Even though the weather was the coldest we’ve had all winter – with bone-chilling winds yesterday – there were a lot of big events at the Vatican that brought out fairly large numbers of faithful.
How cold was it? I did an unscientific, informal survey of several area restaurants and pizzerias whose owners told me their phones were ringing off the hook: Everyone wanted pizzas delivered, no one wanted to go out in the frigid temperatures!
My comment on the weather is just that – a comment. How can I complain about cold when I think of the tens of thousands of migrants, refugees, our countless brothers and sisters who, as they leave their country of birth, whether by choice or force, and have not found better times (in fact, have found worse ones!) leave everything behind – homes, possessions, security, etc. They probably do not know where their next meal is coming from, where they will rest their head for the night and even if they will hygiene facilities!
But the cold is the Number One story on Italian news tonight!
Sunday, in fact, marked the World Day for Migrants and Refugees and thousands of migrants and refugees of different nationalities entered St. Peter’s Basilica by the Holy Door to attend a special Mass for this world day. Afterwards they filled St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus and heard Pope Francis say: “Each of you carries a story, a culture, precious values; and unfortunately often experiences of poverty, oppression and fear. Your presence in this square is a sign of hope in God.” He urged them not to allow difficulties deprive them of hope and of the joy of life.
Francis also prayed for the victims of attacks by extremists in Burkina Faso and Indonesia. And, interestingly enough, he thanked the inmates of a detention center in Milan who made the hosts for the Mass dedicated to migrants and refugees.
Before the Marian prayer, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. “In that miracle,” said Francis, “Jesus imparts an act of kindness toward the groom, a divine blessing upon marriage. Love between man and woman is a good way in which to live the Gospel and with which to undertake with joy the path towards holiness.” However, said Francis, “the miracle of Cana is not just about the bride and groom. Each human person is called to meet the Lord in his or her life.”
Also on Sunday: In the afternoon, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Jewish community 30 years after St. John Paul was the first ever pope to visit a synagogue. I put the EWTN/CNA account of that visit on my Facebook page – here is a link to the news story: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/lets-unite-against-war-and-violence-pope-francis-urges-at-roman-synagogue-15967/
This morning was nonstop for the pontiff. Following is an abbreviated version of his various audiences based on Vatican Radio and VIS stories on news.va. Photos also from news.va
Before I close: Don’t forget to watch ”At Home with Jim and Joy” today (Mondays and Thursdays, 2 pm ET) when I’ll bring some of the weekend news from Rome.
THE SHORT TAKE….
POPE WELCOMES PRINCE ALBERT II OF MONACO – The prince was accompanied by his wife Princess Charlene, a convert to Catholicism. A statement from the Holy See Press Office called the talks “cordial,” and said they highlighted the good bilateral relations between Monaco and the Holy See, and reference was made to the historical contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of Monaco. Other issues of common interest that were discussed included environmental protection, humanitarian aid, and the integral development of peoples. The parties considered some issues affecting the international community, including peace and security, the reception of migrants, and the general situation in the Mediterranean region, as well as the Middle East. Prince Albert gave Pope Francis a food basket containing fruit, vegetables, and cheeses from the royal farm/vacation home.
HOLY FATHER WELCOMES IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR. The Pope today welcomed Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, International Monetary Fund. The two previously met in the Vatican December 10, 2014. The IMF, composed of 188 countries, was established in 1944 to help manage countries’ balance of payments. According to its website, it is “working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”
VATICAN SECURITY PERSONNEL RECEIVED BY POPE. During his annual address to Officers and Agents of the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican, the Pope expressed appreciation for the work they carry out every day, as well as during pastoral visits in Italy. “Our meeting today is even more significant because it is within the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, an event of spiritual significance, which has already seen the presence of many pilgrims in Rome from all over the world.” He noted that, in a special way, the members of public security are called to a greater commitment “to ensure that the celebrations and events connected with the special Jubilee” run smoothly and take place in an atmosphere of serenity and peace. He asked the Lord to protect them in the fulfillment of the task they carry out in collaboration with other security forces. Francis added that, although the Christmas season is over, the crib can still be viewed in St. Peter’s Square – a reminder to safeguard within ourselves the mystery we have just celebrated.
FRANCIS RECEIVES FINNISH ECUMENICAL DELEGATION OF LUTHERAN – As is traditional, an ecumenical delegation from Finland, led by the Lutheran bishop of Helsinki, came to visit the bishop of Rome for the feast day of St. Henry of Uppsala, patron of the country. Pope Francis told his guests, “Your ecumenical pilgrimage is an eloquent sign of the fact that, as Lutherans, Orthodox and Catholics, you have recognized what unites you and together you wish to bear witness to Jesus Christ, Who is the foundation of unity. Expressing his joy at their visit, the Pope said, “In a special way, we can thank the Lord for the fruits of the dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics. Here I think in particular of the common document on ‘Justification in the Life of the Church’. Building on these foundations, our dialogue is making promising progress towards a shared understanding, on the sacramental level, of Church, Eucharist and Ministry. Finland has 5.5. million people, mostly Lutheran, but 1.1% is Orthodox Christian. The Catholic population numbers a little over 12,000 people.
IN OTHER PAPAL NEWS: Pope Francis is set to release a new children’s book in February, entitled “Love before the World”. Published by Loyola Press (original title, “L’amore prima del mondo”), the book contains the Holy Father’s responses to letters written by children from around the world. For example: What did God do before creating the world? “God loved.” Or: Why do my parents fight sometimes? “They are human.” These are some of the questions put to Pope Francis by children between the ages of 6-13 from 26 countries, including Albania, China, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, director of ‘La Civiltà Cattolica’, met with the Pope at the Casa Santa Marta several times in recent months, giving him a chance to respond to the children’s letters spontaneously. “These are hard questions,” Pope Francis said, smiling. The drawings and questions of 31 children were chosen for the book, which will be presented to the Holy Father by several of the children who wrote the letters on 22 February. The book debuts in Italy on February 25 and around the world on March 1.