Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!


Like millions of people who are getting ready for the birth of our Savior, the Vatican is putting the finishing touches on Christmas preparations. We’ve seen that the amazing Jesolo sand nativity scene and the tall, elegant fir tree are up and yet another Vatican Christmas tradition – Bambinelli Sunday – took place yesterday at the Angelus. The Third Sunday of Advent for many years has been the day when the children of Rome bring the Baby Jesus statues – the bambinelli – from their Nativity scenes to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope during the Angelus.

The Holy Father told the children, “when you gather in your homes in prayer before the manger, looking at the Child Jesus, you will feel amazement at the great mystery of God made man; and the Holy Spirit will give your heart the humility, tenderness and goodness of Jesus. This is the true Christmas! May this be so for you and for your families.”

A cold snap and some strong winds – the so-called tramonta from across the Apennines – have dominated Rome for days but an estimated 25,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for this festive occasion.

Earlier Sunday morning in the Paul VI Hall, Francis met with the staff and little patients of the Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary – perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the Vatican! Established in 1922 by Pope Pius XI, the dispensary occupies several floors of a building at the Perugino entrance to Vatican City and is about 100 feet from the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis lives! Also present Sunday morning were friends and family members of the dispensary’s young patients.

As a surprise, and in anticipation of Pope Francis’ 82nd birthday on Monday, the children and staff of the Santa Marta presented him with a big birthday cake. (The following link to a Vatican news report in Italian has some good video of that Santa Marta event and the Pope’s speech:

Pope Francis said he often “wondered if the Child Jesus ever had the flu or perhaps a cold. If so, what did his mother do? I am not sure there was a dispensary in Nazareth or in Egypt, but I certainly know that if the Madonna had lived in Rome she would have taken him to this dispensary, surely. I thank all of you, who are the structure and life of the Dispensary, the doctors, the collaborators, the nurses …; and also the collaboration of the boys, the fathers and the mothers of the children. It is seen in the spontaneity of children. Working with children is not easy, but it teaches us so much. It teaches me one thing: that to understand the reality of life, we must lower ourselves, as we lower ourselves to kiss a child. They teach us this. The proud, the proud can not understand life, because they can not lower themselves.”


By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)

Pope Francis Monday received in audience members of the International Commission against the Death Penalty. In prepared remarks that were given to members of the Commission, Pope Francis begged countries still applying the death penalty to “adopt a moratorium”.

Every life is sacred

Since the beginning of his ministry, Pope Francis told commission members, the truth that “every life is sacred” had convinced him to commit himself to abolishing the death penalty at the international level. This commitment became concrete, the Pope said, with the recent change of paragraph 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He said Church teaching now reflects “the doctrine of the latest Pontiffs as well as the change in the conscience of Christians who reject a penalty that seriously harms human dignity.”

Pope Francis reiterated that the doctrine accepting the death penalty came from a “period that was more legalistic than Christian” which “ignored the primacy of mercy over justice”. The Pope affirmed the Church’s current teaching that “in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is always inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

Moral rehabilitation

At the same time, an ongoing prison sentence that does not allow the moral rehabilitation of the person and his or her reinsertion into the community is a “hidden death”, Pope Francis said. No one can be deprived either of life, or the hope of “redemption and reconciliation”, he said.

Obligation of nations

The Church’s commitment to opposing the death penalty needs to be equalled by the international community, Pope Francis continued. The sovereign right of nations to determine their legal systems cannot be in contradiction with international law or “the universal recognition of human dignity, the Pope said. He also praised the UN’s resolution encouraging that member nations “suspend the application of the death penalty”.

Direct appeal to nations

Pope Francis then made a direct appeal to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty. To those countries where the death penalty is legal but not applied, he asked that they continue applying the moratorium not only by not carrying out death sentences, but by not imposing death sentences in the first place. “The moratorium”, he said, “cannot be lived by the person condemned to death as a mere prolongation” of the time until the execution of the sentence. To the countries still applying the death penalty, the Pope begged them to “ adopt a moratorium in view of abolishing this cruel form of punishment.”

Ethic of caring

Society has developed its penal culture around the concept of injury caused to another or to their rights. “Less attention has been paid to the omission of doing good to others”, the Pope said. The traditional approach to justice “must be complemented with an ethic of caring”. Such an ethic would consider “causes of behaviour, the social context, the situation of vulnerable offenders of the law, and the suffering of the victims”. Reasoning in this way is guided by divine mercy and takes each specific case into account. In the end, “we need a style of justice that besides being a father, is also a mother”. This ethic of reciprocal care for one another is the basis for a loving society in which people are committed to the common good, Pope Francis said.

Commitment to abolition of death penalty

Returning to the theme of the abolition of the death penalty, Pope Francis’ prepared remarks concluded with a declaration that both the Church and the Holy See desire “to collaborate with the International Commission against the Death Penalty in building the necessary consensus to eradicate capital punishment and every form of cruel punishment. “It is a cause”, he said, “that all men and women of good will are called to and it is a duty for those of us who share the Christian vocation of Baptism”.


The following statement was released this morning by Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke:

“The seventh meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group will be held in Ha Noi on December 19th. The meeting aims to deepen and develop bilateral relations, following what was agreed at the end of the sixth meeting of the Working Group, held at the Vatican in October 2016, and subsequently on the occasion of the visit of His Excellency Hà Kim Ngoc, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam at the Vatican in August 2017 and that of Msgr. Camilleri in Ha Noi in January 2018, as well as the recent visit by His Excellency Truong Hoà Binh, First Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, who last October 20th at the Vatican was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis. During its stay in Vietnam, from the 18th to the 20th December, the Delegation will also meet the Bishops of the country who will be present in Ha Noi to take part in the Mass when the new Metropolitan Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien takes possession.”