Friday, December 31, 2021

Beginning the new month and new year with the prayer intentions of the Pope


Pope’s prayer intentions for 2022


For true human fraternity

We pray for all those suffering from religious discrimination and persecution; may their own rights and dignity be recognized, which originate from being brothers and sisters in the human family.

On the eve of the Solemnity of Mary, Pope Francis at Vespers and Te Deum


Pope at Te Deum: May Christmas amazement lead to gratitude and solidarity

In his homily for the celebration of Vespers and the recitation of the Te Deum on New Year's Eve, Pope Francis reflects on the year drawing to a close, and reminds us of the need to trust always in the Lord.

By Vatican News staff writer

During the Vespers celebration led by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Pope Francis gave his homily recalling the Christmas liturgy of these days when the mystery of the Incarnation evokes in us a sense of amazement, wonder, and contemplation.

He described how the "holy wonder" of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds of Bethlehem should also inspire our own amazement in grasping the heart of the mystery of Christ's birth. And this sense of amazement needs to be profound, touching our hearts and minds, or nothing will change in our lives or societies, he noted.

Eyes open to the mystery of reality

The reality that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" reminds us of how in this liturgy which opens the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, that Mary is the first witness of this event, the Pope explained.

She is also the greatest witness due to her humility, he added, describing how her heart was "filled with amazement," but grounded in reality "without the shadow of romanticism, of sweeteners, of spiritualization." He added that our own Christian amazement is not based on "special effects" or "fantasy worlds," but from the mystery of reality itself, like the beauty of a flower, a life story or encounter, "the wrinkled face of an elderly person or the blooming face of a newborn baby." There "the mystery shines."

Amazement filled with gratitude

The Pope pointed out how "Mary’s amazement, the Church’s amazement, is filled with gratitude," realizing that "God has not abandoned his people, that he has come, is near, is God-with-us."

While our life's problems and challenges remain, we are consoled knowing that "we are not alone," that God loves us and redeems us "to restore our dignity as children."

Responding with solidarity

The pandemic has created "a sense of being lost," the Pope observed, when at the start there seemed be a feeling of solidarity that we are all in the same boat followed by a temptation of "everyone out for themselves."

"Thank God we reacted again with a sense of responsibility," the Pope added, and we must all have this gratitude to God since the choice to be "responsible in solidarity" comes from God, from Jesus "who has once and for all impressed on our history the 'route' of our original calling: to be brothers and sisters all, children of the same Father."

Welcoming care for the dignity of life

Reflecting on the city of Rome, the Pope noted how this calling to solidarity is "written in its heart," and comes from its history and culture rooted in the Gospel of Christ "that laid down deep roots here, made fruitful by the blood of the martyrs."

But he said a welcome and fraternal city is recognised by how well it assists the vulnerable, families weighed down by the crisis, those with serious disabilities, and so forth. He noted how Rome is a "wonderful city," but also a difficult place while it endeavours to live up to the calling to provide "welcoming care for the dignity of life, for our common home, for the weakest and most vulnerable."

In conclusion, the Pope encouraged everyone to look to the Blessed Mother who "smiles at us" and tells us to trust and follow the Lord, who "brings time to its fullness," gives meaning to our lives and all we do.

"Let us trust in joyful times and in sorrowful times: the hope He gives us is a hope that never disappoints."

On New Year's Day we celebrate Mary the Mother of God


Mary the Blessed Virgin

Mary, also known as St. Mary the Virgin, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Mary, Mary Mother of God or the Virgin Mary is believed by many to be the greatest of all Christian saints. The Virgin Mother "was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men."

Mary is venerated with a special cult, called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the holiest of all creatures. The main events of her life are celebrated as liturgical feasts of the universal Church.

Mary's life and role in the history of salvation is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, while the events of her life are recorded in the New Testament. Traditionally, she was declared the daughter of Sts. Joachim and Anne. Born in Jerusalem, Mary was presented in the Temple and took a vow of virginity. Living in Nazareth, Mary was visited by the archangel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.

She became betrothed to St. Joseph and went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was bearing St. John the Baptist. Acknowledged by Elizabeth as the Mother of God, Mary intoned the Magnificat.

When Emperor Augustus declared a census throughout the vast Roman Empire, Mary and St. Joseph went to Bethlehem, his city of lineage, as he belonged to the House of David. There Mary gave birth to Jesus and was visited by the Three Kings.

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, where St. Simeon rejoiced and Mary received word of sorrows to come later. Warned to flee, St. Joseph and Mary went to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. They remained in Egypt until King Herod died and then returned to Nazareth.

Nothing is known of Mary's life during the next years except for a visit to the Temple of Jerusalem, at which time Mary and Joseph sought the young Jesus, who was in the Temple with the learned elders.

The first recorded miracle of Jesus was performed at a wedding in Cana, and Mary was instrumental in calling Christ's attention to the need. Mary was present at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, and there she was given into John the Apostle's care. She was also with the disciples in the days before the Pentecost, and it is believed that she was present at the resurrection and Ascension.

No scriptural reference concerns Mary's last years on earth. According to tradition, she went to Ephesus, where she experienced her "dormition." Another tradition states that she remained in Jerusalem. The belief that Mary's body was assumed into heaven is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic Church.

Pope Pius XII declared this belief Catholic dogma in 1950. The four Catholic dogmas are: Mother of God, Perpetual virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. The Assumption was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. According to Pope Pius XII, the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

In 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception - that Mary, as the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was free of original sin at the moment of her conception. The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8. The birthday of Mary is an old feast in the Church, celebrated on September 8, since the seventh century.

Other feasts that commemorate events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary are listed in the Appendices. Pope Pius XII dedicated the entire human race to Mary in 1944. The Church has long taught that Mary is truly the Mother of God .

The Blessed Virgin Mary may be taken as a patroness of any good activity, for she is often cited as the patroness of all humanity. Mary is also associated with protecting many occupations and locations.

St. Paul observed that "God sent His Son, born of a woman," expressing the union of the human and the divine in Christ. As Christ possesses two natures, human and divine, Mary was the Mother of God in his human nature.

This special role of Mary in salvation history is clearly shown in the Gospel where she is seen constantly at her son's side during his soteriological mission. Because of this role, exemplified by her acceptance of Christ into her womb, her offering of him to God at the Temple, her urging him to perform his first miracle, and her standing at the foot of the Cross at Calvary Mary was joined fully in the sacrifice by Christ of himself.

Pope Benedict XV wrote in 1918: "To such an extent did Mary suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man's salvation, and immolated him - insofar as she could in order to appease the justice of God, that we might rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ."

Mary is entitled to the title of Queen because, as Pope Pius XII expressed it in a 1946 radio speech, "Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through him, with him, and subordinate to him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election."

Mary possesses a unique relationship with all three Persons of the Trinity, thereby giving her a claim to the title of Queenship. She was chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son; God the Holy Spirit chose her to be his virginal spouse for the Incarnation of the Son; and God the Son chose her to be his mother, the means of incarnating into the world for the purposes of the redemption of humanity.

This Queen is also our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother, for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person. As Mediatrix of All Graces, she is ever present at the side of each person, giving nourishment and hope, from the moment of spiritual birth at Baptism to the moment of death.

In art, Mary is traditionall portrayed in blue. Her other attributes are a blue mantle, crown of 12 stars, pregnant woman, roses, and/or woman with child.

Hundreds of thousands of pieces of Marian artwork and sculptures have been created over the years from the best and most brilliant artists, like Michelangelo and Botticell, to simple peasant artists. Some of the most early examples of veneration of Mary is documented in the Catacombs of Rome. Catacomb paintings show Mary the Blessed Virgin with her son.

The confidence that each person should have in Mary was expressed by Pope Pius IX in the encyclical Ubipriinum : "The foundation of all our confidence. . . is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary."

New Year Resolutions inspired by Pope Francis


Volunteer, stop judging and get off Twitter: 8 New Year’s Resolutions Inspired by Pope Francis

If you cannot believe it is about to be 2022 (wasn’t 2019 like seven months ago?), you are not alone. But ready or not, the new year is here and with it our annual opportunity to take stock and set goals, with a little help from Pope Francis.

Since the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Francis has had two refrains: We are all “in the same boat,” and “our post-pandemic world will necessarily be different from what it was before the pandemic.” With that in mind, we mined the pope’s homilies and speeches from the past year for advice for building stronger relationships—with God, with our neighbors and with the earth.

1. Volunteer for a local charity or non-profit.

In 2022, maybe you would like to give back in a meaningful way by volunteering at an organization that does good work in your community. But where do you start? And how do you choose where to give your time?

Pope Francis has some ideas, taking a page from someone who knows a thing or two about selflessness: St. Joseph. In the first of a series of catecheses on St. Joseph, Pope Francis said, “Today, Joseph teaches us this: ‘Do not look so much at the things that the world praises, look into the corners, look in the shadows, look at the peripheries, at what the world does not want.’ He reminds each of us to consider important what others discard.”

Let us ask ourselves: Who is forgotten or ignored? What resources do I have to share that might help someone else? How can I reorient my thinking so I am more concerned with what matters to God than what matters to earthly society? With these questions guiding our discernment, maybe we can make time in our busy and chaotic lives this year not simply to volunteer but to become what Pope Francis calls St. Joseph: masters of the essential.

2. Stop judging others.

Judging and gossiping about those around us is, as Pope Francis said in his audience on Nov. 3, so easy to do that we often fall into it without thinking.

The pope offered a challenging alternative, to instead “take a look at yourself.” With this shift in perspective, Pope Francis suggests we might discover something important: “It is good to ask ourselves what drives us to correct a brother or a sister, and if we are not in some way co-responsible for their mistake.” Instead of nitpicking our neighbors, we can be honest with ourselves about our own shortcomings, making space for compassion instead of criticism

3. Take Scripture to heart.

Becoming more familiar with the Bible in the new year is a great goal, but be careful: Without the right approach, you might find yourself annoying Pope Francis. In his audience on Jan. 27, the pope admitted, “It irritates me a little when I hear Christians who recite verses from the Bible like parrots.”

Of course, the pope was not discouraging Catholics from reading and knowing the Bible. Quite the opposite! Pope Francis was expressing frustration with an approach to Scripture that focuses simply on rote memorization rather than on personal encounter. His words reminded us that sacred Scripture is alive, that it speaks to us on an individual basis. Even though biblical stories are thousands of years old, we can recognize ourselves intimately in the characters and scenarios.

So please, read and study the Bible this year. But know what Pope Francis says you’re signing up for: “The Word of God, infused with the Holy Spirit, when it is received with an open heart, does not leave things as they were before: never.”

4. Take one concrete step to become more environmentally conscious. (And start now!)

This year, world leaders gathered in Glasgow to discuss climate change at COP26. While Pope Francis was unable to be there in person, he did share a message. And let’s just say this: He did not hold back.

If you want to do your part to protect the planet, here is the big takeaway from the pope’s words: You should start now. Francis wrote to the conference with a tone of great urgency, recommending courses of action for both leaders and civilians. If there are lifestyle changes you have wanted to make in an effort to be more environmentally conscious, now is the time to get around to them. If there are things you think political leaders could be doing to protect all of us from the climate crisis, make them known—through your voice and your vote. As the pope said, “there is no time to waste.”

[Related: Four ways your parish can fight climate change (on a budget)]

Francis’ message also offered spiritual advice for a world struggling with the effects of climate change. “We need both hope and courage,” he wrote. “Humanity possesses the wherewithal to effect this change, which calls for a genuine conversion, individual as well as communitarian, and a decisive will to set out on this path.”

5. Pray every day. Even when it is hard.

“Pray without ceasing,” the Apostle Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Thessalonians. A worthy goal, to be sure. But maybe this year, you simply want to be able to pray a nightly Examen without falling asleep or pray a rosary without starting to go through your to-do list after one decade.

Pope Francis understands your struggle. “Praying is not something easy, and this is why we flee from it,” he said on May 12. “Every time we want to pray, we are immediately reminded of many other activities, which at that moment seem more important and more urgent. This happens to me too!”

The next week, Pope Francis acknowledged the forces that can stand in the way of prayer: distraction, spiritual barrenness, sloth. All these, the pope said, must be met with perseverance:

True progress in spiritual life does not consist in multiplying ecstasies, but in being able to persevere in difficult times: walk, walk, walk on.... and if you are tired, stop a bit and then start walking again.

If you are feeling discouraged about your progress in prayer, know that Pope Francis is struggling and walking right there with you—and do not give up!

6. Let go of a grudge or two.

Too often, it is the people we love (and see) the most who bear the brunt of our anger, frustration or pure exhaustion. So if you have found yourself sniping at your spouse or being short with your close friends, Pope Francis has some advice: Don’t end the day angry.

“Listen to me well,” Pope Francis said in his Dec. 1 general audience. “Never finish the day end without making peace. ‘We fought. My God, I said bad words. I said awful things. But now, to finish the day, I must make peace.’ You know why? Because the cold war the next day is very dangerous.”

So whether it’s a caress on your husband or wife’s cheek, as the pope suggested, or a conciliatory text to a friend, do not let today’s grudges fester till the morning.

7. Get off Twitter.

After the pandemic moved much of our lives online—YouTube Masses, Zoom happy hours, untold hours of Covid-19 doomscrolling on Twitter—you might be ready for a social media cleanse in 2022.

Pope Francis has repeatedly urged people to get off their smartphones and to start communicating with the person in front of them. This year, in a message to journalists, he again warned of “the tyranny of always being online”:

Listening always goes hand in hand with seeing, with being present: certain nuances, sensations, and well-rounded descriptions can only be conveyed to readers, listeners and spectators if the journalist has listened and seen for him- or herself. This means escaping—and I know how difficult this is in your work!—escaping from the tyranny of always being online, on social networks, on the web.

Even if you are not a journalist, you can take a page from our very offline pope and make 2022 a year filled with IRL conversation and friendship.

8. Call your loved ones regularly (and truly listen to them.)

“When was the last time we visited or telephoned an elderly person in order to show our closeness and to benefit from what they have to tell us?” That was Pope Francis’ question in his homily for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 26.

Few groups have been more profoundly affected by the ongoing pandemic than our elders. Now that vaccines and boosters have made it possible to safely visit them, what if you took the next year to listen to or even record their stories and wisdom?

“Let us not lose the memory preserved by the elderly, for we are children of that history, and without roots, we will wither,” the pope said. “They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone.”

The Year 2021 through the eyes and actions of Pope Francis


2021 with Pope Francis: Journeys, reforms, and the challenge of Covid

Pope Francis' year has been intense, with three international Apostolic Journeys, eight Motu Proprios on various reforms, the opening of the Synodal path, appeals concerning issues of global importance, and a successful surgery at the Gemelli hospital.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Three international Apostolic Journeys, from war-ravaged Iraq to the peripheries of Slovakia and the suffering of refugees in Lesbos. Eight Motu Proprios, on issues as diverse as ministries for women, changes to the Vatican judicial system, and the regulation of the older form of the Mass. The start of an unprecedented synodal path that will involve all the dioceses throughout the world. Encounters and audiences, as well as international events inside and outside Rome. And, in the midst of a busy year, the Pope underwent an operation on his colon at Rome's Gemelli Hospital.

The past year with Pope Francis deserves to be reviewed in its entirety, considering the mass of appointments and commitments that have seen the Pope as protagonist – a fact that should not be taken for granted in a year filled with uncertainties and restrictions caused by the Covid emergency; and taking into account the health conditions of the 85-year-old Pontiff, who began the year with sciatica problems that prevented him from presiding over the Te Deum on 31 December and the Mass on 1 January.

A vaccine for the body, a vaccine for the heart

The year that is now drawing to a close opened with the Pope still “caged” (borrowing his own expression) in the Apostolic Library for the Sunday Angelus and General Audiences, in order to avoid crowds and contagion. From the Vatican Apostolic Palace, streamed live worldwide, as the world faced 2021 bearing the wounds of the pandemic, Pope Francis began the year with these words:

“While we hope for new beginnings and new cures, let us not neglect care. Together with a vaccine for our bodies, we need a vaccine for our hearts. That vaccine is care. This will be a good year if we take care of others…”

Pilgrimage to Iraq

The Argentine Pope’s “cure” took the form of three international trips to different parts of the world wounded by war, poverty, and migration. First and foremost – and not just chronologically – was the 5-8 March visit to Iraq: the trip of the pontificate, the first by a Pope in the Middle Eastern region devastated by extremist violence and jihadist profanations. The decision, announced in December 2020, was seen by many as hazardous and risky, due not only to the danger of contagion but also for security reasons. The Pope, however, wanted to go through with visit, so as not to disappoint the people who, twenty years earlier, had been unable to embrace John Paul II.

Among the suffering people who welcomed him in the dusty neighbourhoods of Baghdad or the dirt roads of Qaraqosh, Pope Francis made himself present as a "pilgrim," also meeting Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a pivotal figure in Shiite Islam. And from Mosul, the scene of torture and executions in the past, he raised a cry to the heavens against all forms of violence carried out in the name of God.

Among the poor in Slovakia and migrants in Lesbos

This cry came to the fore once again during his trip to Slovakia (12-15 September): from the Shoah memorial in Bratislava, Pope Francis spoke of “blasphemy” when the name of God is used to destroy human dignity; and in the Roma ghetto of Luník IX, he stigmatised racism and discrimination.

His cry became an appeal and then a condemnation of that “shipwreck of civilisation” that takes the form of barbed wires and migrant shacks – sweltering in summer and freezing in winter – where thousands of migrants live in inhuman conditions in the Reception and Identification Centre of Lesbos, which the Pope visited at the end of the trip to Cyprus and Greece (2-6 December).

From this limbo at the gates of Europe, after having “looked into the eyes” of the wounded flesh of men, women, and children, Pope Francis’ voice resounded forcefully:

“Let us not allow our sea (mare nostrum) be transformed into a desolate sea of death (mare mortuum).”


While travelling around the world, but with his eyes fixed on the reforms that will take shape in the next apostolic constitution Praedicate Evangelium, Pope Francis published eight Motu proprios from January to November, which introduced changes and innovations in the pastoral, financial, and judicial spheres.

The first, Spiritus Domini (11 January), established that the lay ministries of Lector and Acolyte may be entrusted to women. Then came the Motu proprio of 16 February which updated the Vatican’s criminal justice code, followed by the Apostolic Constitution Pascite gregem Dei, signed on 23 May, promulgating the new Book VI of the Code of Canon Law which contains regulations on canonical criminal sanctions in the Church. On 24 March, considering the deficit that had characterised the Holy See's economic management for years and the worsening circumstances caused by the pandemic, the Pope decided to cut the salaries of cardinals, superiors and religious. In the same vein, on 29 April, he introduced an anti-corruption clampdown, stipulating that senior managers would have to sign a declaration stating that they had no criminal convictions and were not under investigation for terrorism, money laundering, or tax evasion; and stipulating that they could not have assets in tax havens. The following day, 30 April, the decision was made that the Vatican tribunal would also be competent for criminal trials involving cardinals and bishops. On 11 May, Pope Francis published Antiquum ministerium, establishing the ministry of catechist. In the middle of summer, on 16 July, he promulgated Traditionis custodes, which redefined the procedures regulating the use of the older form of the Roman Missal. The document received generally positive reactions, but also provoked several dubia that were answered by the Congregation for Divine Worship on 18 December. The final Motu proprio was issued on 26 November to set up a Pontifical Commission to verify and apply Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (in force for six years) on matrimonial nullity processes in the Italian Church.

Trials before the Vatican Tribunal

On the subject of trials, 2021 was also the year of the two significant legal proceedings at the Vatican Tribunal: one for alleged sexual abuse in the Saint Pius X Preseminary, which began on 14 October 2020 and ended on 6 October 2021 with the acquittal of the two defendants; and the ongoing trial for alleged financial wrongdoing concerning funds from the Secretariat of State. Begun on 27 July, the trial, now in its fifth hearing and still stuck in procedural skirmishes, will resume on 25 January.

Surgical operation at Gemelli

In the history of the pontificate, the year that is about to end will also be remembered for the news about the Pope's health. Starting with sciatica, then the Pfizer vaccine which the Pontiff received on 13 January (with subsequent booster shots), and finally the admission to Gemelli, on 4 July, for a pre-planned operation for diverticular stenosis which saw him stay for ten days in the so-called “third Vatican.”

From the tenth floor of the Roman hospital, the Pope appeared for the Angelus recitation, with some children from the oncology ward beside him, calling for good health care to be “accessible” to all. The operation offered the occasion for speculation about the possibility of the Holy Father resigning. He himself spoke to the issue in a long interview with the Spanish radio station COPE, stating that such a decision had never crossed his mind.

An unprecedented synodal path

The year 2021 was also the year in which Pope Francis introduced one of the most important novelties from an ecclesial point of view: the opening of a three-year-long synodal path, which will commence “from below,” that is, from the faithful – but also from every part of the world, and which will culminate in 2023 with a great assembly in the Vatican. The three phases of this new itinerary were announced in May: the synodal path opened with a Mass in St Peter's on 10 October, and will be followed by diocesan, continental, and universal phases.

The Synod should not become “a Church convention, a study group or a political gathering, a parliament, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Spirit.”

Vaccines, the climate, peace, the poor

Numerous appeals have marked these twelve months, begin with those in favour of Covid vaccines. On the one hand, the Pope called for equitable distribution and rapid access to the vaccines, especially in the poorest areas of the world.

“May everyone, without exclusion, be given the opportunity to be protected by the vaccine as soon as possible”, said the Pope as he presided over a Rosary for the end of the pandemic in the Vatican Gardens on 31 May. Pope Francis also encouraged people not to give in to scepticism, fake news, and ideologies; and to receive vaccination, because doing so “is an act of love” – a position reinforced by the Holy See, which on 22 December introduced new provisions for entry into Vatican City.

The Pope also made appeals for the earth and the safeguarding of our common home – a plea eloquently expressed in Laudato sí and renewed in Fratelli tutti. On the very day of the latter encyclical’s first anniversary, Pope Francis gathered scientists and leaders of different religions at the Vatican for an encounter ahead of the COP26 Meeting in Glasgow (which he was unable to attend). The Vatican gathering concluded with the signing of a joint document calling for zero net carbon emissions. Two months earlier, on 7 September, with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the Pope had signed an appeal on the urgency of environmental sustainability and the importance of global cooperation.

With equal vigour, Pope Francis has kept the focus on issues of peace and disarmament. One cannot forget the words he spoke on 7 October at the Colosseum for the meeting, organised by the Sant'Egidio Community, with representatives of the various religions. The Bishop of Rome made an appeal to “demilitarise hearts… lay down arms… reduce military spending… [and] convert instruments of death into instruments of life,” investing in education and health.

Without forgetting the poor

Among the many meetings – despite the pandemic – with Heads of State and Government (including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the last one with outgoing Italian President Sergio Mattarella), political leaders or civil society, Francis did not forget the poor: those for whom he chose the name of the Poverello of Assisi at the Conclave that elected him in 2013.

It was in the hometown of the Umbrian saint, on 12 November, that the Pontiff brought together more than 500 people living in poverty and hardship from Italy and Europe. The private visit was his only journey within Italy this year. Amidst moving testimonies, songs and prayers in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Pope pointed out the new forms of poverty, such as women treated as bargaining chips; children enslaved, starving, shipwrecked; families suffering social inequalities; and the unemployed; and called for the poor to be “given back” their voice and dignity. He called for the cancellation of the debt of poor countries, a ban on arms, an end to aggression and sanctions, and the liberalisation of patents so that everyone has access to vaccines. Pope Francis also relaunched two proposals to be implemented immediately: a minimum wage and a reduction in the working day.

Looking ahead to 2022

Two important events are planned for the new year: on 27 February, the meeting organised by the Italian Bishops' Conference in Florence with the bishops and one hundred mayors of the countries bordering the Mediterranean; and on 22-26 June, the tenth World Meeting of Families in Rome on the theme “Family love: A vocation and path to holiness.”

As far as international trips are concerned, a visit to Canada has been announced (dates are not yet official), in the context of the reconciliation process between the episcopate and indigenous peoples, disrupted by the discovery of mass graves at the former residential schools that had been entrusted by the government, to various Christian Churches, including the Catholic Church.

In various interviews, Pope Francis has also expressed a desire to visit Congo, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Hungary in the future – the latter would be a quick stop in September for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest.

The desire for a pilgrimage to Lebanon, in the grip of a serious humanitarian, political and economic crisis, a country for which he prayed with the heads of the Eastern Churches on a day of ecumenical prayer on 1 July in St Peter's, has never faded. Nor has the desire to visit South Sudan with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Recently, the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, went to prepare the way for the Pope’s arrival “probably already next year.”

Finally, on the return flight from Athens, the Pope said he was “always willing to go to Moscow” to meet again, after the 2016 meeting in Cuba, with Kirill, the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.