+L brings you full coverage with English commentary.

Wednesday, Dec 24 3:30 pm ET / 12:30pm PT

Hanukkah and Advent: Christians & Jews share a common hope for lasting justice & peace in the world


This evening at sundown, Jews begin their eight-day celebration of Hanukkah at sundown. In a few days, many Christians celebrate their Christmas. During the eight-day period of Hanukkah, Jews celebrate the Festival of Lights and continue to long for the Messiah’s coming.

For many Christians and Jews celebrating these two seasons and feasts in the northern hemisphere, we do so during the season of winter. Both faith communities draw on the symbols of candles and lights that shatter the winter darkness.

Both holiday seasons invite Christians and Jews to ask the deeper questions: How do we continue to long for the salvation that the Messiah will bring? What can we do to spread God’s light around us and dispel the darkness of fear, sin and despair? The Messianic kingdom for all of us still lies ahead.

While I was a student at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University years ago, I heard a story about a certain Rabbi Menahem. When the old sage lived in Israel, a wild man climbed a high mountain, unnoticed, and from the top of the mountain began to blow a trumpet over the city below.

There was a great deal of excitement among the people and a rumour quickly spread: The trumpet is announcing our liberation!

When the rumour came to the ears of Rabbi Menahem, he looked at the world outside his window and said gruffly, ‘What I see is no renewal.’

At the first Christmas, there was just as little to see through the window of the world. Outside the later Gospels, only a couple of secular Roman historians of the time mention in passing the name of Jesus.

Even today, the questions arise: If Jesus is the Messiah ‘the bringer of peace’ and if he really was born in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago, why is there still so much sin and suffering and turmoil in the world? Why so much terror, hatred violence and war, much of it in the name of God?

Why is there no renewal? Was the Messiah’s project a failure?

The kingdom that Jesus preached was the daring vision of Israel’s God of compassion, mercy, justice and righteousness, a kingdom that involved reforming lives, adhering to the law of love, alleviating the pain and suffering of others, building community, worshiping God in Spirit and truth. There is still much work to be done to realize God’s daring vision, made known to us through his only son.

Where do we begin? We start by working together as Christians and Jews to protect the most important human values, which are threatened by a world in continual transformation. Christians and Jews have a special affinity for life and must do everything in our power to uphold the dignity of human life, from conception to natural death. We must promote the dignity of the human person.

At the core of Christian and Jewish life is the sacredness and centrality of the family. Christians and Jews must be known for our efforts in the areas of social justice, peace, and freedom for all human beings.

As Christians and Jews, we continue to pray together to God. The Jewish ‘Kaddish’ and the Christian ‘Our Father’ express a common hope: ‘Thy kingdom come!’

We must utter this prayer more loudly and clearly in these days of darkness for so many in the world, especially for the people of Syria, the Holy Lands of the Middle East that are still struggling for God‚s justice and peace, and for all those suffering in war, poverty, famine, injustice.

Miracle of Hannukkah engraving

Our common longing for the fruits of the Messianic kingdom invites us, Christians and Jews, to a knowledge of our communion and friendship with one another and a recognition of the terrible brokenness of the world.

As St. John Paul II taught us so powerfully through his friendship with the Jewish people, nothing and no one can ever wrench us away any longer from that deep communion and friendship.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI allowed that friendship to deepen and mature in a remarkable way with his meetings with Jewish leaders during his pontificate, and his historic visits to Synagogues in Rome, Germany and New York City.

Pope Francis has written beautifully about our relationship with the Jewish people in his monumental Apostolic Exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium:’

“As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God. With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.”

“Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus‚ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.”

The ‘tikkun haolam,’ the healing of the world, its repair, restoration and redemption, including the redemption of Israel, depends upon us, together.

To our many Jewish friends who view our network and know us through our many media platforms, Hag Sameach! Happy and blessed feast of lights! Let us go forward in peace! We have much good work to do together to heal a broken world and wounded humanity.

Video: Hanukkah 2012; Argentine Catholics & Jews celebrate Hanukkah & Christmas together
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s last Hannukkah in Buenos Aires

Vatican Reacts to US-Cuba Rapprochement – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis and Cardinal Parolin react to the United States and Cuba re-establishing the diplomatic relations and a look ahead at Salt + Light’s Christmas schedule.

Advent Sign of Hope and Peace: Cuba and the USA


Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB.

In light of yesterday’s welcome announcement of a normalizing of relations between Cuba and the United States of America, and in gratitude for the heroic, diplomatic efforts of Pope Francis, who built on the foundations laid by his predecessors Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II in bringing this about, I offer below what I wrote back in 1998 when Pope John Paul II visited Cuba. It was one of my first experiences commentating a papal visit for national television in Canada, long before Salt and Light Television was born! These thoughts appeared in the Newman Centre Sunday bulletin on Sunday January 25, 1998.

The Old Man and the See…

Journalist: “Your Holiness, in this historic visit [to Cuba], what would you like to hear from Fidel Castro?

Pope John Paul II: “Above all I want to hear the truth always and everywhere, that he [Castro] always tell me the truth, the truth that is proper to him, as a man, as president, as commander, one says, of the revolution. Also the truth about his country, the relations between Church and State, everything which is important for us. The Cuban President knows well who the Pope is, and if he invited him and did it after his visit to the Vatican [in 1996], it means that he thought first about who he was inviting, what he could say. Moreover, one cannot forget in this context that there is Providence, the Providence which leads the fate of the world, of mankind, of peoples, of individuals. Therefore, I think that the two of us must place ourselves in the hands of Providence. Certainly, the world is not only supported and led by us, it is guided by Divine Providence, and the history of the world is not only the history of peoples and states, it is the history of salvation.”

–From the Press Conference aboard the Alitalia jet carrying Pope John Paul II to Cuba this past Wednesday

There are electric‚ moments in life when all seems to stop and we fix our gaze on some event, some happening, some image, some person, not in tragedy or despair, but in a strange sense of admiration and awe. Such moments are few and far between, their duration ever so short. But when they happen, they leave a deep, lasting impression on us. I experienced one such moment this past Wednesday at about 3:45 P.M., sitting in the anchor booth of the main newsroom at CTV. I had been asked the day before to be the commentator for this national network’s live coverage of the arrival ceremony of Pope John Paul II in Havana, Cuba. The event was fraught with several ironies. I am American-born, therefore part of that looming, capitalistic, enemy country of this small Communist island 90 miles off the Florida coast. Castro’s revolution in Cuba began the same year I was born 1959, so I literally grew up knowing that Fidel Castro was a national enemy one of those evil names not to be mentioned aloud. I am a Catholic priest and my Polish-born leader, clearly in the twilight of his 20-year reign, and undoubtedly a towering giant of this century, was going to be welcomed by another, similar figure larger than life. A 100-year-old ideology that proposed a collective paradise of social justice and economic equality on earth would confront a 2,000-year-old belief in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Redeemer of history, a belief in the eternal power of devotion to the divine and reverence for human dignity.

Not to mention the simultaneous breaking story of the American President and the latest Washington scandal. The message John Paul II was bringing to Cuba about faith, morals, family life, human dignity, freedom, truth and justice, was so badly needed in the corridors of power and in the homes of the enemy nation some 90 miles away!  In the minutes just preceding the flight’s touchdown on Cuban soil, I watched the studio personnel around me scramble between computers and television monitors, almost as if they were trying to decide which story was more important- Castro’s and Karol’s or Clinton’s.  My own fervent request  – which was heeded by CTV – unlike all the other North American networks whose monitors were mounted on the wall above us, was not to do a split screen of the arrival ceremony with President Clinton and his cronies on one side and Castro and Karol on the other!  It seemed to me that the Cuban story was a bit more earth-shattering‚ and deserved a little more attention and respect than the latest White House scandal.


As was pointed out on all the major television networks this week, Cuba set the stage for the meeting of two absolute rulers! Both are traditionalists and conservatives within their faiths. Each is charismatic and charming, larger than life, with power rooted his persona. Each plays a dominant role on the world stage, imposing his belief system on millions of followers. Both are skilled politicians, dressed in the uniforms of their vocations! I shared the joy of my own Church at this historic visit. On the one hand, I harbored some bitter feelings about America’s 35-year-old embargo against this small island nation that is the last hold-out for the Communist ideology that has failed. On the other hand, I was proud of Canada’s consistent policy of openness and assistance to Cuba during America’s 35-year old cold war with Cuba.

The message John Paul II was bringing to Cuba about faith, morals, family life, human dignity, freedom, truth and justice, was so badly needed in the corridors of power and in the homes of the enemy nation some 90 miles away!
…And then the moment arrived. The plane door opened and the frail Pontiff appeared to the thunderous applause of the crowd at the airport. Fidel Castro stood at the bottom of the stairs, like a little kid waiting for his grandfather to come into the house. Castro did something remarkable– he waved at the Pope! The electric moment was happening not only on the tarmac, but all around me in the studio.

…For a good 7-8 minutes, there was not a sound in the studio, except for the voices coming from the Cuban television hookup. I could not help but remember a similar airport welcoming scene several years ago when another great world leader and giant of this century [and a personal hero of mine], welcomed the poet and playwright-now-become-Bishop of Rome to the Czech Republic. In a 1974 poem, which Václav Havel quoted as he welcomed Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla wrote:

“History lays down events over the struggles of conscience. Victories throb inside this layer, and defeats. History does not cover them: it makes them stand out. Can history ever flow against the current of conscience?”

This past Wednesday, January 21, 1998, Fidel Castro welcomed a man of conscience to Cuba. I am sure that Castro didn’t fully know what he was getting into in welcoming the Pope to his country. Nor do I think that John Paul II is totally aware of the implications of his visit to the island nation, and its impact on the world. Only time will tell. Both men were acting under the impulse of Providence. What I do know is that in one electric moment, history and conscience met on the tarmac in Havana. I am certain that a new era began for the people of Cuba, but also for the people of the world. In a very particular way we look with the eyes of faith to our own century, searching out whatever bears witness not only to human history but also to God’s intervention in human affairs. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba is one of the great promissory events of the end of this century and millennium, and clearly one more great sign of God’s grace at work among us, ushering in the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.

Centuries ago when Jesus returned home to his Nazareth synagogue, there was a similar electric moment. He took the Isaiah scroll and began to read from chapter 61. The eyes of the assembly were fixed upon him. Jesus took up the Jubilee theme in the first moments of his ministry. Jesus read: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” At the end of his reading, Jesus boldly announces: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” [Luke 4:16-30] thus indicating that he himself was the Messiah and that the long-expected “time” was beginning in him.


The words and deeds of Jesus represent the whole tradition of Jubilee in the Old Testament. The text from Isaiah was taken from a collection of poems about the last days which foretold the redemption of Jerusalem and symbolized the renewal of the people of Israel. When these words are placed on Jesus’ lips, they identify him as the messianic prophet of the final times, and they state his mission: to proclaim the Good News, liberate men and women, and tell them of God’s grace. In asserting that these words are fulfilled “today,” Jesus is saying in effect that the inauguration of his public ministry marks the beginning of the final times and the entry of divine salvation into human history.

Through Jesus’ own appropriation of Isaiah’s words to his own ministry, he was reminding us that that history did not cover up the triumphs and disasters, the fidelities and infidelities of Israel throughout the ages. Rather, history made them stand out. And now the time had come for Jesus to take history into his own hands, to confront it with his own person, to make a difference, and to remind his hearers that God had not abandoned their cries, their hopes, their sufferings, their dreams. Rather, God would fulfill them in his own Son who stood before them now in the Nazareth synagogue. Once more, history would not flow against the current of conscience. In Jesus, history and conscience meet, ‘steadfast love and faithfulness embrace; righteousness and peace kiss each other’ [Ps. 85:10]. It was an electric moment in Nazareth. It was an electric moment in Havana. May you be shocked by God’s power this week wherever you are. But once you are over the shock, do something with the new current pulsating within you.

Vatican Brings Together US and Cuba – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, the Vatican plays a pivotal role in helping to re-establish diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, and we look at Pope Francis’ weekly general audience.

Secretary John Kerry Visits the Vatican – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly Angelus Address, Sunday mass at a Roman parish, US Secretary of State John Kerry visits the Vatican and Catholic News Service looks at Haiti five years after the earthquake that devastated the country.

Pope’s Message for 2015 World Day of Peace – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience, his message for the 2015 World Day of Peace and the CCCB’s Christmas message.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in Rome, the Holy See speaks out against nuclear weapons, Pope sends a special message to Iraqis and the CCCB releases a new document.

Official Hymn for World Meeting of Families 2015 in Philadelphia



World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 Released the Official Hymn for September 2015 Event

The World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 released the Official Hymn for the 2015 world meeting of families, held September 22-27 2015, and featuring Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States. The hymn, titled “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom,” draws inspiration from the theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, “Love is our mission: the family fully alive,” as well as the Roman Missal and Sacred Scripture. It was first performed by the Cathedral Choir during the Offertory Procession of the November 30th Sunday evening Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Selected by a committee led by Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre; Father G. Dennis Gill, Director of the Office for Worship of the Archdiocese; and Dr. John Romeri, Director of Music for the Archdiocese; “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom” was formally approved as the official hymn by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the co-sponsor of the 2015 World Meeting of Families with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The hymn tune, PHILADELPHIA, was written by composer Normand Gouin, former music director at Old St. Joseph in Philadelphia, who currently serves as a Musician and Liturgist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. The text was penned by Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem, a nationally-known liturgist, teacher and scholar who is a native of South Philadelphia.

“Following the joyous news that Pope Francis will join us in Philadelphia next year, this hymn will further inspire all of us as we prepare for the 2015 World Meeting of Families,” said Archbishop Chaput. “This event has the power to transform the lives of families – both Catholic and non-Catholic alike – in positive and charismatic ways. I’m confident that this hymn will affirm that spirit. With its powerful words and melody, ‘Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom’ is an excellent choice for our official hymn and I hope it encourages all who hear it to deepen their daily relationship with God and with their own families in significant ways.”

In addition to the official hymn for the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015, a second hymn, “Look Up and Count the Stars,” has also been selected for use throughout the week-long 2 conference and masses. Music and text for this hymn were written by Dr. Peter Latona, Music Director for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

For more information about the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015, its official hymn or to register for the conference, please visit

The World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 Official Hymn

“Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom”
Sound the bell of holy freedom; call all nations of the earth.
Sons and daughters of one Father, sent to spread God’s saving Word.
Come, and gather, as one fam’ly at the table of the Lord.
David branch from root of Jesse, Mary that vine’s flow’ring rose.
She brought forth for us the Savior as the angel did propose;
Overshadowed by the Spirit, by her “yes” new life arose.
Blessed Joseph, spouse of Mary, teacher of your God and Lord,
You did shelter and provide for wondrous child by kings adored.
Open to God’s Word in dreaming saved your child from Herod’s sword.
Jesus, youth in low’ly Naz’reth, faithful son, and loving child,
Guest and host at Cana’s wedding, finest wine you did provide.
You, our rock, and you our shelter, keep us ever by your side.
At the cross, a grieving mother, on the cross, her only son,
With all mothers and their children, Blessed Mary, you are one.
In our joys, and in our sorrows may we do as you have done.
Sound the bell of holy freedom; call all fam’lies of the world
To be fed by love incarnate; to proclaim God’s holy Word;
Through the love of Christ our brother, in the Spirit make us one.”

Original press release published here.

Pope Francis Visits Turkey – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, we take a look at Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey.