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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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Pope Francis: Let Mary teach you what to do in the New Year

January 1, 2023 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis’ Angelus message on Jan. 1, 2023, marked the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. An estimated 40,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the event. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 1, 2023 / 08:31 am (CNA).

Let Mary, the Mother of God, be your guide in the New Year, Pope Francis said on Sunday, the first day of 2023.

In his Angelus address before a crowd of an estimated 40,000 people in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 1, the pope said: “As we contemplate Mary in the stable where Jesus was born, let us ask ourselves: What languages does the Holy Virgin use to speak to us? How does Mary speak?”

“What can we learn from her for this year that is dawning?” he added. “We can say: Virgin Mary, teach us what we should do this year.”

The pope’s message preceding the Angelus prayer was delivered on the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Pope Francis also celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica earlier in the day to mark the feast day.

At the beginning of his Angelus message, Pope Francis remembered his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31 at the age of 95.

Echoing his words at Mass Sunday, he invited Catholics to invoke the Virgin Mary’s intercession for Benedict. “Let us all join together, with one heart and one soul, in thanking God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the Church,” he said.

‘The language of love’

His Angelus reflection focused on the “language of Mary,” specifically her tenderness and care for the Baby Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke describes the shepherds’ encounter with the Holy Family, and how they saw the infant Jesus “lying in the manger.”

“This verb ‘to lay’ means to carefully place, and tells us that the language proper to Mary is maternal: She tenderly takes care — this is the language of Mary — to tenderly take care of the Child. This is Mary’s greatness,” he said.

He described a noisy scene: the angels celebrating Christ’s birth and the shepherds running to meet Jesus with everyone loudly praising God.

Instead, “Mary does not speak,” Francis said, “she does not steal the show — we like to steal the show! On the contrary, she puts the Child in the center, she lovingly takes care of him.”

The pope recalled a line of poetry from the Italian writer Alda Merini, which says that Mary “even knew how to be solemnly mute, […] because she did not want to lose sight of her God.” 

All mothers do the same, he said: “After having carried the gift of a mysterious prodigy in her womb for nine months, mothers constantly put their babies at the center of their attention: They feed them, they hold them in their arms, they tenderly lay them down in the crib.”

The Mother of God’s language is “a language of a mother,” he added.

Mary, Pope Francis said, “reminds us that, if we truly want the New Year to be good, if we want to reconstruct hope, we need to abandon the language, those actions and those choices inspired by egoism, and learn the language of love, which is to take care.”

He continued: “This is the commitment: to take care of our lives, of our time, of our souls; to take care of creation and the environment we live in; and even more, to take care of our neighbor, of those whom the Lord has placed alongside us, as well as our brothers and sisters who are in need and who call for our attention and our compassion.”


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Pope Francis entrusts the late Benedict XVI to the Blessed Virgin Mary

January 1, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis presided over the first papal Mass of the new year on Jan. 1, 2023, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. / Alan Köppschall/EWTN Vatican

Vatican City, Jan 1, 2023 / 03:17 am (CNA).

At the first papal Mass of 2023, thousands of Catholics gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica prayed for the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95.

In the prayers of the faithful on Jan. 1, the congregation prayed: “Remember Lord, the deceased Pope Emeritus Benedict. May the chief Shepherd, who always lives to intercede for us, welcome him kindly into the kingdom of light and peace.”

On New Year’s Day, Pope Francis entrusted the soul of the late Benedict XVI to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” Francis said.

The Catholic Church begins each new year with the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, a title confirmed at the First Council of Ephesus in 431.

Pope Francis, who turned 85 last month, arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica in a wheelchair. He sat in a white chair in front of the congregation for the Mass.

In his homily for the Marian solemnity, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to see the new year as an opportunity to do good by sharing God’s love with “the people next door, the people who live in the same building, the people we meet each day on the street.”

“At the beginning of this year, among all the other things that we would like to do and experience, let us devote some time to seeing, to opening our eyes and to keeping them open before what really matters: God and our brothers and sisters,” he said.

The pope urged Catholics to imitate the shepherds in Bethlehem by “setting out in haste” to serve others.

“Today, at the beginning of the year, rather than standing around, thinking and hoping that things will change, we should instead ask ourselves: ‘This year, where do I want to go? Who is it that I can help? So many people, in the Church and in society, are waiting for the good that you and you alone can do, they are waiting for your help,” Francis said.

“Today, amid the lethargy that dulls our senses, the indifference that paralyzes our hearts, and the temptation to waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen, the shepherds are summoning us to set out and get involved in our world, to dirty our hands and to do some good.”

Prayers were said for the soul of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the first papal Mass of the new year on Jan. 1, 2023, at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Alan Köppschall/EWTN Vatican
Prayers were said for the soul of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the first papal Mass of the new year on Jan. 1, 2023, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Alan Köppschall/EWTN Vatican

Like the shepherds, Christians should also prioritize time in the new year to contemplate “the Christ Child resting in his mother’s arms,” the pope added.

He asked, “How many times, in our busy lives, do we fail to stop, even for a moment, to be close to the Lord and to hear his word, to say a prayer, to adore and praise him?”

On Jan. 1, the Catholic Church also celebrates the World Day of Peace, a tradition established by Pope Paul VI and confirmed by Pope John Paul II.

At the Mass, Pope Francis entrusted victims of war to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He prayed for all those “passing these holidays in darkness and cold, in poverty and fear, immersed in violence and indifference.”

“For all those who have no peace, let us invoke Mary, the woman who brought into the world the Prince of Peace,” he said.



Pope Francis: Let us place the new year under the protection of Mary

January 1, 2022 Catholic News Agency 19
Pope Francis offers Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1, 2022. / © Daniel Ibáñez/EWTN/Vatican Pool

Vatican City, Jan 1, 2022 / 09:35 am (CNA).

On New Year’s Day, Pope Francis encouraged people to place their lives under the protection of Mary, the Mother of God.

“The new year begins under the sign of the Holy Mother of God, under the sign of the Mother. A mother’s gaze is the path to rebirth and growth. We need mothers, women who look at the world not to exploit it, but so that it can have life,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1.

“At the beginning of the New Year, then, let us place ourselves under the protection of this woman, the Mother of God, who is also our mother. May she help us to keep and ponder all things, unafraid of trials and with the joyful certainty that the Lord is faithful and can transform every cross into a resurrection,” the pope said.

Pope Francis’ first public act of 2022 was to offer Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.

In his homily, the pope said that the Virgin Mary teaches us how to “keep and to ponder,” to reflect upon and accept life as it comes, in times of both joy and suffering.

“Mary’s pensiveness … is the expression of a mature, adult faith, not a faith of beginners. Not a newborn faith, it is rather a faith that now gives birth,” he said.

“For spiritual fruitfulness is born of trials and testing. From the quiet of Nazareth and from the triumphant promises received by the Angel – the beginnings – Mary now finds herself in the dark stable of Bethlehem. Yet that is where she gives God to the world.”

The pope asked people to reflect on how Mary had to endure “the scandal of the manger.”

“How can she hold together the throne of a king and the lowly manger? How can she reconcile the glory of the Most High and the bitter poverty of a stable? Let us think of the distress of the Mother of God. What can be more painful for a mother than to see her child suffering poverty? It is troubling indeed,” he said.

“We would not blame Mary, were she to complain of those unexpected troubles. Yet she does not lose heart. She does not complain, but keeps silent. Rather than complain, she chooses a different part: For her part, the Gospel tells us, Mary ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.’”

Pope Francis encouraged people to have the same attitude of Mary when faced with unexpected problems or troubling situations.

“She shows us that it is necessary: it is the narrow path to achieve the goal, the cross, without which there can be no resurrection. Like the pangs of childbirth, it begets a more mature faith,” he said.

After offering Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus at noon from the window of the Apostolic Palace with a crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.

“Happy New Year! Let us begin the new year by entrusting it to Mary, the Mother of God,” he said.

“The new year begins with God who, in the arms of his mother and lying in a manger, gives us courage with tenderness. We need this encouragement. We are still living in uncertain and difficult times due to the pandemic,” the pope said.

“Many are frightened about the future and burdened by social problems, personal problems, dangers stemming from the ecological crisis, injustices and by global economic imbalances. Looking at Mary with her Son in her arms, I think of young mothers and their children fleeing wars and famine, or waiting in refugee camps. There are so many of them.”

Pope Francis said that the thought of Mary holding Jesus in the stable is a reminder that “the world can change and everyone’s life can improve only if we make ourselves available to others.”

He recalled that January 1 marks the World Day of Peace, instituted by St. Paul VI in 1968.

“We can truly build peace only if we have peace in our hearts, only if we receive it from the Prince of peace. But peace is also our commitment: it asks us to take the first step, it demands concrete actions. It is built by being attentive to the least, by promoting justice, with the courage to forgive thus extinguishing the fire of hatred,” he said.

“At the beginning of this year, may the Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, obtain harmony in our hearts and in the entire world,” Pope Francis said.


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‘Painful sciatica’ prevents Pope Francis from attending Vatican’s New Year’s liturgies

December 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Dec 31, 2020 / 09:20 am (CNA).- Because of sciatic pain, Pope Francis will not preside at the Vatican’s liturgies on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, according to the Holy See press office.

Pope Francis was scheduled to lead vespers on Dec. 31, and to offer Mass on Jan. 1, for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, stated Dec. 31 that the pope would no longer be doing so “due to a painful sciatica.”

Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for a number of years. He spoke about it during an in-flight press conference returning from a trip to Brazil in July 2013.

He revealed that “the worst thing” that had happened in the first four months of his pontificate “was an attack of sciatica – really! – that I had the first month, because I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt.”

“Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!” Francis said.

The pope will still recite the Angelus on Jan. 1, the Vatican statement said. During the Christmas season, Francis has been giving his Angelus message via livestream from the library of the Apostolic Palace, due to holiday coronavirus restrictions in Italy.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, will offer the Jan. 1 Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.

First Vespers, the singing of the “Te Deum,” and Eucharistic adoration Dec. 31 was led by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, deacon of the College of Cardinals.