Pope: "real" mission is "attraction to Christ", concrete worship and charity
At the General Audience Francis recalls his trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan. He stresses the fraternal relationship with the Orthodox in the Caucasus and prayer for peace in Syria and Iraq.
Vatican (AsiaNews) City - "Real" mission is made up of "attraction to Christ", concrete worship and charity, "which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers". This is what the men and women religious whom the Pope met in his travels in Georgia and Azerbaijan do, as do the Christian families of those lands. The visits carried out between September 30 and October 2 in the Caucasus were recalled by Francis at his general audience today, which was attended by about 30 thousand people.
The Pope highlighted the "fraternal" relations with the Orthodox in the region and the prayer with the Assyrian-Chaldean community, "with whom I experienced in Tbilisi an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East lived". And speaking today to the Arab faithful he added: “the more credible our announcement and our witness the more we ourselves will be able to live in communion and love each other."
"Last weekend - the Pope said - I made an apostolic visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan. I thank the Lord who has granted me this grace and I renew the expression of my gratitude to the civil and religious authorities of these two countries, in particular to the Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II and the Sheikh of the Caucasian Muslims. A fraternal thanks to the Bishops, priests, religious and all the faithful who have made me feel their warm affection. "
"This trip was the continuation and completion of the one carried out in Armenia, in June. In this way I could - thank God - realize the project of visiting all three Caucasus countries, to confirm the Catholic Church that lives in them and to encourage the journey of those peoples toward peace and brotherhood. It also showed the two mottos of this last trip: for Georgia 'Pax vobis' and for Azerbaijan 'We are all brothers'. Both of these countries have very ancient cultural and religious historical roots, but at the same time are experiencing a new phase: in fact, both this year celebrate the 25th anniversary of their independence, having been for much of the twentieth century under the Soviet regime. And at this stage they are encountering many difficulties in different spheres of social life. The Catholic Church is called to be present, to be close, especially in the name of charity and human promotion; and it seeks to do so in communion with the other Churches and Christian communities and in dialogue with other religious communities, in the certainty that God is Father of all and we are brothers and sisters ".
"In Georgia this mission passes naturally through the collaboration with our Orthodox brothers, who form the vast majority of the population. So it was a very important sign that when I arrived at Tbilisi I was welcomed at the airport, along with the President of the Republic, by the venerable Patriarch Ilia II. The meeting with him that afternoon, was moving, as well as the following visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral, where the relic of the tunic of Christ is venerated, symbol of the Church. This unity is supported by the blood of so many martyrs of the different Christian confessions. Among the most tried communities there that of the Assyrian-Chaldeans, with whom I experienced in Tbilisi an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Mass in Georgia - Latin Catholics, Armenians and Assyrian-Chaldeans - was celebrated on the memorial of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, patroness of missions: she reminds us that real mission is never proselytism but attraction to Christ, strong union with Him in prayer, adoration and concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers. It is what the men and women religious I met in Tbilisi do, and even in Baku with prayer and charitable and promotional works. I encouraged them to be steadfast in the faith, in their memory, with courage and hope. And then there are the Christian families: They are precious, their presence , welcome, accompaniment, discernment and integration into the community".
"This style of evangelical presence as seed of the Kingdom of God is, if anything, even more necessary in Azerbaijan, where the majority of the population are Muslims and Catholics are a few hundred, but thank God they have good relations with everyone, in particular with Orthodox Christians. In Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, we experienced two moments of faith respecting the right balance: the Eucharist and an inter-religious meeting. The Eucharist with the Catholic community, where the Spirit harmonizes the different languages and gives the strength of witness; and this communion in Christ does not prevent, rather it pushes openness and dialogue with all those who believe in God, to jointly build a more just and fraternal world. In this perspective, addressing myself to the Azerbaijani authorities, I hope that the ongoing questions can find good solutions and all the Caucasian people can live in peace and in mutual respect. "
"God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and accompany the journey of His holy pilgrim people in those countries."