Vatican, Pope played key role in US-Cuba prisoner release

Washington D.C., Dec 17, 2014 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican played a critical role behind a prisoner exchange and a groundbreaking new policy between U.S. and Cuba announced on Wednesday, senior administration officials said. “Very importantly, the Vatican played a role in this as well,” a senior administration official said in a White House conference call with reporters on the prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Cuba, and the opening of new relations between the … [Read more...]

Tea and cake for Pope Francis as he celebrates 78th birthday

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2014 / 09:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Shouts of “Tanti auguri” – or, “Happy Birthday!” – filled St. Peter's Square Wednesday morning as Pope Francis circled around throngs of pilgrims on his popemobile during the weekly general audience. The Holy Father, who turned 78 on Dec. 17, stopped to blow out the candles on a cake given to him by group of Legionaries of Christ seminarians. He also took a sip of mate tea – a traditional … [Read more...]

An Advent gift: God’s mercy in the confessional, cardinal says

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2014 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As Christmas approaches, priests and penitents should remind themselves of the “miracle” of confession and how we should approach the sacrament with “full freedom,” a Vatican cardinal says. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza called the season of Advent is a time of “particularly attentive waiting,” a time both of men awaiting God and of God awaiting men, “whom he loves.” “The Lord sets … [Read more...]

Pope: Mary and Joseph exemplify mission, vocation of family life

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2014 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke today about Jesus’ choice to be born into a family, saying that it shows the importance of the vocation, which Mary and Joseph epitomized through their everyday holiness. “We can learn so much from Mary and Joseph, and especially from their love for Jesus. They help us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family,” the Roman Pontiff told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s … [Read more...]

Debt, illness, discrimination – Syrian refugees struggle in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon, Dec 17, 2014 / 02:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After losing their homes and their livelihoods, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are now finding their plight worsened by the financial costs, medical stresses, and prejudices that can accompany living in a foreign land. “You can imagine how a person feels after working 35 years and losing your shop and house, basically losing your future. That’s all gone,” Mariam Hasan Hallak, 66, told CNA Nov. 1 in an interview at a … [Read more...]

An early Christmas present: Pope Francis to meet man serving life sentence

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2014 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As inmates are moved by a letter Pope Francis has sent to the prison of a small town in central Italy, the news broke that a man serving a life sentence will be among those at an audience with Pope Francis Dec. 20. The Saturday meeting will be between the Roman Pontiff and members of the Community Pope John XXIII, which was founded by Fr. Oreste Benzi, who died in 2007. Members of the community will be received by Pope Francis on the … [Read more...]

Christ offers healing and peace, Sydney archbishop says after siege

Sydney, Australia, Dec 16, 2014 / 04:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the aftermath of a hostage situation at an Australian café, Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P., stressed that the love of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, can overcome fear and darkness. “We are not used to hearing words like ‘siege,’ ‘terrorist,’ ‘hostages’ and ‘security forces’ associated with our city. Yet for the past day and night we were subjected to … [Read more...]