The pontiff called for help for the Asian country during this morning’s general audience. Francis also lamented the murder of two Jesuit priests in Mexico. During the catechesis on old age, he focused on the interaction between the Risen Jesus and Peter, urging the faithful to follow Jesus “in health and in sickness”. Citing the World Meeting of Families that starts this evening in Rome, he expressed hope that the elderly "will pass onto young people the values of a happy family life rooted in God”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis held his weekly general audience this morning in St Peter’s Square in Rome. In it he once again spoke about the peoples who are suffering and expressed his closeness to those affected by violence and calamity.
“In the past few hours, an earthquake has claimed victims and caused extensive damage in Afghanistan. I express my sympathy to the injured and those affected by the earthquake, and I pray in particular for those who have lost their lives and for their families. I hope that with everyone’s help, the suffering of the dear Afghan people can be alleviated.”
Centred in the Afghan province of Paktika, the strong quake was felt in neighbouring Pakistan and India. The death toll has reached at least 950 lives so far. Such a tragedy is particularly serious in a country already experiencing a terrible humanitarian crisis since the Taliban came to power, bringing to an end many international cooperation projects.
“I also express my sorrow and dismay at the killing, in Mexico the day before yesterday, of two Jesuit religious – my confreres – and a layman,” Francis said referring to the murder of two priests, Frs Javier Campos and Joaquin Mora, and a third unidentified man, in a church in Cerocahui, Tarahumara, the northern state of Chihuahua.
“How many killings there are in Mexico!” he lamented. “With affection and prayer, I am close to the Catholic community affected by this tragedy. Once again, I repeat that violence does not solve problems, but increases unnecessary suffering.”
The pontiff then turned to speak about the Ukrainian children who were with him this morning in the popemobile at the entrance to the square, saying “let us not forget Ukraine. Let us not forget the suffering of that martyred people.”
Continuing his series of catechesis on old age, now at its 15th lesson, the pope gave his thoughts about the interaction between the risen Jesus and Peter at the end of John’s Gospel (21:15-23).
From it one can see all the love of Jesus has for his disciples, especially Peter. According to the Holy Father, theirs is “a tender relationship, but not melancholic [one]; direct, strong, free, and open. A relationship between men and in truth.”
In light of this, he urged people to ask themselves about how they might preserve an authentic relationship, like the one between Jesus and the disciples, fighting the temptation of enclosing “the testimony of the Gospel in the cocoon of a ‘sugar-coated’ revelation, to which is added our own circumstantial veneration?” Such an attitude appears to be respectful, but in fact it creates a gap between us and the real Jesus.
Francis also focused on two passages cited during Jesus’ talk with Peter, concerning precisely old age and the duration of time, namely the time of bearing witness and the time of life.
First Jesus warns Peter that when we are young, we were self-sufficient, but when we are old, we no longer are masters of ourselves and our life.
“Tell me I have to go in a wheelchair, eh?” said the pope with a touch of irony. Quoting Ignatius of Loyola, he explained: “‘Just as in life, so also in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus.’ The end of life must be an end of life of disciples: of disciples of Jesus.”
The sequela of (following) Jesus is, in fact, important in every circumstance, Francis noted. Indeed, following “Jesus is important: to follow Jesus always, on your feet, running, going slowly, in a wheelchair… but always following Him.”
The conversation between Jesus and Peter provides a precious lesson. “From our frailty we learn to express the consistency of our witness of life in the conditions of a life largely entrusted to others, largely dependent on the initiative of others.”
Certainly, for Francis, old age is also a time of trial, starting with the “very human, undoubtedly, but also very insidious” temptation of wishing to be at the centre of things at a time when this should increasingly diminish.
“You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness and death,” Francis said, “in life when it is prosperous with many successes, and in life when it is difficult, in many bad moments of failing.”
The sequela of Jesus is possible at every age in life, but it must lead the elderly to learn to take their leave from life. “The life of the elderly is a farewell, slow, slow, but a joyful farewell”. The elderly must be able to say: “I have lived life; I was a sinner but I have also done good.”
As the 10th World Meeting of Families gets underway this week, centred on “Family love: a vocation and a path of holiness”, Francis said in his address to French pilgrims: “Let us pray that the elderly may pass onto young people the values of a happy family life rooted in God, such as faithfulness, love and truth."
The Holy Father also mentioned the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which the Church is preparing to celebrate in the coming days. These festivities “remind us of the need to respond to Christ’s merciful love and invite us to entrust ourselves confidently to the intercession of the Mother of the Lord.”
PHOTO: Vatican Media