Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - With the affirmation of the "centrality of Christ. Christ the center of creation , Christ the center of people, Christ the center of history," Pope Francis today closed the Year of Faith, opened on 11 October 2012 by Benedict XVI on the day of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II and 20 years after the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Francis reminds us : "By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long".
There are many signs that point
to the solemnity of the moment, above all the exposition, for the first time in
history, of the relics of St. Peter. They
are contained in a box bearing the inscription in bronze Ex ossibus quae in Arcibasilicae
Vaticanae hypogeo inventa Beati Petri Apostoli esse putantur ( "From the bones found in the hypogeum of
the Vatican Basilica, which are considered of Blessed Peter the Apostle
Francis holds it in his hands (see photo) , while the almost 100 thousand present
sing the Creed .
Among the 1200 concelebrants are the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches . Their presence gives Pope Francis the opportunity to speak of the Christians of the East. "The exchange of peace, which I will make with them - he says - means, first of all the Bishop of Rome's high regard for these communities, who have confessed the name of Christ with an exemplary fidelity, often paying dearly. Similarly - he adds - through them, with this gesture I mean to embrace all Christians living in the Holy Land, Syria and throughout the East, and invoke the gift of peace and harmony for all". At the Angelus, indeed he invoked the "protection of Mary, especially for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because of their faith ''
The Pope's concern for the East is
also tangible in the collection during the offertory procession - quite unusual
in the celebrations in St Peter's- to be allocated to the people of the Philippines
affected by Typhoon Haiyan .
And there is the symbolic delivery of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium , written by Francis at the conclusion of the Year of Faith . It will be published next Tuesday , November 26th , but today, before the Angelus , the Pope gifted it to 36 representatives of God's people from 18 different countries : a bishop, a priest and a deacon from among the youngest to be ordained , religious then some representatives of each event this year : the confirmed, a seminarian and a novice , a family , catechists , a blind person - in audio on a CD-ROM - young people , members of the brotherhoods , movements , and finally two artists - Etsuro Sotoo , a Japanese sculptor known for his collaboration in the Sagrada Família and Anna Gulak a young Polish painter - and two journalists.
The Pope concluded the Angelus with the words: "Our gratitude goes to the missionaries who , over the centuries , have proclaimed the Gospel and spread the seed of faith in many parts of the world."
Francis' homily for today's Solemnity of Christ the King , is centered on the foundation of our faith. "The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20)".
"This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves".
"Besides being the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them. Christ, the descendant of King David, is the "brother" around whom God's people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny".
"Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today's Gospel".
"While all the others treat Jesus with disdain - "If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!" - the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clinging to the crucified Jesus, begs him: "Remember me, when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42). And Jesus promises him: "Today you will be with me in paradise" (v. 43). Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard".
"Jesus' promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God's grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom! Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let's all together on this path".