In celebrating Mass at the Mother of God shrine in Aglona, Francis calls on people to welcome others. “Sometimes we see a return to ways of thinking that would have us be suspicious of others, or would show us with statistics that we would be better off, more prosperous and more secure just by ourselves.”
Riga (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass this afternoon at the Mother of God Shrine in Aglona, Latvia, a country the pontiff praised this morning for the capacity of its people to live together.
In his homily, the Holy Father called for welcoming others “without discrimination”, to “care for them, in a spirit of universal fraternity” even if “Sometimes we see a return to ways of thinking that would have us be suspicious of others, or would show us with statistics that we would be better off, more prosperous and more secure just by ourselves.”
Thousands of people (pictured), many young people in traditional clothes, stood under a rainy sky, many singing melancholic tunes from countries that have not forgotten decades of oppression.
The Pope referred to this when he mentioned Mgr Boleslavs Sloskans, a Latvian bishop who was arrested by the Gestapo as well as, on several occasions, by Soviet authorities. Francis noted that the bishop, who is buried in Aglona, said, “do not let vengeance or exasperation find a way into your hearts.”
Likewise, Francis reminded those present that “Mary and the disciples of these lands invite us to ‘receive’ our brothers and sisters. [. . .] Mary shows herself – she stands near those who suffer, those from whom the world flees, including those who have been put on trial, condemned by all, deported. Nor is it that they are simply oppressed or exploited; they are completely ‘outside the system’, on the very fringes of society (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 53). The Mother also stands close by them, steadfast beneath their cross of incomprehension and suffering.”
“Mary also shows us how to “stand near” these situations; it demands more than simply passing by or making a quick visit, engaging in a kind of “tourism of solidarity”. Rather, it means that those in painful situations should feel us standing firmly at their side and on their side. All those discarded by society can experience the Mother who remains discreetly near them, for in their sufferings she sees the open wounds of her Son Jesus. She learned this at the foot of the cross. We too are called to “touch” the sufferings of others. Let us go out to meet our people, to console them and accompany them. Let us not be afraid to experience the power of tenderness, to get involved and let our lives become complicated for the sake of others (cf. ibid, 270).”
“Certainly, when we open ourselves to others, we can get badly hurt. In political life, too, past conflicts between peoples can painfully come to the fore. Mary shows herself to be a woman open to forgiveness, to setting aside resentment and suspicion.”
“Harmony is always difficult when we are different, when our differences of age, life experiences and circumstances lead us to feel, think and act in ways that, at first sight, seem opposed. When, in faith, we listen to the command to receive and be received, it becomes possible to build unity in diversity, for differences neither restrain nor divide us, but allow us to look more deeply and to see others in their most profound dignity, as sons and daughters of the same Father (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228).”
“In this Eucharist, as in every Eucharist, we recall the day of Golgotha. From the foot of the cross, Mary invites us to rejoice that we have been received as her sons and daughters, even as her Son Jesus invites us to receive her into our own homes and to make her a part of our lives. Mary wants to give us her courage, so that we too can remain steadfast, and her humility, so that, like her, we can adapt to whatever life brings. In this, her Shrine, she begs that all of us may recommit ourselves to welcoming one another without discrimination. In this way, all in Latvia may know that we are willing to show preference to the poor, to raise up those who have fallen, and to receive others just as they come, just as they are.”
At the end of the ceremony, the Pope offered a special rosary crown to the image of the Virgin before travelling to the heliport of Aglona to fly back to Vilnius, Lithuania.