“How often is the devil at work in these times of conflict, hate and war!”

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“How often is the devil at work in these times of conflict, hate and war!”

By Andrea Tornielli in Bangui

At the Mass he celebrated at the Barthélémy Boganda Stadium in Bangui, Francis said: “Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel”.

“All the baptized need to continually break with the remnants of the old Adam, the man of sin, ever ready to rise up again at the prompting of the devil. How often this happens in our world and in these times of conflict, hate and war! How easy it is to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of those who are most vulnerable…” As he did yesterday, today too Francis called those responsible for all the violence, wars and ethnic and religious hatred by their name.

The Pope was welcomed by a jubilant crowd as the open-topped Popemobile entred Bangui’s Barthélemy Boganda Stadium, named after CAR’s first indigenous Catholic priest. He was ordained in 1938, elected colonial representative to the Union Française parliament and founder of the Mesan party, whose motto was: “feed, clothe, heal, educate, house”. He returned to the lay state in 1950 and for a short time acted as President just before the country’s independence in 1960.

People - it is estimated that 30,000 people were present, including interim President Catherine Samba-Panza - waited in the stifling heat for the “messenger of peace” to arrive. This was the final part of Francis’ African visit. During mass, the Pope commemorated St. Andew. There was singing and vivacious dancing during the liturgy. The procession, tailed by Francis, passed by two groups of female dancers dressed in green. During the mass celebration, the Gospel was carried by a young boy inside what looked like a canoe: this was symbolic of how a local king would be transported, the little boy therefore represented the Baby Jesus.

“It is good,” he said in his homily, “especially in times of difficulty, trials and suffering, when the future is uncertain and we feel weary and apprehensive, to come together before the Lord. To come together, as we do today, to rejoice in his presence.”

The Pope recalled that the courage of Christians, of the poor and of the least, has always been sustained by looking up to Heaven, to eternal life. “Looking towards the world to come has always been a source of strength for Christians, of the poor, of the least, on their earthly pilgrimage. Eternal life is not an illusion; it is not a flight from the world. It is a powerful reality which calls out to us and challenges us to persevere in faith and love.”

But Francis explained that the “this salvation secured by the faith of which Saint Paul speaks, is a reality which even now is transforming our lives and the world around us. Let us thank the Lord for his presence and for the strength which he gives us in our daily lives, at those times when we experience physical and spiritual suffering, pain, and grief. Let us thank him for the acts of solidarity and generosity which he inspires in us, for the joy and love with which he fills our families and our communities, despite the suffering and violence we sometimes experience, and our fears for the future. Let us thank him for his gift of courage, which inspires us to forge bonds of friendship, to dialogue with those who are different than ourselves, to forgive those who have wronged us, and to work to build a more just and fraternal society in which no one is abandoned.”

“We know,” Francis said, “that our Christian communities, called to holiness, still have a long way to go. Certainly we need to beg the Lord’s forgiveness for our all too frequent reluctance and hesitation in bearing witness to the Gospel.”

The Pope invited faithful “to persevere in enthusiasm for mission, for that mission which needs new “bearers of good news”, ever more numerous, generous, joyful and holy. We are all called to be, each of us, these messengers whom our brothers and sisters of every ethnic group, religion and culture, await, often without knowing it.”

“We too,” he concluded, “like the Apostles, need to be full of hope and enthusiasm for the future. The other shore is at hand, and Jesus is crossing the river with us. He is risen from the dead; henceforth the trials and sufferings which we experience are always opportunities opening up to a new future, provided we are willing to follow him. Christians of Central Africa, each of you is called to be, through perseverance in faith and missionary commitment, artisans of the human and spiritual renewal of your country.”

"I repeat," Francis said speaking off the cuff, "an artisan of human and spiritual renewal of your country." After mass, on the feast day of St. Andrew, Francis added: "from th heart of Africa, I would like to send my brother Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, my wishes of happiness and fraternity and I ask the Lord to bless our sister Churches."

Mon, 11/30/2015 - 21:05
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