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Pope asks theologians to help 'de-masculinize' the church

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Asking pardon for speaking plainly, Pope Francis told members of the International Theological Commission that "one of the great sins we have had is 'masculinizing' the church," which also can be seen by the fact that only five of the commission members are women.

The pope, who appoints the 28 members of the commission, said the church needs to make more progress in balancing such bodies because "women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different from what we men have."

Pope Francis met members of the commission at the Vatican Nov. 30. He handed them a prepared text, which he described as a "beautiful speech with theological things," but said that because of his ongoing respiratory problems due to bronchitis, "it's better that I don't read it."

But greeting members of the group, the pope said that perhaps his conviction about the importance of women theologians comes from the fact that "I've studied a lot the theology of a woman," Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, and her work on Father Romano Guardini, a German priest, philosopher and theologian, who died in 1968.

Coincidently, Gerl-Falkovitz is one of four German women who wrote to Pope Francis about their concerns regarding the German Catholic Church's Synodal Path. In a letter published by a German newspaper Nov. 21, Pope Francis responded to the women saying, "I, too, share this concern about the numerous concrete steps that are now being taken by large parts of this local church that threaten to move further and further away from the common path of the universal church."

Pope Francis told members of the commission that at the next meeting of his international Council of Cardinals, "we will have a reflection on the feminine dimension of the church."

Pope Francis and Sister Josée Ngalula
Pope Francis greets Congolese Sister Josée Ngalula, a Sister of St. Andrew and one of five women theologians on the International Theological Commission, a body that studies theological questions for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the Vatican Nov. 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Providing no other details, he repeated what he has said in the past: "The church is woman. And if we do not understand who women are, what the theology of a woman is, we will never understand what the church is."

The problem "is not solved in a ministerial way, that's another thing," he said, repeating his belief in the concept that in the church there is a "Petrine principle" and a "Marian principle" that describe the important but different roles women and men play in the Catholic Church.

"You can debate this, but the two principles are there," the pope said. "It is more important to have the Marian (dimension) than the Petrine," because the church is the bride of Christ.

Pope Francis said having more women on the commission would help, but the theologians also need to dedicate more energy to studying the issue and to "de-masculinizing" the church.

"I talked too much, and it hurt," the pope told them before joining them in reciting the Lord's prayer.

In his prepared text, Pope Francis encouraged commission members to continue work on "an evangelizing theology that promotes dialogue with the world of culture," and decides what questions and challenges to focus on by listening to concerns that come from the grassroots.

The pope also focused on the commission's work helping the Catholic Church prepare to celebrate the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea.

A rediscovery of the council and its teachings, he said, can help the church in evangelization, in growing in synodality and in the search for Christian unity.

"At Nicaea, faith was professed in Jesus the only-begotten Son of the Father; he became man for us and for our salvation and is 'God from God, light from light,'" the pope said. His is "the light that illuminates existence with the love of the Father."

Theologians, the pope said, need to help "spread new and surprising glimmers of the eternal light of Christ" in the church and "in the darkness of the world."


COP 28: U.S. Bishops Call for International Climate Policies that Promote Justice

WASHINGTON – The United Nations will convene their annual meeting on climate, COP28, on November 30. In advance of the meeting, Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, released the following statement:

“We pray for all leaders and participants of COP28 as they work to care for our climate. As Pope Francis emphasized in Laudate Deum, the climate crisis is an opportunity to reconfigure international relations toward the common good, ‘demonstrat[ing] the nobility of politics,’ where, as brothers and sisters all, we can achieve ‘a decisive acceleration of energy transition’ (nos. 60, 54).

“Despite the tremendous growth of renewable energy worldwide, the global economic system remains largely powered by fossil fuels. Decarbonization of the economy—through the replacement of fossil fuels with secure, reliable, affordable, and clean energy—is the preeminent environmental challenge faced by all nations. While we are encouraged by recent decarbonization efforts in the United States, supported by the USCCB, to direct historic investment towards climate infrastructure and technological development, this tremendous challenge cannot be achieved alone through the efforts of individual persons or even nations and will require long-term cooperation by all.

“No government will be successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the long run if it requires a significant increase of the energy costs of middle- and low-income citizens. In other words, climate goals must represent both the ‘cry of the earth’ and the ‘cry of the poor,’ and include the financial support by developed nations for adaptation, resilience, and recovery of the most vulnerable. Justice for the poor, including the 3.3 billion people worldwide with limited energy and 700 million without any electricity, constitutes an essential test of ethical climate policy.”

Previous USCCB advocacy related to the Paris Agreement can be found at the following links:


Conference puts pope's call for 'outgoing theology' into action

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (CNS) -- Theologians, social scientists, historians and artists, including an Indigenous Mexican rapper, met in Bogotá to discuss how religion is represented in popular culture today. 

Pope Francis "says that new theology cannot be a dialogue between theologians because that is self-referential, rather it must be an interdisciplinary dialogue," Emilce Cuda, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America told Catholic News Service Nov. 27 during a three-day conference in Bogotá on religious expressions in popular culture at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM. 

Theologians, she said, "must be among the people and listen to the language they use to express the faith today, to express their needs and dreams," and to engage with popular expressions of faith conveyed through tattoos and rap music, for instance. 

The conference, titled "Theology on the Peripheries: The Symbolic Language of Popular Culture," featured panels on the use of religion in forming ideologies, media narratives surrounding religion, the appropriation of religious symbols and their representation in art.

Cuda said the conference was motivated by the need for an "outgoing theology" that aligns with a vision of an "outgoing church" as Pope Francis requested in a letter Nov. 1 approving new statutes for the Pontifical Theological Academy. 

A journalist speaks at a conference.
Aníbal Pastor, a Chilean journalist, speaks during a theology conference on religious expressions in popular culture at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Jesuit Father Felipe Legarreta, a biblical scholar at Loyola University of Chicago and conference participant, told CNS that studying the modern-day use of religious symbols follows the example of the early church fathers, who "appropriate symbols, appropriate languages to translate and interpret the Gospel message in new contexts."

Father Legarreta said he hoped the conference would support a "new epistemology and methodology for theology that is in dialogue with the other sciences and with the peoples of the earth, above all those who are on the peripheries."

Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, known by his stage name "Sebsor," said that his participation in the CELAM conference as an artist and as an Indigenous person was important "so that academics look at us, so they see that we exist, that we have a spirituality and to dialogue about it."

Pérez's songs incorporate both Spanish and his native Tzeltal, a Mayan language spoken by some 590,000 people. He told CNS that his music blends Mayan culture, Catholic spirituality and the message of resistance found in American hip-hop.

"If you're at a desk, you cannot understand the spirituality of a group of original peoples that was never conquered and continues to exist," he said. "Why hip-hop? Why has art saved us? Because it has been a means of social transformation in the peripheries."

Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, poses for a photo.
Miguel Ángel Pérez Gómez, a rapper from Chiapas, Mexico, and participant in a theology conference on religious expressions in popular culture, poses for a photo at the headquarters of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, in Bogotá, Colombia, Nov. 27, 2023. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Theology today can be overly concerned with "certain ways of preserving doctrine that place more attention on preservation than on proclamation" of the Gospel, Argentine Father José Carlos Caamaño told CNS. 

A systmatic theologian at the Catholic University of Argentina, Father Caamaño said that preserving the faith through theology "cannot be motivated by tending to a body of work so that I can take decisions about others from a position of power."

"Knowing the challenges of our times is fundamental to be able to articulate a language that communicates the Gospel, otherwise what we communicate is a hollow doctrine, a dehumanizing doctrine," he said. "If you are worried about the salvation of people, you have to gain knowledge about them by using disciplines that know how to capture a concrete, historical reality," such as through collaboration with historians and sociologists.

Cuda said such an approach "is the way of understanding theology in part of Latin America, particularly in Río de la Plata," the region which encompasses Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

"In Latin America, theology of the peripheries is not a theology of philosophical categories, it is a theology mediated by culture," she said.

Pope, still suffering from the flu, urges prayers for peace at audience

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With a soft and raspy voice, Pope Francis began his weekly general audience by making the sign of the cross and explaining that "I'm still not well with this flu, and my voice isn't great," so he would have an aide read his catechesis and greetings.

The gathering, in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, was held the morning after the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had accepted his doctors' advice and canceled plans to travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to join world leaders in addressing COP28, the U.N. climate conference.

Before the general audience, the pope met briefly with members of the Scottish soccer team Celtic F.C. There, too, he apologized for having an aide read his prepared text. "With this cold," he said, "I can't speak much, but I'm better than yesterday."

Pope Francis with Celtic F.C. soccer team
Pope Francis poses for a photo with players and staff from the soccer team Celtic F.C., from Scotland, in a meeting room in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The pope's main general audience talk, part of a yearlong series about evangelization, was read by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

But at the end of the audience, the pope took the microphone back to urge people to pray for peace.

"Let's continue to pray for the serious situation in Israel and Palestine. Peace, please, peace," the pope said. "I hope that the cease-fire in Gaza continues so that all the hostages (taken by Hamas) are released, and access is allowed for the necessary humanitarian aid" in Gaza.

Pope Francis, who speaks regularly by telephone with priests at Holy Family parish in Gaza City, told people at the audience, "I've heard from the parish there. There is a lack of water, a lack of bread. The people are suffering. The simple people. The people are suffering, not those who are making the war. We ask for peace."

"And speaking of peace, let's not forget the dear Ukrainian people who still are suffering so much because of the war," he said. "Brothers and sisters, war is always a defeat. Everyone loses. Well, not everyone; there is one group that earns a lot -- those who manufacture weapons. They make a lot off the death of others."

Pope Francis also used the opportunity to thank a group of circus performers -- acrobats, skaters, clowns and jugglers -- who had entertained the pope and the crowd for a few minutes. They train hard and bring joy to people, the pope said.

Pope Francis watches circus performers
Pope Francis watches circus performers entertain him and the crowd at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Nov. 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

In his main talk, read by Msgr. Ciampanelli, Pope Francis focused on how salvation in Jesus is as necessary as ever and that people today need to hear the Gospel proclaimed even if society tries to convince them that "God is insignificant and useless."

Simply repeating formulaic expressions of faith will convince no one, the pope said. And neither will shouting.

"A truth does not become more credible because one raises one's voice in speaking it, but because it is witnessed with one's life," the pope's text said.


Pope, struggling with illness, prays for wars to end

Pope, struggling with illness, prays for wars to end

Pope Francis held his weekly general audience Nov. 29, but told the crowd he was still suffering from the flu so an aide read his prepared text.

Pope cancels Dubai trip although Vatican says his health is improving

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "With great regret," Pope Francis has accepted his doctors' advice to not travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 and is looking at alternative ways the Vatican can participate in the U.N. Climate Change Conference, the director of the Vatican press office said.

The pope was scheduled to be among dozens of world leaders addressing the World Climate Action Summit at the beginning of the conference, commonly known as COP28. COP28 logo

"Although the Holy Father's general clinical condition has improved with regard to the flu and inflammation of the respiratory tract," for which he had been receiving treatment since Nov. 25, "doctors have asked the pope not to make his planned trip to Dubai," Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office said Nov. 28.

"Pope Francis accepted the doctors' request with great regret and the trip is therefore canceled," Bruni said, adding that the Vatican is studying ways the pope and the Holy See still can "be part of the discussions" about addressing the climate crisis.

Early Nov. 25 Pope Francis canceled his day's meetings because of "flu-like" symptoms, and that afternoon he went to Rome's Gemelli Isola Hospital for a CT scan of his lungs.

"The CT scan ruled out pneumonia, but showed pulmonary inflammation that was causing some respiratory difficulties," Bruni had said Nov. 27. "For more effective treatment, a needle cannula was placed for the infusion of intravenous antibiotic therapy."

The IV access was visible on the pope's right hand Nov. 26 as he sat next to an aide in the chapel of his residence for the midday recitation of the Angelus. Because he was still unwell the pope, who will celebrate his 87th birthday Dec. 17, led the recitation of the prayer from the chapel instead of his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

Since then, Pope Francis has postponed some audiences with large groups while continuing some meetings. However, Nov. 28 he spent more than two hours with the bishops of Spain discussing a recent Vatican-ordered visitation of the country's seminaries.

Bruni said the pope still planned to hold his weekly general audience Nov. 29, which was scheduled to take place in the Vatican audience hall rather than in St. Peter's Square.

To coincide with the COP28 conference, Pope Francis wrote and released his exhortation "Laudate Deum" ("Praise God"), a follow-up to his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home."

In the new document, he wrote that he hoped COP28 would "represent a change of direction," showing that the global community is serious about stemming the effects of climate change.


Destination Dubai: Pope heads to climate conference to press for action

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis visits Dubai in the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1-3 to address the opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, he will be the first pope ever to attend one of the global gatherings that began in 1995.

The visit marks yet another unique effort by this pope who -- in honor of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi -- has made caring for creation a hallmark of his pontificate and has repeatedly reminded people that actions speak louder than words.

His presence, anticipated speech and private bilateral meetings at the 28th conference, known as COP28, will add further strength to his many urgent appeals that nations reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition swiftly to clean energy sources and compensate countries already harmed by the effects of climate change.

"We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes," he wrote this year in "Laudate Deum" ("Praise God"), a follow-up document to his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home."

Pope Francis had timed the release of his 2015 encyclical on humanity's responsibility to care for creation to coincide with final preparations for the COP21 conference in Paris. And a number of experts believe that document had a deep impact on the successful adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement, a binding agreement for nations to fight climate change and mitigate its effects.

The pope, likewise, timed the release of "Laudate Deum," which presented an even stronger critique of global inaction and indifference, ahead of the climate conference in Dubai, saying the meeting "can represent a change of direction, showing that everything done since 1992 (with the adoption of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) was in fact serious and worth the effort, or else it will be a great disappointment and jeopardize whatever good has been achieved thus far."

Some Catholic advocacy organizations that have been pushing for global action for years believe the pope's participation at COP28 is going to help convince leaders to make stronger commitments. 

COP28 logo
Pictured is the logo for the 28th United Nations' Climate Change Conference, or COP28, being held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Image from

Lindlyn Moma, advocacy director of the Laudato Si' Movement, told Catholic News Service Nov. 20, that "Pope Francis really recognizes that we are in a climate crisis and he is going to COP to make sure that everyone hears this message," which is the same message in "Laudato Si'" eight years ago, but "not enough people have heeded to that call."

What needs to be done at COP28, Moma said, is "an agreement that is very clear on the phase out of fossil fuels."

The intergovernmental International Energy Agency "has released countless reports since two years ago saying that we can have no more investments in oil and gas, in any fossil fuels, if we need to meet the targets of remaining at 1.5 degrees, which by the way, is being threatened," she said. The Paris Agreement set the goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

COP28 in Dubai could mark a watershed moment for some kind of promise to end fossil fuel exploration and expansion, and to phase out existing production.

The United Arab Emirates is a major producer and exporter of oil, producing at least 4 million barrels per day. The president-designate of COP28 is Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who wears multiple hats: UAE minister for industry and advanced technology; its special envoy for climate; chairman of the renewable energy company, Masdar; and group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. 

Sultan al-Jaber pope
Pope Francis welcomes Sultan al-Jaber, the president-designate of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, to the Vatican Oct. 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Al-Jaber met with the pope Oct. 11, just one week after "Laudate Deum" was released with its pointed mention that "gas and oil companies are planning new projects" in the UAE, and its clear call for "decisive acceleration" in transitioning to clean energy sources.

"The fact that (al-Jaber) went to meet him, immediately after 'Laudate Deum' was released, it really says that his message came out strong and clear," Moma said.

Vatican News reported that during that visit, al-Jaber expressed the United Arab Emirates' appreciation for Pope Francis' "unwavering advocacy for positive climate change to advance human progress," and they discussed the crucial role faith communities can play in addressing climate change.

COP28 will co-host a "Faith Pavilion," which Pope Francis will help inaugurate Dec. 3. It is the first-ever pavilion of its kind at a COP event and will host events Nov. 30-Dec. 12 with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, scientists, political leaders, youths and Indigenous people.

The pavilion will also showcase the "Abu Dhabi Interfaith Statement for COP28," which was signed by 28 faith leaders, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, at the end of a special summit there Nov. 6-7.

The statement called for "inclusive dialogue, during and beyond COPs, with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women's organizations and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development," and it "demands transformative action to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities."

Pope Francis and Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, are expected to sign the same statement at the COP28 summit. 

imam pope
Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar mosque and university, during the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in this file photo from Sept. 14, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

"The interfaith pavilion at COP28 signifies the recognition of the crucial role that religious communities can play in addressing climate change," Musamba Mubanga told CNS. She is Caritas Internationalis' senior advocacy officer for food security and climate change and will be part of the Holy See delegation at COP28.

"This inclusive approach acknowledges the multifaceted nature of climate challenges, incorporating ethical, moral and cultural considerations alongside scientific and political dimensions," she said.

And, she added, the hope is that "this collaboration will translate into tangible actions, motivating parties to adopt climate-conscious actions and contribute actively to climate change mitigation."

Pope Francis made his hopes for COP28 clear in "Laudate Deum": "May those taking part in the conference be strategists capable of considering the common good and the future of their children, more than the short-term interests of certain countries or businesses. In this way, may they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame."

UPDATE: Pope's health improving; he keeps some appointments

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is breathing easier after undergoing intravenous antibiotic treatment for pulmonary inflammation, the director of the Vatican press office said.

"The pope's condition is good and stable; he has no fever, and his respiratory situation is clearly improving," Matteo Bruni, the director, said in a statement Nov. 27.

Early Nov. 25 Pope Francis canceled his day's meetings because of "flu-like" symptoms and that afternoon he went to Rome's Gemelli Isola Hospital for a CT scan of his lungs.

"The CT scan ruled out pneumonia, but showed pulmonary inflammation that was causing some respiratory difficulties," Bruni said Nov. 27. "For more effective treatment, a needle cannula was placed for the infusion of intravenous antibiotic therapy."

The IV access was visible on the pope's right hand Nov. 26 as he sat next to an aide in the chapel of his residence for the midday recitation of the Angelus.

Pope Francis blesses Paraguayan president
Pope Francis, who is recovering from pulmonary inflammation, blesses Paraguay's President Santiago Peña Palacios at the end of their meeting in the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican Nov. 27, 2023. The photo indicates that the cannula the pope had on his right hand the previous day for IV antibiotics had been removed. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In a direct broadcast to St. Peter's Square, where thousands of people were waiting for the customary Sunday appointment, the 86-year-old Pope Francis told them, "Today I cannot come to the window because I have this inflammation problem in my lungs."

The aide, Msgr. Paolo Braida, read the pope's commentary on the Sunday Gospel reading and the pope's appeals for peace and greetings to groups of pilgrims present in the square.

But the pope led the recitation of the Angelus prayer and took the microphone back at the end to wish people a happy Sunday and to ask for their prayers.

In the text read by Msgr. Braida, Pope Francis also asked for prayers for his trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 1-3 to address COP28, the U.N. climate change conference.

Bruni said that "to facilitate the pope's recovery, some important engagements scheduled for these days have been postponed" to a date when he can "devote the desired time and energy to them."

Other appointments, "of an institutional nature or easier to support given his current health condition, have been maintained," Bruni said.

And, in fact, Pope Francis met early Nov. 27 with Paraguay's President Santiago Peña Palacios, his wife and entourage. The pope and president spent 25 minutes speaking privately in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope's residence. Vatican Media photos of the pope blessing the president show that the IV access had already been removed.

The pope, who will celebrate his 87th birthday Dec. 17, had undergone surgery in 1957 to remove part of one of his lungs after suffering a severe respiratory infection. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

Pope Francis was hospitalized March 29-April 1 for what doctors said was a "respiratory infection." He tested negative for COVID-19 at the time.


Pope recovering from respiratory problem

Pope recovering from respiratory problem

Pope Francis, who was suffering from what the Vatican initially described as "flu-like" symptoms, was unable to deliver his Angelus address Nov. 26 from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square. Instead, he sat in the chapel of his...

Pope undergoes CT scan to rule out lung problems

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis underwent a CT scan at Rome's Gemelli Isola Hospital Nov. 25 to rule out pulmonary complications after canceling his morning appointments because of what the Vatican press office described as a slight flu.

The results of the CT scan were negative, and the pope returned to his residence, the Domus Sancte Marthae, the Vatican press office said in a note sent to reporters on the Telegram messaging app.

The pope, who will celebrate his 87th birthday Dec. 17, had undergone surgery in 1957 to remove part of one of his lungs after suffering a severe respiratory infection. He has insisted the operation has had no lasting impact on his health.

Pope Francis at general audience
Pope Francis listens to the reading of a Scripture passage at the beginning of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 22, 2023. (CNS photo/Pablo Esparza)

But Pope Francis was hospitalized March 29-April 1 for what doctors said was a "respiratory infection." He tested negative for COVID-19.

Early Nov. 25, Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, issued a statement saying the pope's appointments for the day had been canceled "due to a slight flu-like condition."

Five hours later, he issued a statement saying the pope had gone to the hospital for the CT scan "to rule out the risk of pulmonary complications. The test was negative," and the pope returned to his residence.

The pope had been scheduled to meet that morning with President Umaro Sissoco Embaló of Guinea Bissau.

The Vatican did not say if Pope Francis was expected to keep his usual Sunday appointed to recite the Angelus at noon Nov. 26 with visitors in St. Peter's Square. He is scheduled to travel to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates Dec. 1-3 to address COP28, the U.N. climate change conference.


Pope launches appeals to pray for peace, prevent 'mountain of dead'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis appealed for perseverance in praying for peace, especially in the Holy Land where the conflict is no longer "warfare," but has become "terrorism."

"Please, let's move toward peace. Pray for peace," the pope said. "May the Lord help us to not keep going to the point of killing everyone."

At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Nov. 22, the pope reminded everyone "not to forget to persevere in prayer for those who are suffering because of wars in so many parts of the world, especially for the dear people of Ukraine, martyred Ukraine, and Israel and Palestine."

The pope said earlier that morning he had met separately with a group of Israelis who have relatives being held hostage in Gaza and a group of Palestinians who have relatives in Gaza.

The individuals in both groups "are suffering so much and I heard how they both suffer," he said.

"This is what wars do," he continued, "but here we have gone beyond war. This is not warfare, this is terrorism."

Pope Francis at general audience
Pope Francis speaks to a crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience Nov. 22, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

He asked people to pray that the Lord would intercede and "help us to solve the problems and not be driven by passions that wind up killing everyone. Let us pray for the Palestinian people, let us pray for the Israeli people, so that peace may come."

Through the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, Pope Francis also encouraged people to continue to pray for peace.

"What is happening in the Holy Land is very painful. It is very painful. The Palestinian people, the people of Israel, have the right to peace. These two fraternal peoples have the right to live in peace," he said in Spanish in the video released Nov. 22. The same video with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew was also made available.

"Let us pray for peace in the Holy Land. Let us pray that the difficulties resolve themselves in dialogue and negotiation and not with a mountain of dead on each side," he said.

The pope had asked the prayer network to organize a campaign of a special prayer for peace in the world and in the Holy Land.

In addition to the video, which is available at, the prayer network also published a novena for peace in the world, especially in the Holy Land and between Palestinians and Israelis, available at


Pope reflects on meeting Israelis, Palestinians

Pope reflects on meeting Israelis, Palestinians

Pope Francis' prayers for peace at his weekly general audience Nov. 22, 2023.

Pope: Contemplate greatness of God's love in simplicity of a crèche

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Whether simple or elaborate, the same every year or constantly changing, a Nativity scene echoes "the beauty of our faith," Pope Francis wrote.

Marking the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi putting together the first Christmas crèche in a cave in Greccio, Italy, the Vatican publishing house compiled texts by Pope Francis about Nativity scenes and asked him to write a special introduction.

A key message of the Nativity scene is that the mystery of Christmas "loves to hide within what is infinitely small," the pope wrote in "Christmas at the Nativity," which was released in English in the United States by New City Press.

"Awe and wonder are the two feelings that move everyone, young and old, before the Nativity scene, which is like a living Gospel overflowing from the pages of Holy Scripture," he wrote.

The Italian edition of the book went on sale Nov. 21, just two days before the Vatican post office was to begin selling its 2023 Christmas stamps, which also celebrate the staging of a live Nativity scene in Greccio by St. Francis in 1223.

Vatican Christmas stamp 2023
Piero Casentini's painting of St. Francis of Assisi holding the baby Jesus in the cave in Greccio, Italy, where he set up the first Nativity scene 800 years ago while a priest celebrates Mass is the image the Vatican philatelic office chose for its 1.25-euro Christmas stamp for 2023. The painting was done in 2004. (CNS photo/courtesy of the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)

"The Incarnation of Jesus Christ remains the heart of God's revelation, although it is easily forgotten that its unfolding is so unobtrusive, to the point of going unnoticed," the pope wrote. "Littleness, in fact, is the way to encounter God."

"Safeguarding the spirit of the Nativity scene becomes a healthy immersion in the presence of God manifested in the small, sometimes trivial and repetitive, everyday things," he continued.

"The shepherds in the manger are those who welcome God's surprise and live in wonder at their encounter with him, adoring him: in littleness they recognize the face of God," he said. "Humanly we are all inclined to seek greatness, but it is a gift to know how to really find it: to know how to find greatness in that smallness that God so loves."

On Christmas night, the angels lead the shepherds to a baby born in a manger -- "not a sign of power, self-sufficiency or pride. No. The eternal God is reduced to a helpless, meek, humble human being. God lowered himself so that we could walk with him and so that he could stand beside us, not above and far from us."

Pope Francis' introduction to the book also included a special message to young people.

While the night sky is filled with an infinite number of stars, in the Christmas story "a special star stands out, the one that prompted the Magi to leave their homes and begin a journey, a journey that would lead them where they did not know."

"It happens the same way in our lives," the pope wrote. "At a certain moment some special 'star' invites us to make a decision, to make a choice, to begin a journey. We must forcefully ask God to show us that star that draws us toward something more than our habits, because that star will lead us to contemplate Jesus, that child who is born in Bethlehem and who wants our full happiness."

Pope Francis also noted that the first Nativity scene in Greccio consisted of only a "crib with the hay, the ox and the donkey."

"Before the Christmas scene, the people who flocked to the place manifested an unspeakable joy, never tasted before," he said. "Then the priest, at the manger, solemnly celebrated the Eucharist, showing the link between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist. On that occasion, there were no figurines in Greccio: the Nativity scene was created and experienced by those who were present."

Christmas at the Nativity book cover
This is the cover of "Christmas at the Nativity," the U.S. English edition of a collection of writings by Pope Francis about Nativity scenes and featuring a new introduction by the pope to mark the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi putting together the first Christmas crèche in a cave in Greccio, Italy. The U.S. edition is published by New City Press. (CNS photo/courtesy New City Press)