From Ukraine a peace embroidery on a gray cloth

«On a cloth typical of our Ukrainian tradition, woven 100 years ago, of a gray color like our state of mind today, we women of Mariupol have sewn a new embroidery: many people who hold each other hand in hand as a sign of peace”. Irina Skab, assistant of the Ukrainian embassy to the Holy See, gives voice to the nine women, who arrived from Mariupol, to meet Pope Francis during the general audience in Aula Paolo VI.

«The cloth represents all the strength and all the hope of Ukrainian women» relaunches Irina: «They don’t give up even though they have seen their husbands and children taken prisoner by Russian soldiers. Today they have come to meet the Pope and present their hopes to him, as an association “for the liberation of the military”, handing him a list with the names and photos of the prisoners”. They also gave Francis a gown, “symbol of the doctors of the Mariupol military hospital who were taken prisoner”. And a significant painting made by Maksim Brovchenko, an 11-year-old autistic boy. He lived in Bergansk, a city near Mariupol, but was forced to flee together with his mother. The “little Ukrainian Picasso”, as they call him, painted – in the blue and yellow colors of the national flag – a man and a woman embracing. In short, he painted hope.

The Pope’s meeting with Ukrainian women characterized the last Wednesday appointment of this year: in 2022 there were 450,000 participants in the general audiences, according to data from the Prefecture of the Papal Household.

Just as the words of Pope Francis who asked to pray for Benedict deeply marked the audience xvi whose health conditions have worsened. “I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer, for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is silently supporting the Church. Remember him – he is very ill – asking the Lord to console him, and support him in this testimony of love for the Church, right to the end”, said Francis who, at the end of the audience, paid a visit to the Pope emeritus in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican.

For the protection of human rights

“Meeting the Pope has great significance especially in a historical moment marked by tragic events”. Federico Villegas, permanent representative of Argentina to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva since March 2020, does not mince words. On 31 December he will conclude his mandate as rotating president of the UN Human Rights Council. “In the face of the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and its effects, and climate change, concrete actions are needed to ensure that people’s rights are respected,” he says.

The gesture of Archbishop Ian Ernest, representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Center in Rome, who came with his family to greet Pope Francis during Christmas, in the last general audience of the year, was significant.

With focolarina spirituality

Particularly numerous was the presence in the Paul Hall you of young people who live the spirituality of the Focolare movement. And so the Pope encouraged about fifty young seminarians, deacons and priests who are giving life to the meeting – from Monday 26 to Friday 30 – at the Mariapolis Center of Castel Gandolfo on the theme: “What style of life for a synodal Church”.

Over one hundred and fifty young people from 14 countries on three continents were present with them at the hearing: from tomorrow, Thursday 29, until next January 7, more than 150 adolescents will also gather, again in Castel Gandolfo, “to share their experiences according to the ideal of working and living for a united, more fraternal world”.

“We represent the third generation of the Focolare movement,” they explain. The motto “Dare to care!” (“Take care of yourself!”). «We commit ourselves not to be indifferent to those who find themselves in situations of pain or hardship, to bring the love of Jesus to every corner, especially to the neediest. Precisely for this reason – they continue – throughout the world we propose many concrete activities: first of all the commitment to fight hunger and the work of raising awareness of the care of our planet”. So much so that the group is engaged in the “Zero Hunger” initiative, FAO’s most important project.

On the way to the priesthood

On pilgrimage to Rome, the small community of the Saint Paul VI seminary of Issy-les-Moulineaux, in the south-western suburbs of Paris, met the Pope this morning. The delegation was made up of young seminarians from eight different dioceses, with the formators . The rector Olivier Michalet underlines the importance of this moment for “our community life”, pointing out that for many it is the first visit to Rome: “We are here to help these seminarians grow in knowledge and love of the universal Church” .

The Pope’s Blessing for Wedding Anniversaries

“I wish all weddings were like this.” Giuseppe Riccelli has joy painted on his face as he tells in a few words 60 years of married life spent next to Adelina. Originally from Catanzaro, where they got married in 1963, they live in Milan, the city where Giuseppe emigrated in 1953.

“On April 27, God willing, we will celebrate 61 years of marriage.” There is also a hint of pride in the voices, in unison, of Carmine Molinario and Leonilda Camparota when they talk about their life experience together. They come from Ariano Irpino and have «three splendid children and four grandchildren».

«We try to reach them» is the ready quip of Enzo Perrone and Gaetana Soldà, who got married on November 23, 1971, sitting right next to Carmine and Leonilda. Enzo is keen to indicate the presence of two children and three grandchildren. “We’re here as a family,” he says.

The small tribe of Luna Park in Ostia

A “small tribe” from the Ostia amusement park — husband, wife and four children Alessandro, Marco, Elisa and Emma — was present in the Paul Hall you this morning, accompanied by Sister Geneviève Jeanningros, of the Little Sisters of Jesus, who for over 50 years has been living, with two sisters, right in the playground of the town on the Roman coast.

Lastly, the Pope’s embrace of the many sick and disabled people who took part in the general audience, accompanied by their families, was significant.

by Fabrizio Peloni

From Ukraine a peace embroidery on a gray cloth – L’Osservatore Romano