“Christians have a right to profess their faith freely”

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/13/2014 - 17:09

At the Pope Francis' General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, November 12, he sent out an appeal for persecuted Christians. He stressed that bishops, priests and deacons must not be authoritarian and can learn something from those who are far from the faith. The Pope condemned drug trafficking remembering the 43 Mexican students who were burnt alive.

Pope Francis appealed to the consciences of people throughout the world, asking them to pray for persecuted Christians. He denounced the “absurd violence” to which they are subjected. In his catechesis, the Pope spoke again about the role of the Church’s pastors, underlining that they “also have something to learn from those who are far from the faith and the Church.” Finally, speaking in Spanish, the Pope recalled the peace agreements reached between his home country, Argentina, and Chile 30 years ago, thanks to an openness to dialogue. He also remembered the recent tragedy involving the 43 Mexican students who were abducted and burnt alive in Mexico and took the opportunity to denounce drug trafficking.

“I have been following with great trepidation the dramatic events of Christians who in various parts of the world are persecuted and killed because of their religious beliefs. I feel the need to express my deep spiritual closeness to the Christian communities hard hit by an absurd violence that shows no signs of stopping, while I encourage pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope". And "for all persecuted Christians because they are Christians, I invite you all to pray with me now the Our Father ...," Francis said to faithful present in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing last week’s catechesis, Francis started off with a question: "What is required from the ministers of the Church, so that they can authentically and fruitfully live their service?” He warned: "Woe to a bishop, priest or deacon who think they know everything, that they always have the right answer for everything and do not need anyone.”

The Pope referred back to the words of St. Paul, who listed some “exquisitely human qualities” pastors must have: “a welcoming spirit, sobriety, patience, gentleness, reliability, goodness of heart. I repeat: welcome, sobriety, patience and goodness, trustworthiness, kindness of heart. This is an alphabet of the basic grammar of every ministry! It must be the basic grammar of every bishop, every priest, every deacon" because "without this beautiful and genuine predisposition, to get to know, to dialogue with, to appreciate and relate to our brothers and sisters in a respectful and sincere way, you cannot offer a truly joyful and credible service and witness. "There is a fundamental attitude that Paul recommends to his disciples and, consequently, to all those who are invested with the pastoral ministry," "continually renew the gift that has been received." "This means that we must always be keenly aware that we are not bishops, priests or deacons because we are smarter, more talented and better than others, but only by virtue of a gift, a gift of love bestowed by God, in power of his Spirit, for the good of His people. The knowledge that everything is a gift, everything is grace, also helps a Pastor not to fall into the temptation of believing that they are the centre of attention and to trust only themselves. These are the temptations of vanity, pride, arrogance. God forbid that a bishop, priest or deacon would think they know everything, always have the right answer for everything and have no need of anyone. On the contrary, awareness that he is the first object of God's mercy and compassion should lead a minister of the Church to be more humble and understanding towards others. We are aware of being called to guard the deposit of faith with courage, listening to the people. We should always be conscious that we have something to learn, even from those who may still be distant from the faith and the Church.”

Greeting Spanish-speaking faithful, the Pope remembered the 43 students who were killed in Mexico during a drug-trafficking incident, which led to the arrest of the former mayor of Iguana. Francis seemed to hint at institutional involvement when he spoke of “legal desaparición”: “I wish to express my closeness during this painful moment marked by the tragic legal disappearance of the students who we now know were murdered.” The killings are “visible proof of the dramatic reality of crime that exists behind the selling and trafficking of drugs”. Francis also greeted Chilean and Argentinian pilgrims on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the peace treaty agreed between the two countries following the “Beagle conflict” as it was called. He emphasised that the agreement was reached in the Vatican thanks to a “willingness for dialogue”. Francis expressed his gratitude to Saint John Paul II in particular and to Cardinal Antonio Samoré. At the end of the Audience the Pope spent a long while speaking to Latin American pilgrims.

At 9am, before the General Audience, Francis received participants of the 3rd Catholic-Muslim Forum in a small hall adjacent to the Paul VI Hall. The Catholic delegation was led by Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran and the Muslim one by Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad of Jordan. At the end of the Audience the Pope thanked the Scalabrinian nuns for the work they are doing to help “immigrants and refugees”.

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By Iacopo Scaramuzzi