Browsing News Entries

Pope St. Damasus

Pope St. Damasus

Feast date: Dec 11

Saint Damasus was born in Rome at the beginning of the fourth century. His father, a widower, had received Holy Orders there and served as parish priest in the church of St. Laurence.

Damasus was archdeacon of the Roman Church in 355 when the Pope, Saint Liberius, was banished to Berda. Damases followed him into exile, but afterwards returned to Rome. On the death of Saint Liberius in 366, our Saint was chosen to succeed him, at the age of sixty-two. A certain Ursinus, jealous of his election and desiring for himself that high office, had himself proclaimed pope by his followers, inciting a revolt against Damasus in Rome, in which 137 people died. The holy Pope did not choose to resort to armed defense, but the Emperor Valentinian, to defend him, drove the usurper from Rome for a time. Later he returned, and finding accomplices for his evil intentions, accused the holy Pontiff of adultery. Saint Damasus took only such action as was becoming to the common father of the faithful. He assembled a synod of forty-four bishops, in which he justified himself so well that the calumniators were excommunicated and banished.

Having freed the Church of this new schism, Saint Damasus turned his attention to the extirpation of Arianism in the West and of Apollinarianism in the East, and for this purpose convened several councils. He sent Saint Zenobius, later bishop of Florence, to Constantinople in 381 to console the faithful, cruelly persecuted by the Emperor Valens. He commanded Saint Jerome to prepare a correct Latin version of the Bible, since known as the Vulgate, and he ordered the Psalms to be sung accordingly. He rebuilt and adorned the Church of Saint Laurence, still called Saint Laurence in Damaso. He caused all the springs of the Vatican to be drained, which were inundating the tombs of the holy persons buried there, and he decorated the sepulchers of a great number of martyrs in the cemeteries, adorning them with epitaphs in verse.

Saint Damasus is praised by Theodoret as head of the famous doctors of divine grace of the Latin church. The General Council of Chalcedon calls him the "honor and glory of Rome." Having reigned for eighteen years and two months, he died on December 10, 384, when he was nearly eighty years old. In the eighth century, his relics were definitively placed in the church of Saint Laurence in Damaso, except for his head, which was conserved in the Basilica of Saint Peter. He presided over the Council of Rome of 382 that determined the canon or official list of Sacred Scripture.

Throughout his papacy, St. Damasus spoke out against major heresies in the church and encouraged production of the Vulgate Bible with his support for St. Jerome. He helped reconcile the relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Antioch, and encouraged the veneration of martyrs.

On Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope reflects on the Virgin Mary's amazement, fidelity (Vatican Press Office)

For the first time since November 19, Pope Francis personally delivered the Angelus address to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on December 8. In recent weeks, a Vatican offiical had read out the Pope’s address from the papal residence as the Pope battled a bronchial infection.

“Today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Gospel presents us with the scene of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38),” Pope Francis said. “It demonstrates two of Mary’s attitudes that help us understand how she may have guarded the unique gift she received—a heart completely free from sin. These two attitudes are amazement regarding the works of God and fidelity in the simple things.”

The Pope continued, “So, let us ask ourselves: Do I believe that fidelity to God is important both in everyday situations as well as in my spiritual journey? And if I believe this, do I find the time to read the Gospel, to pray, to participate in the Eucharist and to receive sacramental forgiveness, to perform some tangible act of disinterested service? These are the small everyday choices, choices necessary to welcome the Lord’s presence.”

“May Mary Immaculate help us be amazed at God’s gifts and respond to them with faithful generosity each day,” he concluded.

Pope marks 800th anniversary of Nativity scene, asks prayers for Holy Land (CNS)

On December 9—the day on which the Vatican’s Nativity scene was unveiled and the Christmas tree lit in St. Peter’s Square—Pope Francis recalled the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi’s Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy.

“This year, then, from Saint Peter’s Square we will think of Greccio, which in turn takes us back to Bethlehem,” Pope Francis said. “And as we contemplate Jesus, God made man, small, poor, defenseless, we cannot but think of the tragedy that the inhabitants of the Holy Land are living, expressing to those brothers and sisters of ours, especially the children and their parents, our closeness and our spiritual support.”

Pope presents golden roses to Roman Marian image, prays for peace (Vatican News)

On December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis venerated the ancient Marian image of the Salus Populi Romani and presented Our Lady with three golden roses—the first pope in over 300 years to make such a gesture.

As is customary, the Pontiff later traveled to the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna, where he made an act of veneration to Mary Immaculate.

“Show us once again, O Mother, the path of conversion, for there is no peace without pardon, and there is no pardon without repentance,” the Pope prayed. “The world changes if hearts change; and everyone must say: beginning with mine. But only God can change the human heart with his grace, the grace in which you, Mary, were immersed from the first instant.”

Papal gratitude to Italian Air Force for defending peace (Vatican News)

Pope Francis received a delegation from the Italian Air Force on December 9 as it marked its centenary.

In his address, the Pope offered three perspectives: “the perspective of the scientific progress that has transformed the life of mankind in these hundred years,” “the perspective of service,” and the human perspective.

“At this time, when humanity is plagued by terrible conflicts, the protection of such human richness is the best guarantee that your commitment is always directed towards the defense of life, justice and peace,” the Pope said. “For all this I entrust you, your families and your service to the heavenly patroness, Our Lady of Loreto.”

Nebraska priest stabbed to death; Iowa man arrested (AP)

Father Stephen Gutsgell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, was attacked during a break-in at his rectory in Fort Calhoun, a Nebraska town of 1,100. The priest later died of his stab wounds.

An Iowa man was later arrested on charges of homicide and using a weapon to commit a felony.

In 2007, Father Gutgsell “pleaded guilty to theft by deception for embezzling $127,000 from an area church,” the Associated Press reported. “He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution. He was later reassigned to another church. At the time, church leaders said Gutgsell learned his lesson, admitted wrongdoing and sought forgiveness.”

Papal tribute to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Vatican News)

Following his December 10 Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“75 years ago, on 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed,” the Pope said. “It is like a master plan. Many steps have been taken, many still need to be made, and unfortunately, at times, steps backward have been taken.”

The Pope added, “The commitment to human rights is never finished! In this regard, I am near all those who, without fanfare, in concrete daily life, fight and personally pay the price defending the rights of those who do not count.”

Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain and Charles Malik, a Greek Orthodox diplomat, helped shape the declaration.

'Let us value silence, sobriety and listening,' Pope tells pilgrims (Vatican Press Office)

During his Sunday Angelus address on December 10, Pope Francis reflected on St. John the Baptist, described in the Gospel reading of the Second Sunday of Advent as “the voice of one crying in the desert” (Mark 1:3).

“The desert, an empty place, where you do not communicate; and the voice, a means to speak—these seem like two contradictory images,” Pope Francis said. “But they are joined in the Baptist.”

The Pope added, “We can ask ourselves: What place does silence have in my days? Is it an empty, perhaps oppressive, silence? Or is it a space for listening, for prayer, for guarding my heart? Is my life sober or filled with superfluous things?”

“Even if it means going against the tide, let us value silence, sobriety and listening,” he concluded. “May Mary, Virgin of silence, help us to love the desert, to become credible voices who testify to her Son who is coming.”

CWN closed for feast of the Immaculate Conception (CWN)

The offices of CWN will be closed on Friday, December 8, so that our staff can celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Pope pleads for unity, obedience as embattled head of Syro-Malabar Church resigns (CWN)

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Cardinal George Alencherry, 78, as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and warned that dissent within the Archeparchy (archdiocese) of Ernakulam-Angamaly could lead to canonical sanctions.