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.

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VATICAN INSIDER AND A TULSA PASTOR – FRANCIS ASKS: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE WORD ‘LOVE’ MEANS? – EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT TO CHRISTIAN: WE WILL REBUILD YOUR TORCHED CHURCHES – AMBASSADOR LAYS WREATH AT TOMB OF STUARTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

There were no public engagements on Pope Francis’ agenda today but there are a number of interesting stories to report: a beautiful papal homily on the true meaning of love, a good news story from Egypt about Christians and a special moment for the British Ambassador to the Holy See and invited guests at a special wreath-laying ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.

VATICAN INSIDER AND A TULSA PASTOR

In this week’s interview segment, you will meet Msgr. Dan Mueggenborg, pastor since 2011 at Christ the King parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We became friends during the six years that he was in Rome at the North American College as vice rector and director of admissions. Over the years we broke bread together many times, at NAC and at my home and recently we met serendipitously at a favorite restaurant when he arrived in Rome for a visit. I asked Msgr. Dan about life in a parish and the conversation was riveting and I asked him to tell his story. So be sure to tune in this week for an inspiring conversation.

DAN MUEGGENBORG

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

FRANCIS ASKS: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE WORD ‘LOVE’ MEANS?

This morning, in his homily during morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel reading from the letter of John the Apostle, and meditated on the different meanings of the word ‘love’ , emphasizing that the two most important commandments for a Christian are to love God and our neighbor.

Vatican Radio records the morning papal homilies and transcribves them for the news.va website. Today’s was the second daily Mass since the end of the Christmas break on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany.

“This word ‘love’,” said the Holy Father, “is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Pope said the Apostle John underlines how God loves us first and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, such as during the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus or in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us.  This Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also this: that we may know that our Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.  Why? To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Pope Francis went on to stress how “the Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and we must have this certainty that He will wait for us just as we are and not as we are told to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know, Lord, how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know, Lord, that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner.’ And He will do the same as he did with the prodigal son who squandered all his money on vices: he won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT TO CHRISTIAN: WE WILL REBUILD YOUR TORCHED CHURCHES

The following is a story I read in the daily bulletin I receive via email from AINA, the Assyrian International News Agency. If you are an avid follower of events in the Middle East, as I am, this is a fascinating news site. Many stories are written by local journalists while others are written by members of the international media and carried by AINA.

Finally, a good news story from Egypt:

We Will Rebuild Your Torched Churches, Egyptian President Tells Christians – By Ruth Gledhill (http://www.christiantoday.com)

EGYPT CHURCHES

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greets Christians during Egypt’s Coptic Christmas eve mass led by Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, at St Mark’s Cathedral, in Cairo, Egypt.The president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has pledged to rebuild every single one of the dozens of churches, Christian institutions and homes destroyed during the last two years of anti-Christian violence in his troubled nation.

President al-Sisi, a Muslim who has spoken in the past of the need to “revolutionise” Islam, was addressing Christians during a Coptic Christmas Eve mass yesterday at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya. Mass was celebrated by the head of the church, Pope Tawadros II. Orthodox churches, which follow the traditional Julian calendar, mark Christmas two weeks later than the Western Christian churches which follow the Gregorian calendar.

Extremist Islamic groups are still influential in Egypt in spite of the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Shortly after former President Morsi was ousted, there was an increase in violence against Coptic Christians and at least 65 churches, Christian bookshops, schools and convents were burned down, looted or destroyed, according to Open Doors.

President al-Sisi, who last year became the first Egyptian President to attend a Christmas mass, greeted the Coptic Christian community and, while emphasising the diversity of Egyptians, said that the way to overcome hardships was to remain united as a nation.

“On this occasion, I want to exhort you all, let no one come between us. Nothing can harm us, not our economic conditions or political conditions. Unless we diverge, we can overcome anything.”

He continued: “God Has created us different, in religion, manner, colour, language, habit, tradition, and no one can make us the all same.”

He admitted the government should have acted sooner to help the Christians.

“We have taken too long to fix and renovate churches that were burned. This year everything will be fixed. Please accept our apologies for what happened. God willing, by next year there won’t be a single church or house that is not restored.

“We will never forget the stance you and the Pope took during this period…thank you all. Merry Christmas.”

AMBASSADOR LAYS WREATH AT TOMB OF STUARTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

This afternoon, having received permission from Queen Elizabeth, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart at St. Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his State funeral.

STUART TOMB

James Francis Edward Stuart was the son of King James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland and Queen Mary of Modena, explains a note from the British embassy. He was also known as “the Old Pretender” and claimed the throne as “James III of England and Ireland, VIII of Scotland.” He died in exile in Rome on January 1, 1766 and was given the unprecedented honor of a State funeral by the Pope on January 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. The Pope recognized him as King, but did not extend that title to his sons in tacit, and later explicit recognition of the Hanoverian succession.

James Francis Edward Stewart was the father of “Bonnie” Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict, Cardinal York. Born at St James’s Palace, London, on June 10, 1688, he was taken into exile in December 1688 following the deposition of James II. He lived in the Palazzo Muti in Rome from 1719 until his death.

The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying by Ambassador Baker and the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the singing of the Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.

The Stuart tomb at St. Peter’s was restored in the 1940’s, including with money donated by Queen Elizabeth (wife of George VI). In 2012, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a restored coat of arms of Cardinal York at the Pontifical Scots College, and viewed the original Stuart gravestones which were transferred there in the 1940s.

(FYI: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Grottoes/Stuarts/Tomb%20of%20the%20Stuarts.htm)