On January 1—the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God—Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and emphasized in his homily that “we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans.”
“Mothers are the strongest antidote to our individualistic and egotistic tendencies, to our lack of openness and our indifference,” he preached. “A society without mothers would not only be a cold society, but a society that has lost its heart, lost the ‘feel of home.’”
“To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being ‘spiritual orphans,’” he continued. “This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests. It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received—and owe to others—a gift we are called to share in this common home.”
Pope Francis added:
Celebrating the feast of the Holy Mother of God makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the “climate”, the “warmth” that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to “consume and be consumed.” To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors. We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.
Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist who directs the Center for Studies on New Religions, told Vatican Radio that he estimates that 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 because of their faith.
70% of them, he said, were killed in African tribal conflicts, while the other 30% were victims of terrorism, government persecution, or the destruction of their towns.
The estimate of 90,000 in 2016—one every six minutes—is down from 105,000 in 2014.
“Without wishing to forget or belittle the suffering of members of other religions, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world,” said Introvigne.
On January 1, the Church commemorates the 50th World Day of Peace. Pope Francis’s message for the day, released December 12, is devoted to “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.”
The Pope’s previous messages for the day were entitled “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace” (2014), “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters” (2015), and “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace” (2016).
In his message for the 1st World Day of Peace, Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote, “It is Our desire that then, every year, this commemoration be repeated as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and outlines the path of human life in time, that Peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes Catholic teaching on peace and just war in the third part of its discussion of the Fifth Commandment, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church discusses Catholic teaching on peace in Chapter 11.
Between 1914 and 1968, five popes issued 21 encyclicals on peace. Since 1968, papal teaching on peace has been expressed primarily in the messages of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace.