At the general audience, the pope begins a cycle of catechesis on the Church community. And makes an appeal for the thousands of refugees these days: “Jesus and the Virgin Mary were also refugees”
The Church is not only priests, bishops and the Vatican, but “it’s all of us”. This is how Pope Francis, who at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, after that of the “gifts of the spirit” concluded last Wednesday, today began a cycle of catechesis on the Church. The faithful are blessed by God and, in turn, they are “men and women who bless”, almost a “synonym” of “Christians”. At the end of the audience Jorge Mario Bergoglio appealed to the thousands of refugees that even in these days are forced to leave their homes to escape conflict and persecution.
“Today – the Pope said – I begin a cycle of catechesis on the Church. It’s a bit like a child who speaks of his mother, of his family. Indeed, the Church is not an institution in itself or a private organization, an NGO, nor should it restrict its gaze on the clergy or on the Vatican … priests are part of the Church, but we are all the Church, we must not restrict it to priests, bishops, the Vatican. We are all, all of us the mother’s family. The Church is a much broader reality and opens out to all mankind”.
The Church “was not born suddenly, nor was it born in a laboratory”, “it was founded by Jesus, and by people that have a long history behind them and a preparation that begins long before Christ himself”. The “history or prehistory of the Church” is the biblical story of Abraham: “It was not Abraham who built a nation around himself, but it was God himself who gave life to this nation. Usually, men turned to the gods trying to bridge the distance and calling for support and protection. In this case, however, we are witnessing something unprecedented: it is God himself who takes the initiative to address man, creating a bond and a new relationship with him”. In this sense, “the love of God above all”, said the Pope, reiterating a concept he often focuses on. “Isaiah or Jeremiah, I do not remember which one of these two, said that God is like an almond tree flowers, the first to bloom in the spring: when we arrive, he is waiting for us, he calls us, he makes us walk, always ahead of us and this is called love, God is always waiting for us”.
The Pope then imagined a conversation with a faithful: “But father, I am not a believer, my life has been so bad, how can I think that God is waiting for me?” The question, and the answer, “But if you have been a great sinner God is waiting for you with lots of love” and “the Church leads us to this God who is waiting for us”. Abraham and his people listened to the call of God and proceeded on the journey, not without “resistance”, “without thinking of themselves and their own interests”, “without being tempted to bargain with God and resolve things their own way”: “It is the betrayals and sins that mark the journey of people throughout the history of salvation, which is the story of God’s faithfulness and the unfaithfulness of people”. Christians, concluded the Pope, must become “a blessing, a sign of God’s love for all his children. I like to think – concluded Bergoglio – that a synonym for Christians would be this: they are men and women who bless: bless God and all of us. We Christians are people who bless”.
Before the audience, Pope Francis greeted the sick and elderly in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, before going out to St. Peter’s Square. Already last week, the Prefecture of the Papal Household had them sit in the Nervi Hall to avoid the heat. “Pray that it does not rain so whoever is outside does not get wet”, said the Pope this time. With the disabled, especially the young ones, he exchanged some jokes and participated in selfies with smartphones. In the square, after the usual jeep tour to greet the faithful, the Pope began his catechesis with a joke: “My compliments to you who came without knowing whether it would rain or not … Well done! Let’s hope that we can finish the audience without rain, may the Lord have mercy on us”. Present in the square, among the tens of thousands of faithful, was Ted Neeley, star of the film “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
“The number of these refugee brothers is increasing these days, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes to save themselves, was the appeal pronounced by the Pope at the conclusion of the audience, in view of World Refugee Day which will be celebrated the day after tomorrow. “Millions of families, millions of families! of many countries and of different faiths live dramatic stories and have wounds which are unlikely to heal. The Lord will support the people and institutions that work with generosity and hospitality to ensure dignity to refugees, and give them reasons for hope. Just think – said the Pope – that Jesus was a refugee, he had to flee to save his life, with St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, he had to leave Egypt, he was a refugee. Let us pray that Our Lady, who knows the pain of refugees, remains close to our brothers and sisters”.