I have dedicated more time than usual to the papal catechesis at today’s general audience, the final one before Christmas, as Francis speaks in magnificent terms about the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus, about the true meaning of Christmas, and the need for humility as each one of us of accepts – or tries to accept – the idea that God’s love for us has a name and face: Jesus.
The words that really struck me are those he addresses to people of no religion,. Those who fight religion or “all those who are improperly identified as atheists.”
A truly remarkable message and invitation!
After a few days off for Christmas, I will be back to share further such messages and other news from the Vatican and Pope Francis!
GOD’S LOVE FOR EACH OF US HAS A NAME AND A FACE: JESUS
Pope Francis presided at the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall this morning, whose stage was decorated with a lovely nativity scene. He began by stating, “In these days before Christmas, we reflect on the events surrounding the birth of our Saviour that was marked, above all, by simplicity and humility. This was the path, in God’s loving plan, taken by Mary and Joseph, who obediently travelled to the simple town of Bethlehem, and humbly accepted laying the newborn Christ in a manger.” (EWTN/CNA photo)
He underscored several tines that “Humility is the only way that leads us to God. At the same time, specifically because it leads us to Him, humility leads us also to the essentials of life, to its truest meaning, to the most trustworthy reason for why life is truly worth living.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” continued Pope Francis, “I would like to invite every man and woman to the stable of Bethlehem to adore the Son of God made man. May each one of us draw near to the creche in our own homes or in the church or in another place, and try to make an act of adoration, inside: “I believe you are God, that this baby is God. Please, grant me the grace of humility to be able to understand.”
“In approaching and praying by the crib, I would like to put the poor in the front row, those whom – as Saint Paul VI used to exhort – “we must love because in a certain way they are the sacrament of Christ; in them – in the hungry, the thirsty, the exiles, the naked, the ill, prisoners – He wanted to be mystically identified. We must help them, suffer with them, and also follow them because poverty is the securest path to possess the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
“Francis again spoke of humility: “For this reason, we must ask for the grace of humility: “Lord, that I might not be proud, that I might not be self-sufficient, that I might not believe that I am the centre of the universe. Make me humble. Grant me the grace of humility. And with this humility, may I find You”. It is the only way; without humility we will never find God: we will find ourselves. The reason is that the person who is not humble has no horizon in front of him or her. They only have a mirror in which to look at themselves. Let us ask the Lord to break this mirror so we can look beyond, to the horizon, where He is. But He needs to do this: grant us the grace and the joy of humility to take this path.”
The Holy Father then made a remarkable statement to those without religion: “Brothers and sisters, just like the star did with the Magi, I would like to accompany to Bethlehem all those who have no religious restlessness, who do not pose the question of God, or who may even fight against religion, all those who are improperly identified as atheists. I would like to repeat to them the message of the Second Vatican Council: “The Church holds that the recognition of God is in no way hostile to man’s dignity, since this dignity is rooted and perfected in God. […] Above all the Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart.”
We are all urged to remember that, “this is the reason for our joy: we are loved, we are sought for, the Lord seeks us to find us, to love us more. This is the reason for joy: knowing that we are loved without any merit, we are always loved first by God, with a love so concrete that He took on flesh and came to live in our midst, in that Baby that we see in the crib. This love has a name and a face: Jesus is the name and the face of love – this is the foundation of our joy.” General Audience of 22 December 2021: Catechesis: The birth of Jesus | Francis (vatican.va)
FRANCIS WELCOMES REFUGEES, MIGRANTS HE MET ON RECENT TRIP
“During my visit to Cyprus and Greece,” said the Pope at the end of the general audience catechesis, “I was able to once again personally touch wounded humanity in refugees and migrants. I also noted how only some European countries are bearing most of the consequences of this migratory phenomenon in the Mediterranean area, while in reality, a shared responsibility is necessary from which no country can exempt itself.
“In particular, thanks to the generous openness of the Italian authorities, I was able to bring to Rome a group of people I met during my journey: some of them are here among us today. Welcome! As a Church, we will take care of them during the coming months. This is a small sign that I hope will serve as a stimulus for other European countries, so that they might allow the local ecclesial communities to take care of other brothers and sisters who are in urgent need of being relocated.
“In fact,” noted Francis, “there are many local Churches, religious congregations and Catholic organizations that are ready to welcome and accompany them toward a fruitful integration. All that is needed is an open door!”
At the end of the general audience, the Pope greeted a little girl he had met in the Mavrovouni camp in Lesbos, together with her family who had come to Rome to be treated thanks to the intervention of the Holy Father and the efforts of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
POPE RECEIVES METROPOLITAN HILARION ALFEYEV
At 7:50 am today, before the general audience, Pope Francis received Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk. He is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow. They met for about one hour.
According to Vatican News, “The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, reported that during the fraternal conversation, they discussed issues of common concern for which the two Churches are committed to seeking concrete human and spiritual responses. The Holy Father thanked Metropolitan Hilarion for his 85th birthday greetings expressed on behalf of Patriarch Kirill. For his part, Pope Francis expressed his affection and closeness to the Russian Church and to its Patriarch, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, recalling with gratitude the fraternal conversation they had in Havana in 2016.
“After the meeting, the Pope and the Metropolitan exchanged gifts. Metropolitan Hilarion greeted Pope Francis with an icon of the Madonna “of the Sign” and the Holy Father gave a mosaic depicting the Madonna “Synkatabasis of God,” in addition to volumes containing papal documents, copies of his Peace Day Message 2022 and of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity.
HOLY SEE REAFFIRMS “FAVORABLE POSITION TO VACCINES”
The Vatican today issued two new documents by two Vatican offices, “Pandemic And Challenges For Education Children and adolescents dealing with Covid19” from the Pontifical Academy For Life, and “Children And Covid-19” from the Dicastery For Integral Human Development & the Covid-19 Vatican Commission.
In mid-morning, the Vatican press office released this statement: “Following today’s publication of the new documents of the Covid-19 Vatican Commission and the Pontifical Academy for Life, one year after the disclosure of the Notes on the same theme of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Official Communiqué of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, it seems appropriate to reaffirm the favorable position of the Holy See to vaccines. The Holy Father defined vaccination “an act of love”, since it is aimed at protection of people against Covid-19. In addition, he recently reiterated the need for the international community intensify further cooperation efforts, so that all have quick access to vaccines, not as a matter of convenience, but of justice.”