VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis concluded 2016 this evening in St. Peter’s Basilica with Eucharistic Benediction and the chanting of the ancient Christian hymn of praise to God, the Te Deum.
The traditional close of the civil year took place during First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, celebrated on January 1st.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on a passage from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
These words, he said, “introduce us to God’s plan for us: He wants us to live as His sons and daughters.”
The pope said the “logic of the manger” which we celebrate at Christmastide is a logic of “encounter and closeness” that leaves no room for exclusion and division.
The pope invited everyone “to contemplate how God has been present throughout this year and to remind ourselves that every age, every moment is the bearer of graces and blessings.”
He also had a special word for young people in his final address of 2016, saying that “to speak of a year’s end is to feel the need to reflect on how concerned we are about the place of young people in our society.”
While “we have created a culture that idolizes youth and seeks to make it eternal,” the pope noted, “at the same time, paradoxically, we have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future…. We expect and demand that they be a leaven for the future, but we discriminate against them and ‘condemn’ them to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed.”
Yet, he said: “We are asked to be something other than the innkeeper in Bethlehem who told the young couple: there is no room here. There was no room for life, there was no room for the future. Each of us is asked to take some responsibility, however small, for helping our young people to find, here in their land, in their own country, real possibilities for building a future.”
At the conclusion of First Vespers, the Most Holy Eucharist was carried in procession to the main altar where it was exposed for silent adoration, followed by Benediction.
During the liturgy, the Te Deum was chanted in thanksgiving for the past year. The hymn, whose title is taken from its first words in Latin, Te Deum laudamus [Thee, O God, we praise], is sung in thanksgiving to God for special blessings such as the election of a pope, the consecration of a bishop, or the canonization of a saint.
Following the liturgy, Pope Francis made his way outside the Basilica to the Vatican Nativity Scene on display in St Peter’s Square. After spending a few moments in silent prayer, the Holy Father enjoyed a selection of traditional Christmas hymns and carols, and had the opportunity to greet members of the faithful and pilgrims gathered in the square.
Here below is an English text of the Te Deum to share with family and friends:
O God, we praise Thee,
and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
Govern them, and raise them up forever.
Every day we thank Thee.
And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.
O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.