VATICAN CITY. «For those who live there» the capital, which «never ceases to enchant, is also tiring, sometimes discarded». Rome is “a wonderful city, but not always dignified for citizens and guests”. It is the warning that Pope Francis launches on the occasion of the traditional Te Deum of thanksgiving for the past year, in the presence of the mayor Roberto Gualtieri. The Pope’s hope “is that everyone can appreciate it more and more for the care of hospitality, of the common home, of the most fragile and vulnerable”.
At 5 pm today, the last day of 2021, in the Vatican Basilica, the Pontiff participates in the celebration of the first Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God, which will be followed by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the traditional hymn Te Deum – thanksgiving for the past year, at the end of the calendar year – and the Eucharistic Blessing. Unlike what has been announced, Jorge Mario Bergoglio attends but does not preside over the celebration. In his place, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. A decision perhaps taken at the last moment because the chair on which Francis is sitting was positioned in front of the benches a few minutes before the celebration.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, upon arrival in St. Peter’s Basilica, with a mask, without liturgical vestments and traveling a shorter distance than that of the procession of the celebrant accompanied by altar servers, after greeting the mayor of Rome Roberto Gualtieri, sitting.
He then gets up to go to the ambo and deliver the homily: in these days the liturgy “invites us to awaken in ourselves the astonishment for the mystery of the Incarnation. The feast of Christmas is perhaps the one that most arouses this interior attitude: amazement, wonder, contemplation … Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, who first receive the luminous angelic announcement and then run and actually find the sign that it was theirs. indicated, the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger ». Francis observes: «With tears in their eyes they kneel before the newly born Savior. But not only them, even Mary and Joseph are full of holy wonder at what the shepherds say they heard from the angel about the Child. And so – he exclaims – Christmas cannot be celebrated without amazement ». But an amazement that is not limited to «a superficial emotion, linked to the exteriority of the party, or worse still to the consumerist frenzy». If Christmas is reduced to “this, nothing changes: tomorrow will be the same as yesterday, next year will be like the past one, and so on”. According to the Bishop of Rome “it would mean warming up for a few moments to a flash in the pan, and not exposing ourselves with our whole being to the force of the Event, not grasping the center of the mystery of the birth of Christ”.
And the center “is this:” The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. “We hear it repeated several times in this evening liturgy, which opens the solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God. She is the first witness, the first and the greatest, and at the same time the humblest. The greatest because the humblest. Her heart is full of amazement, but without a shadow of romanticism, of sweetness, of spiritualism. No The Mother brings us back to the reality, to the truth of Christmas, which is contained in those three words of Saint Paul: “born of a woman”. “The Pontiff highlights:” Christian amazement does not originate from special effects, from fantastic worlds, but from the mystery of reality: there is nothing more wonderful and astonishing than reality! A flower, a clod of earth, a life story, an encounter … The wrinkled face of an old man and the newly blossomed face of a baby. A mother who holds her baby in her arms and feeds him. The mystery shines through there. “
And then, «brothers, sisters, the amazement of Mary, the amazement of the Church is full of gratitude. The gratitude of the Mother who, contemplating the Son, feels God’s closeness, feels that God has not abandoned his people, he has come, he is close, he is God-with-us ». The problems have not “disappeared – the Pope acknowledges – the difficulties and worries are not lacking, but we are not alone: the Father” sent his Son “to redeem us from the slavery of sin and restore us the dignity of children. Only begotten, he made himself the firstborn among many brothers, to lead all of us, lost and scattered, back to the house of the Father ».
This time of pandemic for Francis “has increased the sense of bewilderment throughout the world”. After an initial phase of reaction, «in which we felt solidarity in the same boat, the temptation to ‘save whoever can’ spread. But thank God we reacted again, with a sense of responsibility. Truly we can and must say “thanks be to God”, because the choice of joint responsibility does not come from the world: it comes from God; indeed, it comes from Jesus Christ, who imprinted once and for all in our history the “route” of his original vocation: to be all sisters and brothers, children of the one Father ».
Here then are the words about the “Eternal City”: Rome, this “vocation, the door written in the heart. In Rome everyone feels like brothers; in a certain sense, everyone feels at home, because this city holds within itself a universal opening. It comes from its history, from its culture; it comes mainly from the Gospel of Christ, which here took deep roots fertilized by the blood of the martyrs ”. But even in this case, «let us be careful – the Pope warns – a welcoming and fraternal city cannot be recognized by its“ facade ”, by the beautiful speeches, by the high-sounding events. No. It is recognized by the daily, “weekday” attention to those who struggle most, to families who feel the burden of the crisis most, to people with serious disabilities and their families, to those who need public transport every day to get there. to work, to those who live in the suburbs, to those who have been overwhelmed by some failure in their life and need social services, and so on ”.
Rome is a «marvelous capital, which never ceases to enchant; but for those who live there it is also a tiring city, unfortunately not always dignified for citizens and guests, a city that sometimes discards ». The papal hope then is that “everyone, those who live there and those who stay there for work, pilgrimage or tourism, may all appreciate it more and more for the care of hospitality, of the dignity of life, of the common home, of the most fragile and vulnerable . May everyone be amazed by discovering in this city a beauty that I would say “coherent”, and that arouses gratitude ».
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