Pope in Cyprus: let us not resign ourselves to Christian divisions, fruit of the past
“We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us,” he said. “[H]ostility and prejudice with regard to one another, preconceptions often based on scarce and distorted information, and spread by an aggressive and polemical literature”. The joy of the Gospel “fills the hearts” and “leads to witness and frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy and querulous faith.”
Nicosia (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis devoted his second day in Cyprus to ecumenism, to proclaiming the Gospel together, with joy and trust towards those who follow the same road.
The pontiff met with the Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, and later celebrated Mass in the presence of 10,000 people.
Like Archbishop Chrysostomos II, Francis spoke about the common Mother Church, noting that Saint Paul stopped in Cyprus before going to Rome. “We are thus heirs of the same apostolic zeal, and a single path joins us,” he said.
“It is my heartfelt hope that there will be increased opportunities for encounter, for coming to know one another better, for eliminating preconceptions and for listening with docility to our respective experiences of faith. This will prove for each of us an exhortation and incentive to do better, and bring a spiritual fruit of consolation.”
It will also help overcome “hostility and prejudice with regard to one another, preconceptions often based on scarce and distorted information, and spread by an aggressive and polemical literature”, product of a history of divisions.
“Let us not become paralyzed by fear of openness or bold gestures, or give in to talk of “irreconcilable differences” that in fact have nothing to do with the Gospel! Let us not permit the “traditions”, in the plural and with a small “t”, to prevail over “Tradition”, in the singular and with a capital “T”. That Tradition bids us imitate Barnabas and leave behind everything, however good, that could compromise the fullness of communion, the primacy of charity and the need for unity.”
In this regard, Francis noted that “as we rediscover the synodal dimension essential to being Church. In this, we feel the need to walk more closely alongside you, dear brethren, who, through your experience of synodality, can truly help us.”
“Certainly, where our relations are concerned, history has opened broad furrows between us, but the Holy Spirit desires that with humility and respect we once more draw close to one another. He invites us not to grow resigned to our past divisions and to cultivate together the field of the kingdom with patience, perseverance and concrete gestures.
“For if we set aside abstract concepts and cooperate, for example in works of charity, education and the promotion of human dignity, we will rediscover our fraternity, and communion will mature by itself, to the praise of God. Each will maintain his own customs and identity, but in time, our joint efforts will increase concord and bear fruit. Just as these beautiful Mediterranean lands are embellished by respectful and patient human labour, so too, with God’s help and humble perseverance, may we cultivate our apostolic communion!”
In his second and last activity of the morning, the pontiff celebrated Mass at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia. More than 10,000 people were present, practically all of the country’s Catholics. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa was present. Cyprus falls within his jurisdiction.
Citing the Gospel episode of the two healed blind people, Francis spoke in his homily about welcoming Jesus, who, since it is Advent, is coming. Neither sees Jesus, but they follow him because they trust him,
“Because they realized that, within the darkness of history, he is the light that brightens the ‘nights’ of the heart and the world. The light that overcomes the darkness and triumphs over the blindness. We too have a kind of ‘blindness’ in our hearts. Like those two blind men, we are often like wayfarers, immersed in the darkness of life. The first thing to do in response is go to Jesus, just as he tells us: ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28).
“Is there any one of us who is not, in some way, tired or heavy laden? Yet, we resist coming to Jesus. Often, we would rather remain closed in on ourselves, alone in the darkness, feeling sorry for ourselves and content to have sadness as our companion. Jesus is the divine physician: he alone is the true light that illuminates every man and woman (cf. Jn 1:9), the one who gives us an abundance of light, warmth and love. Jesus alone frees the heart from evil.”
This is the first passage about the inner healing brought by Jesus. The second is indicated in the fact that the blind ask: “Have mercy on us. On ‘us’, not on ‘me’. They ask for help together. This is an eloquent sign of the Christian life and the distinctive trait of the ecclesial spirit: to think, to speak and to act as ‘we’, renouncing the individualism and the sense of self-sufficiency that infect the heart.
“In the sharing of their suffering and their fraternal friendship, these two blind men have much to teach us. Each of us is blind in some way as a result of sin, which prevents us from “seeing” God as our Father and one another as brothers and sisters.
“For that is what sin does; it distorts reality: it makes us see God as a tyrant and each other as problems. It is the work of the tempter, who distorts things, putting them in a negative light, in order to make us fall into despair and bitterness. And then we become prey to a terrible sadness, which is dangerous and not from God. We must not face the darkness alone. If we bear our inner blindness alone, we can become overwhelmed. We need to stand beside one another, to share our pain and to face the road ahead together.”
“Healing takes place when we carry our pain together, when we face our problems together, when we listen and speak to one another. That is the grace of living in community, of recognizing how important it is to be community.”
The third passage refers to proclaiming the Gospel with joy, like in the story about the healed blind. “This is another distinctive sign of the Christian: the irrepressible joy of the Gospel, which ‘fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 1), naturally leads to witness and frees us from the risk of a private, gloomy and querulous faith.
“Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see you living with joy the liberating message of the Gospel. I thank you for this. It is not proselytism, but witness; not a moralism that judges but a mercy that embraces; not superficial piety but love lived out. I encourage you to keep advancing on this path.
“Like the two blind men in the Gospel, let us once more encounter Jesus, and come out of ourselves to be fearless witnesses of Jesus to all whom we meet! Let us go forth, carrying the light we have received. Let us go forth to illuminate the night that often surrounds us!
“We need enlightened Christians, but above all those who are light-filled, those who can touch the blindness of their brothers and sisters with tender love and with gestures and words of consolation that kindle the light of hope amid the darkness. Christians who can sow the seeds of the Gospel in the parched fields of everyday life, and bring warmth to the wastelands of suffering and poverty.”