Over the centuries, the world has defined Jesus in different ways: a great prophet of justice and love; a wise master of life; a revolutionary; a dreamer of the dreams of God … and so on. Many beautiful things. In the chatter of these and other hypotheses, the confession of Simon, called Peter, humble and full of faith, stands still today, simple and clear: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). Jesus is the Son of God: therefore He is perennially alive as His Father is eternally alive. This is the novelty that grace ignites in the heart of those who open themselves to the mystery of Jesus: the non-mathematical certainty, but even stronger, interior, of having met the Source of Life, the Life itself made flesh, visible and tangible in our midst. This is the experience of the Christian, and it is not the merit of us Christians, it is not our merit, but it comes from God, it is a grace of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. All this is contained in Peter’s answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
The minority situation in which Christians are found in the Middle East is an urgent reason for meeting in what could be called an “ecumenism of life”. In his own Letter to Christians in the Middle East, the Holy Father underlined this ecumenical call to holiness for Christians in all the Churches of the Middle East: “The situation in which are you living is a powerful summons to holiness of life, as saints and martyrs of every Christian community have attested”.
When difficulties become suffering, this ecumenism of holiness becomes an ecumenism of blood. Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made this topic one of his main ecumenical themes. Among the various statements, I recall his words at the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem: “When Christians of different confessions suffer together, side by side, and assist one another with fraternal charity, there is born an ecumenism of suffering, an ecumenism of blood. … Those who kill, persecute Christians out of hatred, do not ask if they are Orthodox or Catholics: they are Christians. The blood of Christians is the same” (25 May 2014).
Pope Francis made a special stop in the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall on Wednesday to greet several sick and disabled people, before lauding the Special Olympics organization on its 50th anniversary.
He gave a warm welcome to the “Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative of the Americas” group and prayed for the spiritual outcome of their pilgrimage to Rome.
“The Lord reserves a special place in His heart for whoever has a disability, and so does the Successor of Peter,” the Pope said.
The challenge of Christian life, he said, is asking the Lord for the grace “to bless our enemies” and to love them.
“To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
The Pope reminded his listeners that women are what men on their own lack to be the image and likeness of God. He explained how Jesus’ words about women were radical and ground-breaking and “changed history.” This was because up until then, a woman was considered “a second class citizen,” she was “enslaved” and “did not even enjoy complete freedom,” he said.
Jesus’ doctrine about women changes history. Before Jesus the view about women was one thing but after Jesus they are another. Jesus dignifies women and puts them on the same level as men because he takes that first word of the Creator, both are “the image and likeness of God”, both of them; not first the man and then a little lower down the woman, no, both are. And a man without a woman beside him – whether as a mother, as a sister, as a bride, as a working companion, as a friend – that man by himself is not the image of God.
Referring to the passage from the Gospel of Mark, Pope Francis reproposes the theme of being men and women bearing joy in his homily on Monday at Casa Santa Marta.
It is “joy that Christians breath”, he said. Christians express themselves joyfully. Joy cannot be purchased or forced.
Joy does not mean living from laugh to laugh. No, it’s not that. Joy is not entertainment. No, it’s not that. It is something else. Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give. This is Christian joy. It is not easy to foster this joy.
There is a healthy restlessness, and there is another which is not healthy – that which seeks security above all, which seeks pleasure above all. The young man in the Gospel was afraid that if he gave up his wealth he would not be happy. Joy, consolation: this is our breath as Christians.
“It may be on the lips of many, but that equation is a foolish lie.” This is how Pope Francis defined the equation that many make between Muslims and terrorists. He did so in the extensive interview with the director of the Echo of Bergamo newspaper, published today 24 May 2018, on the occasion of the arrival in the city of the urn with the remains of Saint John XXIII, who thus returns for the first time to his land. The most important role of religions, Bergoglio said, “is that of promoting the culture of encounter, along with the promotion of true education in responsible behavior in caring for creation”.
Francis recalled the “Good Pope”, whom he canonized, defining him as “a man, a saint who did not know the word “enemy “, and added that he was “aware of the Church’s call to serve all men and women and not only Catholics; to defend first and foremost the rights of the human person and not only those of the Catholic Church. aware that the Pope must build bridges…”.