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Vivid reminder from new pope that the Church is missionary

HONG KONG (SE): At his installation Mass, celebrated on the morning of March 19 in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope Francis reminded the world of the missionary nature of the Church, prompting Catholic people everywhere to remember that the Church is a Church of the poor.

Celebrating his election as the bishop of Rome and pope of the Catholic Church on the feast of St. Joseph—the foster father of Jesus—Pope Francis reflected on the life of St. Joseph and the Church in their role as protectors, a role that is not simply derived from Christianity, but one that has a prior dimension that can be found in what is simply human.

In stressing the humanity of the Church, he suggests that it is from the ability of the human heart to hear the word of God that our vocation as Christians is born.

He spoke of St. Joseph as a protector, as he was able to hear the voice of God and be guided by his will.

“He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ!” he said.

He urged people to protect Christ in their person and lives, so that we can protect others and protect creation.

In his choice of Francis as the inspiration for his papacy, he drew attention to the care and concern that St. Francis of Assisi lavished on both creation and on the poor of this world.

“It means protecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about,” he said.

He spoke of the cycle of care that goes into making up any healthy human community, saying, “It means caring for one another in our families; husbands and wives first protect each other, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents.”

He challenged the view of modern society which seeks its grandeur in bricks and mortar, or maybe in recent times, concrete, steel and glass in its castles of success, saying that the truly human castle can be more clearly seen in the House of David of the Old Testament.

“God does not want a house built by men, but fidelity to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his spirit,” he explained.

He then made an impassioned appeal to civic leaders to build such houses within their domains of influence.

“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will, let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” he appealed.

Then he warned against despair, saying that we should not allow the omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world, but to move forward without fear, without fear of goodness or tenderness.

“Here I would add one more thing,” he stressed. “Caring, protecting demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see a great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak, but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.”

He added that all leaders, especially himself as pope, must enter more fully into the service that is characterised by the cross and be prepared to carry burdens on behalf of those they are chosen to serve.

He noted that a pope is given a certain type of power, but it is necessary to look at how that power should be exercised.

He referred to the questions that Jesus put to St. Peter, whose successor he is, as Pope Francis.

The questions about love were followed by commands; feed my lambs, feed my sheep. “Let us never forget that authentic power is service and the pope too, when exercising power, must enter even more fully into that service, which has its radiant culmination on the cross,” he reflected.

In asking where a pope should seek his inspiration, he noted that it is not from the famous and wealthy, but in the lowly and that he should take his cue from the concrete service that St. Joseph performed in the service of those for whom he was responsible.

“He must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgement on love; the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison,” he continued.

He said that protecting creation and protecting every man and woman, looking upon them with tenderness and love, is to open an horizon of hope.

“It is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like St. Joseph, the hope we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ,” Pope Francis concluded.

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