Pope prints postcard illustrating the horror of war, Nagasaki
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As 2017 was drawing to a close, the horrors of war and people’s yearnings for peace were on Pope Francis’ mind and in his prayers.
In an unusual move late Dec. 30, the pope had the Vatican press office and Vatican media distribute a copy of a famous photograph from the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
The photo shows a young boy, about 10 years old, carrying his dead little brother on his back. The boy is taking his brother to be cremated.
On the back of the card, Pope Francis wrote, “The fruit of war” and signed his name.

Pope on New Year’s Day: Devotion to Mary is a must
VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - At the start of the new year, Pope Francis said that having a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary isn’t just something that is nice or good to do, but is an obligation in the life of a Christian.
“Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life,” the Pope said Jan. 1. “The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman.”
“If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, reflecting on the line in Luke’s Gospel that says, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
He pointed out that in the Gospel account of Christmas, Mary does not speak a single word, simply keeping everything in her heart, pondering it.
What we learn from her silence, he said, is that in quiet is how we “keep” ourselves, how we “keep” our soul free from being corroded by consumerism, “the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.”
“We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib. Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savor the real meaning of life,” he continued.
“As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts.”
This is Mary’s “secret,” he said, and we should seek to imitate her in this way. Not closing our hearts out of fear or distress, but handing everything over to God, dwelling on it with him.

Catholic swimmer Katie Ledecky named Female athlete of ’17
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Associated Press named Katie Ledecky the Female Athlete of the Year Dec. 26, after balloting by U.S. editors and news directors.
Ledecky, a graduate of Little Flower School and Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, received 351 points in the vote, placing her ahead of tennis star Serena Williams, who received 343 points. She was the eighth female swimmer to earn the honor and the first since Amy Van Dyken in 1996.
The vote reflected Ledecky’s dominance in the July 2017 world championships in Budapest, Hungary, where she earned five gold medals and one silver medal.
Ledecky first entered the world stage as a 15-year-old in the 2012 London Olympics, the summer after her freshman year at Stone Ridge. In that competition, she surprised people around the world by winning a gold medal in the women’s 800-meter freestyle and finishing the race in record time.
Ledecky is known for setting lofty goals for herself and achieving them, working hard and taking part in grueling workout schedules.

Pope, Turkey’s president discuss status of Jerusalem
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by telephone Dec. 29 about the status of Jerusalem.
Before giving his Christmas blessing Dec. 25, Pope Francis again prayed “for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land.”
He asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to join him in praying that “the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties.”

What is the devil’s favorite sin? An exorcist responds
MADRID, Spain, (CNA) - Is an exorcist afraid? What is the devil’s favorite sin? These and other questions were tackled in an interview with the Dominican priest, Father Juan José Gallego, an exorcist from the Archdiocese of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain.
Almost a decade after Fr. Gallego was appointed as exorcist, he was interviewed by the Spanish daily El Mundo. The priest said that in his experience, pride is the sin the devil likes the most.
“Have you ever been afraid?” the interviewer asked.
“In the beginning I had a lot of fear,” Fr. Gallego replied. “All I had to do was look over my shoulder and I saw demons… the other day I was doing an exorcism, ‘I command you! I order you!’…and the Evil One, with a loud voice fires back at me: ‘Galleeeego, you’re over-doooing it.’ That shook me.”
When people are possessed, he added, “they lose consciousness, they speak strange languages, they have inordinate strength, they feel really bad, you see very well-mannered people vomiting and blaspheming.”
“There was a boy whom the demon would set his shirt on fire at night and things like that. He told me what the demons were proposing him to do: If you make a pact with us, you’ll never have to go through any more of what you’re going through now.”