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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2014

Pope Francis's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
St Peter's Basilica, 31 December 2013 - in English, French, German, Italian, PolishPortuguese & Spanish

"The Apostle John describes the present time in a precise way: “It is the last hour” (1 Jn 2, 18). This statement — which recurs in the Mass of 31 December — means that with God’s coming into history we are already in the “last” times, after which the final phase will be of the second and definitive Coming of Christ. Of course here we are speaking about the quality of time, not about quantity. With Jesus the "”fullness” of the time, the fullness of meaning and the fullness of salvation has come. And there will be no new revelation but rather the full manifestation of what Jesus has already revealed. In this sense we are at the “last hour”; each and every moment of our lives is not temporary, it is permanent, and our every action is charged with eternity. In fact, the response we give today to God, who loves us in Jesus Christ, bears upon our future.

The biblical and Christian vision of time and history is not cyclical but linear: it is a journey that moves toward completion. A year which has passed, then, does not lead us to a reality which ends but to a reality which is being fulfilled, it is a further step toward the destination that awaits us: a destination of hope and a destination of happiness, for we shall encounter God, who is the reason for our hope and the source of our happiness.

As 2013 draws to a close, we gather up, as in a basket, the days, weeks and months we have lived in order to offer them all to the Lord. And let us courageously ask ourselves: how have we lived the time which He has given us? Have we used it primarily for ourselves, for our own interests, or have we also sought to spend it on others? How much time have we reserved for being with God, in prayer, in silence, in adoration?

And then we think, we citizens of Rome, we think about this City of Rome. What happened this year? What is happening, and what will happen? What is the quality of life in this City? It depends on all of us! What is the quality of our “citizenship”? This year, have we contributed in our own “small” way to making it more liveable, orderly, welcoming? In effect, the face of a city is like a mosaic whose tesserae are all those who live there. Certainly, those who are invested with authority have greater responsibility, but each one of us is co-responsible, for better or for worse.

Rome is a city of unique beauty. Its spiritual and cultural heritage is extraordinary. Yet even in Rome there are so many people marked by material and moral poverty, poor, unhappy, suffering people who challenge the conscience of every citizen. Perhaps in Rome we feel this contrast more strongly because of the contrast between the majestic scene and wealth of artistic beauty, and the social unrest of those who are struggling the most. Rome is a city full of tourists, but also full of refugees. Rome is full of people who work, but also of people who cannot find work or perform underpaid and sometimes undignified work, and everyone has the right to be treated equally with an attitude of acceptance and fairness, because everyone is a bearer of human dignity.

It is the last day of the year. What shall we do, how shall we act in the coming year in order to make our City a little better? In the new year, Rome will have an even more beautiful face if it is richer in humanity, more hospitable and welcoming; if we are all considerate and generous to those in difficulty; if we cooperate with a constructive and caring spirit for the good of all. Rome in the new year will be better if people do not observe it as “from afar”, on a postcard, if they do not only watch life pass by “from the balcony” without becoming involved in the many human problems, in the problems of men and women, who in the end... and from the beginning, whether we like it or not, are our brothers and sisters. From this perspective, the Church of Rome feels committed to making its own contribution to the life and future of the City — it is its duty! It feels committed and inspired by the leaven of the Gospel to be a sign and instrument of God’s mercy.

This evening let us conclude the Year of the Lord 2013 by giving thanks and also by asking for forgiveness. The two together: giving thanks and asking for forgiveness. Let us give thanks for all the blessings which God has bestowed on us, especially for his patience and his faithfulness, which are manifest over the course of time, but in a singular way in the fullness of time, when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4, 4). May the Mother of God, in whose name tomorrow we begin a new phase of our earthly pilgrimage, teach us to welcome God made man, so that every year, every month, every day may be filled with his eternal Love. So be it!"

Papa Francesco's Homily at Mass on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, 1 January 2014 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, PolishPortuguese & Spanish

"In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6, 24-25).  There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.

The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.

The Mother of God.  This is the first and most important title of Our Lady.  It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.

We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined.  The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God – the Theotokos – is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, “Mother of God!” The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness. But it is more: it is the sensus fidei of the holy People of God which, in its unity, never errs.

Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “The Church journeys through time… and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the “pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen gentium, 58).

Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19, 27).  These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus.The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!

The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus:  Mother of God!  Mother of God!  Mother of God!  Amen."

Papa Francisco's words at the Angelus on 47th World Day of Peace
St Peter's Square, New Year's Day 2014 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and Happy New Year!
At the beginning of the new year I wish to offer everyone my cordial best wishes for peace and all that is good. My wish is the Church’s, it is Christian! It is not tied to a somewhat magical and fatalistic sense of a new cycle beginning. We know that history has a centre: Jesus Christ Incarnate, Crucified and Risen, who is alive among us; it has an end: the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of peace, justice and freedom in love; and it has a force which moves it towards that end: the force of the Holy Spirit. We all have the Holy Spirit, whom we received at Baptism, and he moves us to go forward along the path of the Christian life, along the path of history towards the Kingdom of God.

This Spirit is the power of life which made the womb of the Virgin Mary fruitful; and it is the same power which inspires the efforts and work of all builders of peace. Wherever a man or woman is a builder of peace, it is the Holy Spirit who is assisting them, moving them to make peace. Two roads intersect today: the Feast of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God and the World Day of Peace. Eight days ago the angelic proclamation rang out: “Glory to God and peace to all men”. Today we welcome it anew from the Mother of Jesus, who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2, 19), in order to make of it our commitment over the course of the year which has just commenced.

The theme of this World Day of Peace is “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace”. Fraternity: in the footsteps of my predecessors, beginning with Paul VI, I developed the theme in a message which has already been published and which today I consign to everyone. It is based on the conviction that we are all children of the one Heavenly Father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny. Hence derives each person’s responsibility to work so that the world might become a community of brothers and sisters who respect one another, accept one another in their differences and take care of one another. We are also called to be aware of the violence and injustices which are present in so many parts of the world to which we cannot remain indifferent and unmoved: everyone’s commitment is needed in order to build a truly just and caring society. Yesterday I received a letter from a gentleman, perhaps one of you, who, in bringing a family tragedy to my attention, went on to list the many tragedies and wars that exist today in the world, and he asked me: what is happening in the heart of man which is leading him to do such things? And at the end he said: “It is time to stop.” I too believe it would do us good to stop on this path of violence and seek peace. Brothers and sisters, I make the words of this man my own: What is happening in the heart of man? What is happening in the heart of humanity? It is time to stop!

From every corner of the globe, today believers offer up their prayers asking the Lord for the gift of peace and the ability to bring it into every environment. On this first day of the year, may the Lord help us all to set out more decisively on the path of justice and peace. And let us begin at home! Justice and peace at home, among ourselves. It begins at home and then goes out to all humanity. But we have to begin at home. May the Holy Spirit act in hearts, may he melt obstacles and hardness and grant that we may be moved before the weakness of the Baby Jesus. Peace, in fact, requires the strength of meekness, the nonviolent strength of truth and love.

With filial trust, let us place our hopes in the hands of Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. To she who extends her motherhood to all mankind, let us entrust the cry for peace of peoples who are oppressed by war and violence, so that the courage of dialogue and reconciliation might prevail over temptations to revenge, tyranny and corruption. Let us ask her to grant that the Gospel of fraternity, which the Church proclaims and to which she bears witness, may speak to every conscience and bring down the walls that prevent enemies from recognizing one another as brothers."

After the Angelus:

"Brothers and sisters, I wish to thank the President of the Republic of Italy for the wishes which he expressed to me this evening during his message to the nation. I in turn wish to extend my heartfelt best wishes, invoking the Lord’s blessing on the Italian people so that with the responsible and firm commitment of all, they may look to the future with trust and hope.

With gratitude I greet the many prayer initiatives for peace which are taking place throughout the world on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. I remember in particular the National March, which took place last night in Campobasso, organized by CEI, Caritas and Pax Christi. I greet participants in the “Peace in all lands” rally, which is being promoted in Rome and in many countries by the Sant’Egidio Community. I also greet families from the Movement of Family Love who kept vigil last night in St Peter’s Square. Thank you! Thank you for this prayer.

I wish to extend my cordial greetings to all the pilgrims who are present here, to families and to groups of young people. A special thought goes to the “Carolers” — Sternsinger — the children and youth who in Germany and Austria carry Jesus’ blessing to homes and take up collections for children in need. Thank you for your commitment! And I also greet the friends and volunteers of the Fraterna Domus.

I wish everyone a year of peace in the grace of the Lord and under the maternal protection of Mary, who today we invoke under the title “Mother of God”. What do you say if we all greet her together, now, saying three times “Holy Mother of God”? All together: Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! I wish you a blessed start of the year and a good lunch. Goodbye!"