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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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Mother’s Day: Pope Francis sends moms ‘Our prayer, affection, best wishes’

May 8, 2022 Catholic News Agency 4
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Caeli on May 8, 2022. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 8, 2022 / 06:08 am (CNA).

Pope Francis asked the faithful to celebrate their mothers in a special way on Sunday, for Mother’s Day, and urged continued prayers for peace in Ukraine.

“Let us affectionately remember our mothers — a round of applause for our mothers — even those who are no longer with us down here, but who live in our hearts,” he said during his Regina Caeli address. “Our prayer, our affection, and our best wishes for all our mothers.”

The 85-year-old pontiff spoke to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following the Regina Caeli, a Marian prayer said during the Easter season, on May 8. Thousands of faithful brightened the cloudy day with their banners and flags as they gathered to pray with the pontiff.

Pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on May 8, 2022. Vatican Media
Pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on May 8, 2022. Vatican Media

During his address, Pope Francis also turned to Our Mother, Our Lady of Pompeii, to intervene in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Kneeling in spirit before the image of the Virgin, I entrust to her the ardent desire for peace of the many people in various parts of the world who suffer the senseless calamity of war,” he said. “In particular, I present the sufferings and tears of the Ukrainian people to the Holy Virgin.”

His comments come after he consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in March. 

Speaking from an open window looking out to the square, the pontiff called on Catholics to pray the rosary for peace, as he did during the Regina Caeli last week.

“Before the madness of war, please, let us continue to pray the Rosary for peace each day,” he said. “And let us pray for the leaders of nations, so that they might not lose the ‘pulse of the people’ who want peace and who know well that weapons never achieve it, never.”

Pope Francis, an outspoken advocate for the Ukrainian people, recently expressed a desire to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, if the Russian president is willing. 

During his address, he greeted the Ukrainian refugees present, as well as the families hosting them. The United Nations estimates that nearly 6 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

The pontiff also asked for prayers for the victims of an explosion at a hotel in Havana, Cuba. According to a CNN report, at least 32 people have died and 19 more are missing after an explosion Friday at the Hotel Saratoga. Authorities say the explosion may have been due to a gas leak.

Along with Mother’s Day, Pope Francis recognized Sunday as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

“May the Christian community on every continent pray to the Lord for the gift of vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the choice of being a missionary, and to matrimony,” he said. “This is the day on which, because of our baptism, we all feel called to follow Jesus, to say yes to him, to imitate him so as to discover the joy of giving one’s life, of serving the Gospel joyfully and enthusiastically.”

He recognized one woman who lived out her vocation: Sister María Agustina Rivas Lopez. Pope Francis announced the beatification of the “heroic missionary” and martyr — perhaps better known as “Sister Aguchita” — on Saturday in San Ramon, Peru. A woman religious of the Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, she died for her faith in 1990. 

She “always remained near the poor, especially indigenous women and peasants, witnessing to the Gospel of justice and peace,” the pontiff remembered.