In Aquila, Pope prays for Pakistan flood victims
On his pilgrimage to the "capital of forgiveness", struck by a devastating earthquake in 2009, Francis expresses his closeness to the Pakistani population affected by the natural disasters that left over 1,000 dead: "Let international solidarity be ready and generous".
L'Aquila (AsiaNews) - Those who know what it means to lose everything cherish the gift of mercy and the gift of understanding the suffering of others. This is the message that Pope Francis wanted to launch today on his pilgrimage to L'Aquila, the "capital of forgiveness" for the Celestine Pardon, the first plenary indulgence in history instituted by Celestine V in 1294.
It was precisely from this Italian city - hit in 2009 by a devastating earthquake - that the pontiff launched a strong appeal at the Angelus for Pakistan, where floods have been sowing death and destruction for weeks.
The latest toll from the Pakistani authorities speaks of 1033 confirmed dead since mid-June. Particularly hard hit is the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on the border with Afghanistan, with completely isolated areas, millions of people affected and over 500,000 people already in camps for displaced persons.
"In this place, which has suffered a harsh calamity," said Pope Francis from Aquila, "I want to assure my closeness to the people of Pakistan affected by floods of disastrous proportions. I pray for the many victims, the injured and the displaced, and that international solidarity may be ready and generous".
In the homily of the Mass celebrated in front of the basilica of Collemaggio, Pope Francis dwelt on the meaning of the great gift of Celestine V, who despite being remembered in history for the gesture of his resignation "was not the man of 'no', he was the man of 'yes'".
"He was a courageous witness to the Gospel," he commented, "because no logic of power could imprison and manage him. In him we admire a Church free from worldly logic and fully witness to that name of God which is Mercy'.
Francis insisted one cannot understand mercy if one does not understand one's own misery. "It is the experience of feeling welcomed, restored, strengthened, healed, encouraged. To be forgiven is to experience here and now what comes closest to resurrection'.
Then, speaking of the thick fog he encountered in the morning before landing, he said: 'Eventually the pilot saw a small opening and flew through : he succeeded, a master. And I thought about misery: it is the same. So often, taking a deep look at who we are, we see nothing. But sometimes the Lord makes this little opening to be able to enter".
"You have suffered a lot because of the earthquake,' the Pope said again in Aquila, 'and as a people you are trying to get up and get back on your feet. But those who have suffered must be able to treasure their suffering, they must understand that in the darkness they have experienced, they have also been given the gift of understanding the pain of others. You can treasure the gift of mercy because you know what it means to lose everything, to see what you have built fall apart, to leave behind what was dearest to you, to feel the tear of the absence of those you loved. You can cherish mercy because you have experienced misery. In this experience you can lose everything, but you can also learn true humility. In such circumstances, one can let oneself be enraged by life, or one can learn meekness."
Finally - commenting on the Gospel passage proposed by today's liturgy (Lk 14:1, 7-14) - he recalled that "the Christian knows that his life is not a career in the manner of this world, but a career in the manner of Christ, who will say of himself that he came to serve and not to be served. Until we understand that the revolution of the Gospel lies in this kind of freedom, we will continue to witness wars, violence and injustice, which are nothing but the external symptom of a lack of inner freedom". May Mary's maternal intercession," he concluded, "obtain forgiveness and peace for the whole world. The awareness of one's own misery and the beauty of mercy'.