The Pope lights a candle for Syria: “God, forgive those who make war”

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The Pope lights a candle for Syria: “God, forgive those who make war”

By Salvatore Cernuzio/ lastampa.it

Francis launches the Christmas campaign organized by Aid to the Church in Need. In his catechesis he reflects on the season of Advent: let us open ourselves up to the many peoples tormented by hunger and injustice.

To the children of "beloved Syria" born and raised under bombings, amid trauma and suffering imposed by a tormenting war that has now lasted eight years. It was to them that Pope Francis dedicated the first Sunday of Advent, lighting a candle during the Angelus in St. Peter's Square as a symbol of "peace" in this "time of hope" that leads to Christmas, and of "closeness" to all the other countries that live immersed in conflict. "God forgive those who make war, those who make weapons to destroy one another. May the Lord convert their hearts. Let us pray for peace in beloved Syria," the Pope says, thus launching the Candles for Peace in Syria, an initiative of prayer and solidarity organized by the "Aid to the Church in Need" foundation.

After the Pope's gesture, candles were lit all over the world in response to the cry of peace of the children of Syria. "May these flames of hope dispel the darkness of war," the Pope says from the window of the Apostolic Palace. "Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and in the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. “May the flame of hope also reach all those who are suffering in these days from conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far.” May the prayer of the Church help them to feel the closeness of the faithful God and touch every conscience for a sincere commitment to peace".

In his catechesis, Francis reflects on Advent, the liturgical period which prepares for the birth of Christ and which invites to “look outside ourselves, enlarge our minds and our hearts to be open to the needs of the people, of our brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world". "In Advent," he stressed, "we do not only live the expectation of Christmas; we are also invited to awaken the expectation of Christ's glorious return, preparing ourselves for the final encounter with him with coherent and courageous choices.

"Coherent and courageous"choices, the Pontiff points out, because today Christians run the risk already feared by the prophet Jeremiah of "losing their identity". “We Christians, too,” the Pope said, “risk becoming worldly and losing our identity, indeed, of 'paganizing' the Christian style.” Jorge Mario Bergoglio affirms.

In these four weeks of Advent, he said, we are “called to leave a resigned and routine way of living, and to go forth, nurturing hopes and dreams for a new future.” he adds. He then dwelt on the Gospel of this Sunday which "warns us against being oppressed by an egocentric lifestyle and the convulsive rhythms of today's life". Particularly incisive in this sense are the words of Jesus: "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.Watch over every moment in prayer".

Advent, he said, calls us to "stay awake and pray: this is how to live this time from today until Christmas," Francis admonishes. "The "inner sleep" comes from always revolving around ourselves and from being stuck in the limited space of our own lives with our own problems, own joys and pains. This wears us down, it bores us, shutting hope out".

Here we find "the root of torpor and laziness" of which the Gospel speaks. Advent, then, "calls us to “stay awake,” to be vigilant, “looking outside ourselves, enlarging our minds and our hearts to be open to the needs of the people, of our brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world”. "It is the desire of so many peoples tormented by hunger, injustice and war; it is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This - Pope Francis affirms - is the right time to open our hearts, to ask ourselves concrete questions about how and for whom we spend our lives".

Hence a new invitation to prayer and to stay awake because, he says, "if we see Christmas only through the lens of consumerism, as a “worldly celebration,” then “Jesus will pass us by, and we will not find Him.” Let us await Jesus, Pope Francis said, "and let us desire to await Him in prayer.”

He then invoked the Virgin Mary, "woman of expectation and prayer", to "help us to strengthen our hope in the promises of her Son Jesus, to make us experience that, through the hardship of history, God remains faithful and also uses human errors to manifest his mercy”.

After the Marian prayer, the Pope greets the 20,000 pilgrims and faithful present in St. Peter's Square, coming from Italy and from foreign cities such as Linden (United States of America), Valencia and Pamplona, Madrid. Finally, he says goodbye with his usual request "please don't forget to pray for me" and the traditional greeting "Have a good lunch and goodbye!", to which he also adds the wish of "a good Advent journey" to everyone.

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:10
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