Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The news coming from Iraq leaves us feeling "dismay and disbelief", in the words of Pope Francis following the Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. The pontiff spoke of the pain and suffering of the people who have fled from Mosul and Qaraqosh in recent days: "Thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!"
"Thinking of these people, this situation - he added - let us all share a moment of silence and prayer". And the entire square observed a minute of silence.
"I thank - he said - those who, with courage, are bringing relief to these brothers and sisters." A few days ago AsiaNews launched an appeal for aid to Iraqi Christians, entitled "Adopt a Christian from Mosul".
The Pope expressed his hope that "an effective political solution on both the international and the local levels may be found to stop these crimes and re-establish the law". In order to "better ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them" the Pope has named Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples Cardinal Fernando Filoni his Personal Envoy to Iraq. The cardinal, in the past, was nuncio in Baghdad. The Pope also said that tomorrow Card. Filoni will travel to Iraq.
After also recalling the tragedy of Gaza, where "after a truce, war has once again resumed - a war that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians", Francis urged those present to pray together to "the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Give peace, O Lord, in our days, and make us builders of justice and peace. Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us".
The pontiff also noted that August 13 to 18 next he will make an apostolic trip to Korea. "Please - he said - accompany me with prayer! I need it. Thank you."
Before the Marian prayer, Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel, which presents the story of Jesus walking on the water of the lake (Mt 14.22 to 33).
The Pope focused primarily on the faith of the Apostle Peter: "The voice of Jesus telling him:" Come! ", He recognizes the echo of the first meeting on the shore of that lake, and now, once again, leaves the boat and goes to the Master. And walking on the water! A trusting and ready response to the Lord's call can always accomplish extraordinary things. Instead, Peter begins to sink when he looks away from Jesus and is carried away by the adversities that surround him. But the Lord is always there, and when Peter calls, Jesus saves him from danger. Peter's character, with his outbursts and his weaknesses, reflects our faith: always fragile and poor, restless and yet victorious, the faith of the Christian walks to meet the risen Lord, in the midst of the world's storms and dangers".
"It's very important - he continued - even the final scene. When they got on the boat, the wind ceased. The ones who were in the boat bowed down before him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God '" (vv.32 -33.) All of the disciples on the boat were united by the experience of weakness, of doubt, of fear, of "little faith." But when Jesus returns to the boat, the weather changes quickly: everyone feels united in faith in Him. All who were small and frightened become great when they bow their knee and recognize the Son of God in their master".
"How often is it the same with us? - added the Pope speaking in off the cuff remarks - without Jesus, distant from Jesus we feel frightened and inadequate, to the point we no longer believe we can make it. We lack faith. Yet Jesus is with us, ready to support us".
"This - he concluded - is an effective image of the Church: a boat that must face the storms and sometimes seems on the verge of being overwhelmed. It is not the quality and the courage of its men and women that saves it, but faith, which allows it to walk in the dark, in the midst of difficulties. Faith gives us the peace of Jesus' presence always near, his hand that grasps our own to escape all dangers. All of us are on this boat, and here we feel safe despite our limitations and our weaknesses. We are save especially when we know how to fall to our knees and worship Jesus, the only Lord of our lives. This is what our mother, Mary calls us to do. Confident in this, we turn to her".