Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An appeal for peace in Ukraine was launched today by Pope Francis at the end of the Angelus prayer, recited in St Peter's Square with tens of thousands of pilgrims. Today, marking the national holiday of Ukraine, torn apart by conflict with Russia, the pontiff said he is "close to all her sons and daughters, their yearning for peace and serenity, threatened by a situation of tension and conflict that continues unabated, causing so much suffering among the civilian population".
"We entrust the whole nation to the Lord Jesus and the Virgin Mary - he added - and together pray especially for the victims, their families and those who suffer." After revealing that he had received "a letter from a bishop" that "tells of all this pain," Francis invited all those present to recite a Hail Mary for "the beloved land of Ukraine," concluding with the invocation "Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us."
Before the Marian prayer, the Pope had commented on today's Gospel (Mt 16.13 to 20), which tells of Peter's profession ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God") and the new name given to Simon (Peter, in other words rock).
"Let's stop for a moment - he said - on this very point, that Jesus gives Simon the new name "Peter",which in the language of Jesus is "Kefa", a word that means" rock. "In the Bible this term , "rock", refers to God. Jesus ascribed to Simon, not for its quality or its human merit, but for his genuine and firm faith, which comes from above.
Jesus feels a great joy in his heart, because he recognizes the hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit, in Simon. He recognizes that God the Father has given 'reliable' faith to Simon, on which he, Jesus, will build his Church, that is, his community, that is all of us.
Jesus has in mind to give life to 'his' Church, a people no longer based on descent but on faith, namely the relationship with Himself, a relationship of love and trust. Our relationship with Jesus builds the Church. So to start His Church, Jesus needs to find a solid, 'reliable'faith among the disciples. This is what he has to verify at this point of the journey".
He then explained that what happened "in a unique way" in St. Peter, "also takes place in every Christian": "Today's Gospel challenges each of us. What is your faith like? Everyone can find the answer in his or her own heart. What does the Lord find in our hearts? A stable heart like stone, or a heart of sand, that is incredulous, doubtful, suspicious? If the Lord finds a faith in our hearts, one that is not necessarily perfect, but sincere, genuine, then he also sees us as living stones with which to build his community. The foundation-stone of this community, the cornerstone is Christ. Peter is stone, as the visible foundation of the Church, but every baptised person is called to offer Jesus their, poor but honest faith so that he can continue to build His Church today, all over the world".
"Even in our days - he concluded -"people" think that Jesus is a great prophet, a teacher of wisdom, a model of justice ... And even today, Jesus asks his disciples, that is, us:"But you, who do you say I am?". What will we reply? Think about it. But above all pray to God the Father, to give us the answer. And the intercession of the Virgin Mary, let us pray to her to give us the grace to respond with a sincere heart:"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". And moving from his scripted address the Pope continued: "This is a living profession, this is the Creed. Let us repeat it together three times: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". And the pilgrims repeated the phrase with him.