04/12/2015, 00.00
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Pope: as the extermination of human beings continues, we need a change of heart

Before the memorial Mass marking the centennial anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which he described as "the first genocide of the twentieth century”, Pope Francis spoke about the Armenian martyrs. “It is necessary,” he said, “indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester.” In his homily, he mentioned how to do this when he said that the saints "teach us that the world is changed starting with the conversion of one's heart, and this is done through God’s mercy.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his greetings before the memorial Mass marking the centennial anniversary of what he described as "the first genocide of the 20th century", Pope Francis noted that, despite three such massive tragedies last century, "It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood.”

Indeed, for the Holy Father, “It seems that the enthusiasm generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing. It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that ‘war is madness’, ‘senseless slaughter’.”

On the Sunday of Divine Mercy, Francis celebrated Mass to remember ‘Metz Yeghern’, the ‘Great Evil’ as it is known to Armenians. During the service, the pontiff proclaimed Saint Gregory of Narek as Doctor of the Church. The Mass was concelebrated by Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholics, in the presence of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.

Before the Mass, the pontiff said, “On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction. Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenceless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death – decapitated, crucified, burned alive – or forced to leave their homeland.”

“Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: ‘What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?’” For Francis, “our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered “the first genocide of the twentieth century” (JOHN PAUL II and KAREKIN II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenceless children and the infirm were murdered.”

“The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood. It seems that the enthusiasm generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing. It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that ‘war is madness’, ‘senseless slaughter’.”

“Dear Armenian Christians, today, [. . .] we recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!”

After greeting religious and political leaders, the pope said, “In the firm certainty that evil never comes from God, who is infinitely good, and standing firm in faith, let us profess that cruelty may never be considered God’s work and, what is more, can find absolutely no justification in his Holy Name. Let us continue this celebration by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, victor over death and evil!”

During his homily, dedicated to the Gospel of the ‘wounds’, Francis insisted that "we too, today, on this Sunday that Saint John Paul II dedicated to the Divine Mercy, the Lord shows his wounds through the Gospel. They are the wounds of mercy. Indeed, the wounds of Jesus are the wounds of mercy. Jesus calls upon us to look at these wounds, to touch them, as he did with Thomas, to heal us of our disbelief. He calls upon us above all to enter into the mystery of these wound, which is the mystery of his merciful love."

In view of the tragic events in human history, "sometimes we are overwhelmed and wonder ‘why’. Human evil can open up in the world like a hole, a huge pit – empty of love, empty of goodness, empty of life. We then wonder: how can we fill these holes? For us, it is impossible; only God can fill the holes that evil opens in our hearts and history. It is Jesus, who became a man and died on the cross, who can fill the hole of sin with the abyss of his mercy."

Christ himself "is the way that God opened for us so that we can get out, finally, of the slavery of evil and death and enter the land of life and peace. He is that Way: Jesus, crucified and risen; his wounds in particular are filled with mercy."

Finally, the Saints, "teach us that the world is changed starting with the conversion of one's heart, and this is done through God’s mercy. For this reason, faced with my sins and the great tragedies of the world, the "conscience will be disturbed, but it will not be shaken because I shall remember the wounds of the Lord, for ‘he was pierced for our sins’ (Is 53.5). What is so mortal that it cannot be dissolved by Christ’s death?'"

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