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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 Dispatch

The real character of Saint Martha of Bethany

July 29, 2023 Dawn Beutner 3

Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of listening to an acquaintance unjustifiably criticize someone you consider a friend? It’s shocking when we realize how human beings can completely misunderstand one another. This happens not […]

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‘Mary, Explained’ series addresses Marian devotion in Arlington Diocese and beyond

June 11, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
When Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, he had a golden crown added to the mosaic of Mary, Virgin Immaculate, in the Chapel of the Choir in St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

St. John Paul II said of Mary: “This woman of faith, Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, has been given to us as a model in our pilgrimage of faith.” And yet, many of us may not have a personal relationship with her. Perhaps we may not even understand why the Church reveres her so deeply.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is sparing no effort in addressing that through its new, seven-part video series “Mary, Explained.”

In preparation for its upcoming golden jubilee in 2024, the diocese has launched a three-year effort to prepare for the celebration. 

Year One, which began in November 2021, focused on the theme of the Eucharist. Out of that theme the diocese produced a series called “The Mass, Explained,” which received much positive feedback. 

This year, the second year of preparation, the theme for the diocese is “rejoice,” and the focus is Mary’s perfect example of joy.

Kerry Nevins, multimedia producer for the Arlington Diocese, told CNA: “‘Rejoice’ is centered around Mary’s response to the Annunciation when she is told that she’s going to be the mother of God.” He explained that this was their call from Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who leads the diocese.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge shares his thoughts in the "Mary, Explained" series on the importance of Marian theology and why the diocesan faithful ought to see Mary as our model disciple. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Arlington
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge shares his thoughts in the “Mary, Explained” series on the importance of Marian theology and why the diocesan faithful ought to see Mary as our model disciple. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Arlington

As Burbidge, Nevins, and their Arlington Diocese team continued to explore the theme, they decided to create a video series about Mary.

The seven-part series will unpack the Marian dogmas month by month by way of addressing the following topics: Who is Mary? (May); Was she the mother of God? (June); Was she immaculately conceived? (July); Was she assumed into heaven? (August); Was she ever-virgin? (September); Why do Catholics pray and have devotions to Mary? (October); and How can we embrace Mary as our model disciple? (November).

Nevins explained that the mission of the series is to “dive into who she is, what Catholics believe about her, what Catholics don’t believe about her, and why we should even be looking to her in the first place.”

“We don’t just want to know our faith for the sake of knowing our faith so we can get a couple of answers right on Catholic ‘Jeopardy,’” Nevins told CNA. “We want people to know their faith so that they can know Christ and come to be in a relationship with him, and I think the best way that you can get to know somebody is by meeting their mom.” 

Dr. Matthew Tsakanikas, associate professor of theology at Christendom College who is featured in the series, expressed how this project gracefully addresses a wide audience, hearing perspectives from priests, religious, and laypeople alike. Tsakanikas told CNA: “I think it’s written so that anyone accessing it has a chance to get insights at every level.”

Tsakanikas noted how “Mary, Explained” takes what might seem like lofty ideas and brings them down to us. “These dogmas aren’t supposed to be … just looking at Mary on a pedestal but also looking at Mary in terms of how these graces were assigning her a task and mission,” he said.

Through a deeper understanding of the Marian dogmas, viewers can understand how she, too, was commissioned to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth and hopefully encourage them to do the same. 

At a glance, it’s evident that the production quality was carefully considered.  

“A lot of planning went into it,” Nevins said. “We really believe that … quality is credibility.”  

With endless options to click through, Nevins acknowledged that the content had to be aesthetically appealing if they wanted people to consume it. “We really want to make Catholic media beautiful because we’ve got the greatest story to tell, but if the story doesn’t look good, people aren’t going to watch it,” he said. 

Beyond the production quality, the mission of the series is to stoke a fire of love for the Church and deepen devotion to Our Lady.

Father Daniel Hanley, formator at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, told CNA: “Letting people know and enter into relationship with Mary as spiritual mother is hugely important. She’s a real person, she’s involved in our life, and we should recognize it and let her be.”

The bishop’s leadership and inspiration is credited with the initial vision for the series, but the diocese was well suited for the project, according to Hanley. “There’s a lot of Marian devotion in our diocese,” he added.

Those involved in the production of “Mary, Explained” are hopeful that the series will bear the fruit of Marian devotion in their diocese and beyond. 

“It’s part of God’s plan for salvation that people know her and let her be part of their life,” Hanley said. “I noticed that they’ll lean in when you preach about Mary. There’s a desire to know more about her.”

A link to the series can be found at www.arlingtondiocese.org/maryexplained.

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