Pope: The scandal of the cross, care of creation

At the Angelus, Pope Francis emphasizes that the cross is "sharing in the salvation of the world with Christ." "The cross is the holy sign of God's Love and of Jesus' Sacrifice, and is not to be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental necklace." The Day of Care for Creation is celebrated on September 1st, and throughout the month there are events that exalt ecological responsibility. Concerns over tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An appeal to Christians to overcome the "scandal" of the cross, not to make it an object of superstition", but a" participation with Christ in the salvation of the world", and an appeal to celebrate the Day for the Care for Creation, in a month dedicated to ecological responsibility: these are the two salient themes of Pope Francis' appointment at the Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Referring to today's Gospel (Matthew 16,21-27), in which Jesus announces his passion, the Pope spoke of the disciples who “have a faith that is still immature and too closely tied to the mentality of this world” and the reaction of Peter: "For Peter and the other disciples –but for us too! -the cross is a 'hindrance', whereas Jesus considers the 'hindrance' escaping the cross, which would mean avoiding the Father's will, the mission that the Father has entrusted to Him for our salvation.”

“Ten minutes earlier [Jesus] had praised Peter, he had promised him to be the foundation, the foundation of his Church. 10 minutes later he is saying satan to him. How should we understand this? It happens to all of us! In moments of devotion, of fervor, of good will of closeness to our neighbor, we look at Jesus and go forward; but in those moments when the cross comes, we flee. The devil, satan - as Jesus says to Peter - tempts us. It is proper to the bad spirit, it is proper to the devil to distance us from the cross, from the cross of Jesus .

The invitation that Jesus makes "to everyone" to "take up the cross" does not only mean "to bear the daily tribulations with patience, but ... to carry with faith and responsibility that part of fatigue and suffering that the fight against what evil entail." And he added: “The life of Christians is always a struggle. The Bible says that the life of Christians is a militia. To fight against the bad spirit, to fight against the Evil”.

 “Let us make sure that the cross hanging on the wall of our house, or the small one we carry around our necks, is a sign of our desire to join Christ in lovingly serving our brothers and sisters, especially the smallest and most fragile. The cross is the holy sign of God's Love and of Jesus' Sacrifice, and is not to be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental necklace. Each time we fix our gaze on the image of Christ crucified, let us contemplate that he, as the true Servant of the Lord, has accomplished his mission, giving life, spilling his blood for the pardoning of sins. As a result, if we want to be his disciples, we are called to imitate him, expending our life unreservedly out of love of God and neighbour.”

He concluded: “May the Virgin Mary, united to her Son unto Calvary, help us not to retreat in the face of the trials and suffering that witnessing to the Gospel entails.”

After the Marian prayer, Francis recalled that September 1 is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. "From this date, until 4 October - he explained - we will celebrate the "Jubilee of the Earth" with our Christian brothers of various Churches and traditions, to commemorate the institution, 50 years ago, of Earth Day. I greet the various initiatives promoted all over the world and, among these, the concert which is taking place today in the cathedral of Port-Louis, capital of Mauritius, where unfortunately an environmental disaster has recently occurred”.

The pontiff also expressed concern over the tense situation in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkish and US ships are engaged in a stand – off with Greek, French and Italian ships, over claims for the right to explore subsea gas fields.

"Please - the Pope said - I appeal to constructive dialogue and respect for international law to resolve the conflicts that threaten the peace of the peoples of that region".