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Behind Vatican Walls: Holy See Press Office

 

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, papal spokesman, arrives for a Vatican press conference Feb. 5. The Jesuit priest retired as head of Vatican Radio, but has stayed on as Vatican spokesman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See VATICAN-COMMUNICATIONS-LOMBARDI Feb. 22, 2016.

There were significant resignations and several important nominations behind Vatican walls this week. The long expected retirement of Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi finally came to pass.  As well some high anticipated appointments were finally made and they speak volumes about the new Roman Curia.

After ten years at the head of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Lombardi will hand over the reins on August 1. Two lay people will step into the role of director and vice-director of the press office. American Greg Burke, a former journalist and an Opus Dei numerary who has been serving the Vatican’s communication operations since 2012 and was appointed vice director of the press office earlier this year. The new vice director of the Holy See press office is a Spanish laywoman, Paloma Garcia Ovejero. Not only is this the first time a woman is appointed to one of the key leading roles in the press office, it is the first time two lay people with extensive communications and media experience are entrusted with the leadership of the press office.

burke and garcia

Burke graduated from Columbia’s School of Journalism and worked as a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, Time magazine and Fox News network. Garcia Ovejero has a journalism degree from Madrid’s Universidad Complutense and a masters in management strategies and communication from New York University. She has worked for Spain’s COPE news network since 2006. (COPE is the media outlet owned by the Spanish Bishops Conference).

For his part Fr. Lombardi has been looking forward to this retirement. He was named director of the Holy See also served as director of Vatican Radio and director of the Vatican Television Center (CTV). In 2013 Pope Benedict XVI named Msgr. Eduardo Vigano the director of CTV and in February of this year the new Secretariate for Communication took over the administration of Vatican Radio.

Higher up the structure of the Roman Curia members were appointed to the Secretariat for Communications. Thirteen prelates and three lay people were appointed to the secretariate. Of those three lay people, two are women. Kim Daniels is the cofounder of Catholic Voices USA and a consultant on religious liberty issues for the USCCB. Leticia Soberón Mainero is an expert in communication with a degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a Psychologist. The only layman appointed to the secretariat, Markus Schächter, is a professor of ethics and Mass Media at the Munich School of Philosophy.

These choices signal several changes: a less Italian curia is taking shape. Out of all these appointments, there is only one Italian. Bishop Marcello Semeraro is the only Italian prelate appointed to the Secretariat for Communication. The other appointees come from different regions of the world and represent a variety of cultures.

Second, the laypeople being tapped to take on key roles in the press office and the secretariat overseeing it have solid communication credentials behind them. Certainly these people move in church circles in their home countries, but they are known for their professional experience.

In many ways we may be looking at the blueprint for the Roman Curia of the future.


Photos: CNS

My World Youth Days

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There are many ways to live a World Youth Day. Of these, the classic one is to be a faithful attendant of the special occurrence. Another one is to tell what’s happening, instead, and bring others into the event. This is the role I’ll be covering in 360 degrees over the next few days, and further I’ll be able to explain what attending a WYD has been like for me. It’s something more intimate and those memories and emotions I can bring to you by just closing my eyes for a second…

My WYD can only be that of 2000, in Rome, on the occasion of the Jubilee. A Holy Year, obviously not like the others, that not only marked the end of a century but even the beginning of a new millennium.

Living in Rome offers many privileges and endless opportunities when it comes to Catholic celebrations, but having the WYD in front of one’s house, literally, is really something that happens to a very few. My family and I, during that sultry summer of 2000, found ourselves living that event in a unique way.

I remember the human tide that filled the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed along my way to get to the Pope for the evening vigil.

Since living in that area, a few days before, we had received a special pass from the mayor Francesco Rutelli, a coupon that allowed us to move freely in our district despite the checks and the engaged areas for young faithfuls.

I remember the long night of August 19, 2000, sitting on the lawn of Tor Vergata with my father and my aunt and the smiling and amused face of Pope John Paul II, dragged by the contagious enthusiasm of the young people, the music and the incredible festive atmosphere we breathed.

I was 13 years old that summer, and last year, filming an episode of Perspectives at Tor Vergata for the 15th anniversary of that WYD and remembering what had happened in 2000, I found myself seized with a great emotion. Never would I thought of going back there, after so many years, to tell those childhood memories as a journalist.

And the memories of those days bring me right back to today, to Krakow and to this next impending appointment. To speak about moments like these implies patience and flexibility, because, sometimes, just passion and faith are not enough to cope with the impressive amount of work. Great events require a maximum effort, but at the same time offer unique reasons that are a boost of rare power. Being able to tell what will happen in Poland remains an undoubted privilege because to explain what’s going on somewhere in wich one million of people are gathered does not happen every day. This numerical data by itself, for example, gives the idea of what regards appointments like this one. And when they’re young people involved, who, setting rhetoric aside, are actually the future, then attention and curiosity inevitably increase.

It will be another story to tell, with the memory of Tor Vergata that is within me but which will make room for this new version of this special event. A WYD to live in a different way, accompanying people from home to experience the emotions that Pope Francis and Krakow will certainly give.


photo by Corriere Del Sud

Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis

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On Friday, May 6, in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the International Charlemagne Prize in 2016 was awarded to His Holiness Pope Francis. In the presence of numerous authorities, the ceremony was introduced by a speech by the Mayor of Aachen, Mr. Marcel Philipp. The Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Association for the award of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen – For the Unity, Mr Jürgen Linden conferred the award of the certificate which reads: “On May 6, 2016, in the Vatican (Rome), the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen was awarded to Pope Francis in tribute of his extraordinary commitment to peace, understanding and mercy in a European society of values. The ceremony continued with speeches by President of the European Parliament, Honorble Martin Schulz, the President of the European Commission, Honorable Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council, Honorable Donald Tusk. Finally Pope Francis pronounced the speech:  

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer you a cordial welcome and I thank you for your presence. I am particularly grateful to Messrs Marcel Philipp, Jürgen Linden, Martin Schulz, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk for their kind words. I would like to reiterate my intention to offer this prestigious award for Europe. For ours is not so much a celebration as a moment to express our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent.

Creativity, genius and a capacity for rebirth and renewal are part of the soul of Europe. In the last century, Europe bore witness to humanity that a new beginning was indeed possible. After years of tragic conflicts, culminating in the most horrific war ever known, there emerged, by God’s grace, something completely new in human history. The ashes of the ruins could not extinguish the ardent hope and the quest of solidarity that inspired the founders of the European project. They laid the foundations for a bastion of peace, an edifice made up of states united not by force but by free commitment to the common good and a definitive end to confrontation. Europe, so long divided, finally found its true self and began to build its house.

This “family of peoples”,1 which has commendably expanded in the meantime, seems of late to feel less at home within the walls of the common home. At times, those walls themselves have been built in a way varying from the insightful plans left by the original builders. Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading; we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there. Nonetheless, I am convinced that resignation and weariness do not belong to the soul of Europe, and that even “our problems can become powerful forces for unity”.2

In addressing the European Parliament, I used the image of Europe as a grandmother. I noted that there is a growing impression that Europe is weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal. There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, and that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change. There is an impression that Europe is tending to become increasingly “entrenched”, rather than open to initiating new social processes capable of engaging all individuals and groups in the search for new and productive solutions to current problems. Europe, rather than protecting spaces, is called to be a mother who generates processes (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 223).

What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?

The writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, has said that what we need today is a “memory transfusion”. We need to “remember”, to take a step back from the present to listen to the voice of our forebears. Remembering will help us not to repeat our past mistakes (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 108), but also to re-appropriate those experiences that enabled our peoples to surmount the crises of the past. A memory transfusion can free us from today’s temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce “quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfilment” (ibid., 224).

To this end, we would do well to turn to the founding fathers of Europe. They were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.

Robert Schuman, at the very birth of the first European community, stated that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”.3 Today, in our own world, marked by so much conflict and suffering, there is a need to return to the same de facto solidarity and concrete generosity that followed the Second World War, because, as Schuman noted, “world peace cannot be safeguarded without making creative efforts proportionate to the dangers threatening it”.4

The founding fathers were heralds of peace and prophets of the future. Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls. That vision urges us not to be content with cosmetic retouches or convoluted compromises aimed at correcting this or that treaty, but courageously to lay new and solid foundations. As Alcide De Gasperi stated, “equally inspired by concern for the common good of our European homeland”, all are called to embark fearlessly on a “construction project that demands our full quota of patience and our ongoing cooperation”.5

Such a “memory transfusion” can enable us to draw inspiration from the past in order to confront with courage the complex multipolar framework of our own day and to take up with determination the challenge of “updating” the idea of Europe. A Europe capable of giving birth to a new humanism based on three capacities: the capacity to integrate, the capacity for dialogue and the capacity to generate.

The capacity to integrate Erich Przywara, in his splendid work Idee Europa [The Idea of Europe], challenges us to think of the city as a place where various instances and levels coexist. He was familiar with the reductionist tendency inherent in every attempt to rethink the social fabric. Many of our cities are remarkably beautiful precisely because they have managed to preserve over time traces of different ages, nations, styles and visions. We need but look at the inestimable cultural patrimony of Rome to realize that the richness and worth of a people is grounded in its ability to combine all these levels in a healthy coexistence. Forms of reductionism and attempts at uniformity, far from generating value, condemn our peoples to a cruel poverty: the poverty of exclusion. Far from bestowing grandeur, riches and beauty, exclusion leads to vulgarity, narrowness, and cruelty. Far from bestowing nobility of spirit, it brings meanness.

The roots of our peoples, the roots of Europe, were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures. The identity of Europe is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity.

Political activity cannot fail to see the urgency of this fundamental task. We know that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of the parts”, and this requires that we work to “broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all” (Evangelii Gaudium, 235). We are asked to promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history. Solidarity should never be confused with charitable assistance, but understood as a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities – and of so many other cities – to live with dignity. Time is teaching us that it is not enough simply to settle individuals geographically: the challenge is that of a profound cultural integration.

The community of European peoples will thus be able to overcome the temptation of falling back on unilateral paradigms and opting for forms of “ideological colonization”. Instead, it will rediscover the breadth of the European soul, born of the encounter of civilizations and peoples. The soul of Europe is in fact greater than the present borders of the Union and is called to become a model of new syntheses and of dialogue. The true face of Europe is seen not in confrontation, but in the richness of its various cultures and the beauty of its commitment to openness.

Without this capacity for integration, the words once spoken by Konrad Adenauer will prove prophetic: “the future of the West is not threatened as much by political tensions as by the danger of conformism, uniformity of thoughts and feelings: in a word, by the whole system of life, by flight from responsibility, with concern only for oneself.”6

The capacity for dialogue

If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 239). Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.

This culture of dialogue should be an integral part of the education imparted in our schools, cutting across disciplinary lines and helping to give young people the tools needed to settle conflicts differently than we are accustomed to do. Today we urgently need to build “coalitions” that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious. Coalitions that can make clear that, behind many conflicts, there is often in play the power of economic groups. Coalitions capable of defending people from being exploited for improper ends. Let us arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter.

The capacity to generate

Dialogue, with all that it entails, reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander. Everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society. This culture of dialogue can come about only if all of us take part in planning and building it. The present situation does not permit anyone to stand by and watch other people’s struggles. On the contrary, it is a forceful summons to personal and social responsibility.

In this sense, our young people have a critical role. They are not the future of our peoples; they are the present. Even now, with their dreams and their lives they are forging the spirit of Europe. We cannot look to the future without offering them the real possibility to be catalysts of change and transformation. We cannot envision Europe without letting them be participants and protagonists in this dream.

Lately I have given much thought to this. I ask myself: How we can involve our young people in this building project if we fail to offer them employment, dignified labour that lets them grow and develop through their handiwork, their intelligence and their abilities? How can we tell them that they are protagonists, when the levels of employment and underemployment of millions of young Europeans are continually rising? How can we avoid losing our young people, who end up going elsewhere in search of their dreams and a sense of belonging, because here, in their own countries, we don’t know how to offer them opportunities and values?

The just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labour is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation.7 If we want to rethink our society, we need to create dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people.

To do so requires coming up with new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole. This calls for moving from a liquid economy to a social economy; I think for example of the social market economy encouraged by my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, 8 November 1990). It would involve passing from an economy directed at revenue, profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training.

We need to move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labour. Labour is in fact the setting in which individuals and communities bring into play “many aspects of life: creativity, planning for the future, developing talents, living out values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that we ‘continue to prioritize the role of access to steady employment for everyone, no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning’8” (Encyclical Laudato Si’, 127).

If we want a dignified future, a future of peace for our societies, we will only be able to achieve it by working for genuine inclusion, “an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work”.9 This passage (from a liquid economy to a social economy) will not only offer new prospects and concrete opportunities for integration and inclusion, but will makes us once more capable of envisaging that humanism of which Europe has been the cradle and wellspring.

To the rebirth of a Europe weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part. Her task is one with her mission: the proclamation of the Gospel, which today more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus, and his mercy that consoles and encourages. God desires to dwell in our midst, but he can only do so through men and women who, like the great evangelizers of this continent, have been touched by him and live for the Gospel, seeking nothing else. Only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe. In this enterprise, the path of Christians towards full unity is a great sign of the times and a response to the Lord’s prayer “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, [and] a sound and humane utopian vision”.10

I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter. I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless. I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being. I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment. I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption. I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.


Footnotes:

1 Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014.
2 Ibid.
3 Declaration of 9 May 1950, Salon de l’Horloge, Quai d’Orsay, Paris
4 Ibid.
5 Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, Paris, 21 April 1954.
6 Address to the Assembly of German Artesans, Düsseldorf, 27 April 1952.
7 Address to Popular Movements in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 9 July 2015.
8 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666.
9 Address to Popular Movements in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 9 July 2015.
10 Address to the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014.

Caption: Pope Francis is seated next to Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and Marcel Philipp, mayor of Aachen, Germany, during a ceremony at which the pope received the Charlemagne Prize in the Sala Regia at the Vatican May 6. Auchen is the city where the prize is normally presented. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Behind Vatican Walls: New Year, New Hope

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History

On November 16, 1989 on the campus of the Central American University in San Salvador, six Jesuit priests were pulled from their beds in the middle of the night and executed. The military officers who carried out the killing went unpunished for decades. Five of six Jesuits were Spanish citizens.

In 2008 the Spanish Association for Human Rights and the Centre for Justice and Accountability lodged a criminal complaint in Spanish courts against the Salvadoran military officials involved in the killing of the six Jesuits. A judge in Madrid issued an order for the arrest and extradition of the Salvadoran officers named in the case. Interpol also issued a world wide warrant and extradition order. Authorities in El Salvador did not comply with the order. The officers accused were located and transferred to an ex-national guard military base.

Plot Twists

On January 4, Spanish judge Eloy Velasco issued a new arrest and extradition order for the 17 soldiers and officers accused of killing the six Jesuits. Salvadoran presidential spokesperson Eugenio Chicas told reporters “The only path for our security forces to take is to proceed with the arrests, that is, there’s nothing to do but follow the law.” He also said once legal requirements had been met, the order would be followed. However, it is up to El Salvador’s supreme court whether or not to extradite the accused.  

The statement from the Salvadoran government gave room to cautious optimism that perhaps justice would finally prevail. January 8 reports surfaced that the military defence counsel has presented a request for Judge Velasco to recuse himself from the case. The request claims that the judge is biased because he teaches at a Jesuit university and the case involves events that took place at a Jesuit university.

Happy Endings?

It remains to be seen just how much this case will move forward. Will El Salvador’s supreme court allow the 17 accused soldiers to be extradited? Will Velasco stay on as judge for this case? Will justice prevail? 2016 should bring plenty of things to watch.  

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Vatican celebrates Epiphany – Perspectives Daily


Tonight on Perspectives we take a look to the celebrations of the solemnity of Epiphany at the Vatican and we show you how Iraqi refugees celebrate Christmas

Pope Francis’ 2015 Urbi et Orbi Christmas Address

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On the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord, Pope Francis appeared on the Central Loggia of the Vatican Basilica and before imparting the “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing, gave his traiditional Christmas address to the faithful present in St. Peter’s Square and to all those listening via radio and television. Here is the Pope’s 2015 Christmas Message:

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas! Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!

Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and reconciliation. A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts.

He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.

We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis

To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength.

We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.

May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingess to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.

May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.

Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.

Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.

On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.

Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.

Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come from all over the world to this square, and to so many different countries connected via radio, television and other media, I address my most cordial greeting.  It is Christmas of the Holy Year of Mercy, so I wish that everyone be able to welcome into their lives the mercy of God that Jesus Christ has given us; to be merciful with our brothers (and sisters). Then we will allow peace to grow! Merry Christmas!

Watch Pope Francis deliver his 2015 Urbi et Orbi Christmas Message below:

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Signs of the Seasons

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Advent is only four weeks long, but from mid november onwards we are bombarded with Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and Christmas Parties. Despite the commercial packaging those songs, symbols and festivities come in, they are actually rooted in our Christian traditions. Tune in Christmas day for Signs of the Season as we explore the Christian roots behind these signs and symbols and how they have become part of the tradition at the heart of the church. Plus we walk through the liturgical traditions of the Christmas season.

Watch Signs of the Seasons Friday, December 25, 2015 at 9 pm ET.

Holy door unveiled at the Vatican – Perspectives daily


The Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday evening was freed of the brick wall which has hidden it since the Holy Year of 2000, And we take a look at today’s General Audience

Inside the Synod – Gerard O’Connell

In this special edition of Inside the Synod, Sebastian Gomes speaks with longtime Vatican journalist Gerard O’Connell about his impressions of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Behind Vatican Walls: All in a Vatican Week

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The three week Synod on the family is finally over, but the homestretch did not come without some drama: an Italian newspaper, Quotiando Nazione, reported that Pope Francis has a small, benign brain tumour. Cue the denials and conspiracy theories. Pope Francis provided his own plot twist, taking the floor on Thursday afternoon to announce he has created a new dicastery for laity and family. All of this pulling attention away from the fact that the final document has been written, voted on and is ready for delivery to Pope Francis.

Dr. Takanori Fukushima is a specialist in tumours at the base of the skull.  Quotidiano Nazionale said he was flown to the Vatican and diagnosed the pontiff with a small, benign tumour. Dr. Fukushima told Italian news agency ANSA he has treated three vatican prelates in the past but never the pope. In response, QN’s editor in chief claimed his paper never said Dr. Fukushima treated the pope, they only dedicated eight pages to the story, including a feature piece on Dr. Fukushima. All of this might sound horrendous to those not familiar with the Italian media landscape, but it’s just another day on the beat in Italy.

While the Vatican press office was busy squashing the tumour story, the synod fathers were once again in the synod hall for a general session. Pope Francis took the floor and announced:

“I have decided to establish a new dicastery with competency for laity, family and life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new dicastery.”

He also revealed he has set up a commission that will draw up the statues for this new mega-dicastery. The statues will be presented to the pope and the Council of Cardinals at the next C9 meeting in December.

There is no indication yet who will lead the new dicastery or what will happen to the prelates who currently run the Council for the Family (Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia) and the Council for the Laity (Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko).

The final synod document has been reviewed and voted on section by section. As I write this post a 10 member panel at the Vatican is reviewing the results of that vote and drafting the final document that will be presented to Pope Francis.

What do we know about that final text: The majority of bishops and cardinals are much happier with this than the original. They felt the original document was unfocused (everything but the kitchen sink) and the audience of that text was not clear. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told journalists to expect a text that outlines questions that need to be asked rather than proposing solutions.

For a unique – and lighthearted- take on the final stages of the Synod you might want to explore Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s blog “On the Road Together.” He delicately reveals some of the key moments inside the Synod hall.

Photo c/o Gabriel Chow

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Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.