TRUE PRAYER IS SILENT DIALOGUE WITH GOD – MICROSOFT, ACADEMY FOR LIFE TO PROMOTE PRIZE ON ETHICS IN AI

TRUE PRAYER IS SILENT DIALOGUE WITH GOD

Pope Francis told the faithful during his weekly general audience that prayer with God is a silent dialogue with love at its core, where there is no pretence. In his ongoing catechesis on the “Our Father,” Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI hall for the Wednesday audience that, “true prayer is made in the intimate depths of a heart visible only to God. “It is a silent dialogue”, he said, with love at its core. “To look at God and to let oneself be looked at by God is to pray.

Compassion for others

The Pope commented that in this way, the Christian does not forget the world, but rather brings its people and its needs into prayer. He continued by saying that the person who prays, tells God about the pain of someone he or she met that day. “If you don’t realize that there’s so many people who suffer,” the Pontiff underlined, “that means one’s heart is withered. … Feeling compassion …is one of the key verbs of the Gospel.”

“Let us ask ourselves,” said Francis, “when I pray, do I open myself to the cry of so many people near and far? Or do I think of prayer as to some kind of anaesthesia so I can relax?”

No hypocrisy

He stressed that, “Jesus doesn’t want hypocrisy. …True prayer is that which is accomplished in the secret of conscience, of the heart: inscrutable, visible only to God… It avoids falsehood: with God it is impossible to pretend.” Before God, he said, tricks have no power.

No room for individualism

Pope Francis noted that in the Our Father there is the absence of the word “I.” Jesus, he explained, teaches us instead to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done”. The second half of the prayer then moves from “your” to “our”: “give us our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses”. “This use of the plural, he added, shows us that Christian prayer never asks bread for just one person, but always on behalf of others.” There is no room for individualism in dialogue with God.”

Jesus makes us pray, the Pope emphasized, even for those “who apparently do not seek God,” because God seeks these people “more than anyone else.”

MICROSOFT, ACADEMY FOR LIFE TO PROMOTE PRIZE ON ETHICS IN AI

A statement this afternoon from interim director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said that, in a private audience this afternoon at the Vatican, the Holy Father received Microsoft President Brad Smith, accompanied by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

During their meeting, Mr. Smith discussed the topic of artificial intelligence at the service of the common good and activities aimed at bridging the digital divide that still persists at the global level. With Abp. Paglia, he informed the Holy Father that Microsoft, together with the Pontifical Academy for Life, will promote an international prize on ethics in artificial intelligence, the theme of the Academy’s 2020 plenary assembly.

This year the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life will take place in the Vatican from February 25 to 27 to discuss the theme, ‘Roboethics: Humans, Machines and Health’, whereas the plenary assembly in 2020 will focus on artificial intelligence.

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POPE FRANCIS: JOURNEY TO UAE PART OF THE “SURPRISES” OF GOD – FEAST OF ST PAUL VI TO BE CELEBRATED MAY 29 AS OPTIONAL MEMORIAL – DICASTERY FOR PROMOTING INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT ANNOUNCES WEBSITE

Does excommunication remain a viable option in today’s Catholic Church?
Join EWTN’s Vice President of Theology Colin Donovan & the Roundtable crew as they discuss the use of sanctions, such as excommunication, to protect the unity of the People of God, this Friday on Theology Roundtable, 3:00 PM Eastern on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

POPE FRANCIS: JOURNEY TO UAE PART OF THE “SURPRISES” OF GOD

As traditionally happens after a Pope has been on an apostolic journey, Francis dedicated his weekly audience catechesis to his just-completed trip to the UAE – the United Arab Emirates.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “I have just completed a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates, brief but important, for it marked a step forward in inter-religious dialogue and in the commitment to promoting peace in the world.”

He explained that his trip “was the first papal visit to the Arabian peninsula and took place eight hundred years after Saint Francis of Assisi visited Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil. The providence of God wished to see a Pope named Francis make such a journey, and I thought often of the Saint for it helped me keep the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ close to my heart.”

He then thanks his many hosts, “the Crown Prince, the President, the Vice President and all the Authorities who welcomed me, and Bishop Paul Hinder for preparing the event with the Catholic community. My affectionate thanks go to the priests, religious and lay faithful who enliven the Christian presence in that land.

“Beyond all the speeches,” the Holy Father went on, “one further step was taken in Abu Dhabi when the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and I signed the Document on Human Fraternity. There we affirm the common vocation of all men and women to be brothers and sisters as children of God, we reject every form of violence – especially that committed in the name of religion – and we dedicate ourselves to defending authentic values and peace in the world. Let us pray that the seeds sown during the visit may bear much fruit according to his holy will.”

After summaries of the papal catechesis and greetings in many languages to the faithful, Pope Francis issued an appeal:

“Last Saturday, near the archipelago of the Bahamas, a boat sank with dozens of migrants coming from Haiti and looking for hope and a future of peace. My affectionate thought goes to the families suffering from the pain, as well as to the Haitian people struck by this new tragedy. I invite you to join my prayer for those who have disappeared so dramatically and for the injured.”

FEAST OF ST. PAUL VI TO BE CELEBRATED MAY 29 AS OPTIONAL MEMORIAL

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 25 January 2019, on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.
Signed by Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect, + Arthur Roche, Archbishop Secretary:

The decree published today began by noting that “Jesus Christ, the fullness of humanity, living and working in the Church, invites all people to a transforming encounter with Him, who is “the way, the truth and the life”. This is the journey of the Saints. Paul VI made it following the example of the Apostle whose name he assumed at the moment when the Holy Spirit chose him as Successor of Peter.” (CNA photo)

It went out to outline the saintly life and work of Paul VI, and continued: “God, the Shepherd and Guide of all the faithful, entrusts his pilgrim Church through the ages, to those whom he himself has established as Vicars of his Son. Among these, Paul VI shines out as one who united in himself the pure faith of Saint Peter and the missionary zeal of Saint Paul. His consciousness of being the Successor of Peter is evident when we recall that on 10 June 1969, during a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva, he introduced himself by saying “My name is Peter”. Nevertheless, he also acknowledged by the name he chose the mission for which he had been elected…..”

The substance of the decree states: “Having considered this Pope’s holiness of life, witnessed to by his works and words, and having taken account of the great influence of his apostolic ministry for the Church throughout the whole world, Pope Francis, assenting to the petitions and desires of the People of God, has decreed that the celebration of Pope Saint Paul VI, should be inserted into the Roman Calendar on 29 May with the rank of optional memorial.

“This new memorial will be inserted into all Calendars and Liturgical Books for the celebration of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours; the liturgical texts to be adopted, attached to this Decree, must be translated, approved and, after the confirmation of this Dicastery, be published by the Episcopal Conferences.”

DICASTERY FOR PROMOTING INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT ANNOUNCES WEBSITE

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Develoment today announced the release of its website http://www.humandevelopment.va that contains news, information, publications and useful tools related to the Dicastery’s activities and mission.

It provided link to two videos the dicastery has produced aimed at introducing and spreading the Church’s understanding of Integral Human Development. “We are proud to share them both with you,” said the dicastery announcement, “with the hope that you will like and share them through your social media.”

Here are the links that you can enjoy, “like” and “share”!

http://www.humandevelopment.va/en/il-dicastero/chi-siamo.html

http://www.humandevelopment.va/en.html

WYD, “A GREAT SYMPHONY OF FACE AND LANGUAGES” – HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PAPAL AGENDA FOR 2019

I want my many friends and family members who live in the States struck by the polar vortex that I am praying for you every day, principally that you remain healthy and do not encounter any life-threatening moments during what some media are calling a historical time. Prayers especially for those alone, for the elderly, the newborn and the very young!

FYI: This is what I saw when I just clicked on a link to an article about the NFL in the Baltimore Sun: “Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.”

This is due to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679, a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.

Happens to me daily with a lot of U.S. papers whose articles I might want to read online – Chicago Tribune, etc. VERY annoying!

WYD, “A GREAT SYMPHONY OF FACE AND LANGUAGES”

As is customary for a Pope after completing a trip, at today’s general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis spoke about his just-completed journey to Panama for World Youth Day 2019.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,” he began, “Today I ask you to join me in thanking God for the graces he bestowed on the Church and on the people of Panama during my recent visit for World Youth Day. I thank the President and other authorities and particularly the volunteers for their warm welcome. The groups of people gathered there formed a great symphony of faces and languages typical of this event and the sight of the waving of so many flags was a prophetic sign that young Christians are a leaven of peace for the world.”

He noted that “one of the elements of World Youth Day is always the Way of the Cross. In Panama, the youth carried with Jesus and Mary the suffering of many brothers and sisters in Central America and beyond, especially those affected by forms of slavery and poverty, and by HIV/Aids.”

The Holy Father then turned to the Mass on Sunday, saying “the Risen Christ spoke afresh to young people, calling them to live the Gospel today, because they are the ‘today’ of the Church and the world.”

Then, in reference to his consecration of the new altar of Panama’s 400-year old cathedral, he noted that, “the oil of Chrism was used to consecrate the altar in the restored Cathedral in Panama, that which also anoints those being baptized, confirmed or ordained, and enables families to draw life from the Holy Spirit so as to continue their pilgrimage throughout the world as young missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.”

At the end of the English summary of his catechesis, via an interpreter, Pope Francis said, “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PAPAL AGENDA FOR 2019

Pope Francis has just completed his first major trip and event of the New Year, returning 48 hours ago from Panama where he celebrated World Youth Day 2019 with an estimated five million plus young people.

He barely unpacked one suitcase and is now getting ready to pack for his second foreign trip of the year, three days in the United Arab Emirates.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights on the papal agenda for 2019. And there’s always room to add something important, so stay tuned.

United Arab Emirates
February will be particularly busy for the Holy Father. From February 3 to 5, Pope Francis becomes the first Pope to visit the United Arab Emirates. The Journey’s central theme surrounds inter-religious dialogue and solidarity among members of different faiths. The leaders of the UAE declared 2019 as a “Year of Tolerance” with the goal of promoting a culture free of religious fundamentalism.

Council of Cardinals and Curial reform
From February 18 to 20, the 28th meeting of the Council of Cardinals will take place in the Vatican. The focus will be on the revision of the Constitution of the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus. A new proposal was presented last December to Pope Francis, under the title “Praedicate evangelium”. Its goal is to help the Vatican’s governing body become more responsive to the need of a missionary Church.

February meeting against abuse
Probably the most-awaited papal event of 2019 takes place in the Vatican from February 21 to 24 February when Pope Francis will meet all Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences to discuss how to prevent the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. It promises to be a pivotal meeting in the fight against sexual abuse, as well as abuse of power and conscience, which are carried out by some members of the Church. Speaking to the Roman Curia in December 2018, Pope Francis said no excuse for following the path of truth and justice will be tolerated.

Journey to Morocco
On March 30 and 31, Pope Francis travels to Morocco, 33 years after Pope St. John Paul II’s historic visit on August 19, to Casablanca. The Pope will continue in his predecessor’s path of promoting mutual comprehension and inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Bulgaria & Macedonia
After a short rest in April, the Holy Father heads across the Adriatic Sea to visit Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on May 5 to 7. In Bulgaria he will visit the cities of Sofia and Rakovski. Then he travels to the Macedonian city of Skopje, where Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was born. Catholics in these two Balkan nations are a tiny minority amidst the Orthodox majority, so promoting ecumenism will be high on the Pope’s to-do list.

Pope’s visit to Japan
Pope Francis openly told a group of Japanese visitors to the Vatican in September 2018 that he hopes to travel to Japan in 2019. He confirmed that he will travel there in November 2019 during remarks to journalists on the January 23rd flight from Rome to Panama for World Youth Day. During the encounter, the Pope recalled that, in 1585, a group of 4 Japanese young people arrived in Rome with several Jesuit missionaries to visit Pope Gregory XIII.

Amazonian Synod
Later in the year, the Synod of Bishops meets in October to discuss the Pan-Amazonia region. The Pope called for the special assembly on the theme “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology”. Many themes, not limited to ecology, form the center-of-attention for the 7 Bishops’ Conferences and 9 nations involved.

(source: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-agenda-2019-journeys-abuse-reform.html)

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE ON FEBRUARY MEETING TO PROTECT MINORS – PAPAL CATECHESIS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE ON FEBRUARY MEETING TO PROTECT MINORS

The Holy See Press Office released the following communique this morning:

“The organizing committee of the meeting for the protection of minors in the Church, to be held in the Vatican February 21-24, 2019 in the New Synod Hall, met in Rome on Thursday, January 10. At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father received in audience the members of the committee who proceeded to update him on the preparation of the meeting. It includes plenary sessions, working groups, common prayer moments with listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy and a final Eucharistic celebration. Pope Francis assured his presence for the entire duration of the meeting.

“The Holy Father entrusted Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. with the task of moderating the plenary sessions of the meeting.”

The ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, issued the following statement about that communiqué:

“The February Meeting on the protection of minors has a concrete purpose: the goal is that all of the Bishops clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors. Pope Francis knows that a global problem can only be resolved with a global response. The Pope wants it to be an assembly of Pastors, not an academic conference – a meeting characterized by prayer and discernment, a catechetical and working gathering.

“It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the Bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried.

“Regarding the high expectations that have been created around the Meeting, it is important to emphasize that the Church is not at the beginning of the fight against abuse. The Meeting is a stage along the painful journey that the Church has unceasingly and decisively undertaken for over fifteen years.”

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON THE LORD’S PRAYER

Continuing his weekly general audience catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis today began by noting “we now reflect on its very first words: ‘Our Father’. Saint Paul’s letters testify that the earliest Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit, prayed using the Aramaic word for ‘father’ that Jesus himself had used: ‘Abba’. “

“At the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, then,” Francis told the faithful in the Paul VI Hall, “we hear an echo of the voice of Jesus himself who teaches the disciples that to pray is to share in his own intimate and trusting relationship with the Father. The parable of the prodigal son shows us most vividly how Jesus wants us to understand our heavenly Father and his infinite love, mercy and forgiveness.”

The Holy Father explained that, “Indeed, there is also something maternal about this love of the Father that accompanies and nurtures the development of our new life in Christ as his adoptive sons and daughters. All the newness of the Gospel, and the very heart of our prayer as Christians, is in some sense summed up in the one word: ‘Abba’. Even in the most difficult times in our lives, may we never be afraid to turn in trust and confidence to the Father, praying in the words that Jesus taught us: ‘Abba’, ‘Our Father’.”

Following the English-language summary of the papal catechesis, Francis welcomed the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, noting especially “groups from Korea and the United States of America. In the context of the upcoming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I address a special greeting to the students of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. My cordial greetings also go to the student priests of the Pontifical American College. On all of you I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: MAY YOUTH FOLLOW MARY’S EXAMPLE – WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE: “EVERY PRAYER ANSWERED, IN GOD’S TIME” – “100 CRIBS AT THE VATICAN” OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 13 – NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT DISAPPEARS IN ITALY

FYI: The circular newsletter sent out by the Pontifical Council for Culture with events, publications, activities and nominations is now available in English: http://www.cultura.va/content/cultura/en/pub/newsletter.html

POPE’S JANUARY PRAYER INTENTION: MAY YOUTH FOLLOW MARY’S EXAMPLE

In his prayer intention for the month of January 2019, Pope Francis says: “Let us pray that young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.”
It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention follows:
You young people have, in the Virgin Mary, a reason for joy and a source of inspiration. Take advantage of the World Youth Day in Panama to contemplate Christ together with Mary. We will pray the Rosary together for peace, each of us in our own language. And ask for strength to dream and to work for peace. Let us pray that young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-01/pope-francis-january-prayer-intention-young-people.html#play

WEDNESDAY GENERAL AUDIENCE: ‘EVERY PRAYER ANSWERED, IN GOD’S TIME’

In his continuing catechesis on the Our Father at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis says no prayer goes unanswered, but reminds us that God’s timing is not our own.

By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)

Pope Francis took up the age-old question about why, at times, it seems that God does not answer our prayers. Speaking at the Wednesday General Audience, the Holy Father said Jesus reminds us in the Our Father of the need to persevere in prayer.

Jesus’ constant prayer

The Pope said Jesus’ entire life was “steeped in prayer”. “Every step of Jesus’ life was pushed by the breath of the Spirit, who guides him in each of his actions.”

Pope Francis said this is most visible in the events of his Passion. Jesus intercedes for Peter who will soon deny him. He prays for those who crucified him. His last words are a confession of trust in the will of the Father. “Jesus’ prayer seems to cushion the most violent of emotions – the desire for revenge and retaliation – and to reconcile us with our most bitter enemy: death.”

God knows our needs
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, the Pope said he offers them the Our Father prayer. Pope Francis said Jesus adds two parables after the prayer that remind us to be constant in prayer and to trust unwaveringly that God will answer our prayers. One is the friend who importunes his neighbor for some bread to offer a guest. Next, Jesus offers the example of a father who has a hungry child: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?”

“Jesus lets us know that God always responds, that no prayer goes unheard, and that God is a Father and never forgets His children who suffer.”

Unanswered prayers?

Pope Francis said this truth seems as if it is not borne out in our daily lives. “How many times have we asked and not received, knocked and found a closed door?” he mused. In those moments of seeming defeat, the Pope said Jesus invites us “to insist and not to give up.”

“Prayer always transforms reality: if things around us do not change, at least our hearts are changed. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to every man and woman who prays.”

In God’s time

Finally, Pope Francis said we can be absolutely positive that “God will respond.” The only uncertainty, he noted, regards God’s timing. “Nothing is more certain: the desire for happiness we all carry in our heart will be fulfilled.”

“100 CRIBS AT THE VATICAN” OPEN UNTIL JANUARY 13

Pilgrims and tourists have until Jan. 13 to visit an exhibition in the Vatican of Christmas Nativity scenes from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. No tickets – it’s all free!
By Robin Gomes (vaticannews)

Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus who was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Besides decorations, lights, Christmas trees, gifts and goodies, this annual event is especially celebrated with Holy Mass and the representation of the birth of Jesus Christ or the Nativity scene as narrated in the Gospel.

ST. FRANCIS

The tradition of recreating the Nativity scene, also called the crib, crèche or manger scene, is attributed to Italy’s popular Saint Francis of Assisi, who is said to have created the first live nativity scene in 1223 in a cave outside Rome using a live donkey and ox to surround a manger.

Through the centuries, the Nativity scene has been represented in a variety of art forms and traditions around the world.

100 CRIBS

“100 Presepi”, Italian for “100 Cribs”, is an international art exhibition of a vast variety of Nativity scenes that has been staged in Rome for 43 years. Manlio Menaglia who started the show in 1976 in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo area, wanted to salvage a typical Italian tradition that, in those years, risked being overtaken by the Christmas tree culture that is not of Italian origin.

Manlio wanted to draw the attention of all, especially children and young people, to the Nativity scenes as works of art, no matter how they are made them, provided they respected the values of peace and brotherhood symbolized in the birth of Jesus. This effort reinforced the family tradition of setting up nativity scenes according to their tastes.

Another aim of the “100 Cribs “is to promote and spread the tradition abroad through the numerous tourists and media outlets who visit the exhibition around Christmas time in Rome.

INTERNATIONAL ART FORMS

The exhibition has held on to its initial title, “100 Cribs”, because it had 100 Nativity scenes, but it displays about 200 new cribs each year.

The cribs, which are completely rebuilt every year, come from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. They are works of art of Italian and foreign artists and artisans, collectors, amateurs, elementary and middle school students, representatives of cultural and social associations, state, local bodies and national and foreign museums.

A vast variety of material is used in creating the Nativity scene include coral, silver, porcelain, glass, bronze, ceramic, clay, wrought iron, wood, papier-mâché, recycled materials, chocolate, bread, corn, bottle caps, buttons, car spark plugs and pencils.

VATICAN

As organizers found it difficult to continue the exhibition because of financial constraints, the “100 Cribs” moved to the Vatican in 2018 after 42 years at Piazza del Popolo.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, sponsor of the event at the St. Pius X Hall on Via della Conciliazione, has named it “100 Cribs at the Vatican”. It was opened on December 7, 2018, and will continue until January 13.

Pilgrims and tourists intending to visit the Vatican exhibition can consult its website.

NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT DISAPPEARS IN ITALY

South Korea’s spy agency says the North Korean ambassador to Italy has disappeared. The announcement follows reports that Pyongyang’s top diplomat in Italy had sought asylum from an unnamed Western country.
By Stefan J. Bos

The disappeared North Korean official has been identified as Jo Song-gil. He is the acting North Korean ambassador to Rome and the son and son-in-law of high-ranking North Korean officials.

South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers in Seoul on Thursday that Jo went into hiding with his wife in November before his term in Italy ended. His whereabouts are not publicly known now.

It is believed he has sought asylum in an unnamed Western nation.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement however that the envoy has not yet asked Italian authorities for asylum.

Earlier defection
The last senior diplomat to defect was the deputy ambassador in London. Thae Yong-ho abandoned his post in 2016, along with his wife and children. He defected to South Korea.

Thae said in an interview with South Korean television on Thursday that the Italian embassy was critical for North Korea because it handled negotiations with the World Food Programme over food aid to the North and was a hub for smuggling luxury items to the North Korean elite.

He earlier spoke in separate remarks about the difficulties he faced. “The reason for my defection is a very complex one,” he said. “Because I thought and planned this defection for quite a long time. We just disappeared, and they could not find us. I believe that my defection in the long term will encourage further defections.”

As one of the highest-ranking officials to ever defect from the North, Thae’s move was seen as a blow to Kim Jong-un’s regime.

He would go on to urge the world to spread information in North Korea to undermine Kim’s status among his people amid concerns about massive human rights abuses and detention camps where Christians and others face immense hardships. The latest defection by another high-ranking diplomat was expected to raise at least some anxiety among Kim Jong-un allies.

VATICAN INSIDER RETURNS TO THE “ANGELICUM” – WHAT GIFTS WOULD GOD LIKE AT CHRISTMAS?

Had an interesting Vatican experience this morning. Every year at Christmas Vatican employees receive a panetone and a bottle of spumante. I learned only last week that retirees also receive this gift and was told where to go on Via della Conciliazione. I went this morning, showed my ID, said yes, I am a Vatican retiree, that my pension goes to the Vatican bank, etc. MY name was not on any list and I learned that only retirees with 20 or more years of service get the panetone and spumante…..under 20, even 19 years, will not get you a Christmas gift. I wonder if Pope Francis knows this!

VATICAN INSIDER RETURNS TO THE “ANGELICUM”

Tune in this weekend to Vatican Insider for Part II of my conversation with Dominican Father Benedict Croell, director of Development and Mission Advancement atSt. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical University, known by its friends here in Rome as the Angelicum. Part I aired last weekend.

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 are a few more photos of the breathtaking views from the Angelicum

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WHAT GIFTS WOULD GOD LIKE AT CHRISTMAS?

At today’s general audience in the festive setting of the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis catechesis on Christmas focused on the idea of “surprises.” While the world insists on exchanging presents, he asked, “what gifts and surprises would God want?”

“Dear brothers and sisters,” Francis began. “In a few days it will be Christmas. In this busy season, we might ask ourselves how the Lord himself would like us to keep this feast. If we look at the first Christmas, we see that it is full of God’s surprises. Mary is visited by an angel; Joseph is told to take her in, to become a father to her Child and to flee with the Holy Family to Egypt. But the greatest surprise of all is that God himself becomes a little Child, born in humility and poverty.

“Christmas changes our world,” the Holy Father continued. It speaks to us of God’s self-giving love that should inspire the way we live and relate to one another. It tells us that we best celebrate the Savior’s birth by imitating Mary’s trusting faith and Joseph’s quiet openness to God’s will, and by opening our hearts to the Lord, who asks us to make room for him in our busy lives.”

“Amid the bustle of our Christmas preparations,” stressed Francis, “may we not forget the very One whose birth we are celebrating! And in worshiping the Son of God, born in the poverty of our flesh, may we be mindful of the poor and those in need all around us. This Christmas, may you and your families experience the joy and peace proclaimed by the angels, and be ever more open to God’s wonderful surprises!”

POPE ASSURES PRAYERS TO BUSH FAMILY ON DEATH OF FORMER PRESIDENT – POPE FRANCIS: DURING ADVENT, ASK JESUS TO TEACH US TO PRAY

POPE ASSURES PRAYERS TO BUSH FAMILY ON DEATH OF FORMER PRESIDENT

The following telegram was sent in Pope Francis’ name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB for the death of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush:

His Eminence Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

Saddened to learn of the death of former President George H. W. Bush, His Holiness Pope Francis offers heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his prayers to all the Bush family. Commending President Bush’s soul to the merciful love of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes upon all who mourn his passing the divine blessings of strength and peace.

POPE FRANCIS: DURING ADVENT, ASK JESUS TO TEACH US TO PRAY

After concluding his reflections on the Ten Commandments at last week’s general audience, Pope Francis on Wednesday launched a new series of catechesis, which will focus on the “Our Father.”

By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

“The Gospels have given us a very vivid portrait of Jesus as a man of prayer,” the Pope said in the introductory catechetical instruction. Despite the importance of His mission, and the demands placed on Him by the people, Jesus often felt the need “to withdraw into solitude and pray.” This was evident from the very beginning of His mission, after the initial success of his ministry in Galilee.

“In some places in the Scriptures,” Francis continued, “it seems that it is Jesus’ prayer above all, His intimacy with the Father, that governs everything.” This is particularly evident during the agony in the garden, before the Crucifixion.

The Holy Father said that, although Jesus prayed like other people do, there was also a profound mystery about His prayer to His Father. That is why His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus does not want to keep His intimacy with His Father to Himself, but “came precisely in order to introduce us into this relationship with the Father.”

We too must make our own the prayer of the disciples: “Lord, teach us to pray.” “Even if we have been praying for many years,” Pope Francis said, “we always have something to learn.” Recalling the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, the Holy Father said the first step in prayer is to humble ourselves before God.

He concluded his first reflection on the prayer of Jesus with the advice to repeat often, during Advent, the prayer of the disciples: “Master, teach us to pray.” If we do this, he said, then God will certainly not let our prayer go unanswered.”