Extremely busy Christmas for Pope Francis

While most people are now winding down for the holiday season, Pope Francis is preparing for a jam-packed Christmas schedule that will more than likely include a critique of the Church and moral guidance for the masses.

According to Crux, the Pope will begin his busy season with his annual speech to members of the Roman Curia on 21 December. From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has used this address to provide a dose of “fraternal correction”, for those who may have gone astray.

According to Crux, in 2014 Francis offered a searing critique of what he said were 15 “spiritual ailments” infecting the curia. Of these 15 “illnesses,” the Pope diagnosed what he called “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” meaning “a progressive decline in spiritual faculties” leading people to build walls around themselves.

He also called out what he said was an “existential schizophrenia” prone to hypocrisy and leading people to live a “double life.” These warnings are in stark contrast to other addresses in which the Pope reflects a loving father figure, offering comfort and reassurance.

 In last year’s speech, the Pope appeared to be discouraged by the progress of reform, saying efforts were being thwarted by “betrayers of trust”.

With much attention turned to the clerical sexual abuse scandals that have occurred around the world, this year’s speech could be his most important address to the Roman Curia to date.

After his speech to the Curia, Francis will celebrate Christmas Eve Mass on 24 December in St. Peter’s Basilica, and on Christmas day he will offer his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the city and the world”) which, despite the jovial nature of the Christmas season, has typically served as an opportunity for the Pope to highlight areas of suffering and conflict in the world.

On 26 December for the Catholic feast of St. Stephen, the Church’s first martyr who was stoned to death for confessing his belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Pope will recite the Angelus prayer with faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

Closing out the year, Pope Francis will pray Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica on the eve of the feast of Mary, Mother of God, the first Catholic feast of the new year.

Also on New Year’s eve, the Pope will come out to St. Peter’s Square in the evening to visit the Vatican’s nativity set, which this year is made entirely of sand. Afterwards, he’ll greet the working staff of the Vatican City State.

The next day, 1 January, Francis will celebrate Mass for Mary, Mother of God - one of the most important Marian feasts on the liturgical calendar, which also marks the international World Day for Peace, with the theme, “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

On 6 January Francis will keep the Christmas spirit going by celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the “three wise men,” who brought the infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

On 7 January the Pope will give his annual speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See - a speech which, while usually not

overly provocative, sets the tone for Vatican diplomacy throughout the year, according to Crux.

Closing the holiday liturgies, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on 13 January inside the Sistine Chapel, during which he always baptizes several infants and delivers an off-the-cuff homily to parents encouraging them to raise their children with faith and tenderness.

Pope Francis will then head to Panama for the January 23-28 international celebration of World Youth Day. With four international trips already on the horizon before the end of May, the Pope’s busy schedule is not likely to end with the Christmas season, but could set the tone for all of 2019.

Not a bad work ethic for an 82-year-old.

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