especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy on christmas night. an emotional matter moves us because it states the deep reali reality, and all around us and within us as well. there is darkness and light. in this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, we take a chance anew, the event that surprises us. a light which makes us reflect on this mystery. the mystery of walking and
seeing. walking. the spirit makes us reflect on the course of history. that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with abraham, our father in faith. whom the lord called to set out to go north from his country to the land which he would show him. from that time on, our identity as believers has been making its pilgrim way toward the promised land. this history has always been accompanied by the lord. he is ever faithful to his
covenant and his promises. god is light, and in him there is no darkness. yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness. fidelity and infidelity. obedience and rebellion. times of being a pilgrim -- >> bishop o'connell, he's talking about bright and dark moments, obviously trying to communicate to people who, you know, maybe certainly having difficulty in their life as well as perhaps enjoying the holiday season. what do you take away from his homily? >> well, the purpose of the homily is really to break open the word of god for the understanding of all those who have just heard it. and what he's doing is he's taking each of the readings. this is a very brief homily.
he's taken the first reading from the book of the prophet of isaiah, the second from st. paul's letter to titus and the third from st. luke. and he's contrasting darkness and light as it's presented in all of those readings. remember that isaiah rote awrot pro prove seed 800 years before christ. we speak of the gospels as the word of the lord. we speak of jesus as the word made flesh. the two become one and the same on this feast of christmas. the word becomes flesh and dwelt among us. he's talking about how the word
brings light to all of those who suffer, to all of those who walk in darkness. we need the light and cries brings the light to us. >> one of the lines that caught my ear. he says if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit falls within us and around us. whoever hates his brother is in the darkness. sounds like he's saying, you know, that we should not hate those who sin or are adrift, because in a way, everyone is. it really does seem as if he's putting a message out there not just to catholics but beyond that. do you think that's right? >> yes, i think that's very right. i think he is challenging our consciousness and the conscience of the world community. so he's using this light and darkness. he says the darkness in our lives is pride, self-seeking, selfishness. this is a pope who recently in his apostolic exhortation joy of
the gospel critiqued global capitalism. he said you have so few with so much and so many with so little. and that you need to figure out how you're going to care for the needy in your midst. that's part of the darkness he would see in the world. remember, this is the same pope who is very much against any kind of attack in syria by the united states. he went directly to president putin, wrote a letter and said, i am opposed to this. do everything you can with the leaders there to avoid this. and then he had a whole day of prayer for peace, for the situation in syria, so you see, he's a pope who's very comfortable playing on the world stage and getting involved in these issues as well. and he's going to use this homily and has. i think it's interesting. he said jesus, love incarnate pitched his tent in our midst. so god becomes one with us.
but the challenge is how do we become one with god. how do we reciprocate now that god has come among us. >> and let's listen to a little more of the homily. >> translator: you are immense, and you made yourself small. you are rich, and you made yourself poor. you are all powerful, and you made yourself vulnerable. on this night, let us share the joy of the gospel. god loves us. he so loves us that he gave us our son to be our brother. >> and our cnn special, pope francis' first christmas continues right after this. we're aig. and we're here. to help secure retirements and protect financial futures. to help communities recover and rebuild. for companies going from garage to global.
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this christmas eve began almost a half century ago. >> reporter: francis' journey goes back to 1969 when he was ordained as a jesuit priest. he became archbishop of buenos aires in 1998. his hallmark was service and humility. pope john paul ii appointed him a cardinal. and after more than a decade on march the 13th, 2013, he was elected to lead the world's estimated 1.2 billion catholics and installed as pope six days later. >> this is the greatness of the
man, i think, that he knows who he is. he knows what his responsibility is. >> reporter: this cardinal is the former archbishop in washington, d.c. he says he is handling the job well. >> it doesn't crush him, because he knows he's going to carry it with jesus. and he knows the people out there, and his job is to help them. >> reporter: becoming pope was only one of many significant firsts for the new pontiff. >> he is the first pope from latin america. the first pope from outside europe in 1300 years. and of course he is the first pope to utter the word gay. >> so we have the first jesuit pope. it seems kind of strange that a pope would be a jesuit, because the jesuits take a vow to do what the pope tells them. >> reporter: but even more stunning to many was the name he chose. rita is a life-long catholic and
writer for a catholic magazine. >> first pope to be named after francis of assisi. francis of assisi was a rebel and someone deeply committed to the poor and to prayer and a radical vision of living out krigs yan i christianity. this is the first pope to take that name, and it's not an accident. >> it's the most iconic name in the catholic imagination, because it used to be believed that no pope could take the name francis, because there was only one francis, and the fact that this pope did it told me two things right away, one, this was going to be a maverick pope, a guy who was not going to be shackled by convention, and two, it told me that this is going to be a very franciscan pope, somebody before all else was going to embrace poverty, the lover of st. francis.
>> and a message of love and forgiveness from pope francis at his first christmas eve mass in the vatican as we watch pope francis offer his first christmas communion. let's bring in reverend edward beck in new york, reverend david o'connell and former president of the catholic university of america as well as cnn vatican analyst john allen. let's watch communion for a moment. [ speaking in foreign language ]
>> john, can you talk a little bit about what pope francis has provided the catholic church that it certainly needed, coming off of, you know, years of fallout from the sex abuse scandal, he's really sort of turned things around, just in the course of really a few years. >> well, brianna, in the course of nine months, actually. if you want me to put it into a sound bite into what he's provided the catholic church,
it's a new lease on life. nine months ago, there were stories about the sex abuse, and financial scandals and on and on. while none of those things have gone away, today the dominant narrative of the world about the catholic church is this humble, simple pope, a pope of the people and pope of the poor has given catholics, 1.2 billion catholics around the world a new sense of possibility. you know, when we talk about the francis revolution, i would say that's the revolution in action. >> and you have actually called him a rock star. why is that? >> well, look, brianna, i mean, i was in rio de janeiro when he brought people to the beach, shattering the record. i was there when he pulled up the cathedral in rio and a group
of latin-american nuns rushed him, shreeking like teenage girls at a justin bieber concert. this isn't just another pop culture icon, but it's a man who because of his own sincerity and integrity, i think has become one of the towering moral authorities on the global stage. and it's not just about his office. it's about francis himself and the perception that this is a leader who walks his own talk. >> yeah, and to that point, bishop o'connell, as you look into the background of pope francis, you start to learn some pretty fascinating and unexpected things about him. for instance, he was, i read he was a bouncer in his younger years when he was in buenos aires. he worked at shelter, at youth shelters in the slums there. what do you think that sort of brings for him?
how does that inform his service as pope? >> i think we're all creatures of our own experience. and the fact that he performed these common tasks and he performed them with diligence and with seriousness fed what grew in the pope. and that was a sense of the people of god, a sense of the people with whom he would work as a priest and later as a bishop and certainly now as pope. you know, when i watch him at mass, there, he's not distracted. he's not looking around. there's a quiet, prayerful intensity about him, as he speaks and preaches. he gives the homily of the mass. there's nothing dramatic about his presentation at all. it's gentle. it's calm. it's forthright, and it comes from the heart. and he's showing that tonight as he preaches and celebrates the mass at st. peter's basilica. >> and that's interesting you
say that, because i want to ask you this, father beck. one of the things that the pope is talking about, and i think it's sort of a message that goes far beyond catholicism. a lot of people can connect with it. he talks, if he's talking, sort of, i guess showing quietness in the mass as we heard bishop o'connell say. one of his messages for christmas is to tone down the noise. concentrate really on what matters. not on the partying, not on the spending. that's something that i think a lot of americans, i will say, struggle with. that's something that really connects. >> yes. i know that pope francis knows that we live in a very distracted world and society. for all the great technology that we have, it's really hard, simply to focus on what matters. and he's imploring us to do just that, to focus on what matters. unless we think that pope
francis is just about image, he's also done some rather remarkable things in these nine months that are really substantive. if you look about the vatican bank, the much beleaguered vatican bank for all of those years. suddenly with pope francis he revamps it. from the vatican bank. he call the other commission for sex abuse. everybody was saying not enough was done from the top with the sex abuse scandal. he calls the commission including lay people and they're going to address the sex abuse scandal in ways that it has not yet been addressed. he picked eight cardinal advisers. the gang of eight as they're known who met once. they'll meet again in october and they'll talk about marriage and family. so this is an important issue because divorce and remarried people cannot receive communion. pope francis has hinted, we have to talk about this. there is a lot of alienation and
hurt over divorce and remarriage. so these are very ordinary down to earth substantive issues in the lives of real people and francis is tackling them. >> what do you think about this? is there a possibility in a way, this is reason why so many people have such a positive opinion of the pope. there are still other people who feel that perhaps the movement is too fast. is there any risk do you think of some whip lash? that he is moving too quickly? or as you look at this, having studied the vatican, that it is about time the catholic church moved along? >> well, look. i think change, whether it is change in politics or in the economy or in this case, religion. change is going to be unsettling to some. if you look at the reaction francis has generated over the last nine months, there would be
some conservative sectors in the church who worry that it is too much too fast. but there is some on the left that think he is not going fast enough or far enough. if we look around, every place in the world where public opinion can be scientifically measured including the united states, he has overwhelming approval ratings. not onlied from whiter world but also the catholic grassroots. i think what he accomplished, both in terms of his gestures and some of his substantive moves. he has put a hot of political capital into the bank. i think in many ways, the drama going forward, the drama of 2014, he is going to be how he chooses to spend all of that political capital that he is amassed. >> he tweets, he holds press
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welcome back to our special, pope francis' first christmas mass. we want some final thoughts from our panel here. i'll start with you, bishop o'connell as we watch this. what do you think as the final thought? as we end this tonight. >> my takeaway is this. the pope said jesus is not an idea to be sought after will he is the meaning of our lives. if we as catholics and christians really believe that, what a difference that conviction would make in our world. what a difference place the world would be. and you, father beck? >> we haven't talked much about the cold calling that pope france it is has done but i was so struck when i heard that a woman wrote him who is being
pressured to have an abortion. she decided to have the child. and then her local pastor would not baptize the child. so he calls her up and he says, even though i'm pope, i can still do baptisms. to me that said the pope is first and foremost still a pastor. >> and john allen? vatican analyst, as you watch this mass. what is your final thought for what this symbolizes? >> the only time francis went off his prepared text was to add a reference at the end to the mercy of god saying that god is ready to forgive us fumpl want a tag line for pope francis, i think he is the pope of mercy. everything he is doing is intended to project an image of god's compassion and tenderness to a world obviously hungry for that message. >> certainly very hungry for and it they've been paying much
attention to the message. thank you for joining us and thank you so much for joining us. a very merry christmas to all of you. nearly 2,000 years ago mark the remote outpost of the roman empire, three men were crucified on a hill. two of the men were thieves. the third man's crime was mocked by the sign nailed to his