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When the smallness of the Church is not insignificant

The Pope's message to the Catholic Church in Greece is precious for everyone.

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Syrian refugees inspired by meeting with Pope Francis

Pope Francis receives a group of young Syrian refugees who presented him with the gift of a T-shirt with an image and words representing their hope and trust in God.

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Pope concludes Greece & Cyprus journey with visit to St. Mary Major

Pope Francis returns to Rome at the end of his Apostolic Journey to Cyprus and Greece, praying at the feet of Our Lady for the many people he met during his visit.

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Archbishop Kontidis: Pope's Greece visit 'an opportunity for unity'

The Archbishop of Athens describes Pope Francis' Apostolic Journey to Greece as a call for unity, not only among Catholics who live in a secular culture on a daily basis, but among Christians of different denominations, especially Orthodox and Catholics.

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Pope to youth in Greece: Experience God’s love, meet real people, dream big

Pope Francis meets young people from various parts of Greece on Monday morning in Athens, ahead of his departure for Rome, urging them to be truly social by engaging in real encounters with those around them as an experience of God's love.

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Pope Francis in Greece: ‘Let us ask for the grace of hope’

Pope Francis offers Mass in the Megaron Concert Hall in Athens, Greece on Dec. 5, 2021. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Dec 5, 2021 / 09:05 am (CNA).

In Athens, Pope Francis said Sunday that the Greek language gave the entire Church a word that sums up the gift of Christ.

This word is “eucharistia” — the ancient Greek word meaning “thanksgiving” adopted by the early Church as a word for the sacred host, the Eucharist.

“For us Christians, thanksgiving is at the heart of our faith and life,” Pope Francis said after offering Mass in Athens’ Megaron Concert Hall on Dec. 5.

“May the Holy Spirit make of everything we are and everything we do a 'Eucharistia', a thanksgiving to God and a gift of love to our brothers and sisters.”

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on St. John the Baptist’s call for conversion as “a voice of one crying out in the desert.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, in our lives as individuals or nations, there will always be times when we feel that we are in the midst of a desert. Yet it is precisely there that the Lord makes his presence felt,” Pope Francis said.

“Indeed, he is often welcomed not by the self-satisfied, but by those who feel helpless or inadequate. And he comes with words of closeness, compassion and tenderness: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.’ (Is 41:10).”

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope encouraged the 2,000 people gathered in the hall to be “witnesses of hope and sowers of joy.”

“Brothers and sisters, let us ask for the grace to believe that with God things really do change, that he will banish our fears, heal our wounds, turn our arid places into springs of water,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today’s world are thirsting.”

Pope Francis said that “to be converted” means “not listening to the things that stifle hope, to those who keep telling us that nothing ever changes in life.”

“Here your beautiful Greek language can help us by reminding us of the etymology of the verb ‘to convert’, metanoeίn, used in the Gospel,” he said.

“Composed of the preposition metá, which here means ‘beyond’, and the verb noéin, ‘to think’, it tells us that to convert is to ‘think beyond’, to go beyond our usual ways of thinking, beyond our habitual worldview.”

“By calling us to conversion, John urges us to go 'beyond' where we presently are; to go beyond what our instincts tell us and our thoughts register, for reality is much greater than that. The reality is that God is greater,” he added.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The live-streamed Mass in Athens concluded Pope Francis’ fourth day of his apostolic trip to Cyprus and Greece taking place Dec. 2-6.

Pope Francis arrived in Greece on Dec. 4 after a two-day visit to Cyprus. In a packed itinerary, he met Cypriot authorities, Orthodox bishops, local Catholics, and migrants, as well as celebrating Mass in the country’s largest stadium.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

His three days in Greece have also included meetings with Orthodox leaders and migrants on the island of Lesbos.

The pope will return to the Vatican on Dec. 6 after offering a Mass at a Catholic school in Athens in the morning.

“Tomorrow I will be leaving Greece, but I will not leave you. I will carry you with me in my memory and in my prayers. And I ask you too, please, to keep praying for me,” Pope Francis said.

5 small Catholic businesses to help you finish your Christmas shopping

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Denver Newsroom, Dec 5, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

With Christmas quickly approaching, you may still need that perfect gift for that special someone on your list. We’ve compiled a list of small Catholic companies that offer wonderful and thoughtful gifts for anyone in your life. 

Every Sacred Sunday

Founded in 2017, Every Sacred Sunday Mass journals are a great gift for those who love to take notes and reflect during Mass each Sunday. The Mass journals have the full Mass readings for each Sunday and Solemnity throughout the year. It also offers a 4-part journaling template that helps you study scripture and grow in your prayer life. These sections include a place to write a Bible verse that stood out to you, a section for a prayer request and prayer of thanksgiving, a notes section for the homily or how God spoke to you during the Mass, and a section to write down something you’ll do that week to help you grow in your faith. 

West Coast Catholic 

A rosary from West Coast Catholic would be the perfect gift for someone looking to grow in their prayer life and grow closer to our Blessed Mother. These beautiful handmade rosaries are inspired by the natural colors and landscapes of the West Coast and by a person, place, or story from the Bible. If you’re shopping for a married couple, the Eden set includes a pair of decade rosaries resembling the relationship between Adam and Eve with the hope to inspire couples to pray together.

House of Joppa

A family-run business, House of Joppa offers modern, Catholic home decor and gifts that are beautiful, timeless, and intentional. Their gift sets make the perfect gift for anyone on your Christmas list. Each set is faith-inspired, and are bound to be one-of-a-kind treasures that will make a great addition to any home. The San Damiano Cross and Refuge Candle gift set is just one of the many options you can find for your loved ones this Christmas. 

The Little Catholic

Do you know someone looking for a beautiful piece of Catholic jewelry? Perhaps a Sacred Heart pendant, a Miraculous Medal, or a stunning crucifix? The Little Catholic offers fine crafted, elegant Catholic jewelry in gold and sterling silver. All of their pieces are handmade by local artisans in Los Angeles, California. Catholic jewelry is a wonderful gift that inspires faith and encourages evangelization through these outward signs we wear. 

OréMoose Catholic Leather

If you’re shopping for a man in your life, then we’ve got you covered. OréMoose Catholic Leatherwork creates handmade, custom leather bible and portfolio covers, wallets, coffee sleeves, koozies, satchels and so much more. These pieces are durable and stylish. Most pieces are engraved with a cross; however, you can also customize your piece with your own design or engraving. 

This Christmas, give the gift of God, of faith, of true beauty. After all, that is the reason for the season.

Pope Francis calls migrant crisis a ‘shipwreck of civilization’ during refugee camp visit

Pope Francis visits the Mavrovouni refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Dec. 5, 2021 / Vatican Media

Lesbos, Greece, Dec 5, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

From a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Pope Francis decried European indifference to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean as a "shipwreck of civilization.”

“The Mediterranean, which for millennia has brought different peoples and distant lands together, is now becoming a grim cemetery without tombstones. This great basin of water, the cradle of so many civilizations, now looks like a mirror of death,” Pope Francis said in Lesbos on Dec. 5.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Let us not let our sea be transformed into a desolate sea of death. Let us not allow this place of encounter to become a theatre of conflict. … Please, brothers and sisters, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization,” he said during the live-streamed meeting.

About 200 refugees were present to welcome the pope to the Mavrovouni migrant reception and identification center located along the shore of Lesbos, according to the Vatican.

Pope Francis shook hands and offered blessings to the migrants he encountered as he walked through the camp.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

“Sisters and brothers, I am here once again, to meet you and to assure you of my closeness. I am here to see your faces and look into your eyes. Eyes full of fear and expectancy, eyes that have seen violence and poverty, eyes streaked by too many tears,” he said in his speech.

“Those who are afraid of you have not seen your faces. Those who fear you have not seen your children. They have forgotten that dignity and freedom transcend fear and division. They have forgotten that migration is not an issue for the Middle East and Northern Africa, for Europe and Greece. It is an issue for the world,” he said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Lesbos, also known as Lesvos and Mytilene, is a temporary home in the Aegean Sea for thousands of migrants. The new Mavrovouni camp that the pope visited has a capacity of 8,000 people, but is not full due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In his speech, Pope Francis repeatedly quoted Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor and author who died in 2016.

“‘When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders become irrelevant,’” the pope said, quoting Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

In a meeting with migrants in Cyprus two days prior, Pope Francis also brought up Nazi concentration camps when discussing the suffering of migrants.

“We complain when we read the stories of the camps of the last century, those of the Nazis, those of Stalin. We complain when we see this and say, 'but how did this happen?' Brothers and sisters, it is happening today, on nearby shores,” the pope said in Nicosia on Dec. 3.

Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA
Andrea Gagliarducci/CNA

Pope Francis said in Lesbos that he is distressed when he hears proposals that common funds be used to build walls.

“Problems are not resolved and coexistence improved by building walls higher, but by joining forces to care for others according to the concrete possibilities of each and in respect for the law, always giving primacy to the inalienable value of the life of every human being,” he said.

This was Pope Francis’ second visit to Lesbos, which has a population of around 115,000, and housed more than 17,000 refugees before the Moria camp burned down on Sept. 8, 2020.

Pope Francis made a daylong visit to the island in April 2016 during which he visited the Moria refugee camp and returned bringing 12 refugees with him to Italy.

“Five years have passed since I visited this place … After all this time, we see that little has changed with regard to the issue of migration,” the pope said.

“With deep regret, we must admit that this country, like others, continues to be hard-pressed, and that in Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them,” Francis said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

During his visit to the camp, Pope Francis listened to a testimony from Christian Tango Mukaya, a Catholic refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mukaya is the father of three children -- two of whom have been with him since his arrival at the Lesbos camp in November 2020. He said that his other child and wife were not able to join him in Greece and he has not heard from them in over a year.

The refugee shared how his current Catholic parish in Lesbos has been a great support to him during this time of difficulty.

“With the strength of prayer and the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Mother and Mother of the Church, I was able to overcome the difficulties I encountered in life as a refugee,” Mukaya said.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

Pope Francis' visit to the refugee camp occurred on the fourth day of his apostolic journey to Cyprus and Greece taking place Dec. 2-6.

After his visit to the camp, the pope will return to Athens by plane to preside over a Mass in the afternoon at the Megaron Concert Hall in the Greek capital at 5pm.

Vatican Media
Vatican Media

The pope concluded his time in Lesbos by praying the Sunday Angelus from the refugee camp.

“Let us now pray to Our Lady, that she may open our eyes to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters. Mary set out in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant. How many pregnant mothers, journeying in haste, have found death, even while carrying life in their womb,” he said.

“May the Mother of God help us to have a maternal gaze that regards all human beings as children of God, sisters and brothers to be welcomed, protected, supported and integrated. And to be loved tenderly. May the all-holy Mother teach us to put the reality of men and women before ideas and ideologies, and to go forth in haste to encounter all those who suffer.”

Ieronymos II visits with Pope Francis on eve of his return to Rome

The Orthodox Primate, Ieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, pays a courtesy visit to Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature to bid him farewell.

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Highlights of Pope's second day in Greece

In this video, we relive the highlights of Pope Francis' second day in Greece, during which he met with refugees on the island of Lesbos and celebrated Mass with the Catholic community of Athens.

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