During the Angelus, streamed live from the Vatican library, Pope Francis spoke again about the tragedy of north-western Syria. “We must not look away from this humanitarian crisis,” he said; “instead we must give it priority over any other interest.” He thanked the volunteers in St Peter's Square for “what you do for Idlib". Speaking about the coronavirus, he noted that “Lent also helps us give an evangelical sense to this moment of trial.” As Jesus “called those three disciples, so today he calls some to be close to him in order to bear witness.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – During today’s Angelus, Pope Francis offered his prayers for the people touched by Syria’s tragedy and those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
For the first time, the Marian prayer was celebrated in live streaming from the Vatican library, to prevent gatherings that might threaten public health.
Greeting the "virtual" participants, the Pontiff first mentioned "the associations and groups engaged in solidarity with the Syrian people, especially the people of Idlib in north-western Syria, forced to flee from the latest developments in the war.”
Francis reiterated his “great apprehension about the inhumane situation of these defenceless people, including the many children whose lives are at risk. We must not look away from this humanitarian crisis; instead we must give it priority over any other interest.”
The pontiff asked for silent prayers for "these brothers and sisters". At the start of the broadcast, he greeted the volunteers working for Idlib present in St Peter's Square, saying: “Thank you for what you do for Idlib.”
Moving to the ongoing worldwide health crisis, the Holy Father said: "I am close with prayers to the people who suffer from the current coronavirus epidemic and all those who take care of it. I join my brother Bishops in encouraging the faithful to live this difficult moment with the power of faith, the certainty of hope and the fervour of charity. The time of Lent also helps us give an evangelical sense to this moment of trial.”
Earlier, Francis had offered some food for thought taken from today's Gospel (Second Sunday of Lent, A, Matthew 17:1-9), about the episode of the transfiguration of Jesus, which took place after Jesus began “to speak to them about the sufferings, death and resurrection that awaited him, a prospect they could not accept.”
“Through the wonderful event of the Transfiguration,” the disciples realised that "the human aspect did not express his whole reality”. Instead, they experienced “the heavenly Father who confirmed the investiture of Jesus already made on the day of the baptism in the Jordan and who invited the disciples to listen and follow him.”
Francis pointed out that Jesus chose the disciples Peter, James and John (“The holiest? No.”) as witnesses of his transfiguration.
“Jesus,” said Francis, “did not choose according to our criteria, but according to his plan of love. It is a free, unconditional choice, a free initiative, a divine friendship that asks for nothing in return.
“As he called these three disciples, so today he calls some to be close to him in order to bear witness. Bearing witness to Jesus is a gift that we do not deserve: we feel inadequate, but we cannot hold back with the excuse of our inability.” This has consequences for those of us who "were not on Mount Tabor.”
“In this world, marked by selfishness and greed, the light of God is clouded by everyday concerns. We often say: I don't have time to pray, I am not able to carry out a service in the parish, to respond to the requests of others.” Yet, “we must not forget that the baptism and confirmation we received made us witnesses, not because of our ability, but because of the gift of the Spirit.”