CELEBRATING THE EPIPHANY IN ITALY – POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: PROMOTION OF WORLD PEACE

Rome sweet home! I got back to the Eternal City yesterday after a fun-filled time in the States (Illinois and California) and a variety of experiences – Christmas celebrations and meals and holiday parties with family and friends, lots of football games (if you’ve never been with me in a stadium during a football game, there’s a Joan Lewis you do not know!), and many hours spent reading and filling out forms for the real estate agents and escrow people handling the sale of my parent’s home in California. All the more interesting because four of us are owners and three of us live outside California, so emails and phone calls to different times zones complicated things on occasion.

I left San Diego Friday in 70 degree weather, spent a night in Chicago and awoke to snow and arrived Rome yesterday to brilliant sun and cold temps, The temps got colder overnight in Rome but, thank the Lord, the sun matched its brilliance yesterday, a needed ingredient for the festivities marking today’s feast of the Epiphany, as you will read below.

CELEBRATING THE EPIPHANY IN ITALY

The January 6 feast of the Epiphany is a major holiday in both the Vatican and Italy and is celebrated throughout the country in an extraordinarily festive way, from small hamlets and ancient villages to the great metropolises of this land.

On this day, what takes place in the Vatican, starting with the papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and ending with joyful, fun-filled festivities in St. Peter’s Square, fairly well mirrors what happens around Italy on this day, although perhaps to a larger extent. Though I did not make it there this morning, on January 6 St. Peter’s is usually filled with many thoudands of faithful as well as troubadors, ancient Roman soldiers, flag throwers and hundreds of costumed citizens representing civil and religious organizations, regions and towns of Italy.

Costumed horesemen and women usually strut their finery and often make their horses dance to the delight of the crowd. More color is added by groups bearing statues and religious images and crosses and banners as they march through the square and down Via della Conciliazione at the end of the Angelus. Bands play and spectators applaud.

A typical Epiphany celebration in St. Peter’s Square:

I remember one year when there were several very old cars, beautifully maintained and interesting to see but they seemed out of place among all the period costumes that graced the piazza.

Another year I remember taking photos of three two-humped camels. I was not sure if it was a dromendary or camel that had two humps so I looked it up and discovered the: The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. Of the two species of camels, it is by far the rarer. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel (I also learned that dromedary and camel are interchangeable).

Piazza Navona has forever been a favorite destination all year round for visitors as well as for Italians. At no time is it as festive as it is at Christmas and today, the Epiphany.

Before Christmas, it is tradition that every year each family or child will pick out one new figurine for the family nativity scene that is built at home, and Navona in December has always been a great place to find these terracotta figurines.

A popular Christmas figure you will find here and in many stores is the Befana – a witch-like figure who rides a broomstick and brings coal to bad children and candy to good children. Befana is a breakdown of the word “epiphany” and many, in fact, call her the epiphany witch because she arrives in the night of the epiphany to fill children’s stockings with her gifts.

Yet another Italian tradition is to buy a small, ornament size broom with Christmas ribbons on it – a scacciaguai – that symbolizes the sweeping away of one’s troubles.

Epiphany is, of course, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Magi arrived and gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In some families Epiphany is a bigger celebration that Christmas. Epiphany, in any case, for many signals the end of the Christmas season.

Until a few years ago, the official end of the Christmas season at the Vatican was the February 2 feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple. The tree and nativity scene always remained in the square until that day. Pope Francis changed the date to the second Sunday of January that celebrates the Baptism of Jesus,

POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: PROMOTION OF WORLD PEACE

Pope Francis has released a video message announcing his prayer intention for January 2020: “Promotion of World Peace.”

In this intention, the Holy Father asks people to pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world.

Following is the text of that January 2020 message:

“In a divided and fragmented world, I want to invite all believers, and also all people of good will, to reconciliation and fraternity. Our faith leads us to spread the values of peace and mutual understanding, of the common good.We pray that Christians, followers of other religions, and all people of goodwill may promote together peace and justice in the world. Thank you.”

POPE APPEALS FOR SELF-CONTROL AMID HEIGHTENED THREAT OF WAR – POPE FRANCIS: LIKE THE MAGI, OUR LIVES ARE CHANGED BY ENCOUNTERING JESUS

As is usual on Sundays and religious holy days, the Pope appears at his study window at noon to recite the Angelus with the faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis recited the Angelus on Sunday, January 5, noting that there is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world, obviously referring to the escalating crisis between the United States and Iran.

He recited the Marian prayer again today, Monday, January 6, feast of the Epiphany, after presiding at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

POPE APPEALS FOR SELF-CONTROL AMID HEIGHTENED THREAT OF WAR

Amid an escalating crisis between the United States and Iran, Pope Francis urges nations to exercise self-control and dialogue.
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

“War brings only death and destruction.”

Pope Francis spoke those words of warning on Sunday, following the Angelus prayer.

Without referring to any specific countries, the Pope said there is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world. “I call upon all parties to fan the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to banish the shadow of enmity,” he said.
The Pope then invited everyone to pray in silence for a moment for this intention.

US – Iran tensions
Pope Francis’ appeal comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, after a US airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Iraq. General Qassem Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for military activities outside Iran. His death on Friday in Baghdad raised the threat of direct confrontation between the US and Iran.

Iraqi concern
The Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, on Saturday expressed the Iraqi people’s shock at the event. “It is deplorable that our country should be transformed into a place where scores are settled, rather than being a sovereign nation, capable of protecting its own land, its own wealth, its own citizens.” He also called on all nations to exercise moderation, act reasonably, and sit down to seek understanding.

POPE FRANCIS: LIKE THE MAGI, OUR LIVES ARE CHANGED BY ENCOUNTERING JESUS

Pope Francis during the January 6 Angelus spoke of the Magi whose lives were changed after encountering the baby Jesus. He also greeted the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Lord’s Christmas on the 7th January.

By Vatican News
Following Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis during his Angelus, addressed a special thought “to the brethren of the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, many of whom celebrate the Lord’s Christmas tomorrow. We wish them and their communities, he said, “the light and peace of Christ the Saviour.”

During his Angelus address, the Pope drew from the Gospel of the day that spoke of the three wise men.

The Magi on seeing Jesus
The Pontiff described how after encountering the baby Jesus, their lives were changed. “They saw a different king, a king “who is not of this world”, meek and humble, yet indicated in agreement by the stars and the Holy Scriptures.”

The Pope went on to explain that “the encounter with Jesus does not hold back the Magi, on the contrary, it gives them a new impetus to return to their country, to tell what they saw and the joy they felt.”

The experience of knowing God, remarked Pope Francis, “does not block us, but frees us; it does not imprison us, but it puts us back on the road…”

The Gospel passage, he emphasized, “contains a detail which prompts our reflection. At the end of the story, it is said that the Magi were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and by another route they returned to their country.”

Every experience of meeting Jesus, noted the Pope, “leads us to take different paths, because from Him comes a good force that heals the heart and detaches us from evil.”

“This is the difference between the true God and traitorous idols, such as money, power, success…; between God and those who promise to give you these idols, such as magicians, fortune tellers, sorcerers,” he said.

The true God does not hold us back
“The true God does not hold us back, nor does He let Himself be held back by us: He opens to us ways of novelty and freedom.”

Following the recitation of the Marian prayer, Pope Francis had a special greeting for those involved in the historical-folkloristic procession on Via della Conciliazione that is inspired by the traditions of the Epiphany. The Pope also extended his greeting to the procession of the Magi in numerous cities and villages in Poland.