VATICAN INSIDER: CHRISTMAS IN ITALY, ROME, THE VATICAN – POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES CREDENTIALS OF U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE

It’s been a long and exciting day and it is not over yet as I finish packing my suitcase and then make a brief attendance at a dinner party, given a very early wakeup call for my flight tomorrow.

I leave tomorrow for Chicago and am looking forward to some quality time with family, especially the little ones, and friends, in both Chicago and Fox Point, Wisconsin. I’ll be back on this page a day after I watch all the New Year’s Day football games on TV! I am a huge football fan, both college and pro so these will be exciting days!

I am most excited, however, about how I will spend Christmas Day, at least in part! I will be a volunteer in serving Christmas dinner to the poor with other volunteers and some staff of Catholic Charities Chicago. It should be a wonderful and very rewarding experience. I’m bringing several hundred holy cards with a photo of Pope Francis and some of his quotes.

The exciting part of the day was not a morning appointment or finishing up some work projects before departure, it was attending a reception that Ambassador Callista Gingrich gave at the residence not long after presenting her Letters of Credence to Pope Francis, in the presence of her husband Newt and several members of the embassy staff.

The entire embassy staff – very special and dedicated people! – was present at the residence as you see in this photo –

Other guests included Cardinals Edwin O’Brien, James Harvey and Raymond Burke, Msgr. Francis Kelly who is a canon at St. Peter’s Basilica and a longtime Rome resident, a Gentleman of His Holiness from the Vatican and U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Lewis Eisenberg and his wife, Judy – seen here with Callista and Newt Gingrich.

The two U.S. ambassadors –

I joined in the photo with Cardinal Burke and Msgr. Kelly –

 

A small dinner for close friends follows tonight at a Rome restaurant as a finale for a historic day for both Callista Gingrich and the U.S. embassy.

VATICAN INSIDER: CHRISTMAS IN ITALY, ROME, THE VATICAN

After the news segment on Vatican Insider, be sure to stay tuned for the interview segment when I offer you a special visit to the Vatican, Rome and Italy at Christmas time, sharing stories and customs and traditions. After that I offer my Christmas card to each of you, a reading of the celebrated story called One Solitary Life.

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 http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

POPE FRANCIS RECEIVES CREDENTIALS OF U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEE

Pope Francis this morning recived the Letters of Credence of two new ambassadors to the Holy See, including Callista Gingrich, the U.S. ambassador. She thus officially assumed the duties of United States Ambassador to the Holy See, according to a note from the embassy. In the presence of family and embassy staff, she greeted the Pope and expressed enthusiasm for her new position.

Following a meeting with the Holy Father and an exchange of gifts, Ambassador Gingrich met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Afterwards she was escorted to St. Peter’s Basilica, as is the custom with Catholic ambassadors, by Swiss Guards, by several Gentlemen of His Holiness and by Msgr. Francis Kelly, a fellow American and canon of the basilica. It is customary to stop and pray at three altars, and today a visit to the tomb of St. John Paul was added.

One of the gifts that Amb. Gingrich gave the Pope was a collection of DVDs from the choir of the National Shrine in Washington where she had been a member for 21 years. She told Pope Francis that she sang in the choir when he visited the basilica in 2015.

CARDINAL LAW, A “LIFE OF LIGHTS AND SHADOWS”

CARDINAL LAW, A “LIFE OF LIGHTS AND SHADOWS”

This afternoon I attended the funeral Mass for Cardinal Bernard Law, 86, who died early Wednesday morning. As is Vatican tradition for cardinals who reside in Rome, Mass was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided at the Mass, concelebrated with other members of the College of Cardinals and a number of archbishops.

Members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance, including U.S. ambassador-designate Callista Gingrich who will present her Letters of Credence to Pope Francis tomorrow morning, She was accompanied by her husband, former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

After the Eucharistic celebration, Pope Francis entered St. Peter’s through the diplomatic entrance to the church, just opposite the Santa Marta residence, and presided over the rite of Final Commendation and the Valediction, as is usual at a funeral Mass for a cardinal. He did not pronounce any personal or prepared remarks.

Missalettes prepared by the Vatican assisted those present, including many priests and friends in the Roman Curia and others who lived in Rome, to follow the funeral rite.

Cardinal Law’s final resting place will be in St. Mary Major Basilica where he served many years as archpriest, resigning six years ago on his 80th birthday. It is customary for priests who served there to be buried there.

From CNA/EWTN News:
Cardinal Law died in Rome at the age of 86, after a brief hospitalization due to a congenital heart failure. Two weeks ago, he experienced a decline in health and was admitted to a clinic in Rome to monitor the problem. He had been unresponsive for several days before his death.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., who served as Law’s spokesman during the period before the cardinal’s resignation from Boston, said in a statement on his death that like each of us, Law’s days had their fair share of “light and shadows.”

“While I knew him to be a man of faith, a kind man and a good friend, I respect that some will feel otherwise, and so I especially ask them to join me in prayer and work for the healing and renewal of our Church,” he said.

“May Cardinal Law rest in peace. And in these days when, as Christians, we celebrate the Child who restored God’s goodness to our broken humanity, may we all recommit ourselves to making Christ’s Church a worthy, welcoming home for all, especially those most vulnerable and in need,” Coyne added.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and Law’s immediate successor, published a statement Dec. 20, offering his sincere apologies to anyone who has experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy.

“As Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Law served at a time when the Church failed seriously in its responsibilities to provide pastoral care for her people,” particularly children, he stated, noting his own work and the work of other priests and religious sisters of the Archdiocese to help bring healing to those most affected and the wider Catholic community.

The fact that Cardinal Law’s life and ministry, for many people, is identified with the crisis of sexual abuse by priests is a “sad reality,” he said, because his “pastoral legacy has many other dimensions.”

These include his involvement in the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in the early part of his priesthood, as well as his leadership in the ecumenical and interfaith movement following the Second Vatican Council. He was also well-known for his ministry to the sick, dying and bereaved, O’Malley recounted.

“In the Catholic tradition, the Mass of Christian Burial is the moment in which we all recognize our mortality, when we acknowledge that we all strive for holiness in a journey which can be marked by failures large and small,” he concluded.

“Cardinal Law will be buried in Rome where he completed his last assignment. I offer prayers for him and his loved ones as well as for all the people of the Archdiocese.”

A Dec. 20 statement by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed O’Malley’s statement of condolence and prayers.

Expressing his closeness to survivors of sexual abuse, especially at this time, DiNardo prayed that they might find peace and strength.
He also commended their brave witness, which led to “a comprehensive response from the Church in the United States to protect and heal the deep wounds of abuse.”

On a personal note:

I have known Cardinal Law for at least 32 years, since the day he was made a cardinal in 1985 by Pope John Paul, who assigned him the titular church of Santa Susanna, home at that time for the Catholic American community in Rome. The cardinal was unable to take possession of the title of Santa Susanna until 1993 because the church was closed for years to repair the beautifully carved and gilt wood ceiling that, over the past 400 years, had simply worn out and was threatening to cave in. Work took far longer than anyone anticipated and we were the pilgrim church on earth for a good eight years.

I was a lector at many of the Masses that Cardinal Law celebrated at Santa Susanna and we also shared a number of meals over the years, breaking bread with friends, sharing stories of our lives in Rome, etc.

When news of the clergy sex abuse scandal began to seep out from Boston and then grew from a small wave to a tsunami, I, like millions, was devastated by what I heard and read. Things just seemed to get worse, priests from other dioceses were being accused, the number of victims was growing and then we learned – over time – that the same situation was being discovered in other countries, in seminaries, in places where the word ‘abuse’ should never have even been pronounced, much less actually happen!

I worked at the Vatican at the time and it seems we lived day to day, awaiting new revelations, papal reaction and action, action by the cardinals and other prelates of the Church in America. Those were very difficult months and years for every faithful Catholic. How on earth could this ever have happened!

I was fully aware of those early years in Boston – and then elsewhere. I was fully aware of the charges, the victims’ stories, the physical and spiritual anguish and damage, etc . My heart broke and still breaks when I hear such stories. I know that one bad priest is one too many!

I say “I was fully” aware – maybe I should say I was as fully aware as possible without being a victim.

I tried to place myself in their shoes and never fully succeeded, of course. Just as I have never succeeded in imagining what it would be like to lose everything I own in a fire or hurricane, to lose a limb in an accident, to have my whole family wiped out in a tragedy,

I followed everything for years, especially because I covered then, as I do now, the Church and the Vatican. And I have always followed the news of the
commission the Pope set up to combat sex abuse by clergy – or anyone
else.

It is such a sorrowful fact that the Church even needs such a commission!

In the case of Cardinal Law, for all the very bad judgment he may have used – and bad advice he may have received and heeded – I cannot allow myself to be his judge. There is so much I do not know.

What I do know is how he was a friend to me and to many in Rome. I know
of some – but not all – of his many humanitarian works, his caring gestures for people in need, his efforts to be there for anyone who needed his time or advice or assistance. I know how he helped the pastor of Santa Susanna’s church – Cardinal Law’s titular church in Rome – when the Cistercian nuns closed the doors to our wonderful faith community, never again allowing us back in the church! He did all he could to help us find a new church – and to be close to our beloved pastor during those four years of exile (again!).

And, if you talk to the many people in Rome who knew him and to those who attended his funeral today, you will hear even more good stories – dare I say, heart-warming stories.

There was an enormous amount of good in Cardinal Law’s life – very hard to find in the media during his later life. It is truly amazing how many people do not know anything of Cardinal Law’s life other than the scandal.

As Cardinal O’Malley of Boston pointed out yesterday in The Pilot:

”It is a sad reality that for many Cardinal Law’s life and ministry is
identified with one overwhelming reality, the crisis of sexual abuse
by priests. This fact carries a note of sadness because his pastoral
legacy has many other dimensions. Early in his priesthood in
Mississippi Cardinal Law was deeply engaged in the civil rights
struggle in our country. Later, he served in the Archdiocese and
nationally as a leader in the ecumenical and interfaith movement
following the Second Vatican Council, developing strong collaborative
relationships with the Greek Orthodox and Jewish communities in
Boston. He was well known for visiting the sick, the dying and the
bereaved at all hours of the night and day, a ministry that extended
to the rich and poor, the young and elderly, and people of all faiths.
He also held the care for immigrants and their families in a special
place in his ministry.”

Reading those lines reminded me of the day years ago, after I had had serious surgery, that Cardinal Law came for a visit to the Pio XI clinic where I was a patient, accompanied by one of his good friends, the late Cardinal William Baum. The nuns were all aflutter because “two”, and they repeated it, “two cardinals” came calling on me. They thought I was important and had not told them (!). I assured them the important people in the room were the cardinals whose ministry it was to visit the sick! And without fanfare!

That is, by the way, the very same clinic in which Cardinal Law died yesterday.

As I write, I am trying to spend time remembering the good in a man’s life as everyone is already aware of the bad.

I must close with a request for prayers, prayers for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Bernard Law, for the Lord’s mercy to shine upon him and, most especially in this season when the Lord Jesus first appeared in our lives, prayers for the victims of abuse, for their families, for those whose hurt may never diminish.

LET THERE BE LIGHT! LET THERE BE PEACE!

LET THERE BE LIGHT! LET THERE BE PEACE!

Sunday at the 10:30 Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Rome, the new home for American Catholics, there were a lot of candles burning, and there was a wonderful story linked with one bright light!

There were, of course, the usual four Advent candles on a wreath, with the third being lit that day, a light pink shade for Gaudete Sunday. There were the usual candles on the altar, of course, but Fr. Peter Abdella, the celebrant that morning, pointed out that there was an extra candle in the middle of the altar whose flame came all the way from Bethlehem!

I saw the Russo family go to the altar after Mass to take that small but very important lantern from the altar and asked what the story was. Pete and Teresa and their son Nicholas and I chatted after Mass in Tara Hall, below the church where, on Sundays, the community offers coffee, fruit juices, sweet rolls and time to see old friends and make new ones.

Pete told me he is a cub scout master, and he explained that their son Nicholas is a member of the Cub Scout of America pack 236 based here in Rome. The lantern they brought to Mass was just one of many from around Italy that were lit from a flame that originated in Bethlehem, Palestine, from an eternal flame at the birthplace of Jesus.

Here is Nicholas with the Bethlehem Peace Light –

Here is the background to the Bethlehem Light of Peace:

In the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem there is an oil lamp that has burned ceaselessly for centuries, fed by oil donated by all the Christian nations of the earth, on a rotating basis,

Every year in December, other lights are lit from that flame and are taken throughout the world as symbol of peace and fraternity among peoples.
This tradition was born from a Christmas philanthropic initiative – Light in the Darkness – of ORF, Austrian radio and Television in Linz. Within the framework of this initiative, spontaneous offerings are gathered to help children who are handicapped, socially marginalized or even needy foreigners, such as refugees.

Again, in the framework of this initiative, ORF in 1986 for the first time gave birth to “Operation Bethlehem Light of Peace,” intending it to be a sign of gratitude for the many offerings.

Just before Christmas a child from Austria went to Palestine and lit a light from the lamp in the Grotto of Bethlehem and that was then brought back to Linz on an Austrian Airlines plane.

From Linz, with the cooperation of Austrian national railways, the light was distributed throughout the country.

From 1986 on, Viennese scouts decided to collaborate in distributing the Light of Peace, thus putting into practice one of the key points of scouting, love for one’s neighbor expressed in daily good deeds.

Over the years, both the number of participants and the enthusiasm for bringing the Light of Peace to people via Scout groups grew exponentially. And now, nearly every year the Bethlehem Light of Peace is brought to a new European country.

From La Stampa newspaper December 17, 2017:

The Bethlehem Light of Peace is now in 20 European countries. It came to the United States in 2001.

I found this website: http://www.peacelight.org It is dedicated to spreading the continuous flame Bethlehem Peace Light across the North American continent. The Peace Light this year arrived in the United States, JFK International Airport, on Saturday, November 25, 2017. A distribution ceremony was held at Our Lady of the Skies Catholic Chapel, Terminal Four, starting at 3:00. The ceremony to distribute the peace flame began shortly after its arrival, as did the greeting of the Peace light couriers, via Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna, Austria.

Other news about the Peace Light in America:

The Peace Light first came to New York in 2001 by Canadian Scouts who brought it to Ground Zero. In 2002, DHL delivered the Peace Light as a gift from Belgian Scouts and Guides to the Boy Scouts of America in NY. In 2003 the light didn’t make it to the U.S. Fortunately, members of the diocesan Scouting committee had kept the 2002 Peace Light burning and spread that around the diocese.

In 2004 the Austrian Scout Movement, Austrian Airlines and Boy Scouts of America International Division arranged to bring the 2004 Peace Light to New York on Dec. 4. Two security guards and Dr. Thomas Ertlthaler, international commissioner of Austrian Scouting, flew from Vienna with the Peace Light in two explosion-proof, British mining lamps, fueled by smokeless paraffin oil. Just 11 days earlier, Austrian Scouts had extracted the light from the eternal flame in Bethlehem.

Austria Airlines have been the bearers of the flame to American since its very first voyage in 2001.

And this from Wikipedia:

Since Austria joined the European Union (1995), the Austrian Member of the European Parliament Paul Rübig initiated the tradition to bring the Peace Light of Bethlehem to Strasbourg to hand the flame over to the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and the city itself.

In 2007 a delegation of Guides and Scouts from Austria, Germany, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority together lit the Peace Light in Bethlehem.Also in 2005 the International Commissioner of Austria Thomas Ertlthaler passed the Peace Light to a delegation of Guides and Scouts from the Palestinian National Authority under the leadership of Saed Shomali, the International Commissioner of the Palestinian Scout Association.

POPE FRANCIS DECLARES FR. PATRICK PEYTON VENERABLE

If you ever heard the expression, “The family that prays together, stays together,” then you know Fr. Peyton!

POPE FRANCIS DECLARES FR. PATRICK PEYTON VENERABLE

EASTON, Mass. – (Dec. 19, 2017), On Monday, December 18, Pope Francis received His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and authorized the Congregation to promulgate the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Father Patrick Peyton, a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, thus recognizing him as Venerable by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Positio on the life, virtues and reputation of holiness of Father Peyton had previously been discussed and approved by a panel of nine theologians and more recently by a group of 15 Cardinals and Archbishops who voted affirmatively to recognize his heroic virtues. The Positio refers to the volume containing the evidence that was collected from witness testimonies and supporting documents during inquiries carried out by special tribunals in several dioceses.

Hundreds of testimonies to Father Peyton’s heroic virtue and holiness of life have been recorded. Tens of thousands of prayer cards containing a prayer for a favor through Father Peyton’s intercession are in circulation. Hundreds of favors have been reported. Some of these favors are remarkable healings for which there is no medical explanation. Should one of these healings be officially recognized as having no scientific explanation and approved by the Vatican as a miracle due to his intercession, it would lead to his beatification.

The essence of Father Patrick Peyton’s ministry, which spanned half a century, began in his family. Father Patrick Peyton was born January 9, 1909, in Carracastle, County Mayo, Ireland. His parents, John and Mary Peyton, gathered their family to pray the Rosary every evening.

After emigrating from Ireland to the United States (Complete bio attached), Patrick Peyton became gravely ill as a seminarian and the doctors had no hope of recovery. So he followed his parents’ example and turned to Rosary prayer.
“Father Peyton was a seminarian, studying for the priesthood, when he was stricken with tuberculosis,” said Father Wilfred Raymond, C.S.C., President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. “He prayed his Rosary to the Blessed Mother and made a miraculous recovery. From that moment, he knew he was to be the one to carry out her apostolate, her ministry to bring families together for Rosary prayer, just as his family had done.”

Over the years, Father Peyton advocated for families by preaching two powerful and memorable messages, “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together” and “A World at Prayer is a World at Peace.”

Known the world over as “The Rosary Priest,” he began Family Rosary, in Albany, N.Y. in 1942, more than 75 years ago with the goal of building family unity through daily prayer of the Rosary. He went on to lead millions in prayer at 40 Family Rosary Rallies that drew 28 million people, including 2 million each at events in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Manila, Philippines. (Ministry overview attached).

Father Peyton, a Catholic media pioneer, spent the 51 years of his priesthood serving the spiritual needs of families. In 1947, he founded Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. Family Theater Productions produced 900 radio and TV programs that featured hundreds of star actors and other celebrities and had more than 10,000 broadcasts.

The essence of Father Peyton’s ministry is relevant and vibrant to families today. Father Peyton still inspires people all over the world by his holiness of life and the example of his strong and tender devotion to Our Blessed Mother.

The ministry has grown and engages families through a variety of media and social platforms as well as several websites, http://www.FamilyRosary.org, http://www.FamilyTheater.org, and the newest ministry, http://www.CatholicMom.com, the apostolate founded by Lisa Hendey, nationally known Catholic author and speaker. One of the many social platforms to reach families, Family Rosary Facebook page, has more than 1.2 million followers. The latest media project of Family Theater Productions, “Catholic Central,” was recently released on YouTube. These short videos offer entertaining and authoritative answers to questions about Catholic thought, spirituality and practice, http://www.CatholicCentral.com.

Holy Cross Family Ministries also established The Father Peyton Family Institute, based in Lima, Peru, and Bangalore, India. The Institutes provides direct services through research and education to enrich the spirituality of families.

A site to inspire families and honor Father Peyton, http://www.FatherPeyton.org shares his life story from his humble beginnings in Ireland to his fame working with the “stars” of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

HCFM’s “Family of Ministries” are under the sponsorship of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The Congregation in June of 1997 requested that a cause for canonization for Father Peyton be initiated. In June 2001 the “nihil obstat” was granted from Rome and Father Peyton was given the title, “Servant of God,” when his Cause was opened. Since then, significant work has been completed to present Father Peyton’s heroic practice of virtue and reputation for holiness. (Complete timeline and steps of canonization process attached.)

Holy Cross Family Ministries, which carries on the works of Father Peyton, has headquarters in North Easton, Massachusetts, with its media production company, Family Theater Productions, in Hollywood, California, and mission offices in16 countries. The ministry serves Jesus Christ and His church by inspiring, educating, and entertaining families all to support their spiritual well-being and encourage family prayer.

For more information, call 800-299-7729 or check out http://www.FatherPeyton.org, http://www.FamilyRosary.org, http://www.FamilyTheater.org, http://www.CatholicMom.com and http://www.facebook.com/FamilyRosary

THE 2017 NATIVITY SCENE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE: INTERPRETING THE WORKS OF MERCY

THE 2017 NATIVITY SCENE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE: INTERPRETING THE WORKS OF MERCY

I have paid several visits to the 2017 nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square but only today did I bring my camera. I’ll let those photos tell the story of the 2017 Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.

I have been in Rome a lot of years and believe I have photographed every tree and nativity scene since my arrival, and I have to say this is my least favorite ever. It is also probably the smallest, though it may seem large in the photos.

The best ever, in my opinion, were those produced for several decades by the Vatican’s own Technical Services staff – they were brilliant creations, painstakingly and artfully executed. By the way, remember that it was Saint John Paul who brought the idea of a nativity scene and Christmas tree to St. Peter’s Square in 1982.

The tree has been universally praised, but the nativity scene has not received universally favorable coverage. In fact, a close up photo (which I will show you below) of the depiction of the act of mercy of “clothing the naked” on one Facebook page actually caused that page to be banned by FB.

The concept is lovely – speaking of the corporal acts of mercy – but that aspect seems to have faded into the background, at least from what I heard people saying as they viewed the nativity scene (and children, as always, had the best comments!). Remarks are more focussed on the “head” in the jail cell, the unclothed man (clothe the naked), a body on a table (bury the dead), on the fact there are no animals, not a single lamb or ox, on the fact that the Holy Family, the Baby Jesus, seem to get lost in clutter. Yet Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Jesus! – ARE the focus of any Christmas celebration or depiction.

You are standing next to a five-year old who turns to his parents and exclaims (in Italian), “But our presepe (nativity scene) at home is much nicer!”

And today, another youngster asked, “what is that head in a jail or some place?”

The Vatican website (and, as of yesterday, there is a brand new news portal – http://www.vaticannews.va – that’s a whole other news story, not without its critics!) noted before Christmas that, “The crib scene for Christmas 2017 will be donated by the ancient Abbey of Montevergine in the Campania region of southern Italy. The scenery and crib figures, in 18th century Neapolitan costumes, will be produced by artisans in a local workshop. The two-metre high figures, inspired by the theme of the Works of Mercy, will be made of coloured terracotta with garments in traditional fabrics.”

The same note explained that the Christmas tree is a giant, 28-meter high red fir, given, by the archdiocese of Elk in north-eastern Poland. It was transported over two thousand kilometres across central Europe and Italy, before arriving here in the Vatican.

The tree was decorated with stars and baubles designed by young cancer patients from several Italian hospitals. The decorations have been made out of clay by children and their parents during therapeutic workshop sessions and reproduced in hard-wearing synthetic materials that can stand up to the winter weather conditions in St Peter’s Square. A number of children from earthquake-hit areas of central Italy also took part in this design project.


There is an interactive element to this year’s nativity scene and that is actually nice.

I accessed the file, per their instructions, saw a 4-minute video and copied the English text for you exactly as it appeared on my cell phone – here it is:

The nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is a gift from the sanctuary of Montevergine in the province of Avellino. In the Cernobo, founded by Saint William from Vercelli in the first half of the 12th century, the imposing icon of our Lady of Montevergine is worshipped.

The work was carried out by the Cantone and Costabile workshop in Naples which into 2013 brought to this square the first large Neapolitan crib. The theme is “mercy” all around the scene of the nativity in Neapolitan style of the 18th century. There are several characters who act (out) the seven works of bodily mercy transmitted by the Gospels. These are two or three-inch high-rise figures following the tradition with head, hands and feet of terracotta, eyes of glass and fabric padded-stuffed bodies.

At the center of the composition stands the Holy Family housed in the ruins of an ancient, once-balled temple, a direct setting pointing to how Christianity defeated paganism. The scene is completed by an angel with wings spread, a piper and the Kings, who come to the sight of Jesus led by the starry comment.

 

As for the other scenes: on the left there is the representation of the work “visiting the prisoners”: the setting is a fictitious cell formed by a grate with a single bar, a metaphor of the human being prisoner of his sins, that refers to an inner inertia that can only cease with repentance and with the reception of God in one’s life.

To be mentioned is also the interpretation of the work “housing pilgrims” represented by a woman who hosts a stranger, to symbolize the welcome in the broad sense, with particular reference to the present and the invitation to except the brother come from a far distance often repeated by Pope Francis.(this photo also has the image of Our Lady of Montevergine)

It is precisely on the representation of this work that there is a branch of the Madonna of Montevergine that remembers the donation of the nativity by the Abbey and emphasizes that the same mother of God constantly welcome so many pilgrims, even in her Irpinian sanctuary.

In the representation of the scene “treating the sick,” master Canton has focused on the dualism between body and spirit; very often, in fact, we focus on the external aspect at the expense of the spiritual one.

“Feed the hungry” and “quench the thirsty” are depicted in a single scene: the character was made with his mouth open and wide eyes, a sign of wonder and amazement in the face of goodness of mind and altruism; instead of being pleased with the gift received, man is astonished by the kindness of action, since in contemporary society Christian values seem to have sunken; the generosity of the neighbor creates wonder and is manifested in the character’s gaze.

In the scene “burying the dead”, is depicted only a falling arm, a reference to the deposition of Caravaggio in the Vatican museums.

For “dressing the naked,” an Academy was created, that is, a character entirely carved; the scene presents two men almost peers, a noble who gives a cloak to a needy lying down and half naked; it is the triumph of charity, and the purpose of donating in the imitation of Christ, who gave his life for the salvation of man.

VATICAN INSIDER: A MORNING WITH ALVEDA KING – SWEDISH CARDINAL ARBORELIUS NAMED SWEDE OF THE YEAR

I am going to attempt to post a normal column today on my blog and then nourish the hope that I can re-post it, as I have done for a few years now, on Facebook. I did not think things could be worse than a dying computer but now it seems a new computer has even more issues. An extremely poor Internet connection has made all my problems worse and I have pleaded with TIM, the Italian phone company to remedy things asap.

Today my main challenge is linked to my keyboard. All the keys that are not letters, with the exception of the period, comma and exclamation mark keys, when pressed, are something other than what is shown on the key. If I want a punctuation key, any punctuation, it is trial and error. I tried to write Joan-s Rome and, as you see, the apostrophe has been replaced by a dash.

I went online this morning and found a Microsoft help site and tried their recommendation of simultaneously pressing the Function and Block Numbers keys and that worked. It is not working now. Trying to write without symbols and punctuation is nigh on to impossible.

Just two stories for this column today, given that my task is so difficult.

Congratulations to Cardinal Arborelius, by the way….read on!

VATICAN INSIDER: A MORNING WITH ALVEDA KING

Please join me this weekend on Vatican Insider when my very special guest is also a good friend, Alveda King. You may have seen her posts and my reposts of her blogs and Facebook live video about our visit last Saturday in my home. We were joined by two friends of ours for a morning of conversation, a Christmas panettone and some coffee …. coffee I had brought back from Hawaii.

I think the small size of our elevator stunned Alveda…

Some photos Bob Lalonde took at the papal audience…


Alveda, if you do not know her and have not seen her on her frequent appearances on Foxnews, is an American activist, author, former college professor and former state representative in the Georgia House of Representatives. She is a niece of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the founder of Alveda King Ministries. Alveda currently serves as a Pastoral Associate and Director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, the African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Among her many talents and ministries, Alveda is also a voice for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, sharing her testimony of two abortions, God’s forgiveness, and healing.

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 http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

SWEDISH CARDINAL ARBORELIUS NAMED SWEDE OF THE YEAR

Swedish Cardinal Anders Arborelius, archbishop of Stockholm, has been named 2017 Swede of the Year by a 7-person jury, the first time a Catholic prelate has received the honor.

This award has been given every year since 1984. In early years, the main criteria for selecting Swede of the Year was that the person in question had played a prominent part in news reports that year and it was a leading service news show, Rapport, that made the selection. Since 2006, a leading Swedish news magazine, Fokus, has been responsible for selecting Swede of the Year via an independent jury that makes the actual selection.

Since 2006 the criteria has been changed to show a willingness to find candidates who are not just well known or celebrated people but people who are both interesting and challenging.

Here is what the jury stated regarding the 2017 selection of Cardinal Arborelius….

“Nineteen years ago, the Swede of the Year stepped into a role that no Swede had played since the 16th century. This year he became the first Swede ever to wear the red biretta. The Swede of the Year has already made history, but he is also a person who, even since his appointment in 1998, has been part of Swedish public debate. To represent the Catholic Church in a country whose identity is mainly secular and otherwise Lutheran, requires a fearless attitude. As bishop of the diocese of Stockholm, the Swede of the Year also plays an essential role in bringing native Swedes and immigrant Swedes together. The Swede of the Year is Anders Arborelius, bishop and cardinal.”

Joan 1, Technology 0

Just a line to share the news that, while I have a new computer and the improved technology has made my life better, there are still wrinkles to iron out. I am winning the technology battle but one of the still-to-be-resolved issues is that I can access my blog on WordPress but I cannot enter to add, correct, or change a text or add photos. For now,I can post via iPad, but with some limitations….thanks for understanding! I am posting on Facebook so pay a visit! Grazie!