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Pope Francis announces ecumenical prayer service, reflects on St. John the Baptist’s ‘spirit of service’

January 15, 2023 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 15, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2023 / 06:17 am (CNA).

In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to cultivate the virtue of knowing “how to step aside” in order to bear witness to Jesus, as St. John the Baptist did.

The pope also announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Jan. 15, the pope shared lessons from St. John the Baptist’s “spirit of service.”

Pope Francis said that St. John was “not interested in having a following for himself, in gaining prestige and success, but he bears witness and then steps back, so that many may have the joy of meeting Jesus.”

He reflected on St. John’s words after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River: “‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” (John 1: 29-30).

“This declaration, this testimony, reveals John’s spirit of service,” the pope said. “Humanly speaking, one would think that he would be given a ‘prize,’ a prominent place in Jesus’ public life. But no. John, having accomplished his mission, knows how to step aside, he withdraws from the scene to make way for Jesus.”

In this way, St. John the Baptist teaches “freedom from attachments” and “gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself,” he said.

“Because it is easy to become attached to roles and positions, to the need to be esteemed, recognized and rewarded,” the pope reflected.

“It is good for us, too, to cultivate, like John, the virtue of setting ourselves aside at the right moment, bearing witness that the point of reference of life is Jesus.”

The crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his Angelus address on Jan. 15, 2023. Vatican Media
The crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his Angelus address on Jan. 15, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis recommended self-reflection on the following questions: “Do we attract others to Jesus, or to ourselves? And furthermore, following the example of John: Do we know how to rejoice in the fact that people take their own path and follow their calling, even if this entails some detachment from us? Do we rejoice in their achievements with sincerity and without envy?”

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, 2023, as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

The ecumenical prayer vigil, organized by the Taizé Community, will “entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” set to take place in two sessions from Oct. 4 to 29, 2023, and in October 2024.

“Starting now, I invite our brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations to participate in this gathering of the People of God,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also highlighted the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will begin this week on Jan. 18, noting that the “path to Christian unity and the Church’s journey to synodal conversion are linked.”

“We thank the Lord who faithfully and patiently guides his people toward full communion, and we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sustain us with his gifts,” he said.

The pope urged people “not to forget the martyred people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much” and to remain close to them with aid and prayers.

He also greeted pilgrims who traveled to Rome from across the globe. “May your visit to St. Peter’s tomb strengthen your faith and your witness,” he said.


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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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Coveting wealth and possessions blind us to the ‘true goods of life,’ Pope Francis says

July 31, 2022 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis reflected on the dangers of coveting wealth and possessions during his Angelus reflection in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on July 31, 2022. / Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 31, 2022 / 06:32 am (CNA).

A day after returning to Rome from his weeklong trip to Canada, Pope Francis on Sunday reflected on the dangers of coveting wealth and possessions.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a man who wants his brother to share his inheritance with him. “Take care to guard against all greed,” Jesus tells the crowd, “for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (Lk. 12:15).

The Holy Father noted that rather than entering into the details of the man’s situation, he “goes to the root of the divisions caused by the possession of things”: covetousness.

“What is covetousness? It is the unbridled greed for possessions, always desiring to be rich,” the pope said, speaking to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square before the weekly recitation of the Angelus.

“This is an illness that destroys people, because the hunger for possessions creates an addiction. Above all, those who have a lot are never content, they always want more, and only for themselves. But this way, the person is no longer free: he or she is attached to, a slave, of what paradoxically was meant to serve them so as to live freely and serenely,” Pope Francis warned.

“Rather than being served by money, the person becomes a servant of money.”

The pope identified covetousness as a “dangerous illness for society as well,” pointing to the greed that fuels wars and in particular the “scandal” of the arms trade.

“And so, let us try to ask ourselves: Where am I at with my detachment from possessions, from wealth?” the pope asked. “Do I complain about what I lack, or do I know how to be content with what I have? In the name of money or opportunity, am I tempted to sacrifice relationships and sacrifice time with others? And yet again, does it happen that I sacrifice legality and honesty on the altar of covetousness?”

Pope Francis reflected on the dangers of coveting wealth and possessions during his Angelus reflection in St. Peter's Square in Rome on July 31, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis reflected on the dangers of coveting wealth and possessions during his Angelus reflection in St. Peter’s Square in Rome on July 31, 2022. Vatican Media

The pope next shifted to focus on the “richness” of God.

“And so, we might think, so, no one should desire to get rich? Certainly, you can; rather, it is right to want it. It is beautiful to become rich, but rich according to God! God is the richest of anyone,” he said.

“He is rich in compassion, in mercy. His riches do not impoverish anyone, do not create quarrels and divisions. It is a richness that knows how to give, to distribute, to share. Brothers and sisters, accumulating material goods is not enough to live well, for Jesus says also that life does not consist in what one possesses (see Lk 12:15). It depends, instead, on good relationships – with God, with others, and even with those who have less.”

The pope continued: “So, let us ask ourselves: For myself, how do I want to get rich? Do I want to get rich according to God or according to my covetousness? And, returning to the topic of inheritance, what legacy do I want to leave? Money in the bank, material things, or happy people around me, good works that are not forgotten, people that I have helped to grow and mature?”

Pope Francis concluded by asking Our Lady, who shared in God’s riches, to “help us understand what the true goods of life are, the ones that last forever.”

Following his reflection, the pope thanked all those who assisted him on his trip to Canada, while assuring those suffering from the war in Ukraine that they remain in his prayers.

“Also, during this journey, I did not cease praying for the suffering and battered Ukrainian people, asking God to free them from the scourge of war,” Pope Francis said.

“If one looked at what is happening objectively, considering the harm that war brings every day to those people, and even to the entire world, the only reasonable thing to do would be to stop and negotiate,” he added. “May wisdom inspire concrete steps toward peace.”