Dominican Father Benedict Croell is my special guest this week on Vatican Insider. He heads the Development and Mission Advancement at the St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University, known by its friends here in Rome as the Angelicum. I’ve done occasional profiles of Rome’s pontifical universities and today I turn to the Dominican-inspired and -run Angelicum, its staff and students, its courses, programs and future plans – its famous alumni and so much more.

There was entertainment at the coffee break by two professors.

Fr. Croell hails from Broomfield, Colorado. Among his university studies was time at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He has served in parish, university and itinerant preaching ministries as well as in the Order’s East African missions where he was novice master for friars in their initial stage of formation from 7 countries. He was Director of Vocations for the Eastern Province Dominicans from 2010-18 at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He was named a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s along with 21 other U.S, Dominican Friars during the Ash Wednesday Mass.

Here is the view from his office in this historic building – you can see Pza. Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Victor Emanuel monument and much more!

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Friday at noon, the Holy Father received the promoters, organizers and artists of the Christmas Concert at the Vatican that will take place tomorrow, December 15, in the Paul Hall VI. It is promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and proceeds will be donated to the Pontifical Foundation Scholas Occurrentes and the Salesian Missions Don Bosco Foundation.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

“The Church’s mission has always been expressed through the creativity and talent of artists,” he said.

Pope Francis’ reflection was framed by the two organizations that will benefit from proceeds raised through the Concert. The first is a ministry of the Salesian Fathers called Missione Don Bosco (Don Bosco Mission), dedicated to the education of South Sudanese children in a refugee camp in Palabek, Uganda. The second will benefit Scholas Occurrentes who educate children in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where 130,000 Christians are refugees.

The Pope said that refugee children “must have suffered terrible situations”. He compared them to Jesus who descended to earth from “another place” where “He lived in a communion of wisdom, light and love with God the Father, with the Holy Spirit”. Here on earth, Jesus experienced “our limitations, and our sins in order to give us the Holy Trinity’s love”, the Pope said.

Jesus, too, had to escape Herod’s wrath, Pope Francis continued. This forced the Holy Family to experience the “anguish of persecution”. hus little Jesus reminds us that half of today’s refugees in the world are children, guiltless victims of human injustices.

The Church responds
One of the many ways that the Church responds to this tragic reality is through educational networks, Pope Francis said, introducing the work of the two charities. Refugee children “also need formation so that tomorrow they can work and participate as conscientious citizens for the common good”. Education is also a way to help people get back on their feet, give them back their dignity, provide the courage to face life and appreciate one’s own talents, the Pope said.

How artists help
Pope Francis then concluded his reflection saying that artists have always helped the Church express its mission. “Artists succeed in touching the most intimate parts of men and women’s consciences. For that, to those of you present here, go my thanks and my encouragement to pursue your work, to enkindle the warmth and tenderness of Christmas in every heart.”


The Apostolic Eleemosynary or Office of the Apostolic Almsgiver, also known as the office of papal charities, today announced in a communiqué that, on behalf of Pope Francis, it has invited – on Tuesday 18 December – a group of poor people to a Christmas lunch offered by the athletes of the Fiamme Gialle (Yellow flames) Sports Group, in the sports center of the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s treasury department police, at Castelporziano. The insignia of the treasury department are yellow flames.

This meal is also being offered through Caritas of the Diocese of Rome, in the cafeteria of a reception center in Ostia in via Lungomare Toscanelli.

The athletes themselves will cook the lunch and serve it to the guests, sharing with them a day of celebration, full of fun that sport can offer in a family atmosphere, and also symbolic gifts.

The initiative was made possible by Athletica Vaticana, which hopes to re-launch the appeal of Pope Francis to live Christmas in the name of solidarity and concrete attention to those in need. It is a testimony of charity and fraternity through the language of sport which, by its nature, provides for inclusion and respect for the dignity of the last.

Polish cardinal Konrad Krajewski is the Papal Almoner.