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Pope in Greccio: May Baby Jesus’ Smile, Which Brought Light in the Night, Dispel Indifference & Bring Joy of Our Father in Heaven

Francis’ Visit to the Franciscan Shrine of Greccio, Place of First Nativity Scene

“May His smile, which blossomed in the night, dispel indifference and open hearts to the joy of one who feels loved by the Father who is in Heaven.”

Pope Francis stressed this in Greccio, at the site of the first Nativity Scene, first instituted by St. Francis of Assisi.

The Holy Father had made a brief reflection in which he called on faithful to be like Mary and to let Jesus transform us and our ways of thinking… 

“Let us identify ourselves with Mary, who places her Son in the manger, because there was no room in a house,” Francis said, noting: “With Her and with Saint Joseph, her husband, we have our gaze turned to the Child Jesus.”

“May His smile, which blossomed in the night, dispel indifference and open hearts to the joy of one who feels loved by the Father who is in Heaven.”

In this simple and wonderful sign of the Nativity Scene, Francis said, “the great mystery is manifested of our faith: God loves us to such a point as to share our humanity and our life.”

“He never leaves us alone,” the Roman Pontiff said, stressing: “He accompanies us with His hidden presence, but not invisible. In every circumstance, in joy as in sorrow, He is the Emmanuel, God with us.”

As the shepherds of Bethlehem, the Holy Father said, we accept the invitation to go to the grotto, to see Him and be filled with joy.

Pope Francis had left Saint Martha’s House this afternoon, and went by helicopter from the Vatican’s heliport to visit the Franciscan Shrine of Greccio, in the diocese of Rieti. The helicopter, with Pope Francis on board, landed at 3:40 pm in the Square below the Franciscan Shrine. Before going by car to the Shrine, the Holy Father greeted a few sick and disabled, accompanied by their families, who were waiting for him in the Square.

The Bishop of Rieti, Monsignor Domenico Pompili; the Guardian of the Franciscan Shrine, Father Francesco Rossi, and the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, welcomed the Pope on his arrival. Then the Holy Father went to the Shrine’s grotto where, after a moment of prayer, he signed the Apostolic Letter Admirabile Signum on the meaning and value of the Nativity Scene, and was entertained with the Friars and Sisters present in the grotto.

Subsequently, after greeting the primary school’s children’s choir, who sang a song from the musical “Come Ye People,” which recounts the life of Saint Francis, and some figures of the Representation of the history of the living Nativity Scene, in traditional garments in the Shrine’s church, the Pope presided over the Celebration of the Word.

Read before the final Blessing was the Apostolic Letter Admirabile Signum, which the Holy Father gave to those present. At the end, a little after 5 p.m., Pope Francis left Greccio by helicopter to return to the Vatican.

Here is a ZENIT working translation of the brief meditation, which the Pope gave in the course of the Celebration of the Word.

***

The Holy Father’s Meditation

How many thoughts crowd the mind in this holy place! And yet, before the rock of these mountains, so dear to Saint Francis, what we are called to fulfill, first of all, is to rediscover simplicity. The Nativity Scene, which, in fact, Saint Francis made in this small area, in imitation of the small Grotto of Bethlehem, speaks on its own. There is no need here to multiply words, because the scene that is placed under our eyes expresses the wisdom of which we are in need to capture the essential. In front of the Nativity Scene we discover how important it is for our life, often so frenetic, to find moments of silence and prayer. Silence, to contemplate the beauty of the Child Jesus’ face, the Son of God born in the poverty of a stable. Prayer: to express an astonished “thank you” before this immense gift of love, which has been made.

In this simple and wonderful sign of the Nativity Scene, which popular piety has received and transmitted from generation to generation, the great mystery is manifested of our faith: God loves us to such a point as to share our humanity and our life. He never leaves us alone; He accompanies us with His hidden presence, but not invisible. In every circumstance, in joy as in sorrow, He is the Emmanuel, God with us.

As the shepherds of Bethlehem, we accept the invitation to go to the grotto, to see and recognize the sign that God has given us. Then our heart will be full of joy, and we will be able to take it where there is sadness; it will be filled with hope, to share with one who has lost it.

Let us identify ourselves with Mary, who places her Son in the manger, because there was no room in a house. With Her and with Saint Joseph, her husband, we have our gaze turned to the Child Jesus. May His smile, which blossomed in the night, dispel indifference and open hearts to the joy of one who feels loved by the Father who is in Heaven.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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