At the general audience, Francis retraces the stages of the visit to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia. The "tenderness" of the sisters of Mother Teresa in Skopje, the "step forward" with the Orthodox in the meeting with the Patriarch Neofit and the interreligious meeting for peace. "Even today there is a need for passionate and creative evangelizers, so that the Gospel may reach those who do not yet know it and can irrigate the lands where the ancient Christian roots have dried up".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "tenderness" of the sisters of Mother Teresa in Skopje, the "step forward" with the Orthodox in the meeting with the Patriarch Neofit and the interreligious meeting for peace: these are the moments of the journey to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia particularly underlined by Pope Francis in today's general audience, one day after returning to Rome.
In fact, Francis spoke of the "three-day apostolic journey that took me to Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia" to the 20,000 people present in St Peter's Square.
"In Bulgaria I was guided by the living memory of St. John XXIII, who was sent there in 1925 as a Visitor and then an Apostolic Delegate. Animated by his example of benevolence and pastoral charity, I met that people, called to act as a bridge between Central, Eastern and Southern Europe; with the motto "Pacem in terris" I invited everyone to walk on the path of fraternity; and in this way, in particular, I had the joy of taking a step forward in the meeting with the patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Neofit and the members of the Holy Synod. In fact, as Christians, our vocation and mission is to be a sign and instrument of unity, and we can be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, by placing what unites us before what has divided us or still divides us ”.
"Today’s Bulgaria is one of the lands evangelized by Saints Cyril and Methodius, which Saint John Paul II has flanked with Saint Benedict as patrons of Europe." "Even today there is a need for passionate and creative evangelizers, so that the Gospel may reach those who do not yet know it and can irrigate the lands where the ancient Christian roots have dried up". "The last act of the trip to Bulgaria was accomplished together with the representatives of the different religions: we invoked the gift of peace from God, while a group of children carried lit candles, a symbol of faith and hope".
"In Northern Macedonia I was accompanied by the strong spiritual presence of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was born in Skopje in 1910 and there, in her parish, where she received the sacraments of Christian initiation and learned to love Jesus. In this woman, minute but full of strength thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, in her we see the image of the Church in that country and in other peripheries of the world: a small community that, with the grace of Christ, becomes a welcoming home where many find sustenance for their life. At the Mother Teresa Memorial I prayed in the presence of other religious leaders and a large group of poor, and I blessed the first stone of a shrine dedicated to her ”.
"Northern Macedonia has been an independent country since 1991. The Holy See has tried to support its path from the beginning. With my visit I wanted to encourage above all its traditional ability to host different ethnic and religious affiliations; as well as his commitment to welcoming and helping a large number of migrants and refugees during the critical period of 2015 and 2016. A great welcome, they have a great heart. Migrants create problems, but they welcome them”.
"I was struck by the evangelical tenderness of the sisters of Mother Teresa. They welcome everyone and do it with tenderness. Often we Christians lose tenderness and become acid ”. "They carry out acts of charity with tenderness, may God bless them".
Francis had also spoken yesterday of the Sisters of Mother Teresa, meeting journalists on the return flight from Skopje. "The experience with the poor today here in Macedonia at the Mother Teresa Memorial. There were so many poor people, but to see the meekness of those sisters: they were caring for the poor without paternalism, but as children. But a meekness, the ability to caress the poor, the tenderness of these sisters. Today, we are used to insulting each other. One politician insults the other, one neighbor insults the other, even in families they insult each other. I cannot say that it is a culture of insult, but the insult is a weapon in the hand, even to speak ill of others, slander, defamation, and to see these sisters that care for every person as Jesus. It hit me, a good young man approached and the superior told me, 'this is a good boy' and caressed him and she said it with the tenderness of a mom and made me feel the Church a mother. It is one of the most beautiful things to feel the maternity of the Church. Today I felt it there. And I thank Northern Macedonia for having this treasure. "
"In addition to the testimonies of the young, in Skopje I listened to those of the priests and consecrated persons. Men and women who gave their lives to Christ. For them, sooner or later, the temptation comes to say: "Lord, what is this little gift of mine in the face of the problems of the Church and the world?". So I reminded them that a bit of yeast can make all the dough grow, and a little bit of perfume, pure and concentrated, can spread a good smell throughout any environment. It is the mystery of Jesus-the Eucharist, seed of new life for all humanity. The Holy Mass celebrated in Skopje Square has renewed once again, in a periphery of today's Europe, the miracle of God who, with a few loaves and fish, broken and shared, satisfies the hunger of the multitudes. To his inexhaustible Providence we entrust the present and the future of the peoples I visited on this journey. And I invite you all to pray to Our Lady to bless these two countries".