This morning’s General Audience was held at 9 o’clock in St. Peter’s Square, 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 Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:9). The Christian faith lands in Europe (Biblical passage: from the Acts of the Apostles, 16:9-10).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made an appeal for the situation in Iraq, expressing his condolence for the victims of manifestations of protest that happened in the country.
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!
Reading the Acts of the Apostles one sees how the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the Church’s mission: it is He who guides the path of the evangelizers, showing them the way to follow.
We see this clearly in the moment in which the Apostle Paul, arriving in Troas, receives a vision. A Macedonian implores him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (Acts 16:9). The people of North Macedonia are proud of this, they are so proud to have called Paul so that it is Paul who proclaims Jesus Christ <to them>. I remember very much those good people that received me with so much warmth: who keep this faith that Paul preached to them! The Apostle didn’t hesitate and left for Macedonia, certain that it was, in fact, God who sent him, and he landed at Philippi, a “Roman colony” (Acts 16:12) on the via Egnatia, to preach the Gospel. Paul stopped there for a few days. Three events characterize his sojourn at Philippi, during these three days: three important events. 1) The evangelization and Baptism of Lydia and her family; 2) the arrest he suffers together with Silas, after having exorcised a slave girl exploited by her owners; 3) the conversion and Baptism of his jailer and of his family. Let us look at these three episodes in Paul’s life.
The power of the Gospel is addressed, first of all, to the women of Philippi, in particular to Lydia, a seller of purple goods, from the city of Thyatira, a believer in God whose heart the Lord opened to give heed to Paul’s words” (Acts 16:14). Lydia, in fact, welcomed Christ, received Baptism together with her family and received those that were of Christ, hosting Paul and Silas in her home. We have here the testimony of Christianity’s landing in Europe: the beginning of a process of inculturation that lasts also today. It entered by Macedonia.
After the warmth felt in Lydia’s home, Paul and Silas then found themselves having to deal with the harshness of prison: they pass from the consolation of the conversion of Lydia and her family to the desolation of prison, where they were thrown for having liberated, in the name of Jesus, “a slave who had a spirit of divination “ and “brought her owners much gain” with the craft of soothsaying (Acts 16:16). Her owners earned so much and this poor slave girl did what soothsayers do: she divined one’s future, read one’s hands — as the song says: ”take this gypsy hand,” and people paid for this. Today also, dear brothers and sisters, there are people that pay for this. I remember in my diocese, in a very large park, there were more than 60 small tables where men and women soothsayers sat and read one’s hand and the people believed these things! And they paid. And this happened also in Saint Paul’s time. Her owners, in retaliation, denounced Paul and led the Apostles before the magistrates with the accusation of <causing> public disorder.
However, what happens? Paul is in prison, however, during the imprisonment an astonishing event happens. He is in desolation but, instead of lamenting it, Paul and Silas intone a praise to God and this praise releases a power that frees them: during the prayer, an earthquake shook the prison’s foundations, the doors opened and the chains of all fell (Cg. Acts 16:25-26). As the prayer of Pentecost, that made in prison also had prodigious effects.
The jailer, thinking that the prisoners had fled, was about to commit suicide, because jailers paid with their life if a prisoner escaped; but Paul cried out to him: “We are all here!” (Acts 16:27-28). He then asked: “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). The answer is: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v. 31). At this point, the change happens: in the heart of the night, the jailer listens to the word of the Lord together with his family, he receives the Apostles, cleanses their wounds — because they had been beaten — and together with his own he received Baptism; then, “he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God” (v. 34), then he sets the table and invites Paul and Silas to sit with them: <it is> the moment of consolation! In the heart of the night of this anonymous jailer, the light of Christ shines and overcomes the darkness: the chains of the heart fall and a joy never felt before blossoms in him and in his relatives. So the Holy Spirit is doing the mission: from the beginning, from Pentecost and thereafter He is the protagonist of the mission. And He leads us forward; we must be faithful to the vocation that the Spirit moves us to do, to take the Gospel.
Let us also ask the Holy Spirit today for an open heart, sensitive to God and hospitable to brothers, as Lydia’s, and an audacious faith, as that of Paul and Silas, and also an openness of heart, as that of the jailer who let himself be touched by the Holy Spirit.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Pie Venerini Teachers, who are holding their General Chapter and I encourage them to continue with renewed enthusiasm the charism of Christian teaching, especially addressed to the littlest ones. I greet the novices of the Holy Family of Nazareth Congregation; the parish groups, especially those of Quarto di Grossolengo, with the Bishop of Piacenza-Bobbio, Monsignor Gianni Ambrosio, and those of Fondi. I greet the boys and girls of Teramo, who have come today with their parish priest: welcome. Moreover, I greet the Municipal Council of Mileto, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Luigi Renzo; the Saint Camillus-Forlanini Hospital of Rome; the Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired; and the Galilei Lyceum of Mondragone. Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. One can see there are so many . . . At the end of the month of October, we invoke Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother. Learn to turn to Her, praying to Her with the prayer of the Rosary. May Our Lady be your support in the path of following her Son, Jesus Christ.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Dear brothers and sisters, my thought goes to beloved Iraq, where manifestations of protest, which happened during this month, have caused numerous dead and wounded. While I express my condolence for the victims and my closeness to their families and to the wounded, I invite the Authorities to listen to the cry of the population that asks for a worthy and tranquil life. I exhort all Iraqis, with the support of the international community, to follow the way of dialogue and of reconciliation and to seek just solutions to the country’s challenges and the problems. I pray so that that martyred people may find peace and stability after so many years of war and violence when it has suffered so much.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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