Feast of the Immaculate Conception: In the late afternoon of Dec. 8, Pope Francis made his traditional visit to a statue of Mary erected in the center of Rome, near the Spanish Steps, to celebrate the official church recognition that Mary was conceived without sin. Thousands of Romans and tourists crowded around the statue where people had been laying flowers all day. Early Dec. 8, Rome firefighters with a truck and ladder hung a wreath of white flowers from the outstretched arms of the statue.
Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis told the Belgian Catholic weekly newspaper Tertio that his exhortation on the family sprang from consultations with Catholics around the world and was thoroughly discussed by the bishops at the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. Francis said that "everything in there was approved by more than two-thirds" of the synod members.
Pope Francis: Christian hope is not the same as being optimistic about the future, but is knowing that whatever dark or frightening things are going on in one's life, God is there offering protection and light, Pope Francis said during his general audience Dec. 7.
Vatican City: The updated 1985 guidelines insist that candidates for the priesthood learn how to be "shepherds 'with the smell of the sheep,' " and also highlights lessons learned from the sexual abuse scandal.
Women in the Vatican: Women — lay and religious — make up almost 20 percent of the Vatican workforce, and a group of them have formed an association designed as a forum for collaboration, sharing and outreach.
Protection of Minors website: The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has launched a beta version of its website in English and has included its template for local guidelines on preventing sexual abuse, resources for a day of prayer for the victims and survivors as well as a mailing address to contact commission members.
Prison Flash Mob: Dozens of prisoners staged a "flash mob" inside an Italian men’s prison to celebrate Pope Francis’ calls for prison reform and greater tolerance and acceptance of the world’s migrants. Around 70 inmates from diverse faiths and ethnic backgrounds danced a Zumba routine titled “Pope is Pop” on Dec. 1 at the low-security district prison in the northern city of Ferrara.
Pope Francis: Pope Francis described 2016 as a "packed year," one full of initiatives that helped Catholics "see and touch with their hands the fruits of the mercy of God."
Pope Francis: "Let us commit ourselves to praying for each other so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy increasingly become our way of life," he said Nov. 30 during his general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences: "We are not custodians of a museum and its masterpieces that we have to dust off every morning, but rather collaborators in the conservation and development of the existence and biodiversity of the planet and human life," said Pope Francis.