Pope Francis lit a candle during the Angelus as a sign of hope for the children of Syria. "May God our Lord forgive those who make war, who make weapons to destroy themselves; may the Lord convert their hearts,” he said inviting the faithful to recite a Hail Mary together for his “beloved Syria". Staying awake and praying is how to experience Advent. “But if we think about Christmas as a worldly festival, of consumerism, Jesus will pass by and we shall not see him."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “May these flames of hope disperse the darkness of war,” said Pope Francis as he joined an initiative by Aid to the Church in Need calling on the children of Syria and the world to light a candle at the beginning of Advent as "a sign of hope for children of Syria, battered by a war that has lasted for eight years."
Speaking to the faithful in St Peter's Square, after the Angelus prayer, the pontiff added: "Let us pray and help Christians remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. May the flame of hope also reach all those who are at present subjected to conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far. May the Church’s prayers help them feel the closeness of the faithful God and touch every conscience for a sincere commitment to peace."
Speaking off the cuff, he pontiff invited the faithful to recite a Hail Mary together for our “beloved Syria". "May God our Lord forgive those who make war, who make weapons to destroy themselves; may the Lord convert their hearts”.
The pope spoke about hope earlier, explaining the meaning of Advent, the liturgical season that begins today and prepares for Christmas. "During Advent,” he said, “we do not just live waiting for Christmas. We are also invited to awaken the wait for the glorious return of Christ, preparing ourselves for the final meeting with him with coherent and courageous choices.
"During these four weeks we are called to come out of a resigned and habitual way of life, nurturing hopes and dreams for a new future. The Gospel of this Sunday (cf. Lk 21: 25-28.34-36) goes precisely in that direction and warns us against letting ourselves be oppressed by a self-centred lifestyle and the convulsive pace of the days."
"Stay awake and pray: this is how one lives this period from today until Christmas. Inner sleep arises from always turning around ourselves and being stuck in the indoors of one's life with one’s problems, joys and pains. This is the root of the torpor and idleness the Gospel speaks of.
"Advent invites us to a vigilant commitment, looking outside of ourselves, broadening our mind and heart to open ourselves to our brothers' needs and the desire for a new world. This is the desire of so many peoples tormented by hunger, injustice and war; this is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This time is right for opening our hearts, asking ourselves real questions about how and for whom we spend our lives."
"The second attitude to live well the time of waiting for the Lord is prayers . . . As we wait for Jesus, we want to wait for him in prayer, which is closely linked to vigilance. But if we think about Christmas as a worldly festival, of consumerism, Jesus will pass us by and we shall not see him."
Furthermore, "We Christians, who are also God's people, run the risk of becoming worldly, of losing our identity, or rather, of ‘paganising’ the Christian style."
Lastly, "May the Virgin Mary, a woman of waiting and prayer, help us strengthen our hope in the pledges of her Son Jesus, to make us experience, through the travail of history, that God always remains faithful and even uses human errors to show his mercy.”