Ten years of Pope Francis’s words to Asia
From Korea to Kazakhstan, from the victims of Typhoon Yolanda to the Rohingya, from Mother Teresa to Matteo Ricci, Pope Francis has paid constant attention to Asia over the past ten years. On the tenth anniversary of his election we present ten excerpts from addresses, homilies and interviews in which the pontiff speaks directly to the peoples of the continent.
Milan (AsiaNews) - It is ten years since Pope Francis was elected successor of Peter on 13 March 2013. The pontiff’s constant attention to the peoples of Asia is one of the many facets of these ten years of pontificate. Pope Francis has visited the continent on many occasions, talked about their martyrs, and bowed to today's wounds. He has chosen many new cardinals from the smaller flocks of its Churches. The following ten excerpts are taken from addresses he has made during his visits and from other significant moments of the past ten years. These words ideally embrace the challenges the continent faces today.
Korea: Convincing witnesses of reconciliation
“Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others! I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land. Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long."
Seoul, Holy Mass for peace and reconciliation, 18 August 2014
Sri Lanka: respect and frankness in dialogue between religions
“At the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church declared her deep and abiding respect for other religions.”
“It is in this spirit of respect that the Catholic Church desires to cooperate with you, and with all people of good will, in seeking the welfare of all Sri Lankans.”
“But, as experience has shown, for such dialogue and encounter to be effective, it must be grounded in a full and forthright presentation of our respective convictions. Certainly, such dialogue will accentuate how varied our beliefs, traditions and practices are. But if we are honest in presenting our convictions, we will be able to see more clearly what we hold in common. New avenues will be opened for mutual esteem, cooperation and indeed friendship."
Colombo, Interreligious and ecumenical gathering, 13 January 2015
Philippines: Jesus on the cross and the victims of natural disasters
“[W]hen I witnessed his disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here. That is when I decided to come here.”
“I am here to tell you that Jesus is Lord; that Jesus does not disappoint. ‘Father’, one of you may tell me, ‘he disappointed me because I lost my house, I lost my family, I lost everything I had, I am sick.’”
“What you say is true and I respect your feelings, but I see him there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not disappoint us.”
“Many of you looked to Christ and asked: Why, Lord? To each of you the Lord responds from his heart. I have no other words to say to you. Let us look to Christ: he is the Lord, and he understands us, for he experienced all the troubles we experience.”
Tacloban, Mass for the victims of typhoon Yolanda, 17 January 2015
China: With Matteo Ricci in dialogue with the culture of this great country
“[Matteo] Ricci’s experience teaches us that it is necessary to enter into dialogue with China, because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history. It is a land blessed with many things. And the Catholic Church, one of whose duties is to respect all civilizations, before this civilization, I would say, has the duty to respect it with a capital ‘R’. The Church has great potential to receive culture.”
“When I crossed China for the first time, I was told in the aircraft: ‘within ten minutes we will enter Chinese airspace, and send your greeting’. I confess that I felt very emotional, something that does not usually happen to me. I was moved to be flying over this great richness of culture and wisdom.”
Interview with Asia Times, 2 February 2016
India: Mother Teresa is the example of freely given Christian love
“Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. [. . .] Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. [. . .] May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion.”
Rome, Canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 4 September 2016
Myanmar: The future must be peace based on the rule of law
“The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”
“In the great work of national reconciliation and integration, Myanmar’s religious communities have a privileged role to play. Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building.”
Naypyidaw, Address to government authorities, civil society, 28 November 2017
Bangladesh: Today, God is called Rohingya
“Dear brothers and sisters, all of us are close to you. There is little that we can do because your tragedy is so great. But let us make room in our heart. In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, of those who have wronged you, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask your forgiveness. Forgiveness. So many of you have told me about the Bangladesh’s big heart that has welcomed you. Now I appeal to your big heart, that it can grant us the forgiveness we seek.” [. . .] Let us not close our hearts, or look the other way. The presence of God, today, is also called 'Rohingya'. May each of us respond in his or her own way."
Dhaka, Remarks of the Holy Father to the Group of Rohingya Refugees, 1 December 2017
Thailand: Let the Churches of Asia not forget that it was the laity who evangelised them
“Let us not lose sight of the fact that many of your lands were evangelized by the lay faithful. Let us not clericalize our mission, please, and no less should we clericalize the laity. These laypeople were able to speak the dialect of their people, a simple and direct exercise of inculturation, neither theoretical nor ideological, but the fruit of their zeal to share Christ. The holy and faithful People of God possesses the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which we are called to recognize, esteem and expand. Let us never lose the grace of seeing God working in the midst of his people, as he did in the past, as he is doing now and as he will continue to do.”
Bangkok, Meeting with the bishops of Thailand and the FABC, 22 November 2019
Japan: Nuclear weapons are an unceasing attack that cries out to heaven
“Here in this city which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough. The arms race wastes precious resources that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and to protect the natural environment. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.”
Nagasaki, Address of the Holy Father on nuclear weapons, 24 November 2019
Kazakhstan: There is a grace in being a small flock as Church
“Naturally, in facing the many challenges to the faith [. . .], the problems and difficulties of life, and the limited numbers of those practising their faith in a vast country like this –, we may well feel “little” and inadequate. Yet, if we see things with the hope-filled gaze of Jesus, we make a surprising discovery: the Gospel says that being “little”, poor in spirit, is a blessing, a beatitude, and indeed the first of the beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3). For once we acknowledge our littleness, we can humbly hand ourselves over to the power of God, who teaches us not to base our ecclesial activity on our own abilities. This is a grace! I repeat: there is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a little flock, for instead of showing off our strengths, our numbers, our structures and other things that are humanly important, we can let ourselves be guided by the Lord and humbly draw close to others. Rich in nothing and poor in everything, let us walk with simplicity alongside our sisters and brothers, bringing the joy of the Gospel into the situations of everyday life."
Astana, Meeting with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers, 15 September 2022
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