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Francis' Dialogue With Singers of 'Pueri Cantores'

Pope Tells Youth What He Wanted to Be When He Grew Up — 'It Will Make You Laugh' — And Also His New Year's Resolution

On New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the 40th International Congress of the Pueri Cantores, which was held in Rome, Dec. 28 – Jan. 1.

Here is a translation of the transcription of the Pope’s conversation with the young choristers in the course of the meeting.

* * *

First question: What do you think of our singing? Do you like to sing?

Pope Francis: “What do you think of our singing? Do you like to sing?” … I would like to hear you sing more! I heard only one song; I hope you sing others … I like to hear singing but, if I sang, I would be like a donkey, because I don’t know how to sing. I can’t even speak well, because I have a defect in my way of speaking, in phonetics … But I very much like to hear singing. And I will tell you an anecdote.. When I was a child — we were five brothers – when we were children, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturdays our mother made us sit in front of the radio to listen. And to what were we listening? Every Saturday a [lyrical] opera was broadcast. And mother taught us about that opera. She would explain: “listen how he does this …” And  as a child I experienced the pleasure of hearing singing. However, I was never able to sing. As well, one of my grandparents, who was a carpenter, always sang while he worked — always. I learnt the pleasure of hearing singing as a child. I so like music and singing. And what do I think of your singing? I hope to hear others. All right? Is it possible?

I’ll tell you something: singing educates the soul; singing does good to the soul. For instance, when a mother wants to have her child fall asleep, she does not say to him: “one, two, three, four» … She sings a lullaby … she sings it … and it does good to the soul, and the child becomes peaceful and falls asleep. Saint Augustine said a very beautiful phrase. Each one of you must learn it in his own language. Speaking of the Christian life, of the joy of Christian life, he said this: “Sing and walk.” Christian life is a way, but it isn’t a sad way; it is a joyful way, so he sings. Sing and walk, don’t forget! Each one must say it in his own language: sing and walk! [They repeat: “Sing and walk!”] I haven’t quite heard it … [“Sing and walk!”] There. Remember this: sing and walk, and so your soul will enjoy more the joy of the Gospel.

Second question: How is it that you are always so good? Do you ever get angry? What are your good resolutions for the New Year?

Pope Francis: Jesus once approached a boy who said a word similar to yours. He said: «Jesus, good Teacher.” And Jesus looked at him and said: “No, God alone is good.” God alone is good, Jesus said. And we? Are we evil? No, half and half, we have a bit of everything … We always have that wound of original sin that leads us not to be so good always … But always remember: God alone is good and, if you want to find goodness, go to the Lord. He is all goodness, all love, all mercy. And do you know what I do to be somewhat good? I come close to the Lord. And I ask the Lord: “Lord, may I not be such a sinner, may I not be so bad, may I not do evil things to anyone; may I not have jealousies, envies, may I not get roped in, in so many ways …” — and all these things. Ask for the grace to be good, because God alone is good. You must also learn this. Shall we say it all together? Each one in his own language: “God alone is good.” [They repeat: “God alone is good”]. Once again. [God alone is good”]. Remember that advice of Saint Augustine, which you all repeated together. What was it? [They answer: “Sing and walk!”] God alone is good. Remember this well.

But, yes, there are good persons, who come close to the Lord, the Saints! so many hidden Saints in daily life, in our life, so many persons that suffer and offer their sufferings for the conversion of sinners. so many, so many people that come close to God’s goodness; they are the Saints. But who alone is good? [They answer: “God”]. God alone is good.

The other question: “Do you ever get angry?” Yes, I get angry, but I don’t bite! Sometimes I get angry, when someone does something that’s not right, I get a bit … But it helps me to stop and think of the times in which I’ve made others get angry. And I think and ask myself: Have I made someone else get angry? O yes, many times. Then I don’t have a right to get angry. But he has done … Yes, if he has done a bad thing, which is not good, call him and talk to him as a brother, speak to him as a brother and sister, speak, speak, but without getting angry, because anger is poisonous, it poisons your soul. Many times I have seen children and youngsters scared. Why? Because parents shout at them, or they are shouted at in school. And when one is angry and shouts, it does harm, it wounds: to shout at another is like stabbing the soul; it doesn’t do good. Have you understood this well?

I get angry, yes, sometimes I get angry, but it helps me to think of the times in which I have made others get angry, this calms me somewhat, it makes me more tranquil. To get angry is something that not only harms the other person, but it harms oneself, it poisons one. And there are people, whom you undoubtedly know, that have a bitter spirit, who are always bitter, who live angrily. It seems that every morning they brush their teeth with vinegar to be so angry! People who are like this …: it’s a sickness. We understand that if there is something that doesn’t please one, one gets a bit angry. However, the habit of getting angry, the habit of shouting, the habit of chiding others, this is a poison! I ask you, and each one answer in his own language: how was Jesus’ spirit, gentle or bitter? [They answer: “Gentle!”]. Why was He gentle? Because when He got angry it did not reach His soul. It was only to correct, and then he returned to peace.

“What are your good resolutions for the New Year?” I made one these days, in which I took some time to make a spiritual retreat: to pray more. Because I am aware that Bishops and priests – I am a Bishop – must govern the People of God first of all with prayer; it is the first service. I’ll tell you a story. At the beginning of Christianity there was so much work to do because so many people were converting and the Apostles didn’t have time. And some came to complain that they didn’t take good care of the widows and orphans. It was true, but they didn’t have the time to do everything. And they held a council among themselves and decided to charge some men solely with serving the people. It was the moment of the creation of deacons, so deacons were born. You can see this in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. And what does Peter say, Saint Peter, the first Pope? What does he say? “They will do this, and we, the Apostles, will engage in only two things: prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel, preaching.” That is, the first task of a Bishop, the first task is prayer: one can’t be a Bishop in the Church without having prayer in the first place — and then, the proclamation of the Gospel. Responding to your question, in these days I’ve thought that a good resolution for the coming year would be this, to pray a bit more. OK? I also ask you: do you think that this would be a good resolution for you also? [They answer: “Yes!”] To pray a bit more, as the Church goes forward with the prayer of the Saints. Pray for the Church!

Third question: When you were li
ttle, what did you dream of becoming? In the evening, when I watch television with my family, I see so many sad and tragic stories: will the world always be like this, also when I grow up?

Pope Francis: If I were to say the truth on the first question, I would make you laugh… But I will say the truth. The question was: “When you were little, what did you dream of becoming?” When I was small, I often went with my grandmother, but also with my mother, to do the shopping. At that time, there were no supermarkets, no television, there was nothing … The market was on the street, and there were places for the vegetables, the fruit, the meat, for the fish and everything was bought there. One day, at home, I was asked at table: what would you like to be when you grow up? Do you know what I said? A “butcher.” Why? Because the butcher that was at the market – there were three or four places for meat – he took the knife, cut in pieces … it’s an art, and I liked to look at it, I enjoy it. Now, obviously, the idea has changed; however, responding to your question, when I was small I thought of becoming a butcher. It would have pleased me.

Then, the second question – this one is serious! –: “In the evening, when I am at dinner with my family, watching television, I always hear talk of sad and tragic news … But, when I grow up, will the world always be like this?” What you say is true. There are so many people suffering in the world today. There are wars. But how many wars are there? Think of how many wars there are in Africa. In the Middle East, where Jesus was born, everything is at war – war in Ukraine, in so many places. There are wars in Latin America. They are awful things! And what do wars do? They create poverty, cause sorrow and harm. Only sad things … Think of the children. You, boys and girls, little boys and little girls, have God’s gift to be able to sing, to be happy, to live the Christian life as Saint Augustine said – what was it that Augustine said? [They answer: “Sing and walk!”] –, but there are children in the world who have nothing to eat; there are children that can’t go to school because there is war, poverty, and no schools; there are children that, when they get sick, have no possibility to go to a hospital. Pray for these children. Pray!

But will the world always be like this? The world can improve. But there is something that it’s not nice to talk about, but of which one must speak: there is the fight between good and evil in the world – say the philosophers — the fight between the devil and God. This still exists. When the desire comes to each one of us to do a bad thing, that little evil is an inspiration of the devil that, through the weakness that original sin has left in us, leads us to this. Evil is done in small as well as in big things; in wars as well as, for instance, when a boy or a girl lies: it’s a war against the truth of God, against the truth of life, against joy. This is clear, no? Have you understood this? It’s clear.

We all have a battlefield within us. We all struggle between good and evil. We have graces and temptations, and we must speak with the parish priest, with the catechist, about these things to get to know them well. This is the first. The second: there are so many good things in the world, and I wonder: why aren’t these good things publicized? Why does it seem that people like to see bad things more and hear awful news. We think of Africa: so many evil things, so many wars – as I’ve said – but there are missionaries, priests and sisters, who often have spent their whole life there, preaching the Gospel, in poverty … When I went to Africa last month, I met some little Sisters .,.. I am thinking of one who was 83, she was Italian, and she said to me: ”I have been here since I was 26.” And there are so many holy families, so many parents that educate their children well. Why don’t we see on television a family that educates well, which educates a child well? We don’t see it! Because there is this attraction to evil: it seems that it’s more pleasing to look at bad things than at good things, than at great things. The devil does his part — this is true –, but God also does His part: there are so many holy people! Not only in the missions but in the world, in work, in families; so many parents, so many grandfathers and grandmothers that endure sickness, problems and this isn’t seen on television. Why? Because this has no rating, no advertising … Here, in Italy, I’ve discovered so many associations, men and women, who give part of their time to care for, to accompany, to look after the sick. This is good, but this isn’t seen in the advertising. Is this true or not? If one wants to have rating—whether of journalism, television, or whatever one wishes – you must show only bad things; people are bored with good things, or they don’t know how to present and do things well, to have good things seen well.

When you [he turns to the girl that asked the question] watch television, in your home, remember these two things: there is a fight in the world between good and evil; there are so many children that suffer; there are wars, there are evil things, because the fight is between God and the devil; but also think of the many people, the many holy people, the many people who give their life to help others, to pray for others. But why are cloistered nuns, who spend their life praying for all, not seen on television? This doesn’t interest … More interesting perhaps are the jewels of an important firm, made to be seen … things that cause vanities. We must not let ourselves be deceived! There are awful, awful, awful things in the world, and this is the devil’s work against God; but there are holy things, holy things, great things that are the work of God. There are hidden Saints. Let us not forget this word: the hidden Saints, those that we don’t see. OK?

I thank you for all this. However, I would like to hear another song to say if I like or don’t like the way you sing … And something else: I would like to hear repeated how Christian life was according to Saint Augustine? What must one do?  [They answer: “Sing and walk!”]. Sing and walk! Second: who is good? [“God alone is good”].

There. And now I expect a beautiful song … Thank you!


Pope Francis: Now I can answer: you sing very well! Thank you!

I give you my blessing and also my good wishes for the New Year. And tomorrow we will see one another in the Basilica; it will be a pleasure.

Let us pray to Our Lady, each one in his own language. [Hail Mary]


[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]



Gospel and Homily in Spanish and English

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university. 

Q: I'm wondering how to celebrate a bilingual Mass when only an English-speaking priest is available in a growing Hispanic community in an Anglo parish, particularly in regards to the Gospel and homily. Could the celebrant proclaim the Gospel in English and a layperson read it in Spanish, and after the homily make a brief summary? — O.K., Tomball, Texas

A: Although we have addressed similar questions over the years, the earlier replies were based more on observation and personal interpretation than on official norms. Since those replies, the liturgy office of the U.S. bishops' conference has published some guidelines that can clarify this situation even though they refer to multilingual rather than bilingual situations. The complete norms can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/frequently-asked-questions/guidelines-for-a-multilingual-celebration-of-mass.cfm

This document also considers that multilingual parishes provide for the needs for the spiritual needs of the faithful, and so multilingual Masses should be rare and used above all for occasions when the communities come together. Therefore, it does not take into account the situation of a lone priest who does not speak the second language.

However, we present here some of these norms applicable to Mass.

«1. The Introductory Rites — The introductory rites of Mass have as their purpose 'to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily' (GIRM, no. 46). Therefore, every effort should be made to create this disposition in those assembled.

«a. The choice of processional music, introductory greetings and of music for the penitential intercessions and the Gloria can elicit an awareness of the cultural and linguistic diversity of those gathered for the liturgy.

«b. The invitation to pray before the Collect can be given in the diverse languages spoken by those assembled. The Collect itself should be prayed in one language to preserve its integrity.

«2. The Liturgy of the Word — «When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.

«'Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all people of whatever era and is understandable to them, a fuller understanding and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action'» (GIRM, no. 29).

«In order that the Sacred Scriptures can be heard with reverence and understood by all, attention should be given to the language(s) in which they are proclaimed and commented upon in the homily.

«a. One or both of the readings preceding the Gospel should be proclaimed in the language understood by the majority of those assembled. If two readings are to be proclaimed, one may be proclaimed in another language appropriate to those assembled. As a suggestion, since the first reading and the Gospel normally have similar themes, these could be proclaimed in different languages so that each group can hear at least some of the primary themes from the Sacred Scriptures of the day.

«b. Printed booklets which provide translations of the Sacred Scripture readings have proved helpful and should be continued. Providing a brief commentary in these booklets could be effective, such as the one-sentence that the Lectionary itself provides.

«c. In multilingual Masses the Responsorial Psalm may be divided into different languages, which could be an enriching experience. Including translation of the verses has proven effective. The language used would preferably (though not necessarily) be the same language as the first reading, since the Psalm in some way responds to it, and this would show the relationship more clearly. The refrain used with the Psalm should be the same language as the Psalm or multilingual.

«d. The Gospel, which Christ himself proclaims, may be read in more than one language in its entirety…. At the conclusion of the proclamation in the first language, a minister should immediately proceed to the proclamation of the text in the next language. The conclusion is said only once and in the last language used. A well-crafted bilingual/multilingual Alleluia verse could be helpful. It is not recommended that the Gospel be broken into different sections for different languages.

«e. The homily, ordinarily, should be preached in the language understood by the majority. A short summary may be given in other languages. The homilist may reflect the same theme in his summary while incorporating a different development or cultural illustration.

«f. Several options for the Universal Prayer are available:

«i. The invitation to each of the petitions could be given in the various languages understood by those assembled (e.g., 'Let us pray for the Church' and 'Let us pray for the sick,' etc.). Following each invitation, a silent pause will allow for the assembly to unite in prayer for particular concerns. The conclusion to each intercession could then be spoken or sung in the same language throughout to allow for the consistent, flowing pattern of the response among the assembled.

«ii. Or, each petition could be said or sung in a different language, each with a common response, e.g., Kyrie eleison or Te rogamus audi nos or Domine, exaudi nos, etc. This would eliminate the repetitiousness of the invitation in several languages for each petition.

«iii. Or, the first part of the petition could be given in one language and the second part (the assembly's response) be given in another.

«3. The Liturgy of the Eucharist

«a. Preparation of the Gifts. 'At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts which will become Christ's Body and Blood are brought to the altar' (GIRM, no. 73).These gifts of bread and wine, as well as gifts for the Church or the poor brought by the faithful or collected at Mass, are appropriate. 

«b. Eucharistic Prayer. To preserve the integrity of the Eucharistic Prayer, the whole of the Priest's parts of the Prayer (from Preface through Doxology) should be in the same language. The acclamations proclaimed by the assembly could be either multilingual or in the language of the Eucharistic Prayer.

«c. Communion Rite. Because the Lord's Prayer is common to all Christians, members of the assembly may be invited to recite the prayer in his or her own language simultaneously with others. Otherwise, to preserve the integrity of the Communion Rite, it should be conducted in one language (different from that of the Eucharistic Prayer). The Agnus Dei acclamation could be either multilingual or in the language of the rest of the Communion Rite. 

«4. The Concluding Rites — When the more solemn forms of blessing are chosen, each of the blessing prayers may be given in alternating languages appropriate to those assembled.»

In its third part the document offers valid norms for music including the recommendation of the assembly learning the most common Latin chants for the ordinary of the Mass and the use of songs that are known in several languages.

In the particular case of our reader, the bulk of the Mass would be in English with some parts in Spanish. The above mentioned document appears to presume that the priest himself reads the summary of his homily and indeed this would be the best-case scenario. The zeal and effort made by many English-speaking priests in the United States to meet the pastoral needs of the growing Spanish-speaking population is truly admirable. However, learning a new language is never easy, and doing so when one is already advanced in life is yet more daunting and is not always feasible. 

These difficulties are often compounded by the fact that not all immigrants speak the same variety of Spanish. And there are even rural immigrants from countries such as Peru and Mexico for whom Spanish is not their first language.

In spite of this difficulty, it is often possible to learn at least how to read the language correctly, and the best solution is that the priest read hi
s prepared text. My experience with Spanish speakers is that they are almost universally grateful and edified when the minister makes the effort to speak in their language. They are also very tolerant and forgiving of errors and slip-ups.

I do not think that having a layperson read out a translation of a homily is a viable solution. It is likely to cause confusion and leave the impression that the layperson is actually giving the homily itself, a practice which has been repeatedly prohibited. Also, a homily is more than just a text that is read; it is closer to a conversation, a personal communication in which the ordained minister explains God's word and exhorts the faithful to live in accordance with what they have heard. Therefore, the personal element is very relevant to the efficacy of the communication itself.

A legitimate solution is to deliver the homily in English while someone else, either the deacon or a layperson, either simultaneously translates the homily or reads a prepared text afterward. According to one experienced pastoral agent this is often the preferred and best solution in many parishes. He wrote:

«Simultaneous translation maintains the original 'communicative' rapport of the pastor with his flock. My recent experience of this situation in the USA is that the level of English among the [Spanish-speaking] listeners is extremely diverse. Some will understand 100%, others 80%, 50%, etc. Those who have no knowledge of English have the live translation, and they can also perceive the personality of the priest in his intonations, facial expressions and gestures. It establishes a much more personal relationship than simply listening to a written text read to them.

«I have seen priests do this in an engaging way that manages to create a very lively rapport with the congregation, even without the homilists' speaking a single word of their language. In the situation described, there are surely people willing to do the simultaneous translation and, in the end, all will benefit greatly from it.»

If an immediate simultaneous translation is not feasible, but it is possible for someone to translate the text of the homily ahead of time, then I believe that the best solution is that the priest preach the homily in English and after each paragraph or principal point, some other person read the translation, preferably using a different microphone. 

* * *

Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.



Pope Visits Site of St. Francis' 1st Nativity Scene

Pope Francis made a private visit to the Italian hilltown of Greccio in the Lazio region north of Rome on Monday afternoon, where he met with the local Franciscan community.

The town is well known as the place where, in December 1223, St. Francis set up the first crib scene, using local animals and a carved image of the Christ Child in a manger to recreate the events of Our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem.

The tradition continues in the same hillside cave which has become a popular local shrine, and visitors can also see the monastic cell in the nearby convent where St Francis slept.

During the brief visit Pope Francis spent a few moments in silent prayer at the shrine, visited the adjacent Church and had lunch with the local bishop Domenico Pompili. He also greeted a group of some 70 young people who were taking part in a pilgrimage to Greccio.



Abducted Priest Freed in Syria

This report is contributed by John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need.

* * *

Iraqi priest Father Dhiya Aziz is safe and recovering after two weeks in captivity in Syria, according to fellow Franciscans in Aleppo.

The priest, who was released late yesterday (Monday, 4th January), is reported to have suffered extreme cold while he was being held and when freed was in a state of severe exhaustion. 

No other details have emerged about his condition. 

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need today (Tuesday), Fr Aziz’s fellow Franciscans in Aleppo, northern Syria, said they had yet to establish if he had been tortured but that the priority now was sleep and rest. 

Fr Aziz’s disappearance was announced after he failed to return to his parish in Syria’s Idlib province on 23rd December.

The priest had set off from the Syrian city of Lattakia, aiming to arrive in his parish before Christmas.

The Franciscan had been returning from a visit to Turkey where he was visiting family who had fled from Qaraqosh, northern Iraq, seized by militant Islamic group Daesh (ISIS) in August 2014. 

Aid to the Church in Need Middle East projects coordinator Father Andrzej Halemba said that Fr Aziz was now recovering at an undisclosed location. 

 “The Franciscans told me that in this Year of Mercy they were giving thanks to God for showing his mercy through the release of Fr Aziz.

“We are just so grateful to God that Fr Aziz has been freed.”

Fr Halemba said the identity of Fr Aziz’s kidnappers was as yet unknown.

He added: “It is not quite clear yet what Fr Aziz’s state of health is.”

Fr Halemba explained that Fr Aziz has a pre-existing back condition dating back to an earlier kidnapping in July and a planned operation on his spine will now be rescheduled. 

The Custody of the Holy Land, the region’s Franciscan authority, announced Fr Aziz’s release late last night but added that, “due to confidentiality reasons,” no further details could be given about how he came to be freed. 

Fr Aziz was kidnapped on 4th July 2015 by militants in Yacoubieh and released after five days.  

Fr Aziz is the latest in a series of clergy to be kidnapped in Syria.

Among those still missing are Archbishops Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, kidnapped in April 2013 and Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, abducted three months later.

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)



Bioethics Center in Cuba Flies Below Radar in Imparting Christian Values

This report is contributed by Oliver Maksan of Aid to the Church in Ne

* * *

Professor Rene Zamora Marin is a Cuban pioneer of faith. The medical doctor used to run an intensive care unit at Havana’s largest hospital. In 1997 he founded the “John Paul II Center for Bioethics” in the Cuban capital and that’s where he spends most of his time today.

“The time my employees and I spend at the institute is time we would have devoted to sleep. But the work is worth it,” he told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The center has 14 employees. “Our work areas naturally include the narrower bioethical issues such as stem cell research or brain death. However, we have since expanded our focus. Furthermore, an ethical problem like abortion cannot be considered in isolation. Abortion is always also a symptom of crisis in the family,” Dr. Marin said.

Imparting implicitly Christian values is at the heart of institute’s mission—raising awareness of human dignity among young people and adults, who are targeted by a series of programs and seminars. The doctor called attention to the benefits of “the true interaction with each other that arises from this.”

His goal is to influence Cuban society. Dr. Marin explained: “We are having a crisis of values in Cuba. This is true for the family, but also for society as a whole. For this reason we address all people of good will. In doing so, we do not base our arguments on the catechism of the Catholic Church, but solely on reason. After all, every thinking person can understand the concept of a person and his or her dignity. Reason unites us all. It made it possible for the Apostle Paul to speak about an unknown God on the Areopagus in Athens.”

The institute publishes a magazine. This channel of communication as well as the courses offered to the public and a working relationship with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Havana all make it possible to come into contact with Cubans who do not go to Mass on Sundays. According to Dr. Marin, many people come to the center with philosophical questions, to gather information, to exchange ideas and to expand their intellectual horizons.

“Our work is highly respected. We have now even been made a member of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba. Our center was also involved in a bill on brain death. This makes us very grateful,” the doctor said.   

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)



Bishop Named for Sokode, Togo

Pope Francis has named Fr. Celestin-Marie Gaoua as bishop of Sokode, Togo.

Celestin-Marie Gaoua was born in Wahala, Togo, in 1957 and was ordained a priest in 1986. He has served in a number of roles, including rector of the St. Paul minor seminary and the Fr. Jeremie Moran seminary in Atakpame, and missionary fidei donum in the Diocese of Sokode, where he was parish vicar, pastor of the Cathedral parish and parish administrator.

He is currently rector of the national philosophical major seminary Benoit XVI in Tchitchao, Kara, Togo.

He succeeds Bishop Ambroise Kotamba Djoliba, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.

The Diocese of Sokode has a population of some 1.3 million, with about 153,000 Catholics. They are served by 65 priests and close to 90 religious.

Togo is about 29% Christian and 20% Muslim, with half of the population professing indigenous beliefs (51%).


FORUM: On This 12th Day of Christmas, a Reflection on Healing Our Decembers and Hope

A portion of this reflection by Judy Klein was first published at the Catholic Writers Guild blog.

* * *

Tears flowed freely during the meeting with my spiritual director, Sandy, as I shared with her the pain I was feeling. “December is here,” I said. “I get such a wave of anxiety and grief at this time of year.” Somehow, I have a hunch I’m not alone in experiencing December this way.

December is the month that “our lives blew apart with more violence than we ever dreamed possible,” I wrote in my book Miracle Man. The month that my late husband, Bernie, suffered a massive heart attack—leaving my children fatherless and me a widow after eighty-seven excruciating days in the I.C.U.. Seven years and a wonderful new marriage later, December still brings it all screeching back.

“Beg the Lord to heal the trauma of all your past Decembers,” Sandy wisely advised. “And ask Him to fill you with the joy of His birth.”

For December is also the month when we celebrate our Savior’s presence penetrating Earth’s agonies, defying what human eyes behold as mere babe-flesh, disguising the God-man. This is the month that Hope is born, ushering in the time of fulfillment for the long-awaited healing of our crippled souls and lame lives. December is, indeed, the month of Advent hope.

The hope of Advent lies in experiencing the reality of human frailty—and in believing that Someone, though fragile in appearance, is coming to heal us soon. The hope of Advent consists in a hearty cry for deliverance from the weight of sin and death—and in trusting that God’s glory-weight will pierce right through all of this world’s darkness. For we have all known the sorrow of “Decembers” during life’s winter months, times of shadows and suffering where we cry out for the Light to come.

Every year I’m reminded that December is a fitting backdrop for Advent, as it is the month that throws off the least amount of light in the calendar year. The days grow short and winter begins. The darkness brings with it a certain sense of vulnerability and disorientation, along with the knowledge that we need more Light, so we can see.

Advent hope has everything to do with visionAdvent hope is inexorably connected with eternal perspective. That’s because hope—Christian hope—is so much more than plain old wishful thinking. It is the theological virtue by which we order our lives toward heaven; the virtue that establishes trust in us that there is a heaven and gives us conviction that we’ll live there with God some day. Hope reminds us that this earth is not paradise, strengthening and sustaining us as we travel toward the longed-for Promised Land. Hope gives us a new vision for our lives, enabling us to see that what may look like “disaste
r” to human senses is but a moment of time that God holds in his hands, shaping it for our good, while simultaneously, mysteriously, molding us into Good.

“Can you see your Decembers as a time when God reaches into your life to work miracles, instead of as a time of sorrow?” Sandy gently asked. “You saw that once,” she continued. “You wrote a book about it.”

Yes, I saw it clearly then. But somehow I go blind every December.

And maybe that’s as it should be, since it is December’s darkness that beckons me to encounter my desperate need for a Savior. Along with my need for a divine infusion of hope.


Pope Establishes Eparchy for Syro-Malabar Faithful of US and Canada

Pope Francis has elevated the Exarchate of the Syro-Malankara Catholics in the United States to the rank of an Eparchy, including the territory of Canada.

The Holy Father has also appointed the Most Reverend Thomas Mar Eusebius, until now Apostolic Exarch and Apostolic Visitator for the Syro-Malankara Catholics in Canada and Europe, first Eparch of St. Mary, Queen of Peace, of USA and Canada.

The new Eparchy has 16 parishes and missions, including three parishes in Canada: Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary.



ANGELUS ADDRESS Jan. 1: On Discovering God's Face

At the end of the Eucharistic Celebration on the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God, and on the occasion of the 49th World Day of Peace, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Apostolic Vatican Palace and, before praying the Angelus, he addressed the faithful and pilgrims present in Saint Peter’s Square. Here is a ZENIT translation of his address:

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning and happy year!

It’s lovely to exchange good wishes at the beginning of the year. Thus we renew to one another, the hope that what we await will be somewhat better. It is, fundamentally, a sign of the hope that animates and invites us to believe in life. We know, however, that everything will not change with the new year, and that so many of yesterday’s problems will remain also tomorrow. So I would like to express to you a wish sustained by a real hope, which I draw from today’s Liturgy.

They are the words with which the Lord Himself asks for the blessing of His people: “The Lord make His face shine upon you […] The Lord lift up His countenance upon you” (Numbers 6:25-26). I also wish you this: may the Lord look upon you and enable you to rejoice, knowing that every day His merciful face, more radiant than the sun, will shine on you and never set! To discover God’s face renews life. Because He is a Father enamoured of man, who never tires to start over again with us to renew us. But what patience the Lord has with us! He does not tire to begin over again every time we fall. However, the Lord does not promise magical changes; He does not use a magic wand. He likes to change the reality from within, with patience and love. He asks to enter our life with delicacy, as the rain on the earth, to then bear fruit. And He always awaits us and looks on us with tenderness. Every morning, when we awake, we can say: “May the Lord make His face shine upon me” – a beautiful prayer, which is a reality.

The biblical blessing continues thus: “[The Lord] give you peace” (v. 26). Today we celebrate the International Day of Peace, whose theme is: “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.” We must cultivate the peace, which God the Father wants to sow in the world, but not only must we cultivate it, it must be “won.” This implies a real and proper fight, a spiritual battle that takes place in our heart. Because war is not the only enemy of peace, but also indifference, which makes one think only of oneself and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closures. And these things are enemies of peace. Thank God, we have much information, but sometimes we are so immersed in news that we are distracted from reality, from a brother and sister that are in need of us. Let us begin this year to open our heart, reawakening attention to our neighbor, to the one closest to us. This is the way to win peace.

May the Queen of Peace, Mother of God, whose Solemnity we celebrate today, help us in this. She “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Hopes and concerns, gratitude and problems: everything that happened in life became a prayer, a dialogue with God in Mary’s heart. And she does this also for us: she keeps the joys and loosens the knots of our life, taking them to the Lord.

We entrust the New Year to our Mother, that peace and mercy may grow.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]  

After the Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to thank the President of the Italian Republic for the good wishes he expressed to me yesterday evening in his end of the year Message, and which I return wholeheartedly.

I express my gratitude for the many initiatives of prayer and action for peace organized everywhere in the world on the occasion of today’s International Day of Peace. I am thinking, in particular, of the national March that took place yesterday at Molfetta, promoted by CEI [Italian Episcopal Conference], Caritas, Pax Christi and Catholic Action. It is lovely to know that so many people, especially young people, chose this way of spending the end of the year. I greet affectionately the participants in the “Peace in All Lands” manifestation, organized in Rome and in many countries by the Sant’Egidio Community. Dear friends, I encourage you to go forward in your commitment in favor of reconciliation and concord. And I greet the families of the Family Love Movement, which watched this night in Saint Peter’s Square, praying for peace and unity in families of the whole world. Thank you to all for these beautiful initiatives and for your prayers.

I give a cordial greeting to you all, dear pilgrims present here. A special thought goes to the “Singers of the Star” – Sternsinger — children and youngsters who in Germany and Austria take Jesus’ blessing to homes and collect offerings for the poor of their same age. I greet the friends and volunteers of the Fraterna Domus, the Oratory of Stezzano and the faithful of Taranto.

I wish all a year of peace in the grace of the Lord, rich in mercy, and with the maternal protection of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. And do not forget in the morning, when you wake up, to recall that fragment of God’s blessing: “May the Lord make his face shine upon me today.” Everyone! “May the Lord make His face shine upon me today.” Once again! “May the Lord make His face shine upon me today.”

Happy year, good lunch, and do not forget to pray for me. See you soon!

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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