VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict is taking time after Christmas to host a Vatican lunch for the poor and to visit children in a Rome hospital.
On Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen, people served by shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity will join the pope for lunch in the atrium of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.
In addition to giving the pope the chance to personally offer a meal to the disadvantaged, the event also commemorates this year’s 100th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who was born in Yugoslavia in on Aug. 26, 1910. She was beatified in 2003.
The Vatican also announced that on Jan. 5, the eve of the Epiphany, the pope will visit young patients at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital. While he is there, he will bless a spina bifida center and distribute gifts to the children who receive care there. Gemelli is Rome’s biggest Catholic hospital.
The pope’s will preside over a whole slate of regular Christmas activities, too, including Christmas Eve midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Urbi et Orbi blessing to the city of Rome and the world on Christmas Day. On Dec. 26 he prays the Angelus and talks to pilgrims from his window above St. Peter’s Square, and on Dec. 29 he holds his regular general audience.
On New Year’s Eve at St. Peter’s, the pope will lead Vespers and the singing of the Te Deum, a traditional hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of salvation in Christ. On Jan. 1, the church marks World Peace Day, and the pope’s message this year focuses on religious freedom and its contribution to peace. The pope will celebrate Mass and pray the Angelus on New Year’s Day.
To finish up the Christmas holidays, Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.