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Pope: May the Lord convert the hearts of the violent

Vatican Insider - published on 07/03/16

After the message he sent yesterday to the diocese of Dhaka through the Secretary of State, Parolin, at today’s Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope spoke once again about the victims of the latest terrorist attacks.

“I wish to express my closeness,” he said, “to the families of the victims and wounded of yesterday’s attacks in Dhaka and Baghdad (this morning a car bomb killed over 78 people, Ed.). Let us pray together, let us pray together for them, for the dead and let us ask the lord to convert the hearts of the violent who are blinded by hatred.” The Pope went on to recite an “Ave Maria”.

Before reciting the Angelus, Francis reflected on a page from Luke’s Gospel. “Today’s Gospel passage,” he said, “shows us how important it is to invoke God, “the Lord of the harvest, that he may send workers into his harvest field.” The “workers” Jesus speaks of are the missionaries of God’s Kingdom, whom He himself would call and send out “two by two ahead of Him to every town and place He was about to visit. Their task was to announce a message of salvation to everyone, saying: “The Kingdom of God is near you”. And Jesus did indeed bring God closer to us; through Jesus, God reigns among us, his merciful love defies sin and human misery”.

“This,” Francis continued, “is the Good News “workers” are called upon to communicate to everyone: a message of hope and consolation, peace and charity. When Jesus sends his disciples out ahead of Him, He urges them: “Begin by saying: ‘peace to this house!’. The missionaries, he added off the cuff, always announced a message of salvation for everyone and to everyone, not just the missionaries who travel afar but also us Christians, who say a good word of salvation and this is Jesus’ gift”.

This salvation comes about in the day to day: “All this means that the Kingdom of God is build day by day and has already born the fruits of conversion, purification, love and consolation among people on this earth. How beautiful it is,” he continued off the cuff, “to build a kingdom day by day: build, not destroy.”

“When we do this,” Pope Francis said, speaking about proclaiming the Gospel, “the heart fills with joy and this expression makes me think of the joy the Church feels when its children receive the good news thanks to the dedication of so many men and women who proclaim the Gospel on a daily basis – priests, those good parish priests we all know, nuns, missionaries – and I ask myself, listen to this question,” he said to faithful, “I ask myself: how many of you young people present in the square today feel the Lord’s calling to follow Him? Don’t be afraid and pass on this torch of apostolic zeal which has been given to us by these disciples.”

The Pope then addressed another question to the crowds of faithful. “With what spirit should Jesus’ disciple carry out this mission? Above all, he must be aware of the difficult and sometimes hostile reality that awaits him.” “But Jesus,” Francis explained, “does not mince his words on this, he says: ‘I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves’, he makes it patently clear and there is persecution right from the start”, “because he knows what the mission is about”. “The worker in the Gospel,” the Pope explained, “will strive to free him or herself from human conditioning of any kind, leaving behind their bag, sac and sandals, which means abandoning anything that is a source of personal vanity, careerism and thirst for power and becoming instead, instruments of salvation which came about through Jesus’ sacrifice”. The Christian’s mission in the world is wonderful and intended for everyone, without exception; it requires a great deal of generosity; most importantly it requires us to have our eyes and our hearts pointed upwards, in order to invoke the help of the Lord. There is so much need for Christians who can bear witness to the Gospel with joy, in everyday life.”

Francis then spared a thought for Maria Goretti’s sacrifice. The fatally wounded 11-year-old Italian virgin-martyr Maria Goretti forgave her rapist before she died. “In this Holy Year of Mercy, I wish to remind everyone that next Wednesday we shall be celebrating the memory of St, Maria Goretti, the martyr girl who forgave her killer before dying.” The Pope asked the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to applaud the pure young martyr.

After the Angelus, the Pope praised faithful from the Italian city of Bergamo, who really stood out today : “ they put so much energy into making that huge banner”, the Pope said. He also expressed his admiration to faithful from Ascoli Piceno, a town in Italy’s Le Marche region, who came all the way to Rome on foot for the Jubilee. Among the various groups present, the Pope, who sounded a little under the weather, mentioned all those who “came from Krakow on horseback” and those who came on foot from Salaria and by bike and motorbike from Cardito, a town in the Southern Italian region of Campania.

“I wish everyone a pleasant Sunday,” he ended by saying. “Please don’t forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and goodbye!” 

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