02/01/2023, 16.11
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In Congo Pope appeals to Christians who commit violence, to lay down arms

Francis' appeal at Mass celebrated at Kinshasa airport before more than a million faithful in a country deeply wounded by conflict. "In a world discouraged by violence and war we repeat with Jesus: Peace be with you."

Kinshasa (AsiaNews) - An immense crowd, well over a million people from all over the Democratic Republic of Congo, attended Mass presided by Pope Francis this morning  at the Ndolo airport area in Kinshasa in the highlight of the second day of his trip to Africa.

Before them - in this country deeply scarred by war, which in recent weeks has returned to sow blood and destruction in the east of the country - the pontiff resonated the Gospel passage of the Risen Lord's greeting to the disciples, "Peace be with you."

"Jesus," he commented in the homily of the liturgy, punctuated by the songs and rich colors of Africa, "proclaims peace while there is rubble in the hearts of the disciples, announces life while they feel death inside. Jesus' peace comes at the moment when everything for them seemed over, at the most unexpected and unexpected moment, when there were no glimmers of peace."

It is a moment that the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been grappling with war for 30 years now, knows all too well like so many other wounded areas of the world today.

"We cannot allow sadness to prevail in us," the pope told the faithful, "we cannot allow resignation and fatalism to creep in. If there is this climate around us, let it not be so for us: in a world discouraged by violence and war, Christians do as Jesus did. He, almost insisting, repeated to the disciples: peace be with you; and we are called to make our own and tell the world this unhoped-for and prophetic proclamation of peace." 

From Kinshasa Francis pointed to three "sources" from which to nurture peace: forgiveness, community and mission.

First of all, forgiveness: "It is not a matter of leaving everything behind as if nothing happened," he explains, "but of opening one's heart to others with love. This is what Jesus does: before the misery of those who have denied and abandoned him, he shows the wounds and opens the fountain of mercy. He does not use many words, but opens wide His wounded heart to tell us that He is always wounded with love for us."

Jesus knows your wounds, "continually infected by hatred and violence, while the medicine of justice and the balm of hope never seem to come." But He desires "to anoint us with His forgiveness to give us peace and the courage to forgive in turn, the courage to perform a great amnesty of the heart."

"May today be a time of grace to welcome and live Jesus' forgiveness," Pope Francis invited the Congolese. "May it be a propitious time for you, who carry a heavy burden on your heart and need it to be taken off to breathe again. And let this be a good time for you, who in this country call yourself a Christian but commit violence; to you the Lord says, 'Lay down your arms, embrace mercy.'"

He asked the faithful to remove the Crucifix from their necks and pockets, take it in their hands and bring it close to their hearts "to share your wounds with those of Jesus." "Let us give Christ the chance to heal our hearts, let us cast in Him the past, all fear and distress."

Along with forgiveness, the second source of peace is community: "The risen Jesus does not address individual disciples, but meets them together: he speaks to them in the plural. There is no Christianity without community, just as there is no peace without fraternity." He warned against the risk of "being together but going it alone, seeking in society, but also in the Church, power, career, ambitions."

He spoke of how "not to fall into the pitfalls of power and money, not to give in to divisions, to the enticements of careerism that corrode the community, to the false illusions of pleasure and witchcraft that lock one up in oneself."

The antidote, he explained, is "to have the courage to look at the poor and listen to them, because they are members of our community and not strangers to be erased from sight and conscience. To open one's heart to others, instead of closing it on one's own problems or vanities."

Finally,  mission, because peace must also be proclaimed: "Christians, sent by Christ, are called by definition to be consciences of peace in the world," he concluded.

"Not only critical consciences, but above all witnesses of love; not pretenders of their own rights, but of those of the Gospel, which are fraternity, love and forgiveness; not seekers of their own interests, but missionaries of the foolish love that God has for every human being."

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