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Pope Francis reflects on Mary’s motherhood, prays for Nicaragua during New Year’s Angelus

Pope Francis smiles at pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 1, 2023, for his first Angelus of the new year. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 1, 2024 / 09:47 am (CNA).

Pope Francis delivered his first Angelus of the new year on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, by reflecting that the importance of Mary’s motherhood is defined by love and underscored by a quiet silence that allowed her to place Christ at the center. 

“She is Mother not only because she carried Jesus in her womb and gave birth to him, but because she brings him into the light, without occupying his place,” said the pope to the nearly 35,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square. 

Pope Francis also used the occasion to appeal for prayers for the Church in Nicaragua, which has been at the center of an escalating persecution launched by the country’s president, Daniel Ortega.

“I am following with deep concern what is happening in Nicaragua, where Bishops and priests have been deprived of their freedom. I express to them, their families, and the entire Church in the country my closeness in prayer,” the Holy Father said. 

“I also invite all of you present here and all the People of God to insistent prayer, while I hope that we will always seek the path of dialogue to overcome difficulties. Let’s pray for Nicaragua today.”

Just days after Christmas, on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime abducted four priests, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

The priests are: Monsignor Carlos Avilés, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Managua; Father Héctor Treminio, pastor of Holy Christ Parish in Esquipulas in the same archdiocese; and Father Fernando Calero, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Rancho Grande in the Diocese of Matagalpa.

In his Angelus reflection, Pope Francis noted that Mary’s silence is a “beautiful feature” but should not be thought of as a “simple absence of words” but rather as a feature that is “filled with wonder and adoration for the wonders that God is working.”

“In this way, she makes room within herself for the One who was born; in silence and adoration, she places Jesus at the center and bears witness to Him as Saviour,” the pope observed.

The Holy Father went on to express that this expression of maternity seen in Mary is an ideal that is also seen in our mothers who “with their hidden care, with their thoughtfulness, are often magnificent cathedrals of silence. They bring us into the world and then continue to attend to us, often unnoticed, so that we can grow. Let us remember this: love never stifles; love makes room for the other and lets them grow.”

Pope Francis added that by reflecting on mothers, we can “learn that love that is cultivated above all in silence, that knows how to make room for the other, respecting their dignity, leaving the freedom to express themselves, rejecting every form of possession, oppression, and violence.”

Pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Angelus reflection on Jan. 1, 2024, wave peace signs. On Jan. 1 the Catholic Church observes the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, as well as the World Day of Peace. Credit: Elizabeth Alva/CNA

In addition to the day’s Marian feast, on Jan. 1 the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace, a tradition which was started by Pope Paul VI in 1968. In light of this celebration, Pope Francis took a moment during the Angelus to note that “‘freedom and peaceful coexistence are threatened whenever human beings yield to the temptation to selfishness, self-interest, the desire for profit, and the thirst for power.’” 

The pope underscored that the antidote to overcoming these destructive tendencies that are ubiquitous today is “love” which “consists of respect and kindness: In this way, it breaks down barriers and helps us to live fraternal relationships, to build up more just and humane, more peaceful societies.”

On Monday the Vatican released a video message from the pope invoking the Blessed Mother’s intercession for peace in the world.

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