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Christmas - Natale - Navidad - Noël 2017

Pope Francis' Homily at Midnight Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity
Sunday 24th December, St Peter's Basilica - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Mary “gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2, 7). In these simple and clear words, Luke brings us to the heart of that holy night: Mary gave birth; Mary gave us the Light. A simple story that plunges us into the event that changes our history for ever. Everything in that night became a source of hope.

Let us go back a few verses. By decree of the Emperor, Mary and Joseph found themselves forced to set out. They had to leave their people, their home and their land, and to undertake a journey in order to be registered in the census. This was no comfortable or easy journey for a young couple about to have a child: they had to leave their land. At heart, they were full of hope and expectation because of the child about to be born; yet their steps were weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind.

Then they found themselves having to face perhaps the most difficult thing of all. They arrived in Bethlehem and experienced that it was a land that was not expecting them. A land where there was no place for them.

And exactly there, where reality was a challenge, Mary gave us Emmanuel. The Son of God had to be born in a stable because his own had no room for him. “He came to what was his own and his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1, 11). And there, amid the gloom of a city that had no room or place for the stranger who came from afar, amid the darkness of a bustling city which in this case seemed to want to build itself up by turning its back on others… it was precisely there that the revolutionary spark of God’s tenderness was kindled. In Bethlehem, a small chink opens up for those who have lost their land, their country, their dreams; even for those overcome by the asphyxia produced by a life of isolation.

So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones. In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, have no problem in shedding innocent blood.

Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship. The One who in his poverty and littleness proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honouring and assisting the fragility of the weakest.

That night, the One who had no place to be born is proclaimed to those who had no place at the table or in the streets of the city. The shepherds are the first destined to hear this Good News. By reason of their work, they were men and women forced to live on the edges of society. Their state of life, and the places they had to stay, prevented them from observing all the ritual prescriptions of religious purification; as a result, they were considered unclean. Their skin, their clothing, their smell, their way of speaking, their origin, all betrayed them. Everything about them generated mistrust. They were men and women to be kept at a distance, to be feared. They were considered pagans among the believers, sinners among the just, foreigners among the citizens. Yet to them – pagans, sinners and foreigners – the angel says: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2, 10-11).

This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same.

The faith of this tonight makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors.

This same faith impels us to make space for a new social imagination, and not to be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship, in which none have to feel that there is no room for them in this world. Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity. The charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice, as if it were something natural, but that has the courage, amid tensions and conflicts, to make itself a “house of bread”, a land of hospitality. That is what Saint John Paul II told us: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ” (Homily for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, 22 October 1978).

In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf Mt 25, 35-36). “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ.” In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.

Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.

Papa Francesco's Urbi et Orbi Blessing in St Peter's Square
Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December 2017 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
In Bethlehem, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.  He was not born through human will, but by through the gift of the love of God the Father, who “so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3, 16).

This event is renewed today in the Church, pilgrim in time.  For the faith of the Christian people relives in the Christmas liturgy the mystery of the God who comes, who assumes our mortal human flesh, and who makes himself little and poor so as to save us.  And this fills us with emotion, because the tenderness of our Father is so great.

The first people to see the humble glory of the Saviour, after Mary and Joseph, were the shepherds of Bethlehem.  They recognized the sign proclaimed to them by the angels and adored the Child.  Those humble and watchful men are an example for believers of every age who, before the mystery of Jesus, are not scandalized by his poverty, but, like Mary, trust in the word of God and contemplate his glory with simple eyes.  Before the mystery of the Word made flesh, Christians in every place confess with the words of the Evangelist John: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1, 14).

Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child, and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, “there is no place in the inn” (Lk 2, 7).

We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.  On this festive day, let us ask the Lord for peace for Jerusalem and for all the Holy Land.  Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two States within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.  May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by good will to help that afflicted land to find, despite grave obstacles, the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited.

We see Jesus in the faces of Syrian children still marked by the war that, in these years, has caused such bloodshed in that country.  May beloved Syria at last recover respect for the dignity of every person through a shared commitment to rebuild the fabric of society, without regard for ethnic and religious membership.  We see Jesus in the children of Iraq, wounded and torn by the conflicts that country has experienced in the last fifteen years, and in the children of Yemen, where there is an ongoing conflict that has been largely forgotten, with serious humanitarian implications for its people, who suffer from hunger and the spread of diseases.

We see Jesus in the children of Africa, especially those who are suffering in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Nigeria.

We see Jesus in the children worldwide wherever peace and security are threatened by the danger of tensions and new conflicts.  Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole.  To the Baby Jesus we entrust Venezuela that it may resume a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all the beloved Venezuelan people.  We see Jesus in children who, together with their families, suffer from the violence of the conflict in Ukraine and its grave humanitarian repercussions; we pray that the Lord may soon grant peace to this dear country.

We see Jesus in the children of unemployed parents who struggle to offer their children a secure and peaceful future.  And in those whose childhood has been robbed and who, from a very young age, have been forced to work or to be enrolled as soldiers by unscrupulous mercenaries.

We see Jesus in the many children forced to leave their countries to travel alone in inhuman conditions and who become an easy target for human traffickers.  Through their eyes we see the drama of all those forced to emigrate and risk their lives to face exhausting journeys that end at times in tragedy.  I see Jesus again in the children I met during my recent visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and it is my hope that the international community will not cease to work to ensure that the dignity of the minority groups present in the region is adequately protected.  Jesus knows well the pain of not being welcomed and how hard it is not to have a place to lay one’s head.  May our hearts not be closed as they were in the homes of Bethlehem.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The sign of Christmas has also been revealed to us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Lk 2, 12).  Like the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, i
n the Baby Jesus may we welcome the love of God made man for us.  And may we commit ourselves, with the help of his grace, to making our world more human and more worthy for the children of today and of the future.

I offer a warm greeting to all of you, dear brothers and sisters from throughout the world gathered here in this Square, and to all those who in various countries are joined to us by radio, television and other communications media.

May the birth of Christ the Saviour renew hearts, awaken the desire to build a future of greater fraternity and solidarity, and bring joy and hope to everyone.  Happy Christmas!

Pope Francis's Catechesis on the Birth of the Lord Jesus
General Audience, Wednesday 27 December 2017, in St Peter's Square - in Arabic, English, Croatian, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today I would like to reflect with you on the meaning of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus, which in these days we are living in faith and in celebrations.

The construction of the Nativity scene and, above all, the liturgy, with its biblical Readings and its traditional hymns, have enabled us to relive “this day” in which to us “is born ... a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).

In our day, especially in Europe, we are witnessing a type of “distortion” of Christmas: in the name of a false respect which is not Christian, which often hides the wish to marginalize faith, all reference to Christ’s birth is eliminated from the holiday. But in reality, this event is the only true Christmas! Without Jesus there is no Christmas; there is another holiday, but not Christmas. And if he is at the centre, then all the trimmings, that is, the lights, sounds, various local traditions, including the characteristic foods, all contribute to creating an atmosphere of celebration, but with Jesus at the centre. If we remove him, the light goes out and everything becomes feigned, illusory.

Through the message of the Church, we, as the shepherds of the Gospel (cf. Lk 2:9), are led to seek out and find the true light, that of Jesus who, becoming human like us, reveals himself in a surprising way: he is born to a poor, unknown maiden, who gives birth to him in a stable, with only the help of her husband. The world does not notice anything, but in heaven the angels who know of the event exult! And it is in this way that the Son of God presents himself to us today: as God’s gift to humanity, which is immersed in darkness and in the listlessness of slumber (cf. Is 9:1). And again today we witness the fact that humanity often prefers darkness, because it knows that the light would reveal all those actions and thoughts that would make us blush or stir our conscience. Thus, we prefer to remain in the dark and not subvert our own bad habits.

We can thus ask ourselves what it means to welcome God’s gift, which is Jesus. As he himself has taught us with his life, it means becoming daily a gift freely given to those we meet on our own path. This is why Christmas gifts are exchanged. The true gift to us is Jesus, and like him we seek to be gifts to others. And, since we want to be gifts to others, we exchange gifts, as a sign, as a symbol of this attitude that Jesus teaches us: he, sent by the Father, was a gift to us, and we are gifts to others.

The Apostle Paul offers us a concise key to understanding, when he writes — this passage of Paul is beautiful — “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us ... to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world” (Tit 2:11-12). The grace of God “has appeared” in Jesus, the face of God, to whom the Virgin Mary gave birth like every child of this world, but he came not “from the earth”, he came “from heaven”, from God. In this way, with the incarnation of the Son, God opened the way of new life, founded not on selfishness but on love. Jesus’ birth is our Heavenly Father’s greatest gesture of love.

And lastly, a final important aspect: in Christmas we can see how human history, that movement of the powerful of this world, is visited by the history of God. And God engages those who, confined to the margins of society, are the first beneficiaries of his gift, namely — the gift — the salvation borne by Jesus. With the little ones and the scorned Jesus establishes a friendship that continues in time and that nourishes hope for a better future. To these people, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, “appeared a great light” (cf. Lk 2:9-12). They were marginalized; they were frowned upon, scorned, and the Good News appeared to them first. With these people, with the little ones and the scorned, Jesus establishes a friendship that endures in time and that nourishes hope for a better future. To these people, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, appears a great light which leads them straight to Jesus. With them, in all ages, God wishes to build a new world, a world in which there are no longer rejected, mistreated and indigent people.

Dear brothers and sisters, in these days let us open our minds and hearts to welcome this grace. Jesus is God’s gift to us and, if we welcome him, we too can become so to others — be a gift of God to others — first and foremost to those who have never experienced attention and tenderness. How many people in our life have never experienced a caress, loving attention, a kind gesture. Christmas spurs us to do so. In this way Jesus comes to be born again in each of our lives and, through us, he continues to be the gift of salvation for the little ones and the excluded.