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Pope proclaims Jubilee of Mercy in Africa

BANGUI (SE): Pope Francis jumped the gun in opening the Jubilee Year of Mercy, when he opened the Holy Door of the cathedral in the capital city of the Central African Republic, Bangui, on November 29, ten days before the official opening scheduled for December 8 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Pope Francis spoke to the people of the war-torn nation about the Christian vocation to love our enemies, saying that it protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of retaliation.

He told the gathering, “Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic; the sick; the elderly; those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness.”

He said that although the needs of people in the poverty-stricken Central African Republic are vast and varied, he, like the apostles, Peter and John with the beggar at the temple, had no silver or gold to give.

“I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to go across to the other side,” Pope Francis said.

However, the pope pointed out that crossing to the other side is not something that can be done alone and we have to realise that the crossing can only be made with the strength of God.

He explained that this is done by freeing ourselves from our burdens and making our load light for the journey.

“By freeing ourselves from the divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need,” he explained.

He added that this presupposes a closeness to our brothers and sisters. It implies a spirit of communion and is not primarily a matter of having the money to pay, but rather having a desire to share in the life of God’s people.

Pope Francis quoted from the Gospel of St. Matthew, saying, “Our heavenly Father makes the sun rise on the evil and the good alike,” explaining that if we have been forgiven, we must in our turn forgive those who have harmed us.

Pope Francis pushed the need to protect ourselves from the temptation to retaliate hard, telling those who minister in the Church and in the wider society that they must be the first to forgive, become specialists in reconciliation and experts in mercy, as it is their job to assist people to cross to what he termed the other side of the abysis of misunderstanding and hatred.

He said that in a world where few signs of hope lie on the horizon, those who preach justice are especially important, as they preach the message of the Lord who enriches personal histories to heal dashed hopes and sterile yearnings.

He pointed out that the salvation that we wait for is flavoured by love, but is founded on peace, which is only achieved if there is a bottom line of justice.

In this context, he made a strong appeal to those who tout weapons to lay them down, as they are instruments of death and cannot win against the powerful gift of peace that God bestows on us that can give serenity where there is violence, which eventually will drown the hatred.

 

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