I leave tomorrow for the States where I’ll spend my Christmas vacation in both Milwaukee and Chicago with family and some close friends. For the brief period I will be gone, I’d like to leave you with a very special gift in place of my regular daily column – Pope St. John Paul’s 1994 Christmas Message to Children. If you are a child – or a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle and have small children near you – this is for you! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

It is fairly long so you might want to read this to children over a period of days, perhaps during the 12 Days of Christmas”  Savor it gently!


In a few days we shall celebrate Christmas, the holy day that is so full of meaning for all children in every family.

This year it will be even more so, because this is the Year of the Family. Before the Year of the Family ends, I want to write to you, the children of the whole world, and to share with you in the joy of this happy time of year.

Christmas is the feast day of a Child, of a newborn Baby. So it is your feast day too! You wait patiently for it and get ready for it with joy, counting the days and even the hours to the holy night of Bethlehem.


I can almost see you: you are setting up the crib at home, in the parish, in every corner of the world, recreating the surroundings and the atmosphere in which the Saviour was born. Yes, it is true!

At Christmas time, the stable and the manger take centre place in the Church; and everyone hurries to go there, to make a spiritual pilgrimage, like the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.


Later, it will be the Magi arriving from the distant East, following the star, to the place where the Redeemer of the universe lay.

You too, during the days of Christmas, visit the cribs, stopping to look at the Child lying in the hay. You look at His mother and you look at St. Joseph, the Redeemer’s guardian. As you look at the Holy Family, you think of your own family, the family in which you came into the world.

You think of your mother, who gave you birth, and of your father. Both of them provide for the family and for your upbringing, for it is the parents’ duty not only to have children but also to bring them up from the moment of their birth.

Dear children, as I write to you I am thinking of when many years ago I was a child like you. I too used to experience the peaceful feelings of Christmas, and when the star of Bethlehem shone, I would hurry to the crib together with the other boys and girls to relive what happened 2,000 years ago in Palestine.

We children expressed our joy mostly in song. How beautiful and moving are the Christmas carols that, in the tradition of every people, are sung around the crib! What deep thoughts they contain, and above all what joy and tenderness they express about the divine Child who came into the world that holy night!


The days that follow the birth of Jesus are also feast days: so eight days afterward, according to the Old Testament tradition, the Child was given a name: He was called Jesus.

After 40 days, we commemorate His presentation in the Temple, like every other first-born son of Israel. On that occasion, an extraordinary meeting took place: Mary, when she arrived in the Temple with the Child, was met by the old man Simeon, who took the Baby Jesus in his arms and spoke these prophetic words:

“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles, and for the glory to Your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32).

Then, speaking to His mother Mary, (Simeon) he added: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35).


So already in the very first days of Jesus’ life we heard the foretelling of the Passion, which will one day include His mother Mary too: on Good Friday she will stand silently by the cross of her Son.

Also, not much time will pass after His birth before the Baby Jesus finds Himself facing a grave danger: the cruel king Herod will order all the children under the age of 2 years to be killed, and for this reason Jesus will be forced to flee with His parents into Egypt.

You certainly know all about these events connected with the birth of Jesus. They are told to you by your parents and by priests, teachers and catechists, and each year you relive them spiritually at Christmas time together with the whole Church. So you know about these dramatic aspects of Jesus’ infancy.


Dear friends! In what happened to the Child of Bethlehem you can recognize what happens to children throughout the world. It is true that a child represents the joy not only of its parents but also the joy of the Church and the whole of the society.

But it is also true that in our days, unfortunately, many children in different parts of the world are suffering and being threatened: they are hungry and poor, they are dying from diseases and malnutrition, they are the victims of war, they are abandoned by their parents and condemned to remain without a home, without the warmth of a family of their own, they suffer many forms of violence and arrogance from grown-ups.

How can we not care, when we see the suffering of so many children, especially when this suffering is in some way caused by grown-ups?


The Child Whom we see in the manger at Christmas grew up as the years passed. When he was 12 years old, as you know, He went for the first time with Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

There, in the crowds of pilgrims, He was separated from His parents and, with other boys and girls of His own age, he stopped to listen to the teachers in the Temple, for a sort of “catechism lesson”. The holidays were good opportunities for handing on the faith to children who were about the same age as Jesus.

But on this occasion it happened that this extraordinary Boy Who had come from Nazareth not only asked very intelligent questions but also started to give profound answers to those who were teaching Him. The questions and even more the answers astonished the Temple teachers.

It was the same amazement that later on would mark Jesus’ public preaching. The episode in the Temple of Jerusalem was simply the beginning and a kind of foreshadowing of what would happen some years later.


Dear boys and girls who are the same age as the 12-year-old Jesus, are you not reminded now of the religion lessons in the parish and at school, lessons which you are invited to take part in?

So I would like to ask you some questions: What do you think of your religion lessons: Do you become involved like the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple? Do you regularly go to these lessons at school and in the parish? Do your parents help you to do so?

The 12-year-old Jesus became so interested in the religion lesson in the Temple of Jerusalem that, in a sense, He even forgot about His own parents. Mary and Joseph, having started off on the journey back to Nazareth with other pilgrims, soon realized that Jesus was not with them.

They searched hard for Him. They went back and only on the third day did they find Him in Jerusalem, in the Temple. “Son, why have You treated us so? Behold, Your father and I have been looking for You anxiously” (Lk. 2:48).

How strange is Jesus’ answer and how it makes us stop and think! “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Fathers house?” (Lk. 2:49). It was an answer difficult to accept.

The evangelist Luke simply adds that Mary “kept all these things in her heart” (2:51). In fact, it was an answer that would be understood only later, when Jesus, as a grown-up, began to preach and say that for His heavenly Father He was ready to face any sufferings and even death on the cross.

From Jerusalem Jesus went back with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, where He was obedient to them (cf. Lk. 2:51). Regarding this period, before His public preaching began, the Gospel notes only that He “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk. 2:52).

Dear children, in the Child Whom you look at in the crib you must try to see also the 12-year-old Boy in the Temple in Jerusalem, talking with the teachers. He is the same grown Man Who later, at 30 years old, will begin to preach the word of God, will choose the Twelve Apostles, will be followed by crowds thirsting for the truth.

At every step He will confirm His extraordinary teaching with signs of divine power: He will give sight to the blind, heal the sick, even raise the dead. And among the dead whom He will bring back to life there will be the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Naim, given back alive to his weeping mother.

It is really true: this Child, now just born, once He is grown up, as Teacher of divine truth, will show an extraordinary love for children. He will say to the Apostles: “Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them,” and He will add: “for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:14).

Another time, as the Apostles are arguing about who is the greatest, He will put a child in front of them and say: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).

On the occasion, He also spoke harsh words of warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6).

How important children are in the eyes of Jesus! We could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children. The whole of the Gospel could actually be read as the “Gospel of children”.


What does it mean that, “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”? Is not Jesus pointing to children as models even for grown-ups? In children there is something that must never be missing in people who want to enter the kingdom of heaven.

People who are destined to go to heaven are simple like children, and like children are full of trust, rich in goodness and pure. Only people of this sort can find in God a Father and, thanks to Jesus, can become in their own turn children of God.

Is not this the main message of Christmas? We read in St. John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14); and again: “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12).

Children of God! You, dear children, are sons and daughters of your parents. God wants us all to become His adopted children by grace. Here we have the real reason for Christmas joy, the joy I am writing to you about at the end of this Year of the Family.

Be happy in this “Gospel of divine sonship”. In this joy I hope that the coming Christmas holidays will bear abundant fruit in this Year of the Family.


Dear friends, there is no doubt that an unforgettable meeting with Jesus is First Holy Communion, a day to be remembered as one of life’s most beautiful. The Eucharist, instituted by Christ at the Last Supper, on the night before His passion, is a Sacrament of the new covenant, rather, the greatest of the Sacraments.


In this Sacrament, the Lord becomes food for the soul under the appearances of bread and wine. Children receive this Sacrament solemnly a first time—in First Holy Communion—and are encouraged to receive it afterward as often as possible in order to remain in close friendship with Jesus.

To be able to receive Holy Communion, as you know, it is necessary to have received Baptism: this is the first of the Sacraments and the one most necessary for salvation, Baptism is a great event!

In the Church’s first centuries, when Baptism was received mostly by grown-ups, the ceremony ended with receiving the Eucharist, and was a solemn as First Holy Communion is today.

Later on, when Baptism began to be given mainly to newborn babies–and this is the case of many of you, dear children, so that in fact you do not remember the day of your Baptism—the more solemn celebration was transferred to the moment of First Holy Communion.


Every boy and every girl belonging to a Catholic family knows all about this custom: First Holy Communion is a great family celebration. On that day, together with the one who is making his or her First Holy Communion, the parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, godparents, and sometimes also the instructors and teachers, generally receive the Eucharist.

The day of First Holy Communion is also a great day of celebration in the parish. I remember as though it were yesterday when, together with the other boys and girls of my own age, I received the Eucharist for the first time in the parish Church of my town.

This event is usually commemorated in a family photo, so that it will not be forgotten. Photos like these generally remain with a person all through his or her life.

As time goes by, people take out these pictures and experience once more the emotions of those moments; they return to the purity and joy experienced in that meeting with Jesus, the One Who out of love became the Redeemer of man.


For how many children in the history of the church has the Eucharist been a source of spiritual strength, sometimes even heroic strength! How can we fail to be reminded, for example, of holy boys and girls who lived in the first centuries and are still known and venerated throughout the Church?



We hope you can join us!

At 3pm EST on Wednesday December 21st, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver will be leading the Divine Mercy Chaplet on a Facebook Live video. We want as many people as possible to pray with us!

To join us, at 3pm EST simply go to the ChurchPOP Facebook pageYou’ll be able to post prayer requests in the comments, and, most importantly, hopefully you’ll join with us and many others from around the world to pray wherever you are!

Abp. Aquila was appointed Archbishop of Denver on May 29, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. For his episcopal motto he chose, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2.5)

How often do you get to pray with an Archbishop? So help spread the word!

Don’t know the prayers? Here’s How to Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.




Pope Francis has sent two messages of condolences today, one for the cold-blooded murder at an art exhibit in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, of Russia’s ambassador to that nation, and a second one for the victims of an alleged terror attack in a Berlin Christmas market.


The first message was sent in the Pope’s name by the Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation.

“His Holiness Pope Francis,” starts the Message, “was saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Andrei Karlov.  His Holiness sends condolences to all who mourn his loss, and in a special way to the members of Ambassador Karlov’s family.  In commending his soul to Almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time.”

The ambassador was shot several times in the back by a man in a suit who was believed to be an-off duty police officer. Video of the incident shows Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, firing at least eight shots while shouting in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria.” Special forces killed him shortly afterwards.

Pope Francis also sent a telegram of condolences to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, where the attacks occurred in an area dedicated to festive, traditional Christmas markets.

This message was also conveyed in the Holy Father’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Pope said he is praying for the dead and injured in Monday’s attack on a Christmas market in Germany’s capital city, and that he joins “all men and women of good will” who have committed themselves to efforts “so that the murderous folly of terrorism finds no more room in our world.”

Twelve persons were killed and scores of others wounded in the attack which occurred when a truck came careening into the crowd in what the Pope called, “the terrible act of violence.”

Francis also mentioned gratitude to all the first responders, including security and medical personnel.


(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the President of both COMECE and the German Bishops’ Conference, expressed his compassion for the victims and called for unity after the December 19 act of violence against the Christmas market in Berlin:

“The news from Berlin deeply shocked me. The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them I will pray.

“In these difficult hours for the city of Berlin and for our country, it is important for us to hold together and stand united as society.”


Throughout his pontificate. Pope Francis has spoken of the importance of women in the Church, and the roles they can or should play. Today he made good on his words, at least in the realm of Vatican City State, and also made some history when he appointed Barbara Jatta as director of the Vatican Museums, effective January 1, 2017.

A brief biography published by the Vatican notes that she was born in Rome October 6, 1962 and previously held the position of vice-director of the Vatican Museums, appointed to that post in June 2016. She is married and has three children.


She received her Liberal Arts degree in Letters from the ‘Sapienza’ University in Rome in 1986, a Diploma in Archives at the Vatican School of Paleography the following year, and a specialization in Art History in 1991.

Her background includes teaching courses in the History of Graphic Art since 1994 at the University of Naples, and work in the Vatican Apostolic Library from 1996 until 2010.



This is a very special story and a fascinating video to watch! Kudos and many blessings to the teams who have done the restoration and those who put this all together at the Colosseum!


We are entering the final week of Advent and are just days away from the beautiful celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rome and the Vatican are in the spirit with the sacred – Nativity scenes – and the profane – stores and streets and piazzas decorated with colorful lights and other Christmas symbols. Christmas trees are everywhere and their relation to Christmas falls between the sacred and the profane.

Yesterday, in his last Angelus before Christmas Day, Pope Francis was joined by thousands of tourists and faithful in St. Peter’s Square whom he addressed, speaking from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace. He focused on the upcoming solemnity and said: “During this week let us look for a few moments in which to pause, have a bit of silence, and imagine Our Lady and St. Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. The journey – the fatigue of it, but also the joy of it – the commotion, and then their anxiety over finding a place to stay, the worry – and so on. In all this, the Nativity scene helps us very much: Let us seek to enter into the true Nativity – Jesus’ birth – in order to receive the grace of this feast, which is a grace of love, of humility and of tenderness.”

A day earlier, Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday. It was pretty much a typical workday but there were a few exceptions.

At the Santa Marta residence Saturday at 7 am, Pope Francis began his 80th birthday by sharing breakfast with eight homeless people, eating sweets from his native Argentina, pastries, meat, orange juice and Nutella, the ever-present Italian chocolate spread.


And that was not the end of the papal giving: birthday treats and a special Christmas donation were given to the poor in soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless in the city of Rome.

At 8 am, Francis concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel with all the cardinals residing in Rome. A Vatican Radio report noted that the reason for the extraordinary liturgical celebration was thanksgiving to God for the life of Pope Francis, who was born 80 years ago this day, on December 17th, 1936.

The report said: “The liturgy unfolded with the simple penitential settings of the season, and the readings were those of the day. The Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, offered words of greeting in the name of all those present and of all the members of the College, saying, ‘The risen Jesus appeared to the disciples and addressed these well-known words to Simon-Peter: ‘Simon son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?’ And the Apostle immediately replied: ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love you!’ It is with this love that Your Holiness today carries out His mission in the world. Then we know that we are close to you, especially today, on this beautiful day of your life.

Cardinal Sodano went on to say, ‘Our prayer shall be with you always, well mindful as we are of what we repeat in the Holy Mass every day, and that is: that by communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, may the Holy Spirit unite us in One Body’.”

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis offered thanks to the Cardinals present, saying, “For several days now, I’ve been thinking of a word that can seem ugly – no? – dotage. It is scary: just yesterday, [Office Manager for the Dept. for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See] Msgr. [Luigi] Cavaliere  gave me [a copy of] Cicero’s De senectute  – right? Really laying it on! Only, remember what I said to you on March 15 [2013], in our first meeting: ‘Old age is the seat of wisdom.’ Hopefully it is for me, right? Let us hope that it is so.”

The Holy Father also recalled a line of the Roman poet, Ovid: “Tacitu pede lapsa vetustas [with silent steps, old age slips up on one] It is a blow! But also, when one thinks of it as a stage of life that is to give joy, wisdom, hope, one begins to live again, right? And I can think of another poem that I quoted to you that day too [from the German poet, Hölderlin]: Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm, “Old age is quiet and religious”.

The Pope spent part of the remainder of the day taking phone calls and messages from world leaders, including US President Obama, Russian leader Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, among the countless messages.

Without a doubt the most heartfelt was a written message and personal phone call from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. The press office noted that the written message was “very affectionate” and “particularly appreciated” by the Pope, as was the subsequent phone call. “In addition, Benedict XVI sent Pope Francis three small gifts that the Holy Father received as three very personal and meaningful signs for both of them,” the press office said.

Over 70,000 emails with birthday wishes were received by the Pope at the special Vatican email address. Hopefully he had time to read a few!

There was also a Skype link up with inmates of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua, Italy.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday encouraged young Catholics to cultivate their relationships with their grandparents. (photo


Addressing a group of young people from the Italian Catholic lay association “Azione Cattolica Italiana” (Italian Catholic Action), the Pope spoke of the joy that derives from the coming of Jesus, and said that joy is increased and multiplied when we share it.

He invited the young people to receive the joy of Advent as they would receive a gift and to bear witness to it in their families, schools, parishes and in all places.

The Holy Father especially invited them to share it with their grandparents – and with elderly people in general – and he encouraged them to listen to the aged whom, he said, “have the wisdom of life”.

“I would like to give you a task: speak to your grandparents, … ask them questions, they have the memory of history, the experience of living, and this is a great gift for you that will help you in your life journey” he said.

And Francis also pointed out the grandparents themselves need “to listen to you, understand your aspirations and your hopes.”

“This is your task: speak to your grandparents, listen to them,” he said.

Pope Francis thanked those present for their commitment for peace and remarked on a ‘solidarity’ initiative they are carrying forward in favor of young people who live in a degraded area of Naples.

“May the Lord bless this project that does good” he said.

‘Azione Cattolica Italiana’ was established in Italy by Pope Pius X  in 1905 as a non-political lay organization under the direct control of bishops.


Pope Francis tweeted today: Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life.


My special guest this week on Vatican Insider is George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and prolific author, including “Witness to Hope,” the biography of Pope John Paul II. George recently gave a lecture at the North American College entitled “Catholics in the New America: The Evangelical Challenge After Election 2016” – a fascinating topic and you’ll want to stay tun


As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here is a link to VI archives:

And a link to automatically download VI to your iTunes library:


This morning in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Frances received in audience President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón of the Republic of Colombia, who subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.

Pope Francis (L) meets Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos (R) and former president Alvaro Uribe (C) at the Vatican December 16, 2016. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS

The discussions took place in an atmosphere of great cordiality, confirming the existing good relations between the Holy See and Colombia. Appreciation was expressed for the Pope’s support during the peace process, along with the hope that such peace will be stable and lasting. In this regard, the parties highlighted the importance of encounter and unity between the Colombian political parties and the commitment of FARC-EP, while the local Church will be able to offer her contribution in favour of national reconciliation and education in forgiveness and harmony. Some issues relating to regional current affairs were then addressed.

The Holy Father went on to meet His Excellency Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, first in private audience and then together with President Santos. The Pope spoke about the “culture of encounter” and emphasized the importance of sincere dialogue between all members of Colombian society at this historical moment (Holy See Press Office).



(Vatican Radio) Birthday wishes have been pouring in from across the globe in celebration of Pope Francis’ 80th on Saturday, 17 December.

Among those toasting the Pope in an especially ‘personal’ way, are the impoverished residents of the villas miserias – or shanty towns – in Buenos Aires who always looked to the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, as their pastor.

Francis’ ‘right-hand-man’ in the field was Father ‘Pepe’ Di Paola, who continues to carry out his mission with the poorest of the poor in Argentina’s capital city. He spoke by telephone to Vatican Radio about Jorge Bergoglio and ‘his’ people.

First of all, Father Pepe says, I would like to wish Pope Francis the possibility of continuing to pursue his priestly vocation in solidarity and in communion with the poor and in deep union with the Church and the Gospel.

“May he go ahead in his mission to walk in the spirit of the Gospel which is what the Church is in need of” he says.

As for his birthday, Father Pepe reveals, Francis does not particularly like being made a fuss of. For example, he says, when the children and young people here in our vocational school used to make gifts for him, they knew he would give them away… but that was ok! It’s not that he didn’t appreciate the gift, what was important for him was that it was made by the children themselves and that they would want to be with him.

And exactly because they know him, Father Pepe says, what the poor people here in Argentina are doing for his birthday is praying for him. Because they love him very much.


The big story of the day for me was Pope Francis’ audience in the Paul VI Hall with young patients, their families and the hospital staff of Rome’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ Children’s Hospital. I posted the text of his remarks and an EWTN video for “Vaticano” on my FB page (

Two further news stories may interest you. Have a sweet tooth? The first story is for you.  Have an account at the Vatican Bank? Then the second piece of news is for you.


In celebration of Pope Francis 80th birthday on Saturday, a group of chefs presented the Pope with a huge birthday cake on Wednesday.


Papal colors of white and gold adorned the big round cake and topped with a huge ball designed as a globe. As a sign of peace, chefs also decorated the cake with sprigs of olive trees.

Early Wednesday, thousands of people attended the Pope’s General Audience and sang the Italian version of “Happy Birthday to You.” Pope Francis thanked the audience and candidly joked about the bad luck of early birthday wishes.

Pope Francis Birthday cake

The Pope said, “Thank you very much for your greetings for my upcoming birthday.” The gathering served as the last public appearance of the Pope before his birthday. He then added, “But I’ll tell you something that will make you laugh. In my country, expressing greetings ahead of time brings bad luck and those who do it are jinxers.”

80 years of age signifies an important milestone for Catholic prelates, particularly to those who work at the Vatican.

The age limit for a cardinal to join in a conclave to vote for a pope is 80 years. Furthermore, they were relieved from serving Vatican congregations and councils which they attended.

On the other hand, the Pope does not have any limitations.

Everyone can now send birthday greetings to Pope Francis. The Vatican set up seven unique emails addresses earlier this month, which includes an English counterpart Also, hashtag #Pontifex80 created in social media for the Pope’s birthday celebration.

Parliamentarians in the UK proposed an action for the House of Commons to greet the Pope on his birthday. Nine MPs already signed the motion from the Conservative and the Labour party. (


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Thursday announced the Cardinals Commission of Vigilance of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), commonly known as the Vatican Bank, has appointed Mr. Scott C. Malpass, Javier Marín Romano and Georg Freiherr von Boeselager as members of the IOR Board of Superintendence, bringing the total number of members to seven.


Mr. Malpass, from the United States, has held various prestigious positions and has served for over 25 years as Chief Investment Officer for Notre Dame University in the United States, where he works in the field of investment in conformity with the social doctrine of the Church, and teaches courses in the field of investment research at the same University.

Mr. Marín, from Spain, enjoys a wealth of experience in banking and in particular has held various positions for Banco Santander, including Chief Executive Officer and as Head of the Private Banking, Asset Management and Insurance Division.

Mr. von Boeselager, of German nationality, has worked for many years in the private banking field and presently holds the position of Head of the Supervisory Board of Merck Finck & Privatbankiers AG, in Munich.

The three new members, each enjoying broad experience in the financial field, will meet together with the present members of the Board at their next meeting, scheduled for January, 2017.


Pope Francis tweeted today: Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.

Some special news: In a video that lasts only seconds but is quite meaningful, Pope Francis wished Merry Christmas in sign language to all those hard of hearing, asking them to pray for him. The video can be found on the Twitter account of Msgr. Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, one of the Holy Father’s private secretaries. Msgr. Yoannis is Coptic Catholic and is from Egypt. Previously, in the May 26 general audience, Pope Francis greeted the deaf in sign language. About 60 people from Italy’s national association for the deaf were present that day. (


(Vatican Radio) The Council of 9 Cardinals met this week in the Vatican from Monday, December 12 to Wednesday, December 14. Holy See Press Office director, Greg Burke held a briefing on Wednesday to inform journalists of the work done during the sessions.


Two key issues emerged as guidelines for the reform of the Curial dicasteries: missionary thrust and synodality.

The cardinals have concluded their study of other departments (Doctrine of the Faith, Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Causes of Saints and Promotion of Christian Unity) and delivered their final proposal to the Holy Father.

Considerable time was devoted to the projects of the two new dicasteries.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell spoke of the Congregation for Laity, Family and Life as of which he is Prefect. The discussion focused on the role of the laity, with an invitation to all to re-read the letter of Pope Francis to Card. Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Cardinal Peter Turkson presented the work plan for the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, which combines four offices: Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Health Care, and Migrants and Itinerant People. Card. Turkson was accompanied by Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, who explained the new department as an implementation of the conciliar Constitution Gaudium et Spes.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley presented the most recent activities of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, while Cardinal George Pell reported on the latest developments related to the Secretariat for the Economy.

The afternoon of Wednesday, December 14th, was to be devoted to a presentation by Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, detailing the steps taken and those coming for the reform of the Holy See’s communications apparatus, with particular attention to personnel training.

The next Council meeting is scheduled for February 13 – 15, 2017.


Pope Francis Wednesday at the general audience in the Paul VI Hall continued his new catechesis on the virtue of Christian hope, saying the Kingdom brought by Jesus at his birth calls us to be joyful heralds in a world that “yearns for justice, truth, and peace.”

Citing the words of the prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains, are the feet of the one bringing good news,” the Pope said these words help us prepare for the coming feast of Christmas by opening ourselves to the hope of salvation. Isaiah, said Francis, “calls God’s people to rejoice, for the Lord is near, bringing freedom from exile and the promise of renewal and redemption for the faithful “remnant” who continued to hope in his word.

The Holy Father explained that God’s kingdom means that, “God has not abandoned His people and has not let them be overcome by evil, because He is faithful and His grace is greater than sin… And the fulfillment of so much love will be exactly the Kingdom established by Jesus, that Kingdom of pardon and peace, which we celebrate at Christmas and which is manifested conclusively in Easter.”

“These,” he said, “are the reasons for our hope. When all seems over, when in the face of so many negative realities faith grows weary and the temptation to say that all has lost meaning comes, rather, [look to] the good news brought by those quick feet: God is coming to make something new, to establish a kingdom of peace. God has ‘extended His arm’ and brings liberty and consolation.”

“This,” he concluded, “is the surprise of a child God, of a poor God, of a weak God, of a God who abandons His greatness in order to draw near to each of us.”

At the end of the weekly audience, in off the cuff remarks during his greetings to Italian pilgrims, Pope Francis thanked those who had sent greetings and best wishes to him for his upcoming 80th birthday on Saturday.


He also joked that that, in his native Argentina, it is thought that, “Those, who offer birthday congratulations ahead of time, are jinxes!”


Papal tweet for December 13: Today I would like each of us to reflect on his and her own past and the gifts received from the Lord.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, through Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, appealing for “an end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities” in the country.


A communiqué from the Holy See Press Office released on Monday read as follows:

“In naming Archbishop Mario Zenari to the College of Cardinals, the Holy Father sought to show a particular sign of affection for the beloved Syrian people, so sorely tried in recent years.

“In a letter sent through the new Cardinal, Pope Francis expressed again his appeal to President Bashar al-Assad and to the international community for an end to the violence, and the peaceful resolution of hostilities, condemning all forms of extremism and terrorism from whatever quarter they may come, and appealing to the President to ensure that international humanitarian law is fully respected with regard to the protection of the civilians and access to humanitarian aid.”

I wonder if Pope Francis has seen this and similar stories appearing in news media today:


Dozens of civilians were killed by Syrian forces in “a complete meltdown of humanity” during the final battle for Aleppo, the U.N. said Tuesday amid separate reports that women and children were burned alive while some families chose suicide over surrender.

The U.N. human rights office said it received reports of pro-government forces killing at least 82 people as they tightened their grip on the shrinking rebel districts in the east of the city.

Rupert Colville, spokesman of the U.N. human rights office, said he feared retribution against thousands of civilians holed up in a “hellish corner” smaller than one square mile.

Complete story here:


On Saturday, December 17, when he turns 80, Pope Francis will preside at a concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel with the cardinals resident in Rome. The rest of the day will be a “normal” one for the Holy Father, a day filled with commitments and appointments, including receiving the president of the Republic of Malta, the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, the bishop of Chur, Switzerland, and the Nomadelfia Community.


Those wishing to send birthday wishes to the Holy Father, can email him at the following addresses: (Latin) (Italian) (Spanish / Portuguese) (English) (French) (German) (Polish)

A special hashtag has been created on Social media for the Pope’s birthday: #Pontifex80


There’s a patron saint for practically everything in the Catholic Church, whether it’s gravediggers, stress relief, or protection against pirate attacks. But did you know there’s a patron saint for television – and she’s from the 13th century?

By the end of the 1950s, it was clear that television was becoming one of the most important new forms of media in modern society. And Pope Pius XII wanted to offer both the Church’s blessing and protection for the new technology. So, in 1958, he issued the document Apostolic Letter Proclaiming St. Clare Patron Saint of Television.

In it, the Pope proclaims that the Church supports technological innovation and advancement, and recommends the use of modern technology for the proclamation of the Gospel. He acknowledges that television is capable of both good and evil, which is why he wants it to have a patron saint for spiritual protection.

So he chose the 13th century St. Clare of Assisi, associate of the famous St. Francis of Assisi, and for a fascinating reason.

He tells the story that on one Christmas, St. Clare was sick and unable to leave her bed to attend Mass. Yet, miraculously, God gave her a vision of the Mass in her convent in real-time – sort of like a spiritual television. So she’s the perfect patron!

St. Clare of Assisi, please pray for the holy use of television and all media!


As I write, Pope Francis is celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There is a sizeable group of Mexicans present who had arrived Rome earlier in the week, many of whom appeared several days ago in colorful costumes in St. Peter’s Square. (images: Vatican Radio – St. Peter’s Basilica)



The basilica honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Catholic shrine in the world. This image has always been very dear to Pope Francis who, on February 13 of this year, during his trip to Mexico, fulfilled his desire to pray before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After Mass at the shrine, the Pope went to the little room behind the main altar of the basilica dedicated to Mary where he was able to meditate and pray in front of the miraculous mantle. The image normally faces the congregation but can be turned around to allow a closer and more private moment of veneration.



Pope Francis’ Message for the January 1 celebration of World Day of Peace was released today by the Vatican. In this, the 50th Message for this annual day, Pope Francis calls for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform global politics today, noting that military responses to conflicts only breed more violence.

He notes early on that, in the first such Message Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity:  “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order.”

Francis calls on political and religious leaders, the heads of international institutions, business and media executives and all men and women of goodwill to become instruments of reconciliation and adopt nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. He states several times that violence is clearly “not the cure for our broken world.”

“On this occasion,”says the Holy Father, “I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace.  I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values.  May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life.  When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking.  In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

Violence leads to forced migrations and enormous suffering , devastation of the environment, terrorism and organized crime. It leads to retaliation and a deadly cycle that end up benefiting only a few warlords.

But, Pope Francis said, Christ’s message offers a radically positive approach. He himself walked the path of nonviolence and became an instrument of reconciliation.

And citing historical figures like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King as models of nonviolent peacemakers, the Pope said nonviolence is more powerful than violence and it  has produced impressive results.

He recalled the contribution of Christian communities in the fall of Communist regimes pointing out that peaceful political transitions were made using only the weapons of truth and justice. And he remarked that such efforts are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone but are typical of many religious traditions.

“The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies in many countries, engaging even the most violent parties in efforts to build a just and lasting peace.

Such efforts on behalf of the victims of injustice and violence are not the legacy of the Catholic Church alone, but are typical of many religious traditions, for which “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life”.   I emphatically reaffirm that “no religion is terrorist”. Violence profanes the name of God.   Let us never tire of repeating: “The name of God cannot be used to justify violence.  Peace alone is holy.  Peace alone is holy, not war!”

Emphasizing also the domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence, Pope Francis said that while he pleads for disarmament and the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons, with equal urgency he pleads for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.

“My invitation to  political, religious and economic leaders is to take up the challenge of building up society, communities and businesses by acting as peacemakers, to choose solidarity as a way of making history.”

In a world in which everything is connected, he said, active nonviolence is a way of showing that unity is more powerful and more fruitful than conflict, and that differences can be faced constructively and non-violently preserving “what is valid and useful on both sides”.

“All of us want peace,” Francis concludes: “In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds: (…) Everyone can be an artisan of peace,”

Click here for the complete message:


(CNA/EWTN News) – Pope Francis has officially recognized the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal as a religious institute of pontifical right, the order has announced.

Institutions of pontifical right depend immediately and exclusively on the Vatican in the matters of internal governance and discipline. It is the highest form of recognition for a religious community and is granted to institutes that show steady growth over a period of approximately 20-25 years.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, sometimes referred to as the CFRs, were founded in 1987 in the Archdiocese of New York by a group of eight American Capuchins who desired a form of Franciscan life dedicated specifically to service of the poor and evangelization.

The group was established as a diocesan institute by Cardinal John O’Connor in 1999.

Today, the order has about 100 perpetually professed members in 10 dioceses and archdioceses in six countries throughout the world. Besides the United States, the friars are located in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Father Benedict Groeschel was one of the founding members of the CFRs. During his life as a friar, he founded the St. Francis House for the homeless and Good Counsel Homes for pregnant women in crisis in New York. He also directed Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, New York, and taught at the Dunwoodie seminary.

In addition, he became known as an author and preacher. For more than 25 years, he appeared on EWTN, hosting Sunday Night: Live With Father Benedict Groeschel, among other programs. He passed away in October 2014 at the age of 81.

The friars are dedicated to their mission of serving the poor and most vulnerable, as well as preaching the Gospel as part of the New Evangelization.

Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has been teaching and preaching retreats and parish missions for several decades. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the apparitions at Fatima. In additio to being the vice-postulator for the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, he hosts Sunday Night Prime on EWTN.



St. Peter’s Square, December 9, 2016 – Official unveiling

of the Vatican Nativity Scene and lighting of Christmas Tree.

The spruce tree is a gift from the northern Italian region of Trentino

and the Nativity Scene was offered to the Vatican by the bishops

and government of Malta. It was designed by Manwel Grech

(you’ve seen my photos and videos of his team) and executed

by him and 7 teammates from Gozo, Malta.

I also posted a Facebook Live video as the ceremony was underway!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!

How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,

But even in winter is thy prime. O C

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How are thy leaves so verdant!

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Much pleasure dost thou bring me!

For ev’ry year the Christmas tree,

Brings to us all both joy and glee.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Much pleasure dost thou bring me!



O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How lovely are thy branches!

Not only green when summer’s here

But in the coldest time of year.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely are thy branches!


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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

How sturdy God hath made thee!

Thou bidd’st us all place faithfully

Our trust in God, unchangingly!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How sturdy God hath made thee!





O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

Thy candles shine out brightly!

Each bough doth hold its tiny light,

That makes each toy to sparkle bright.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, Thy candles shine out brightly!

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