Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today proposed that all Christians celebrate Easter at the same time. He did so, noting that “The Catholic Church has been willing since Paul VI to set a date and give up the first solstice after the full moon in March" by which Easter is established.
He must the proposal to find an agreement during a highly ecumenical meditation pronounced in Spanish during the third world retreat for priests, which brought together in the Basilica of St John Lateran about a thousand priest from 90 countries and 5 continents.
With ecumenical goals in mind, the pope said that he had invited the Orthodox ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to present his encyclical on ecology. "We are friends,” he said, “ but he had a commitment, and so sent the Archbishop of Pergamum Zizoulas. This way, the encyclical will be presented by one of the greatest Orthodox theologians.
“Ex oriente lux, former occidente luxsus,” said the pope in relation to Orthodox Christians. "From the Orthodox East and its Asian part comes the light" of spirituality, while the West exports "luxury, hedonism, consumerism," all things that are causing "decadence," said the pontiff. Indeed, he emphasised Asia’s “spiritual reserves,” noting the cultural and pastoral contributions from the Churches in Japan, Korea, Thailand, and others
Citing the fate of migrants in the Indian Ocean faced with refoulement, he warned that forcing back migrants is a “sin”. What is more, this “kind of attitude in a continent that has a mystical treasure-trove is not inherent, it comes from another part. [. . .] Likewise, the fundamentalism found in some parts of Pakistan where Christians were burnt alive for bearing the Gospel is not inherent. [. . .] There are problems, but Asia is a promise, a future, full of spiritual reserves."
The long meeting gave the pope an opportunity to announce that he would travel to Uganda and the Central African Republic in November. Kenya could be added but it is an idea that is only a possibility. In response to a question from an African priest, Francis said that “Africa is generous with the world, but the world is not generous with Africa, because it uses and treats it as a land to be exploited.”
The pope spoke again about the homily. “In homilies,” he said, "have pity on the people of God. [. . .] People cannot bear more than eight minutes, then they turn off. They want you to speak to the heart. An idea, an image, a feeling is what a homily must have”. Thus, "it is not a lecture or a lesson in catechesis;" it is "positive, not restrictive language."
"Get together as priests to prepare homilies. Please, do not scare the people of God, do not waste time. Talk of God's Kingdom, the Beatitudes, the love that transforms the heart. God's love is stronger than any murderous terrorism."
"Who are we? Puritans? Please [avoid] a Church without Jesus and without mercy! Do not drive away faithful people," he said citing the case of a priest in Buenos Aires who refused to baptise the child of a single mother.
"When this happens, the heart of a priest is bureaucratic; it is closely tied to the law of the Church. The Church, which is like a mother, becomes for many believers a stepmother. Please, make others feel that the Church is always a mother!"
"Be merciful! Be merciful!" he repeated. "The mere fact that someone comes, and kneels in the confessional is a sign of penance; the deed precedes the word, it is an act of penance. The fact that someone comes with this deed to the confessional means that he wants to change. [. . .] Mercy in confessions, mercy."
The pope also spoke about the status of women in the Church. "I am glad to see women in the front row because women too receive the Holy Spirit. Women’s genius is a grace; the church is a woman, the Church is feminine, not masculine. ‘She’ is the bride of Christ, the mother of the holy faithful people of God."
"The Church is a woman,” he added, “and women are the image and model of the Church, of the mother, expressing in a special way collaboration. In response to feminist claims (I say) that Mary is much more important than the apostles."