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Pope Francis reflects on Mary’s motherhood, prays for Nicaragua during New Year’s Angelus

January 1, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis smiles at pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 1, 2023, for his first Angelus of the new year. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 1, 2024 / 09:47 am (CNA).

Pope Francis delivered his first Angelus of the new year on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, by reflecting that the importance of Mary’s motherhood is defined by love and underscored by a quiet silence that allowed her to place Christ at the center. 

“She is Mother not only because she carried Jesus in her womb and gave birth to him, but because she brings him into the light, without occupying his place,” said the pope to the nearly 35,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. 

Pope Francis also used the occasion to appeal for prayers for the Church in Nicaragua, which has been at the center of an escalating persecution launched by the country’s president, Daniel Ortega.

“I am following with deep concern what is happening in Nicaragua, where Bishops and priests have been deprived of their freedom. I express to them, their families, and the entire Church in the country my closeness in prayer,” the Holy Father said. 

“I also invite all of you present here and all the People of God to insistent prayer, while I hope that we will always seek the path of dialogue to overcome difficulties. Let’s pray for Nicaragua today.”

Just days after Christmas, on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime abducted four priests, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

The priests are: Monsignor Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Managua; Father Héctor Treminio, pastor of Holy Christ Parish in Esquipulas in the same archdiocese; and Father Fernando Calero, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Rancho Grande in the Diocese of Matagalpa.

In his Angelus reflection, Pope Francis noted that Mary’s silence is a “beautiful feature” but should not be thought of as a “simple absence of words” but rather as a feature that is “filled with wonder and adoration for the wonders that God is working.”

“In this way, she makes room within herself for the One who was born; in silence and adoration, she places Jesus at the center and bears witness to Him as Saviour,” the pope observed.

The Holy Father went on to express that this expression of maternity seen in Mary is an ideal that is also seen in our mothers who “with their hidden care, with their thoughtfulness, are often magnificent cathedrals of silence. They bring us into the world and then continue to attend to us, often unnoticed, so that we can grow. Let us remember this: love never stifles; love makes room for the other and lets them grow.”

Pope Francis added that by reflecting on mothers, we can “learn that love that is cultivated above all in silence, that knows how to make room for the other, respecting their dignity, leaving the freedom to express themselves, rejecting every form of possession, oppression, and violence.”

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis' Angelus reflection on Jan. 1, 2024, wave peace signs. On Jan. 1 the Catholic Church observes the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, as well as the World Day of Peace. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA
Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Angelus reflection on Jan. 1, 2024, wave peace signs. On Jan. 1 the Catholic Church observes the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, as well as the World Day of Peace. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA

In addition to the day’s Marian feast, on Jan. 1 the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace, a tradition which was started by Pope Paul VI in 1968. In light of this celebration, Pope Francis took a moment during the Angelus to note that “‘freedom and peaceful coexistence are threatened whenever human beings yield to the temptation to selfishness, self-interest, the desire for profit, and the thirst for power.’” 

The pope underscored that the antidote to overcoming these destructive tendencies that are ubiquitous today is “love” which “consists of respect and kindness: In this way, it breaks down barriers and helps us to live fraternal relationships, to build up more just and humane, more peaceful societies.”

On Monday the Vatican released a video message from the pope invoking the Blessed Mother’s intercession for peace in the world.


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Pope Francis asks Mary’s intercession in World Day of Peace video

January 1, 2024 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis invoke the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Peace and Mother of Mercy at a prayer vigil for peace in St. Peter’s Basilica, Friday, Oct. 27. / Credit: Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Jan 1, 2024 / 09:00 am (CNA).

In a video marking the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, Pope Francis asks the Blessed Mother to “teach us to cherish and care for life — each and every human life” and “to repudiate the folly of war, which sows death and eliminates the future.”

“This is a dark hour, Mother,” the pope prays in the video, which was released Monday. “Turn your eyes of mercy toward our human family, which preferred Cain to Abel.”

The Vatican described the video, which used selections from Pope Francis’s Oct. 27 prayer for peace, as an exploration of “the visual and existential contrasts between war and peace.”

It shows a child walking across a desolate field, as another runs joyfully through the tall grass. Smoke billows from a just-bombed building, while fireworks of celebration light up the night sky. Other scenes juxtapose marching soldiers with civilians crossing the street, flying kites with fighter jets, and an elderly woman crying in anguish with another praying serenely.

“You suffer with us and for us, as you see your children suffering from conflicts and wars that are tearing our world apart,” Pope Francis prays to Mary, as an image of a burned-out church is set against a chapel glowing with lit votive candles. You can watch the full video below.

Praying for peace has been a major emphasis of Pope Francis’s in recent months, as armed conflicts rage across the world. In his Urbi et Orbi address on Christmas Day, the pope prayed for an end to violence in Israel and Palestine, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and several other conflict areas in Africa and the Middle East. Francis has repeated many of these intentions in his most recent addresses.

“Please, let’s not forget Ukraine, Palestine, Israel, which are at war,” the pope said in his Angelus message for Jan. 1. “Let’s pray for peace to come, altogether.”

The Catholic Church has observed the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, since 1968. For this year’s observance, Pope Francis also released a message calling for the global regulation of artificial intelligence for “peace and common good.”

In the newly released video, a young girl sits in rubble while another reads quietly on her classroom floor, as Pope Francis tells the Blessed Mother that “we cannot succeed alone.” The pope continues, asking Mary to grant that a “glimmer of light may illumine the dark night of conflict.

“Mother Mary, Queen of Peace, pour forth into our hearts God’s gift of harmony.”


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The story behind the Immaculate Conception banner at every Vatican Angelus

December 8, 2023 Catholic News Agency 0
The House of Mary community poses for a photo on Dec. 8, 1994, in St. Peter’s Square, the first time they brought their blue banner with the words “The Immaculate Conception will Triumph” to the Angelus with Pope John Paul II. The group has continued to bring the banner to every Sunday Angelus for 29 years. / Credit: Comunita Casa di Maria

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2023 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

“The Immaculate Conception will triumph”: These are the words displayed, in Italian, on a blue banner held every week in St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus — a prayer honoring Mary — for 29 years.

The banner’s declaration recalls the Marian spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who had a special devotion to the Immaculate Conception.

Father Giacomo Martinelli, founder of the House of Mary community, waves at Pope Francis during a recent Angelus in St. Peter's Square. Credit: Comunita Casa di Maria.
Father Giacomo Martinelli, founder of the House of Mary community, waves at Pope Francis during a recent Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. Credit: Comunita Casa di Maria.

Since the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 1994, members of the Casa di Maria (“House of Mary”) community have held the sign “L’Immacolata Vincerà” at the pope’s Angelus on Sundays and Marian feast days.

“Every time we hold the banner in the square we affirm that life is a struggle and the Christian’s joy is a victory … the joy not of those who pretend that all is well but the exultation of those who believe that evil does not have the last word because God is greater,” Father Michele Reschini told CNA via email.

The priest, who oversees the community’s youth formation, said the House of Mary is inspired to be present at the Angelus every Sunday as a sign of its filial affection for the pope and support for his magisterium and apostolate. 

“Moreover, this banner is meant to be a small sign of a great hope,” he explained. “In such an ecclesial place and moment as the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square we want to express that Our Lady is present in the heart of the Church.”

There are frequently tens of thousands of people in attendance at the Sunday Angelus with Pope Francis.

The custom of popes publicly praying the Angelus at midday on Sundays goes back to 1954, when Pope Pius XII was convinced to do so by his friend, Italian Catholic doctor and lay leader Luigi Gedda.

The House of Mary community, founded in 1990, was supported in its early days by Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, a Polish cardinal working in the Vatican and a friend of St. John Paul II from his seminary days.

Members of the Casa di Maria ("House of Mary") community hold a banner that says in Italian, "The Immaculate Conception will Triumph," during Pope Francis' Angelus in St. Peter's Square on March 19, 2023. Vatican Media
Members of the Casa di Maria (“House of Mary”) community hold a banner that says in Italian, “The Immaculate Conception will Triumph,” during Pope Francis’ Angelus in St. Peter’s Square on March 19, 2023. Vatican Media

Originally a Marian prayer group, the community is made up of priests, consecrated women, families, and young adults.

Deskur had written about St. Maximilian Kolbe and his Marian spirituality in a meditation for a novena to the Immaculate Conception in 1987.

“The Mariology of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe could be summarized in the phrase frequently repeated by the saint in the face of the difficulties he encountered: ‘The Immaculate Conception will triumph,’” the cardinal wrote. 

Deskur invoked the phrase again in a March 25, 1994, audience with John Paul II, to whom he presented the House of Mary community and its founder, Father Giacomo Martinelli.

“The Immaculate Conception will triumph” became the unofficial motto of the House of Mary, and almost nine months later, on Dec. 8, 1994, the group brought their blue banner, for the first time, to the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square.

At an Angelus the following month, Pope John Paul II pointed to the sign and said, “I, too, am convinced that the Immaculate Conception will triumph!”

Over the years, the group has also brought its banner on some of the pope’s apostolic trips within Italy, estimating that it has traveled more than 96,000 miles to over 38 cities.

Pope Francis has also been supportive of the group and its presence at his Sunday Angelus.

“The House of Mary is a community that wants to live the Gospel in faith and to witness to the Gospel through fraternal life in a world that increasingly loses the gift of belief and the gift of fraternity,” Reschini said.

“Our Lady has always been present in the life of Jesus, from the manger to Calvary. So she is always present in the life of the Church, from its beginning to its end,” he continued. “This faithfulness of hers gives us hope, this presence of hers is a guarantee of victory. It impels us to believe that his faithfulness is stronger than our infidelities, and in this faithfulness the Church can always find herself faithful to Jesus Christ.”

“Inside the storms of modern times; in the midst of the icy winds of secularism, modernism, and relativism; under the threats of apostasy and idolatry, the Church remaining with Mary will triumph, will triumph because like Mary and with Mary, it is faithful to Christ to the end.”