Vatican City (AsiaNews) - To religious persecution, "we must respond
as Jesus did in his passion, [using] love and the power of truth" against
misunderstanding and adversity, said Pope Francis in his address to the
faithful as he reflected before the recitation of the Regina Caeli on the passages of the Acts of the Apostles in the liturgy of the third Sunday of Easter. "Where
did the first disciples find the strength to bear witness, despite obstacles
and violence? It is obvious, he said, "that only the presence alongside them of
the Risen Lord and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this."
In St Peter's Square, overflowing with the faithful, the Pope, speaking
before the Marian prayer, said, "I would like to reflect briefly on the passage
from the Acts of the Apostles that we
read in the liturgy of this Third Sunday of Easter. This text says that the
first sermon by the Apostles in Jerusalem filled the city with the news that
Jesus had truly risen, according to the Scriptures, and he was the Messiah foretold
by the Prophets. The chief priests and the rulers of the city tried to nip in
the bud the community of believers in Christ and put the Apostles in prison,
ordering them not to teach in his name."
However, Peter and the other Eleven replied, "We must obey God
rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, [. . .] exalted him at
his right hand as leader and saviour [. . .].
We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:29-32). So they had the Apostles whipped
and ordered them not to speak again in the name of Jesus. And they went forth,
and as the Scripture says, "rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer
dishonour for the sake of the name" of Jesus.
Pope Francis went on to say, "I ask myself: Where did the first
disciples find the strength to bear witness? Plus, where did the joy and
courage for the proclamation come from, despite the obstacles and violence? Let
us not forget that the Apostles were simple men. They were not scribes, nor
teachers of the law or members of the priestly class. How did they, with their
limits and opposed by the authorities, fill Jerusalem with their teaching (cf Acts, 5:28)?"
It is obvious, the pope quickly added, "that only the presence alongside
them of the Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit can explain this. The Lord, who was
with them, and the spirit that moved them to preach, pushed them towards this
extraordinary event. Their faith was based on an experience of the crucified
and risen Christ that was so powerful and personal that they were not afraid of
anything or anyone, so that for them persecution was a badge of honour, which enabled
them to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be like Him, bearing witness to
Him with their lives. "
The pontiff also stressed that the "history of the first Christian
community tells us something very important, which applies to the Church of all
the ages, even to us. When a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in
Him, experiences His presence in life and the power of His resurrection, he cannot
fail to communicate this experience. If he encounters misunderstanding or
adversity, he should behave like Jesus did in His Passion: respond with love
and the power of truth."
Praying together the Regina
Caeli, he said, "We ask for the help of the Holiest Mary so that the Church
around the world may proclaim with frankness and courage the Resurrection of
the Lord and bear effective witness to it through signs of brotherly love.
Brotherly love is the closest witness we can give that Jesus is alive among us,
that he is risen. Let us pray, especially for Christians who suffer persecution.
In these times, there are many Christians who suffer persecution, a great many,
in many countries! Let us pray for them with love from our hearts, that they
may they feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord!" Next, the
pope stopped and made the sign of the cross. This was followed by the recitation
of the Regina Caeli and the blessing.
Right after the prayer to Mary, the pope mentioned yesterday's
beatification in Venice, of Fr Luca Passi, founder of the Opera laicale Santa
Dorotea and the Istituto delle
Suore Maestre di Santa Dorotea. "We give thanks to God
for the witness of this blessed."
Afterwards, the pope spoke of the Day of the Catholic University of
the Sacred Heart, which is celebrated today in Italy. Its theme is 'The new
generations beyond the crisis'.
"The university," the pope said, "was born from the mind and heart of
Father Agostino Gemelli. With broad popular support, it has trained thousands upon
thousands of young people to be competent and responsible citizens, builders of
the common good. I call upon everyone to always support this University, that
it may continue to provide an excellent education to younger generations, and meet
the challenges of the present age. "
Finally, the pope delivered the traditional greetings. "I greet all
the pilgrims present, who come from many countries, [as well as] the families,
church groups, movements, young people. In particular, I greet the pilgrims
from the Diocese of Siena-Colle di Val d'Elsa-Montalcino, with Archbishop
Buoncristiani. A special thought also for the boys and girls who are getting
ready for their confirmation. To all of you I wish a good Sunday and a good