VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Saturday welcomed members of the armed forces and police from around the world to a special audience celebrating the Jubilee Year.
“I am particularly pleased to welcome the members of the armed forces and police from throughout the world who are with us today,” Pope Francis told thousands of faithful and pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square.
“Dear friends, your demanding work is above all a service to peace, security and reconciliation in society. I encourage you never to lose heart before the difficulties and conflicts you encounter, but to grow always in faith and trust in God’s loving help. Thus you will be signs of Christian hope, with its certainty that love conquers evil and that peace triumphs over violence and war,” he said.
Earlier this week, Italian authorities arrested six suspects who allegedly received orders from ISIS to attack the Vatican and the Israeli Embassy in Rome. The arrests, carried out in the northern Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont, were the result of a joint operation coordinated by law enforcement, the district attorney of Milan and the Italian anti-terrorism agency.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ expressed his confidence in the security measures currently in place for the Jubilee Year, saying after the arrests: “The preventative security measures in place to protect pilgrims during the Jubilee year are serious and functioning properly, as everyone can see and has witnessed. Therefore, there appears to be no need to modify them.”
Pope Francis’ special Saturday morning catechesis for the Year of Mercy focused on Saint Paul’s exhortation to “be reconciled to Christ” (2 Cor 5:20).
God constantly offers us his forgiveness, he said. But in our sinfulness we can only return to him by freely accepting his grace.
“Often we believe our sins push God away from us. In reality, by sinning we push ourselves away from Him,” he said. “But seeing us in danger, he keeps searching for us. God never accepts the possibility that someone could remain estranged from His love, as long as He finds in that person some sign of contrition for the evil committed.”
For this, he has given us his Son Jesus, whose Cross is a bridge leading us back to the Father.
“The sinner sees only himself and thus pretends to be self-sufficient. Sin therefore distances us ever more from God, and this can become a barrier. However, Jesus comes to look for us like a good shepherd who is not content until he has not found the lost sheep (cf. Luke 15:4-6). He rebuilds the bridge which connects us to the Father and allows us to rediscover our dignity as sons and daughters. With the offer of his life, he has reconciled us to the Father and given us the gift of eternal life (cf. John 10:15). ‘Be reconciled to God!’”
This Holy Year is a time for each of us to accept this offer of reconciliation and, in our communities, to bring it to the world around us, the pope said. Being reconciled with God not only brings inner healing and peace, but also impels us to work for reconciliation within society at every level, and thus contribute to the building of a global culture of peace, justice and solidarity.
Following his address, Pope Francis greeted the English-speaking visitors, “particularly those from the armed forces and police agencies who have come from Canada, Kenya, Korea, the Philippines and the United States of America.”
“In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!”
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondentfor Aleteia’s English edition.