A Very Francis Christmas
Tomorrow morning brings the beginning of Francis' Christmas cycle with the customary season's "greetings" to the Roman Curia. While Benedict XVI used the talk as his annual recap of church events both in the Vatican and beyond, in a much briefer text than before, Papa Bergoglio employed his first turn at the address last year to urge the clerics of the central government to an enhanced spirit of "professionalism, service, and holiness of life." Whatever its focus this time, the address begins at 10.30am local; its text will follow here.
On Christmas Eve, the "Midnight Mass" in St Peter's – technically, the "Mass during the Night" – is set this year for a 9.30pm Rome (3.30pm ET, 2030 GMT) start.
The world's most-watched religious broadcast, the liturgy has a traditional audience of over a billion people worldwide. Last year's ended with the poignant sight of the still-new Pope carrying the Bambino to the basilica's creche himself....
At Noon on Christmas Day, Francis will deliver his Urbi et Orbi message ("To the city [of Rome] and the world") from the central balcony of St Peter's; last year's served as a cry to the newborn Prince of Peace to end the wars ravaging the globe.
While there could always be surprises, apart from the usual Angelus appearances on St Stephen's Day (the 26th) and Holy Family Sunday from the window of the historic Papal Apartment – now used by Francis solely as a ceremonial office – no other commitments are scheduled through the Octave until New Year's Eve and the traditional Te Deum in the basilica to give thanks at the end of the calendar year.
For the 48th time, January 1st marks the global church's World Day of Peace. 2015's observance will focus on an end to slavery worldwide, above all in the scourge of human trafficking.
A long-standing policy concern of the Vatican which Francis has tackled with vigor from from the outset of his pontificate, earlier this month the Pope convened a broad-reaching group of the planet's major interfaith leaders (above) to sign a joint pact to work for the end of slavery worldwide by 2020.
On a final note, the most feverishly awaited development of 2015's first act – the Pope's choice of as many as 15 new cardinals who'll be elevated on 14 February – is on-deck to be delivered early in the New Year, possibly as soon as January 1st itself.