Pope Francis finishes twirling a soccer ball presented by a member of CirCuba, the Cuban national circus, during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope: prayer involves recognizing self as God’s child
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are not better than other people, but they do know that God is their father and they are called “to reflect a ray of his goodness in this world thirsting for goodness, waiting for good news,” Pope Francis said.
Leading his first general audience of 2019, the pope continued a series of talks he has been giving about the Lord’s Prayer. But he also welcomed artists from CirCuba, the national circus of Cuba, who were performing in Rome over the holidays.
One of the performers even had a very willing pope help him with his act by balancing a spinning ball on his finger. At the end of the audience Jan. 2, the pope praised the performers for their hard work and for the way they lift people’s spirits with their shows.
In his main audience talk, Pope Francis explained how the Gospel of Matthew presents the Lord’s Prayer as part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which also includes the Eight Beatitudes.
Proclaiming the beatitudes, the pope said, Jesus affirms the blessedness and happiness of “a series of categories of people, who — in his time, but also in ours — are not particularly esteemed. Blessed are the poor, the meek, the merciful, the humble of heart. This is the revolution of the Gospel! Where the Gospel is, there is revolution because the Gospel does not leave things as they were.”
With the beatitudes, he said, Jesus is telling people that those “who carry in their hearts the mystery of a God who revealed his omnipotence in love and pardon” are those who come closest to understanding him.
The core of the Sermon on the Mount, he said, is: “You are sons and daughters of your Father who is in heaven,” which is why Jesus then teaches the crowd to pray the Our Father.

Pope prays for new year marked by tenderness, brotherhood, peace
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A new year is a chance for a new start, a time to remember that all people are brothers and sisters and a time to nurture amazement that God became human to save all people, Pope Francis said.
The Jan. 1 feast of Mary, Mother of God, also is a time to remember how strong maternal love and care are, and how they are the secret to making life more livable, the pope said during his homily at a feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Catholic Church also marks Jan. 1 at World Peace Day, an observance the pope spoke about when, after Mass, he recited the Angelus with tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. So many people were in the sunny square that Pope Francis remarked, “It seems like a canonization,” which usually is when the square is full.
Mary shows to the world her son, the prince of peace, he said. “He is the blessing for every person and the whole human family. He is the source of grace, mercy and peace.”
Pope Francis chose as the theme for this year’s World Peace Day: “Good politics is at the service of peace.”
“We must not think politics is reserved to those who govern,” the pope said. “We are all responsible for the life of the community, of the common good, and politics is good to the degree that everyone does his or her part in the service of peace.”
After greeting hundreds of people who participated in a march for peace, carrying signs with the names of countries suffering because of violence, Pope Francis prayed: “Through the intercession of the virgin Mary, may the Lord grant us to be artisans of peace — and this begins at home, in the family — every day of the new year.”
Earlier, in his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis paid homage not only to Mary, but also to all mothers and all those who show tender care for others, including in political and economic life.
“A world that looks to the future without a mother’s gaze is shortsighted,” he said. “It may well increase its profits, but it will no longer see others as children. It will make money, but not for everyone. We will all dwell in the same house, but not as brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis prayed that Mary would help all people learn to look at the world and each other as she does, providing for people’s needs, loving them and leading them to Jesus.
“In today’s fragmented world, where we risk losing our bearings, a mother’s embrace is essential,” he said. “How much dispersion and solitude there is all around us! The world is completely connected, yet seems increasingly disjointed. We need to entrust ourselves to our Mother.”

Pope Francis’ intention for January
Here is Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month:
Evangelization – Young People: That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.

Defuse family fights by remembering the good in the other, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Families are “a treasure,” Pope Francis said. “They must be safeguarded always, defended.”
Celebrating the feast of the Holy Family Dec. 30, the pope led a round of applause for all the families that were among an estimated 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer and to see the Vatican’s sand Nativity scene.
Before leading the prayer, Pope Francis talked about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, which recounted how, as part of a caravan, Mary and Joseph took 12-year-old Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem; on the way home, they noticed Jesus was not with the group. Turning back, they found him in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions.
Mary and Joseph, the pope said, experienced “anguish” when they could not find their son and “astonishment” when they found him dialoguing with the teachers in the temple.
Awe, marvel and astonishment were never lacking in the Holy Family, the pope said. “To be astonished and to marvel are the opposite of taking something for granted (and) the opposite of interpreting the reality around us and the events of history only according to our own criteria.”
“To be astonished is to open oneself to others, to understand their motives,” he said. “This attitude is important for repairing compromised relationships between people and is indispensable for healing open wounds within the family.”
“When there are problems in the family, we assume we are right and shut the door on others,” he said. But, instead, “we should think, ‘What is good about this person?’ and marvel at that goodness. This will help family unity.”
Pope Francis said he also wanted to talk about the anguish Mary and Joseph felt when they discovered Jesus was not with them.
“The family of Nazareth was holy because it was centered on Jesus. All of Mary and Joseph’s attention and concern were about him,” the pope said.
The anguish Mary and Joseph felt when they were away from Jesus should be what all Christians feel when they are far from him, or when they forget to pray, he said.

Then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick attends a Mass in Rome April 13. The prelate, no longer a member of the College of Cardinals, has been accused of abusing a minor decades ago when he was a priest and being sexually inappropriate with seminarians in more recent years as a bishop. He has denied the allegations but his case roiled the U.S. Catholic Church in 2018 amid a growing abuse crisis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican begins investigation of Abp. McCarrick
WASHINGTON (CNS) — James Grein, a Virginia man who said Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, sexually abused him for years beginning when he was 11, gave his testimony about what occurred Dec. 27 before a judicial vicar for the New York Archdiocese.
His testimony was requested by the Vatican.
“He wants his church back. He felt that in order to accomplish that end, he had to go in and testify here and tell them what happened and give the church itself the chance to do the right thing,” Patrick Noaker, Grein’s attorney, told The Associated Press.
In a New York Times report in July about Grein’s allegations against Archbishop McCarrick he only allowed his first name to be used, but he has since been more public and spoke during a protest that took place during the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting in Baltimore.
According to reports about Grein’s testimony, he spoke of repeated incidents of the archbishop groping him during confession.
Archbishop McCarrick, who has denied allegations against him, now lives in a Capuchin Franciscan friary in Victoria, Kansas.
The Archdiocese of Washington in a statement this summer said it had conducted an investigation and found no allegations of misconduct involving Archbishop McCarrick during the time he served as archbishop of Washington between 2000 and 2006. He earlier served as a priest and then auxiliary bishop in New York, and as bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, and archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.
In July, Pope Francis accepted Archbishop McCarrick’s resignation from College of Cardinals and suspended him from public ministry, ordering him to a “life of prayer and penance” until the accusations against him, also about misconduct with seminarians, were examined in a canonical trial.
Since allegations against him have come to light, Catholic laity and church leaders, including bishops, have been asking who knew about the archbishop’s alleged misconduct and how was it possible for him to move up the ranks in church leadership.
Open letters to the pope asked him to investigate what happened, and a fury of speculation was fueled by unsubstantiated allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the United States, who accused the Vatican hierarchy and Pope Francis, in particular, of being complicit in covering up accusations against Archbishop McCarrick.

Pope Francis is pictured with Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, as he answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Tallinn, Estonia, to Rome Sept. 25, 2018. Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the vice director of the Vatican press office, resigned Dec. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Top officials of Vatican press office resign
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Saying they thought Pope Francis should be “completely free to assemble a new team” for Vatican communications “at this time of transition,” the director of the Vatican press office announced he and the vice director had resigned.
Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero, the press office announced Dec. 31. The pope appointed Alessandro Gisotti, coordinator of social media at the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, to serve as interim director of the press office.
Neither of the outgoing journalists issued a formal statement, but Burke, 59, a former U.S. television news correspondent, tweeted the comment about it being the right time for the pope to assemble a new team.
Paolo Ruffini, appointed prefect in July, said in a statement that resigning was “their autonomous and free choice.”
“Their significant commitment has contributed to the process of reform that to be carried to completion — as they themselves say — requires a rapid passing of the baton in the spirit of service to the church that we all share.”
Pope Francis created the Secretariat for Communication in 2015 to streamline and coordinate the Vatican’s many news and communications outlets, including the press office. The Vatican has since changed its name to the Dicastery for Communication.
The pope named Burke and Ovejero, 43, to the press office positions in July 2016.
Gisotti, 44, had been a journalist and editor for Vatican Radio before its incorporation into the new dicastery. He is the author or editor of several books and has been coordinator of social media for the dicastery since 2017.
Earlier in December, Pope Francis had named Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist, as “editorial director” of the dicastery and Andrea Monda, an Italian journalist and religion teacher, as editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Young adults from throughout Europe gathered in Madrid Dec. 28-Jan. 1 for an international prayer meeting organized by the ecumenical Taize Community. (CNS photo/courtesy Community of Taize)

Pope urges young people at Taize meeting to be models of hospitality
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As thousands of teens and young adults from throughout Europe gathered in Madrid to pray in the New Year, Pope Francis urged them to open their hearts to God and to one another.
Some 15,000 young people were expected in the Spanish capital for the prayer meeting Dec. 28-Jan. 1 organized by the France-based Community of Taize.
The theme of the meeting was “Let us not forget hospitality.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message to participants, conveying Pope Francis’ prayers for them and his hope that the ecumenical gathering of Christians would be a time “to open the door of your heart to the Lord and his word, to make visible and grow a culture of encounter, welcoming each other with respect for your differences.”
The pope “invites you to make a place for the Lord in your life and discover that, through friendship with Jesus, it is possible to live a generous hospitality, to learn to be enriched by the differences of others and to increase your own talents to become builders of bridges between churches, religions and peoples,” the cardinal’s message said.
The pope, he said, also asked that young people “welcome and support your older brothers and sisters in the faith and use your talents, your energy and your strength to improve the world and to ensure that every person can find his or her place in the great human family.”
Accepting the challenge of hospitality, he said, should be seen especially in young people’s efforts to reach out to “those who are kept at a distance, rejected or excluded, small and poor.”

In this 2011 file photo, Sister Wendy Beckett poses with an unidentified admirer during a book signing at St. Pauls Bookshop in London. (CNS photo/Jo-Anne Rowney, courtesy of St. Pauls Bookshop)

Sister Wendy Beckett, art critic and British TV star, dies at age 88
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sister Wendy Beckett, who gained fame in the 1990s for television shows and books explaining art, died Dec. 26 in Norfolk, England, at the age of 88.
She has been widely described as both an unlikely art critic and television star, but that may have been what made her all the more likeable.
Discussing Michelangelo’s marble Pieta in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Sister Wendy said this of the Renaissance sculptor: “He’s awesome. He’s the Colossus of art.”
She joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur when she was 16 and died where she had long lived, on the property of a Carmelite monastery. Sister Wendy was released from her vows to the order in the 1970s to live a contemplative life as a hermit.
She continued to wear her full-length black habit and told reporters after she gained fame for her down-to-earth descriptions of famous works of art: “I am a nun. I will always be a nun.”
Sister Wendy, who studied English literature at Oxford University, was introduced to the world in the early 1990s after she agreed to present a series on art for the British Broadcasting Corp. based on her books about art, including “Contemporary Women Artists,” published in 1988.
In 1991, she hosted a series for British television called “Sister Wendy’s Odyssey,” followed a year later by “Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour” and “Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting” in 1996. Initial shows focused on museums across England and Scotland, then she visited famous works of art in Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. In her final show, she crossed 30,000 miles, visiting works of art throughout Europe, the Middle East and the United States, viewing everything from cave paintings in France to modern art in the United States.
In a 2011 interview with Catholic News Service she said she was particularly thrilled with two books she had just written that were her most Catholic.

Retired Bishop Mulvee of Providence, R.I., dies at age 88
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CNS) — Retired Bishop Robert E. Mulvee of Providence died Dec. 28 at the St. Antoine Residence in North Smithfield, following a brief illness. He was 88.
“Bishop Mulvee was a good and gentle shepherd of God’s people. He was a faithful follower of Christ who served the church with dignity and compassion,” said Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin in a statement.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated Jan. 10 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence followed by a burial at St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston.
Bishop Mulvee was bishop of Providence from 1995 to 2005.
Msgr. John Darcy, diocesan vicar general, chancellor and personnel director from 1999 to 2005, said Bishop Mulvee was “such a wonderful bishop to the priests; he really knew them and cared for them very, very deeply. That was his greatest attribute.”
Known for taking a pastoral approach to matters, Bishop Mulvee often visited the infirm and provided comfort to those who experienced loss.

Reject abortion, defend all human lives, Italian bishops say
ROME (CNS) — Defending and protecting human life means rejecting abortion, caring for the sick, offering a decent welcome to immigrants, valuing the contributions of the elderly, encouraging families to have children and caring for the environment, the bishops of Italy said.
“We are called to welcome life before and after its birth, in every condition and circumstance in which it is weak, threatened and in need of what is essential,” said the bishops’ statement for their 2019 pro-life day.
The permanent council of the bishops’ conference issued the statement in December in anticipation of the Day for Life, which will be marked Feb. 3.
“We are called to care for those who suffer because of illness, violence or marginalization with the respect that is due to every human being when he or she is fragile,” the bishops said.
“One also cannot forget the risks caused by the indifference to and attacks on the integrity and health of our ‘common home,’ which is our planet,” the bishops said. “True ecology is always holistic and protects life from its first moments.”
“The lack of stable and dignified work extinguishes the young’s enthusiasm for the future and aggravates the demographic decline,” which also is due to a widespread assumption that life is better with fewer or no children, the bishops said.

Damage is seen inside Our Lady of Lavang Parish in Portland, Ore., after a man drove his SUV into the empty church just after midnight on Dec. 24. On Christmas Eve parishioners picked up smashed pews and set up more than 1,000 folding chairs so worshippers could attend Christmas Mass. (CNS photo/courtesy Our Lady of Lavang Parish)

Vietnamese parishioners don’t let church attack deter Christmas
PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Members of Our Lady of Lavang Parish in Portland did not let an attack stall their Christmas observances.
Volunteers at the Vietnamese Catholic community gathered Christmas Eve, tools in hand, to repair their church, which had been seriously damaged when a man intentionally drove his SUV into the worship space and repeatedly crashed through the pews. In addition to the pews, walls and doors were heavily damaged.
By late afternoon, neat walls of plywood covered most of the damage and replaced one set of doors, folding chairs had replaced the pews, and children and teens were rehearsing for their parts in the Christmas Eve Masses, reported the Catholic Sentinel, archdiocesan newspaper.
A crew of 100 parishioners responded to the call for help from Father Ansgar Pham, pastor.
Parishioners young and old expressed surprise at what happened but held no ill will toward the person responsible. Young people suggested that the man had been angry. One woman said he must have been hurting.
According to police reports, Hieu John Phung, 35, rented an Acura SUV, then drove it through a locked gate and into the church after midnight early Dec. 24. Phung then phoned 911 to admit to the deed. The license plate and part of the grill had been found in the church, linking Phung to the vehicular mayhem.
Police charged Phung with criminal mischief, hit-and-run driving that resulted in property damage and criminal trespass. He was released and ordered to attend a court hearing Dec. 26, but did not appear because he had been picked up in Astoria, Oregon, and was hospitalized, apparently for mental health reasons, authorities said. His next court appearance is set for Jan. 9.
Parishioners said Phung, who has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is separated from his wife and two children, who attend faith formation classes at Our Lady of Lavang.
Father Pham told KOIN-TV the driver drove into the church in at least two separate spots, shattering walls, windows and knocking down doors.
Christmas Masses took place as planned, with joyful singing and dance.
“Please pray for us during this difficult time,” Father Pham told the television station.
“In about three hours a miracle of transformation happened,” Portland Auxiliary Bishop Peter L. Smith said in a Facebook post.
“Destroyed pews were removed, broken glass and destroyed entrances were cleaned up and temporary doors were installed to keep the cold out,” he wrote.
Parishioners neatly lined up more than 1,000 folding chairs. Members of neighboring St. Rose of Lima Church, including Father Matt Libra, pastor, came to help.
One parishioner was heard saying, “My faith is stronger because of this.”
“Christmas comes whether someone tries to deny us our joy,” said a Facebook post from the Archdiocese of Portland. “Our Lord reigns!”

Ohio legislature looks ahead after one vote short on abortion bill
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) — By one vote, the Ohio Senate failed to overturn the governor’s veto of a restrictive abortion bill.
The legislation, called the “heartbeat bill,” would have prohibited abortions at the first detectable heartbeat, or as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
On Dec. 27, the state senators voted 19-13 to override the governor’s veto, but it needed 20 votes to pass. Republican Senate President Larry Obhof said the legislation would come up again and with a better chance of passing, in the next session.
“We will have a supermajority that is pro-life in both chambers in the next General Assembly. We’re getting sworn in in less than two weeks, and we have a governor coming in who has said he would sign that bill,” he told reporters.
The legislation previously passed the Ohio House and Senate and was sent to Republican Gov. John Kasich who vetoed the bill Dec. 21.
On Dec. 27, the Ohio House gained enough votes, 61-28, to override the governor’s veto, which then fell short in the Senate.
Kasich vetoed this same legislation two years ago, and the Ohio General Assembly was not able to override it.
The governor has described the bill as unconstitutional and one that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend in court.
Three years ago, the Catholic Conference of Ohio said it was neutral on this bill. It said it supported “the life-affirming intent” of the legislation but it had to “take into account the opinion of legal experts, who caution that the provisions in the proposed legislation are likely to be found unconstitutional.”
In a statement at the time, the conference said it was unlikely that a “complete ban of abortions after a heartbeat has been detected will be able to withstand court challenge.”