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‘Such a Personal Encounter With Christ Is Possible Also for Us,’ Pope Reminds Commemorating 2013 Lampedusa Visit

‘You Cannot Imagine the Hell Lived in Libya’s Detention Centers,’ Francis Adds Off the Cuff

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We too, disciples of the Third Millenium, can have this special personal encounter with Christ.

Pope Francis stressed this as he commemorated his 2013 visit to Lampedusa today, July 8, 2020, with a special, intimate Mass in the Chapel of his residence, Casa Santa Marta.

In a July 6 declaration, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, announced:”On Wednesday 8 July 2020, at 11.00 a.m., on the anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa in 2013, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass in the Casa Santa Marta chapel.”

“Given the health situation, only the staff of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Department for Promoting Integral Human Development will participate in the Mass,” it concluded.

The Mass could be watched and replayed on Vatican YouTube.

In the homily, Francis stressed that seeking the face of God is motivated by the desire for a personal encounter with the Lord, with His immense love and redeeming power. The Twelve Apostles, he noted, received the grace to meet Him physically in Jesus Christ, the incarnated Son of God.

Jesus, Pope Francis remembered, called each one by na”looking at them in the eyes; and they gazed at his face, listened to His voice and saw His wonders. The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation, immediately entails a mission: “As you go, Jesus tells them, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 7).”

“Such a personal encounter with Jesus Christ,” the Holy Father stressed, “is possible also for us, disciples of the third millennium.”

“As we undertake to seek the face of the Lord,” he said, “we may recognize Him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. And this encounter becomes for us a time of grace and salvation, as it bestows on us the same mission entrusted to the
Apostles.”

The Pope remembered when the Lord said ‘Whatever you did, you did it for me…’

“Whatever you did…” for better or for worse!” the Jesuit Pope underscored.

“This warning,” he said, “is a burning issue today. Let us use it as a fundamental element to examine our conscience on a daily basis. I think of Libya, detention camps, the abuses and violence that migrants are victims of, journeys of hope, rescue operations, and push-backs. “Whatever you did… you did it for me.”

The Pope went off the cuff, to share the following memory: “I remember that day. Seven years ago, right in the south of Europe in that Island. Some told me their stories, how much they had suffered to arrive there, and there were interpreters . . . One recounted terrible things in his own language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well.”

“However,” the Argentine Pontiff observed, “this man first spoke for a long time and the translation was brief . . .  I thought, well one can see that to express itself this language has longer [twists and turns].”

The Pope said that when he returned home, there was the lady at the reception — “peace to her soul, now she is no longer alive” who was the daughter of Ethiopians.

“She understood the language and had seen the meeting on TV, and said this to me: ‘Listen, what the Ethiopian translator said to you isn’t a quarter of the tortures and sufferings that they have seen,'” Francis remembered.

The Pope lamented that “they gave me a ‘distilled’ version. “This,” he added, “is happening today with Libya: war, yes, awful, but they give us a ‘distilled’ version.”

“You can’t imagine the hell that is lived there, in those detention camps and these people came with only one hope: to cross the sea,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded, praying: “May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, “Solace or Comfort of Migrants”, help us discover the face of Her Son in all our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee from their homeland because of the many injustices that still afflict our world today.”

Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Pope’s address in English:

***

The Responsorial Psalm invites us always to seek the Lord’s face: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (Ps 105:4). This quest is fundamental for the life of every believer, for we have come to realize that our ultimate goal in life is the encounter with God.

To seek the face of God is an assurance that our journey through this world will end well. It is an exodus towards the Promised Land, our heavenly home. The face of God is our destination and the guiding star that helps us not to lose our way.

The people of Israel, as described by the prophet Hosea in the first reading (cf. 10:1-3.7-8.12), had gone astray. They had lost sight of the Promised Land and were wandering in the desert of iniquity. Abundance, prosperity and wealth had caused their hearts to drift away from the Lord and had filled them instead with falsehood and injustice.

We too, as Christians today, are not immune to this sin. “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” (Homily in Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).

Hosea’s words reach us today as a renewed summons to conversion, a call to turn our eyes to the Lord and recognize his face. The prophet says: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (10:12).

Our efforts to seek the face of God are born of the desire for an encounter with the Lord, a personal encounter, an encounter with his immense love, with his saving power. The twelve apostles described in today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:1-7) received the grace to encounter him physically in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. Jesus – as we heard – called each of them by name. He looked them in the eye, and they in turn gazed at his face, listened to his voice and beheld his miracles. The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation, entails a mission: “As you go”, Jesus tells them, proclaim the good news: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 7). Encounter and mission must not be separated.

This kind of personal encounter with Jesus Christ is possible also for us, who are the disciples of the third millennium. In our effort to seek the Lord’s face, we can recognize him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. This encounter becomes also for us a time of grace and salvation, and summons us to the same mission entrusted to the Apostles.

Today marks the seventh year, the seventh anniversary of my visit to Lampedusa. In the light of God’s word, I would like to repeat what I said to those taking part in the meeting “Free from Fear” in February last year: “The encounter with the other is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us this. He is the one knocking on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned; he is the one seeking an encounter with us, asking our help, asking to come ashore. And lest we have any doubt, he tells us categorically: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me’” (Mt 25:40).

“Whatever you did…” for better or for worse! This admonition is all the more timely today. We ought to use it as a basic starting point for our daily examination of conscience. Here I think of Libya, detention camps, the abuses and violence to which migrants are subjected; I think of journeys of hope, rescue operations, and cases of rejection. “Whatever you did… you did to me.”

I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island… A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there. There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief. “Well”, I thought, “their language must require more words to express an idea”. When I returned home that afternoon, in the reception area there was a lady – God bless her, she has since passed away – who was a daughter of Ethiopians. She understood the language and she had seen our conversation on television. She said this to me. “Listen, what the Ethiopian translator told you is not even a quarter of the torture and suffering that those people experienced”. They gave me the “distilled” version. This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a “distilled version”. The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea.

May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, “Solace of Migrants”, help us discover the face of her Son in all our brothers and sisters forced to flee their homeland because of the many injustices that continue to afflict our world.

[Original text: Italian] [Pope’s pronounced address provided by the Vatican]
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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio, Sky, and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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