Christian hope grants those who suffer the assurance that God does not abandon His people in their time of need, Pope Francis said.
“Problems do not vanish, difficulties and worries are not lacking, but we are not alone; the Father ‘sent forth His son’ to redeem us from the slavery of sin and to restore our dignity as children,” the pope said Dec. 31.
To mark the end of 2021, Pope Francis took part in an evening prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Surprisingly, however, the pope did not preside over the prayer service as scheduled; instead, the Vatican press office said, he wanted Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, to preside.
The service included the singing of the “Te Deum” (“We praise you, oh God”) in thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year, as well as eucharistic adoration and benediction.
Although he did not preside over the liturgy, the pope delivered a brief homily reflecting on the recent celebration of Christmas and highlighting the “amazement, wonder and contemplation” of the shepherds who first received the announcement of Jesus’ birth.
At the first vespers for the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, the pope said she is “the first and the greatest” witness to God’s love and was filled with an amazement devoid of “romanticism, sweeteners or spiritualization” that all Christians should aspire to have within themselves.
“Christian amazement is not the result of special effects, of fantasy worlds, but from the mystery of reality: there is nothing more amazing and stupefying than reality!” the pope said. “A flower, a clod of earth, a life story, an encounter, the wrinkled face of an elderly person or the blooming face of a newborn baby, a mamma who nurses a baby in her arms. The mystery shines there.”
As more countries deal
with the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant, Pope Francis said that “a sense of being lost has grown in the world during this time of the pandemic.”
The pope, who wore a mask except when preaching, explained that while there was a sense of solidarity at the beginning of the pandemic, “the ‘every man for himself’ temptation spread.”
Nevertheless, the pope said the world “reacted again with a sense of responsibility,” for which Christians should be grateful to God because “the choice to be responsible in solidarity does not come from the world; it comes from God.”
Contemplating on Mary as mother to both Jesus and the Church, Pope Francis said she continues to call on Christians to follow Christ in their lives and to trust in Him.
Jesus, the pope said, “brings time to its fullness, He gives meaning to what we do and to the days we live. Let us trust in joyful times and in sorrowful times: the hope He gives us is a hope that never disappoints.”
Religious persecution an ‘insane’ act, pope says
By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service
To discriminate against or persecute those who profess their faith is an intolerable act that threatens the fraternal bonds shared by humanity, Pope Francis said.
“How can we allow that in this society — which is so civilized — there are people who are persecuted simply because they publicly profess their faith? Not only is it unacceptable; it’s inhuman, it’s insane,” the pope said.
In a video message released by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network Jan. 3, the pope offered his prayer intention for the month of January, which he dedicated to people who suffer from religious discrimination and persecution.
“Let us pray that those who suffer discrimination and suffer religious persecution may find in the societies in which they live the rights and dignity that comes from being brothers and sisters,” he said.
In his video message, the pope said religious freedom is not just about allowing freedom of worship but also “makes us appreciate others in their differences and recognize them as true brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis prayed for an end to religious persecution and discrimination and that the world would “choose the path of fraternity” because “either we are brothers and sisters or we all lose.”
“As human beings, we have so many things in common that we can live alongside each other, welcoming our differences with the joy of being brothers and sisters,” the pope said.
“And may a small difference, or a substantial difference such as a religious one, not obscure the great unity of being brothers and sisters,” he said.