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In a de-Christianized world, priests should be pillars of faith, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 07:24 am (CNA).- Priests should strive after a strong relationship with Christ, beginning in seminary, in order to be the guides in faith the de-Christianized society needs, Pope Francis said Monday.

To seminarians and priests from northern Italy Dec. 9, he said: “You are called to be evangelizers in your region, also marked by de-Christianization.”

“Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith which is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which to cling,” he stated.

A strong faith, the pope said, “is cultivated above all in a personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ.” In the seminary, candidates for the priesthood should evaluate their actions “in reference to Christ.”

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary in Bologna.

He encouraged men studying for the priesthood to focus on their relationship with Christ while in seminary, which he called a “‘house of prayer,’ where the Lord again calls ‘his people’ to ‘a secluded place’ to live a strong experience of meeting and listening.”

To become a priest, the Church requires a long period of formation, he noted, underlining the aspects of prayer, study, and communion.

Study is an important part of the foundation of formation of future priests, also in its communal aspect, such as sharing lessons and studying with fellow students, Pope Francis argued: “The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual.”

He said for priests, charity and fraternity should go hand-in-hand. “A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to a diocese, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of holy priests, of a particular Church.”

Francis also spoke about four attitudes of “closeness” every diocesan priest should strive after: closeness to God in prayer, closeness to his bishop, closeness to his brother priests, and closeness to the people of God.

“If one of these is missing,” he said, “the priest will not function and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes.”

“Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under rigidity, there are serious problems,” he stated.

In a de-Christianized world, priests should be pillars of faith, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2019 / 07:24 am (CNA).- Priests should strive after a strong relationship with Christ, beginning in seminary, in order to be the guides in faith the de-Christianized society needs, Pope Francis said Monday.

To seminarians and priests from northern Italy Dec. 9, he said: “You are called to be evangelizers in your region, also marked by de-Christianization.”

“Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith which is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which to cling,” he stated.

A strong faith, the pope said, “is cultivated above all in a personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ.” In the seminary, candidates for the priesthood should evaluate their actions “in reference to Christ.”

Pope Francis met at the Vatican with seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary in Bologna.

He encouraged men studying for the priesthood to focus on their relationship with Christ while in seminary, which he called a “‘house of prayer,’ where the Lord again calls ‘his people’ to ‘a secluded place’ to live a strong experience of meeting and listening.”

To become a priest, the Church requires a long period of formation, he noted, underlining the aspects of prayer, study, and communion.

Study is an important part of the foundation of formation of future priests, also in its communal aspect, such as sharing lessons and studying with fellow students, Pope Francis argued: “The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual.”

He said for priests, charity and fraternity should go hand-in-hand. “A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to a diocese, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of holy priests, of a particular Church.”

Francis also spoke about four attitudes of “closeness” every diocesan priest should strive after: closeness to God in prayer, closeness to his bishop, closeness to his brother priests, and closeness to the people of God.

“If one of these is missing,” he said, “the priest will not function and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes.”

“Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under rigidity, there are serious problems,” he stated.

Scotland's bishops issue letter on life issues ahead of election

Edinburgh, Scotland, Dec 8, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- After Scotland’s Catholic bishops stressed the right to life as fundamental, their parliamentary office has released a letter setting out the Church’s teaching on abortion and assisted suicide ahead of the U.K. general election next week.

“It is the duty of all of us to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right – the right to life,” the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said the letter, released Thursday ahead of the Dec. 12 vote.

“We should urge candidates to recognize human life from the moment of conception until natural death and to legislate for its protection at every stage, including protecting the unborn child, ensuring that both mother and child are accepted and loved.”

The bishops did not endorse any political party or candidate, but said abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are “always morally unacceptable,” and that all politicians should be urged to resist the decriminalization of abortion, which leads towards abortion on demand for any reason. 

The Catholic Parliamentary Office, an agency of the Scottish bishops’ conference, also reports on its website the votes of politicians on several bills, organized by parliamentary constituency.

These votes include the decriminalization of abortion, which the office said would clear the way for “abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.” MPs’ votes on a bill to legalize assisted suicide are also recorded, as are how MPs voted on the parliamentary act which imposed permissive abortion laws and same-sex “marriage” on Northern Ireland.

The website also provides links to the major parties’ manifestos and information about voter registration and methods of voting.

Scotland’s bishops emphasized the need to vote in a way that reflects Catholic beliefs.

“This general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs,” they said in their letter. 

“It allows us to revisit Catholic social teaching and to connect our voting to our Catholic faith. It can be a chance to proclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and to promote the common good.”

The bishops said that politics has taken on a divisive tone, mainly as a result of the European Union “Brexit” referendum, and they lamented that vigorous debate has sometimes turned into personal attacks and acts of violence, “which are never acceptable.”

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland, sent a separate letter to priests, the Scottish Catholic Observer reports.

“While we tend to see politics through a party prism, this general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs, including the inherent dignity and value of every human being and the promotion of the common good,” he said.

Horan urged the priests and their parishioners “to contact all candidates in your constituency and to challenge them on the issues raised in the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Pastoral letter on the General Election 2019.”

Scottish constituencies make up 59 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. While unaffiliated candidates can stand as independents, the vast majority of elected candidates are members of one of the main political parties.

The letter from the Scotland bishops also criticized pro-abortion rights advocacy backed by the U.K. government and the Scottish parliament.

“Our Governments should also promote a culture of life overseas, reversing the current practice of the U.K. government to support anti-life initiatives, which might be described as ideological colonization,” the bishops said.

The bishops also highlighted rising homelessness and reliance on food banks. The government’s two-child limit on tax credits disproportionately affects religious families, they said. 

“Society relies on the building block of the family to exist,” they said. “The love of man and woman in marriage and their openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which society is built.”

Religious tolerance and religious freedom were also a focus. The bishops called for legislation that welcomes “all faiths and none,” with respect for conscience rights and awareness of the need to work against religious persecution and intolerance around the world, including anti-Christian persecution.

“We believe that a creeping intolerance towards religious belief, including but not confined to Christianity, has become part of life in modern Britain,” the bishops said. “Certain politicians and citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to be true to their faith in an environment that tries to restrict religion to the private sphere.”

In line with recent comments by Pope Francis on his papal trip to Japan, the Scottish bishops also urged the next U.K. government to work to eliminate the U.K. nuclear arsenal and to move away from weapons industries which “fuel wars and instability across the world.”

About ten percent of Scotland’s 5.4 million people are Roman Catholic, while about 18% belong to the protestant Church of Scotland. Over half of Scottish people say they have no religion at all.

Pope Francis' prayer for the Immaculate Conception: 'You never stop loving your children'

Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- For the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Francis on Sunday venerated a statue of the Virgin Mary located in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, reciting a prayer he wrote for the occasion.

“I entrust to you all those who, in this city and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust, by discouragement due to sin; those who think that for them there is no more hope, that their faults are too many and too great, and that God has no time to waste with them,” the pope prayed Dec. 8.

“I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother, and as such you never stop loving your children, but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace, and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.”

“We thank you, Immaculate Mother,” he continued, “for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but free, free to love, to love each other, to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.”

On the feast day, Pope Francis also offered a prayer before the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church proclaimed the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day.

The statue is adorned with flower wreaths hung around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue.

Below is the full text of the original prayer Pope Francis offered for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

O Mary Immaculate,
we gather around you once again.
The more we go on in life
the more our gratitude to God increases
for giving to us as a mother, we that are sinners,
You, who are the Immaculate.
Among all human beings, you are the only one
preserved from sin, as the mother of Jesus
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But this your unique privilege
it was given to you for the sake of us all, your children.
In fact, looking at you, we see the victory of Christ,
the victory of God's love over evil:
where sin abounded, that is, in the human heart,
grace overflowed,
for the gentle power of the Blood of Jesus.
You, Mother, remind us that, yes, we are sinners,
but we are no longer slaves to sin!
Your Son, with his Sacrifice,
He broke the dominion of evil, He won the world.
Your heart tells this to all generations
as clear as the sky where the wind has dispeled every cloud.

And so you remind us that it's not the same thing
to be sinners and to be corrupt: it is very different.
It is one thing to fall, but then, repent, confess it
and rise again with the help of God's mercy.
Another thing is the hypocritical connivance with evil,
the corruption of the heart, which is impeccable outside,
but inside is full of evil intentions and petty selfishness.
Your clear purity recalls us to sincerity,
to transparency, to simplicity.
How much we need to be released
from the corruption of the heart, which is the most serious danger!
This seems impossible to us, we are so inured,
and instead it is at hand. Enough
to raise our eyes to your Mother's smile, to your pristine beauty,
to feel again that we are not made for evil,
but for good, for love, for God!

For this, O Virgin Mary,
today I entrust to you all those who, in this city
and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust,
by discouragement due to sin;
those who think that for them there is no more hope,
that their faults are too many and too great,
and that God has no time to waste with them.
I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother,
and as such you never stop loving your children,
but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace,
and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness
a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.
He, and He alone, breaks the chains of evil,
free from the most relentless addictions,
dissolves from the most criminal ties,
softens the most hardened hearts.
And if this happens inside people,
how the face of the city changes!
In small gestures and in great choices,
vicious circles become virtuous little by little,
the quality of life becomes better
and the most breathable social climate.

We thank you, Immaculate Mother,
for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ,
we are no longer slaves to sin,
but free, free to love, to love each other,
to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.
Thank you for encouraging us with your candor
not to be ashamed of good, but of evil;
help us to keep the evil one away from us,
who with deceit draws us to himself, into the coils of death;
give us the sweet memory that we are children of God,
the Father of immense goodness,
the eternal source of life, beauty and love. Amen.

Pope Francis' prayer for the Immaculate Conception: 'You never stop loving your children'

Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 10:01 am (CNA).- For the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, Pope Francis on Sunday venerated a statue of the Virgin Mary located in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna, reciting a prayer he wrote for the occasion.

“I entrust to you all those who, in this city and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust, by discouragement due to sin; those who think that for them there is no more hope, that their faults are too many and too great, and that God has no time to waste with them,” the pope prayed Dec. 8.

“I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother, and as such you never stop loving your children, but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace, and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.”

“We thank you, Immaculate Mother,” he continued, “for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but free, free to love, to love each other, to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.”

On the feast day, Pope Francis also offered a prayer before the Byzantine Marian icon Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

The statue of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column. It was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church proclaimed the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the feast day.

The statue is adorned with flower wreaths hung around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue.

Below is the full text of the original prayer Pope Francis offered for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.

O Mary Immaculate,
we gather around you once again.
The more we go on in life
the more our gratitude to God increases
for giving to us as a mother, we that are sinners,
You, who are the Immaculate.
Among all human beings, you are the only one
preserved from sin, as the mother of Jesus
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But this your unique privilege
it was given to you for the sake of us all, your children.
In fact, looking at you, we see the victory of Christ,
the victory of God's love over evil:
where sin abounded, that is, in the human heart,
grace overflowed,
for the gentle power of the Blood of Jesus.
You, Mother, remind us that, yes, we are sinners,
but we are no longer slaves to sin!
Your Son, with his Sacrifice,
He broke the dominion of evil, He won the world.
Your heart tells this to all generations
as clear as the sky where the wind has dispeled every cloud.

And so you remind us that it's not the same thing
to be sinners and to be corrupt: it is very different.
It is one thing to fall, but then, repent, confess it
and rise again with the help of God's mercy.
Another thing is the hypocritical connivance with evil,
the corruption of the heart, which is impeccable outside,
but inside is full of evil intentions and petty selfishness.
Your clear purity recalls us to sincerity,
to transparency, to simplicity.
How much we need to be released
from the corruption of the heart, which is the most serious danger!
This seems impossible to us, we are so inured,
and instead it is at hand. Enough
to raise our eyes to your Mother's smile, to your pristine beauty,
to feel again that we are not made for evil,
but for good, for love, for God!

For this, O Virgin Mary,
today I entrust to you all those who, in this city
and in the whole world, are oppressed by distrust,
by discouragement due to sin;
those who think that for them there is no more hope,
that their faults are too many and too great,
and that God has no time to waste with them.
I entrust them to you, because you are not only a mother,
and as such you never stop loving your children,
but you are also the Immaculate, full of grace,
and you can reflect right into the deepest darkness
a ray of the light of the Risen Christ.
He, and He alone, breaks the chains of evil,
free from the most relentless addictions,
dissolves from the most criminal ties,
softens the most hardened hearts.
And if this happens inside people,
how the face of the city changes!
In small gestures and in great choices,
vicious circles become virtuous little by little,
the quality of life becomes better
and the most breathable social climate.

We thank you, Immaculate Mother,
for reminding us that, by the love of Jesus Christ,
we are no longer slaves to sin,
but free, free to love, to love each other,
to help each other as brothers, even if different from us.
Thank you for encouraging us with your candor
not to be ashamed of good, but of evil;
help us to keep the evil one away from us,
who with deceit draws us to himself, into the coils of death;
give us the sweet memory that we are children of God,
the Father of immense goodness,
the eternal source of life, beauty and love. Amen.

Cardinal Tagle named head of Vatican evangelization office

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 09:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Tagle, 62, follows Cardinal Fernando Filoni as prefect, usually referred to by its historic name of Propaganda Fide.

Charged with the Church’s missionary works and territories, Propaganda Fide is one of the largest curial departments, with a size and scope exceeding almost any other.

The beneficiary of centuries of dedicated legacies and bequests, Propaganda Fide is also the most financially autonomous curial department.

Praedicate evangelium, the new curial constitution, not yet promulgated, is expected to place an even further emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with the possible merger of the  Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

As the head of a curial department, Tagle will no longer be the archbishop of Manila, a post he has held since December 2011. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.

Since 2015, he has been president of Caritas Internationalis. Tagle was also very involved in the October 2018 youth synod.

Tagle was born in Manila in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, Philippines. He served as bishop of Imus from 2001 to 2011.

His episcopal motto is Dominus est (It is the Lord). From 1997 to 2002 he was on the International Theological Commission, appointed by St. Pope John Paul II.

Filoni, who headed Propaganda Fide since 2011, was Dec. 8 named Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, following the retirement of Cardinal Edwin O’Brien at the age of 80.

In a statement Dec. 8, O’Brien said he accepts and appreciates the pope's decision to accept his resignation, appointing Cardinal Filoni as his successor.

The order supports around 80% of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting parishes, schools, and Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.

“Throughout my more than eight years as Grand Master, my personal faith and love of our Church have deepened as I have witnessed our members’ commitment to the goals of our Order, expressed in different cultures and languages, all profoundly Catholic!” O’Brien said.

Cardinal Tagle named head of Vatican evangelization office

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 09:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Sunday appointed Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines, to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Tagle, 62, follows Cardinal Fernando Filoni as prefect, usually referred to by its historic name of Propaganda Fide.

Charged with the Church’s missionary works and territories, Propaganda Fide is one of the largest curial departments, with a size and scope exceeding almost any other.

The beneficiary of centuries of dedicated legacies and bequests, Propaganda Fide is also the most financially autonomous curial department.

Praedicate evangelium, the new curial constitution, not yet promulgated, is expected to place an even further emphasis on evangelization as the structural priority of the Church’s mission, with the possible merger of the  Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization into a single larger department.

As the head of a curial department, Tagle will no longer be the archbishop of Manila, a post he has held since December 2011. He was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2012.

Since 2015, he has been president of Caritas Internationalis. Tagle was also very involved in the October 2018 youth synod.

Tagle was born in Manila in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1982 for the Diocese of Imus, Philippines. He served as bishop of Imus from 2001 to 2011.

His episcopal motto is Dominus est (It is the Lord). From 1997 to 2002 he was on the International Theological Commission, appointed by St. Pope John Paul II.

Filoni, who headed Propaganda Fide since 2011, was Dec. 8 named Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, following the retirement of Cardinal Edwin O’Brien at the age of 80.

In a statement Dec. 8, O’Brien said he accepts and appreciates the pope's decision to accept his resignation, appointing Cardinal Filoni as his successor.

The order supports around 80% of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting parishes, schools, and Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.

“Throughout my more than eight years as Grand Master, my personal faith and love of our Church have deepened as I have witnessed our members’ commitment to the goals of our Order, expressed in different cultures and languages, all profoundly Catholic!” O’Brien said.

How the Church is honoring pilots and the ‘flying’ house of the Virgin Mary

Loreto, Italy, Dec 8, 2019 / 05:35 am (CNA).- At first glance, pilots and plane passengers have little in common with the Holy House of Mary in Loreto, Italy.

But just as pilots and passengers take flight in airplanes, the Holy House of Loreto also “flew,” according to an often-told story, when it was transported through the air by angels from the Holy Land to the small Italian town of Loreto.

Modern documentation suggests a hint of truth to the pious story, but with a twist. Evidence suggests the house was brought to Italy by the noble Angeli family, who saved the materials of the house from destruction by Muslim invaders in the 13th century. The name Angeli means “angels” in both Greek and Latin.

Three statues of Our Lady of Loreto will soon be “taking flight” during a special Jubilee Year of Loreto, to be celebrated by the Church beginning Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

As part of the jubilee year, the Marian statues of the “Black Madonna” of Loreto will be making symbolic pilgrimages by plane. One will travel to the main Italian airports, another to military units, and a third to major airports of the five continents, including New York.

“This pilgrimage will represent the Mother’s embrace of the whole world,” the prelate of Loreto, Archbishop Fabio Dal Cin, said at a press conference Dec. 3.

The Jubilee Year of Loreto, which will be celebrated through Dec. 10, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Loreto being officially proclaimed the patroness of pilots and air passengers.

This designation was made by Pope Benedict XV in March 1920, after aviators fighting in World War I became devoted to the Virgin Mary under this title for her traditional connection to “flight.”

Pope Francis recently also added the Dec. 10 feast day of Our Lady of Loreto as an optional memorial in the Roman Calendar of the universal Church.

With the theme “Called to fly high,” the Jubilee Year of Loreto will begin with an opening of the Holy Door of the Basilica of the Holy House in Loreto.

By visiting the basilica during the year, Catholics may obtain a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.

A plenary indulgence requires an individual to be in the state of grace and have complete detachment from sin. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion up to about 20 days before or after the indulgenced act, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

This plenary indulgence, according to Archbishop Dal Cin, may also be extended to chapels in civil and military airports upon request of the local bishop.

Catholics are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Mary in Loreto during the jubilee year, or to another shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto.

There is also an official hymn, composed by lauded composer Fr. Marco Frisina. During the year, a charitable donation will be made for the purchase of new equipment for the neonatology department of Sacred Family Hospital in Nazareth.

Celebrations throughout the year will also include an air show by Frecce Tricolori, the Italian Air Force’s aerobatic demonstration team.

The jubilee year “does not only concern the world of aviation (workers and passengers), but is addressed to all the devotees of Our Lady of Loreto,” Dal Cin said, “and to those pilgrims who will arrive to the Holy House from all over the world to receive the gift of the plenary indulgence.”

 

Pope: Mary's Immaculate Conception the start of the fulfillment of God's plan

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 04:49 am (CNA).- With Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, God was, even before Mary’s birth, putting into motion his plan of salvation for the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“Today we consider the beginning of this fulfillment” of God’s promise, he said Dec. 8, during his weekly Angelus address, even “before the birth of the Mother of the Lord.”

“In fact, her immaculate conception leads us to that precise moment when Mary’s life began to palpitate in her mother’s womb,” he continued. “Already there was the sanctifying love of God, preserving her from the contagion of evil that is a common heritage of the human family.”

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, celebrated by the Church on Dec. 8, marks the moment when the Virgin Mary was conceived inside St. Anne’s womb, with a soul preserved by God from original sin.

The pope noted that this feast day always takes place in the context of Advent, a time of waiting, showing that “God will accomplish what he has promised.”

“But in today’s celebration we are told that something has already been accomplished, in the person and in the life of the Virgin Mary,” he said.

The day’s Gospel reading comes from Luke and jumps ahead to when the Virgin Mary is a young woman being visited by the Angel Gabriel. The angel says to Mary: “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you.”

“God has always thought and wanted her, in his inscrutable design, as a creature full of grace, that is filled with his love,” Francis said.

But, he reflected, Mary is able to be filled with God’s grace also because she makes space, emptying herself of her own will to make room for the will of God, trusting it and accepting in unreservedly, to the point that the Word becomes flesh inside her.

“Mary does not lose herself in so many arguments, she does not put obstacles in the way of the Lord, but relies quickly and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

In Mary “is reflected the beauty of God, which is all love, grace, self-giving.”

The pope also spoke about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s own word for herself: “handmaid of the Lord.”

Mary serves “without clamor and ostentation, without seeking places of honor, without advertising,” he said.

This is an example for everyone, he continued, to “do works of charity in silence, in hiding, without boasting of making them. Even in our communities, we are called to follow Mary’s example, practicing the style of discretion and concealment.”

In the afternoon Dec. 8, Pope Francis will go to Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to give homage at the foot of a statue of the Immaculate Conception, a papal tradition. This year, he will also stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray for Our Lady’s intercession.

“I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother,” Pope Francis said.

The pope also asked people to join him in praying for a meeting of the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, France, and the Chancellor of Germany, which will take place Dec. 9 in Paris.

This meeting is “to find solutions to the painful conflict that has been going on for years in eastern Ukraine,” he explained.

“I accompany the meeting with an intense prayer and I invite you to do the same, so that this initiative of political dialogue will contribute to bringing peace in justice to that territory and its population.”

Pope: Mary's Immaculate Conception the start of the fulfillment of God's plan

Vatican City, Dec 8, 2019 / 04:49 am (CNA).- With Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, God was, even before Mary’s birth, putting into motion his plan of salvation for the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“Today we consider the beginning of this fulfillment” of God’s promise, he said Dec. 8, during his weekly Angelus address, even “before the birth of the Mother of the Lord.”

“In fact, her immaculate conception leads us to that precise moment when Mary’s life began to palpitate in her mother’s womb,” he continued. “Already there was the sanctifying love of God, preserving her from the contagion of evil that is a common heritage of the human family.”

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, celebrated by the Church on Dec. 8, marks the moment when the Virgin Mary was conceived inside St. Anne’s womb, with a soul preserved by God from original sin.

The pope noted that this feast day always takes place in the context of Advent, a time of waiting, showing that “God will accomplish what he has promised.”

“But in today’s celebration we are told that something has already been accomplished, in the person and in the life of the Virgin Mary,” he said.

The day’s Gospel reading comes from Luke and jumps ahead to when the Virgin Mary is a young woman being visited by the Angel Gabriel. The angel says to Mary: “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you.”

“God has always thought and wanted her, in his inscrutable design, as a creature full of grace, that is filled with his love,” Francis said.

But, he reflected, Mary is able to be filled with God’s grace also because she makes space, emptying herself of her own will to make room for the will of God, trusting it and accepting in unreservedly, to the point that the Word becomes flesh inside her.

“Mary does not lose herself in so many arguments, she does not put obstacles in the way of the Lord, but relies quickly and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

In Mary “is reflected the beauty of God, which is all love, grace, self-giving.”

The pope also spoke about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s own word for herself: “handmaid of the Lord.”

Mary serves “without clamor and ostentation, without seeking places of honor, without advertising,” he said.

This is an example for everyone, he continued, to “do works of charity in silence, in hiding, without boasting of making them. Even in our communities, we are called to follow Mary’s example, practicing the style of discretion and concealment.”

In the afternoon Dec. 8, Pope Francis will go to Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to give homage at the foot of a statue of the Immaculate Conception, a papal tradition. This year, he will also stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major to pray for Our Lady’s intercession.

“I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother,” Pope Francis said.

The pope also asked people to join him in praying for a meeting of the presidents of Ukraine, Russia, France, and the Chancellor of Germany, which will take place Dec. 9 in Paris.

This meeting is “to find solutions to the painful conflict that has been going on for years in eastern Ukraine,” he explained.

“I accompany the meeting with an intense prayer and I invite you to do the same, so that this initiative of political dialogue will contribute to bringing peace in justice to that territory and its population.”