This is a very special story and a fascinating video to watch! Kudos and many blessings to the teams who have done the restoration and those who put this all together at the Colosseum!


We are entering the final week of Advent and are just days away from the beautiful celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rome and the Vatican are in the spirit with the sacred – Nativity scenes – and the profane – stores and streets and piazzas decorated with colorful lights and other Christmas symbols. Christmas trees are everywhere and their relation to Christmas falls between the sacred and the profane.

Yesterday, in his last Angelus before Christmas Day, Pope Francis was joined by thousands of tourists and faithful in St. Peter’s Square whom he addressed, speaking from the window of his study in the Apostolic Palace. He focused on the upcoming solemnity and said: “During this week let us look for a few moments in which to pause, have a bit of silence, and imagine Our Lady and St. Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. The journey – the fatigue of it, but also the joy of it – the commotion, and then their anxiety over finding a place to stay, the worry – and so on. In all this, the Nativity scene helps us very much: Let us seek to enter into the true Nativity – Jesus’ birth – in order to receive the grace of this feast, which is a grace of love, of humility and of tenderness.”

A day earlier, Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday. It was pretty much a typical workday but there were a few exceptions.

At the Santa Marta residence Saturday at 7 am, Pope Francis began his 80th birthday by sharing breakfast with eight homeless people, eating sweets from his native Argentina, pastries, meat, orange juice and Nutella, the ever-present Italian chocolate spread.


And that was not the end of the papal giving: birthday treats and a special Christmas donation were given to the poor in soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless in the city of Rome.

At 8 am, Francis concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel with all the cardinals residing in Rome. A Vatican Radio report noted that the reason for the extraordinary liturgical celebration was thanksgiving to God for the life of Pope Francis, who was born 80 years ago this day, on December 17th, 1936.

The report said: “The liturgy unfolded with the simple penitential settings of the season, and the readings were those of the day. The Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, offered words of greeting in the name of all those present and of all the members of the College, saying, ‘The risen Jesus appeared to the disciples and addressed these well-known words to Simon-Peter: ‘Simon son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?’ And the Apostle immediately replied: ‘Yes, Lord, You know that I love you!’ It is with this love that Your Holiness today carries out His mission in the world. Then we know that we are close to you, especially today, on this beautiful day of your life.

Cardinal Sodano went on to say, ‘Our prayer shall be with you always, well mindful as we are of what we repeat in the Holy Mass every day, and that is: that by communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, may the Holy Spirit unite us in One Body’.”

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis offered thanks to the Cardinals present, saying, “For several days now, I’ve been thinking of a word that can seem ugly – no? – dotage. It is scary: just yesterday, [Office Manager for the Dept. for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See] Msgr. [Luigi] Cavaliere  gave me [a copy of] Cicero’s De senectute  – right? Really laying it on! Only, remember what I said to you on March 15 [2013], in our first meeting: ‘Old age is the seat of wisdom.’ Hopefully it is for me, right? Let us hope that it is so.”

The Holy Father also recalled a line of the Roman poet, Ovid: “Tacitu pede lapsa vetustas [with silent steps, old age slips up on one] It is a blow! But also, when one thinks of it as a stage of life that is to give joy, wisdom, hope, one begins to live again, right? And I can think of another poem that I quoted to you that day too [from the German poet, Hölderlin]: Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm, “Old age is quiet and religious”.

The Pope spent part of the remainder of the day taking phone calls and messages from world leaders, including US President Obama, Russian leader Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, among the countless messages.

Without a doubt the most heartfelt was a written message and personal phone call from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. The press office noted that the written message was “very affectionate” and “particularly appreciated” by the Pope, as was the subsequent phone call. “In addition, Benedict XVI sent Pope Francis three small gifts that the Holy Father received as three very personal and meaningful signs for both of them,” the press office said.

Over 70,000 emails with birthday wishes were received by the Pope at the special Vatican email address. Hopefully he had time to read a few!

There was also a Skype link up with inmates of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua, Italy.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday encouraged young Catholics to cultivate their relationships with their grandparents. (photo


Addressing a group of young people from the Italian Catholic lay association “Azione Cattolica Italiana” (Italian Catholic Action), the Pope spoke of the joy that derives from the coming of Jesus, and said that joy is increased and multiplied when we share it.

He invited the young people to receive the joy of Advent as they would receive a gift and to bear witness to it in their families, schools, parishes and in all places.

The Holy Father especially invited them to share it with their grandparents – and with elderly people in general – and he encouraged them to listen to the aged whom, he said, “have the wisdom of life”.

“I would like to give you a task: speak to your grandparents, … ask them questions, they have the memory of history, the experience of living, and this is a great gift for you that will help you in your life journey” he said.

And Francis also pointed out the grandparents themselves need “to listen to you, understand your aspirations and your hopes.”

“This is your task: speak to your grandparents, listen to them,” he said.

Pope Francis thanked those present for their commitment for peace and remarked on a ‘solidarity’ initiative they are carrying forward in favor of young people who live in a degraded area of Naples.

“May the Lord bless this project that does good” he said.

‘Azione Cattolica Italiana’ was established in Italy by Pope Pius X  in 1905 as a non-political lay organization under the direct control of bishops.