Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Christians "are persecuted, and the world tries to hide it. I ask the Lord, implore the Lord for peace in Pakistan," said Pope Francis after the midday Angelus. He had mentioned as much when he introduced the midday Angelus in which he stressed that God "loves us, really love us, and loves us very much! This is simplest expression that sums up the whole Gospel, faith, and theology. God loves us freely and boundlessly. This is how God loves us."
Looking at the crucifix, Francis said, "We feel within us God's love." He went on to say that "God shows such love first with creation, as the liturgy proclaims, in the Eucharistic Prayer IV: 'you, who alone are good, the source of life, have made all that is, so that you might fill your creatures with blessings and bring joy to many of them by the glory of your light.' The Father's freely given love is at the origin of the world. An early saint, Saint Irenaeus wrote, 'In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but that He might have [some one] upon whom to confer His benefits' (Adversus haereses, IV, 14, 1). Thus is God's love.
"The Eucharistic Prayer IV goes on to say: 'And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all'. He came with His mercy. As in creation, God's freely given love stands out in the subsequent stages in the history of salvation: the Lord chooses his people not because it deserves it, but because it is the smallest among all peoples. When 'the fullness of time' came, although men had repeatedly broken the covenant, God, instead of abandoning them, forged a new bond with them, in the blood of Jesus - the bond of the new and eternal covenant - a bond that nothing will ever break."
"Saint Paul," Francis said, "told us: 'But God, who is rich in mercy (Don't forget this, ever), because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ' (Eph, 2:2-3). The Cross of Christ is the supreme test of God's mercy and love for us. Jesus loved us 'to the end' "(Jn, 13:1), i.e. not only to the last moment of his earthly life, but to the extreme limit of love. If in creation, the Father gave us proof of his boundless love by giving us life, in the passion of his Son, he gave us proof of proofs: he came to suffer and die for us. [He did] This for love. God's mercy is so great because he loves us, forgives us. With his mercy, God forgives all and God forgives always."
Mary, Mother of Mercy, is the pope's invocation before the Marian prayer. "May she place in our heart the certainty that we are loved by God. May she be close to us in times of trouble and give us her Son's feelings, so that our Lenten journey be an experience of forgiveness, acceptance and love."
Right after the Angelus, the pope gave an unscripted address to the crowd. "Dear brothers and sisters," he said, "it is with sorrow, a lot of sorrow that I learnt of today's terrorist attacks against two churches in the city of Lahore, in Pakistan, which have resulted in many dead and wounded.
"They are Christian churches. Christians are persecuted. Our brothers shed blood only because they are Christian. As I assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, I call upon the Lord, I beseech the Lord, source of all good, [to deliver] the gift of peace, and harmony to that country. May the persecution against Christians, which the world is trying to hide, come to an end, and may there be peace."
After greeting various pilgrims from around the world, the pope mentioned the Pacific islands recently hit by a typhoon. "I am close to the people of Vanuatu, in the Pacific Ocean, hit by a strong cyclone. I pray for the dead, the wounded and the homeless. I thank all those who moved immediately to bring relief and aid. I wish you all a good Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!"