05/12/2024, 16.22
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Pope Francis calls for a prisoner exchange between Russians and Ukrainians

He made the appeal during the Regina Caeli in the name of the Risen One "who frees us”. For the Solemnity of the Ascension, which is being celebrated today in Italy, the faithful may ask if the desire for eternal life “alive in me?” Francis spoke about the “wisdom of the heart” on World Day of Social Communications and expressed gratitude to all mothers on their feast day.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis renewed his appeal for an exchange of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war today from St Peter's Square at the end of the Regina Caeli prayer, on the day in which the Church in Italy celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension.

“As we celebrate the Ascension of the Risen Lord, who frees us and wants us free, I renew my appeal for a general exchange of all the prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” the pontiff said.

To this end, he expressed “the willingness of the Holy See to favour any effort in this regard, especially for those who are gravely injured and ill.”

The Holy Father went on to ask the faithful “to pray for peace in Ukraine, in Palestine, in Israel, in Myanmar… Let us pray for peace.”

“Jesus’ return to the Father appears to us not as His detachment from us, but rather like preceding us to the destination,” Francis said.

“Just as, when in the mountains, one ascends to a summit: one walks, with difficulty, and finally, at a turn in the path, the horizon opens up and one sees the panorama.”

The Church, the pontiff said, walks with Jesus on this ascent because, “step by step, one rung at a time, Jesus shows us the way.”

What are these steps? “Today’s Gospel says: ‘preach the Gospel, baptize, cast out demons, pick up serpents, lay hands on the sick’ (cf. Mk 16:16.18); in summary, to perform the works of love: to give life, bring hope, steer away from any form of wickedness and meanness, respond to evil with good, be close to those who suffer.”

“And the more we do this, the more we let ourselves be transformed by the Spirit, the more we follow His example, as in the mountains, we feel the air around us become light and clean, the horizon broad and the destination near”.

Thus, we ought to ask ourselves: “Is the desire for God, the desire for His infinite love, for His life that is eternal life, alive in me? Or am I a bit dulled and anchored to passing things, or money, or success, or pleasure?”

Likewise, “does my desire for Heaven isolate me, does it seal me off, or does it lead me to love my brothers and sisters with a big and selfless heart, to feel that they are my companions on the journey towards Paradise?

“May Mary, She who has already arrived at the destination, help us to walk together with joy towards the glory of Heaven.

For the Catholic Church, Ascension Day is also the World Day of Social Communications, which this year focuses on “Artificial Intelligence and Wisdom of the Heart".

“Only by restoring a wisdom of the heart can we interpret the demands of our time and rediscover the way towards a fully human communication. Our thanks go to all communication workers for their work!” Francis said at the end of the Regina Caeli.

Finally, the pope noted that the second Sunday in May is also Mother's Day in many countries.

“[L]et us think gratefully of all mothers, and let us also pray for the mothers who have gone to Heaven. And let us entrust mothers to the protection of Mary, our heavenly mother.”

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