Pope: believers united in Ukraine prostrated by war
Before the general audience the Pope met with the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Religious Organisations on the closing day of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the catechesis the reflection on Jesus as master of proclamation. A few days before the International Day of Remembrance the warning: "The Holocaust can neither be forgotten nor denied".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Unity among religious denominations "is a concrete witness to peace in a country suffering from war," Pope Francis said this morning as he received - before the start of today's general audience - a delegation from the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, including Greek Catholics, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims.
The meeting - which took place on the day on which tonight the pontiff will close the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls - was once again an opportunity to show his closeness to the war-torn country and to recall the role of peace that is asked of religions in this great tragedy.
"I am with you," he wrote in the speech delivered to those present, "in the closeness and support of families, children, the elderly, the sick, the most fragile people. I am with you in defending the rights of the faithful of every religious community, especially those who suffer abuse and persecution. I am with you in your efforts to assist prisoners and those detained for political reasons. I encourage your efforts to re-establish respect by all for the principles and norms of international law and fundamental human rights. And I consider it a grace from God that all these initiatives you decide and carry out together, as brothers."
'I thank you for this unity of yours,' he added moving away from the prepared text, 'this for me is a great thing, like the children of a family who are one over there, one over there, but when their mother is sick they are all together."
During the catechesis with the faithful in the Paul VI Hall, the pontiff then continued the cycle of reflections on the passion for evangelisation, dwelling on Jesus as the master of proclamation.
Commenting on the first very short 'sermon' in the synagogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:21), Francis emphasised how the first element he speaks of is joy: 'When it is missing,' he commented, 'the Gospel does not pass, because it is good proclamation, proclamation of joy. A sad Christian can speak of beautiful things, but it is all in vain if the proclamation he conveys is not joyful'.
Jesus then - quoting the prophet Isaiah - also says that he was sent "to proclaim deliverance to the captives". "He who proclaims God," Francis emphasised, "cannot proselytise, cannot pressure others, but lighten them: not impose burdens, but lift them up; bring peace, not guilt.
Of course, following Jesus entails asceticism, sacrifices; but those who witness to Christ show the beauty of the goal, rather than the fatigue of the journey. It will have happened to us to tell someone about a beautiful journey we have made: we will have spoken of the beauty of the places, of what we have seen and experienced, not of the time to get there and the queues at the airport".
Another sign of which he speaks is bringing "sight to the blind": evangelising is giving "the light of sonship, with Him life is no longer a blind advance towards nothingness, it is not a matter of luck or fortune, it is not something that depends on chance or the stars, nor even on health and finances, but on the love of the Father, who takes care of us, his beloved children".
Then the healing of those who 'set at liberty those oppressed' by sin. Proclaiming the Gospel," the pope noted, "means saying: 'Brother, sister, I do not have answers to so many of your problems, but Jesus knows you and loves you, he can heal you and soothe your heart'.
The Pope concluded noting that "the proclamation of Jesus must always bring the amazement of grace that, even through us, accomplishes unpredictable things. God's surprises. Without forgetting that this word - says the teacher in Capernaum - is addressed first of all to the poor: "We often forget about them, yet they are the recipients explicitly mentioned by Jesus, because they are God's chosen ones".
Finally, in his greetings to the faithful, Pope Francis recalled the appointment of the International Holocuast Remembrance Day, which is celebrated on 27 January. "The extermination of millions of people, Jews and those of other faiths, can neither be forgotten nor denied," he admonished. "There can be no constant commitment to building fraternity together without first having dissipated the roots of hatred and violence that nourished the horror of the Holocaust".