This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:30 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Continuing with the series of catecheses on the theme of Christian hope, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: Hope, Source of Mutual Comfort and Peace (cf. Thessalonians 5:12-22).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made three appeals: for the Beatification, which took place yesterday, of Justin Takayama Ukon, Japanese lay faithful; for the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against the Trafficking of Persons, being observed today, and for the 25th World Day of the Sick, which will be observed on February 11.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! Last Wednesday, we saw that, in the First Letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul exhorts to remain rooted in the hope of the resurrection (cf. 5:4-11), with those beautiful words “we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17). In the same context, the Apostle shows that Christian hope does not only have personal, individual breadth, but communitarian, ecclesial. We all hope; we all have hope, also communally.
Paul’s gaze is immediately widened to all the realities that make up the Christian community, asking them to pray for one another and to support each other — to help one another. But not only to help one another in needs, in the many needs of daily life, but to help one another in hope, to support each other in hope. And it is no accident that he begins in fact making reference to those to whom responsibility and pastoral guidance is entrusted. They are the first to be called to nourish hope, and this, not because they are better than the others, but by virtue of a divine ministry that goes well beyond their strength. Therefore, they are all the more in need of respect, of understanding and of the benevolent support of all.
Attention is then drawn to brothers that in the main risk losing hope, of falling into despair. We always have news of people that fall into despair and do awful things …Despair leads them to so many awful things. The reference is to one who is discouraged, who is weak, and who feels beaten by the weight of life and of his faults and is unable to be relieved. In these cases, the closeness and warmth of the whole Church must be more intense and loving, and must assume the exquisite form of compassion, which is not to have pity: compassion is to suffer with the other, to suffer with the other, to get close to one who suffers: a word, a caress, but it must come from the heart; this is compassion, for one who is in need of comfort and consolation. This is all that much more important: Christian hope can do no less than genuine and concrete charity. In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle of the Gentiles himself affirms, with his heart in his hand: “We who are strong, ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (15:1) — to bear, to bear the weaknesses of others. This testimony, then, does not remain closed in the confines of the Christian community: it resounds also in all its vigor outside, in the social and civil context, as an appeal to not create walls but bridges, to not return evil for evil, to overcome evil with goodness, an offense with forgiveness, — a Christian can never, never say: he’ll pay for this! This isn’t a Christian gesture; an offense is overcome with forgiveness –, to live in peace with all. This is the Church! And this is what brings about Christian hope, when it assumes strong guidelines and at the same time the tenderness of love. Love is strong and tender; it is beautiful.
Then we understand that one does not learn to hope on one’s own. No one learns to hope on his own. It is not possible. To be nourished, hope necessarily has need of a “body,” in which the various members support and revive one another. This means then that, if we hope, it is because many of our brothers and sisters have taught us to hope and have kept our hope alive. And distinguished among these are the little ones, the poor, the simple and the marginalized. Yes, because he knows not hope who is closed in his well-being: he hopes only in his well-being and this is not hope: it is relative security; he knows not hope who closes himself in his contentment, who always feels right …
Instead, those hope who every day experience trials, precariousness and their own limitation. It is these brothers who give us the most beautiful, the strongest testimony, because they remain firm in their entrustment to the Lord, knowing that, beyond the sadness, the oppression and of the ineluctability of death, the last word will be His, and it will be a word of mercy, of life and of peace. One who hopes, hopes to hear one day these words: “Come, come to me, brother; come, come to me, sister, for all eternity.”
Dear friends, if – as we have said – the natural dwelling of hope is a supportive “body,” in the case of Christian hope this body is the Church, while the vital breath, the soul of this hope is the Holy Spirit. See then why the Apostle Paul invites us at the end to invoke Him continually. If it is not easy to believe, much less so is it to hope. It is more difficult to hope than to believe; it is more difficult. However, when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, it is He who makes us understand that we must not fear, that the Lord is close and takes care of us; and it is He who molds our communities, in a perennial Pentecost, as living signs of hope for the human family. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the Committee of the World Day of Prayer against the Trafficking of Persons. I want to see you, stand up! There. Thank you for what you do; thank you! I greet the young people participating in the meeting organized by the Youth Movement of the European Popular Party and the Scholastic Band of Negrar, which I thank for the enjoyable performance.
I greet the parish groups, the “Via Condotti” Association of Rome and the “Eduardo De Filippo” Didactic Circle of Santa Maria La Carita. I hope that for all of you the meeting with the Successor of Peter gives new impetus to faith, reinforces hope and renders charity industrious.
Finally, I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. May today’s memorial of Sister Josephine Bakhita , who as a child was a victim of trafficking, increase in you, dear young people, attention to your more disadvantaged contemporaries and in difficulty; may it help you, dear sick to offer your sufferings for the Christian education of the new generations; and may it encourage you, dear newlyweds, to trust in the help of Providence and not only in your capacities. Marriage without God’s help does not go forward, we must ask for it every day. And you, dear sick, next Saturday is the day of prayer for you to Our Lady of Lourdes: we shall do so all together. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeals
Proclaimed Blessed yesterday at Osaka in Japan was Justin Takayama Ukon, Japanese lay faithful, who died a martyr at Manila in 1615. Rather than descend into compromises, he gave up honors and affluence, accepting humiliation and exile. He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel. Therefore, he represents an admirable example of fortitude in the faith and of dedication in charity.
Observed today is the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against the Trafficking of Persons, dedicated this year in particular to children and adolescents. I encourage all those that, in various ways, help enslaved and abused minors to be liberated from such oppression. I hope that all those who have the responsibility of government will combat this plague with determination, giving voice to our littlest brothers, humiliated in their dignity. Every effort must be made to vanquish this shameful and intolerable crime.
Next Saturday, memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, the 25th World Day of the Sick will be observed. The main celebration will take place at Lourdes and will be presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State. I invite you to pray, through the intercession of our Holy Mother, for all the sick, especially for the most grave and most alone, and also for all those who look after them.
I turn to today’s celebration, the Day of Prayer and Reflection against the Trafficking of Persons, which is being observed today because today is the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita [he shows a brochure that talks about her]. This girl, enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated, did not lose hope and carried forward the faith, and ended by arriving as a migrant in Europe. And there she heard the Lord’s call and became a Sister. Let us pray to Saint Josephine Bakhita for all migrants, refugees, the exploited who suffer so much, so much.
And speaking of migrants driven out, exploited, I would like to pray with you, today, in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters: driven out from Myanmar, they go from one place to another because they are not wanted there … They are good people, peaceful people. They are not Christians; they are good, they are our brothers and sisters! They have been suffering for years. They have been tortured, killed, simply because they carry forward their traditions, their Muslim faith. Let us pray for them. I invite you to pray, all together, to our Father who is in Heaven for them, for our Rohingya brothers and sisters. “Our Father …”
Saint Josephine Bakhita, pray for us. And applaud Saint Josephine Bakhita![Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]