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There are signs of life amidst suffering pope tells Rome and the world
ROME (SE): “Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples, ‘Jesus is risen! He is truly risen, as he said!’” Pope Francis proclaimed in introducing his traditional To the City of Rome and the World (Urbi et Orbi) greeting of Easter Sunday on April 16.
“The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life,” he continued.
“To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross,” he proclaimed, saying, “The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep and willingly died for his flock.”
As statement addressed to the city of Rome as well as the whole world, the pope is signifying that his words are not only addressed to the Church throughout the world, but indeed to the whole of humankind, irrespective of belief or none.
It is a plea to nations, to societies, to communities and to neighbours and families to work to allow peace to reign in their midst, and to treat even their weakest members with the dignity that their humanity calls for.
In his traditional Easter greeting, the pope looks to what he judges to be the worst trouble spots in the world that he believes are worthy of greater attention from the eyes of the world and certainly worthy of the prayer of Christian communities throughout the year.
In this year’s address, Pope Francis drew attention to Jesus the Good Shepherd, who he described as not only searching for all who have lost their way, but especially for those whose road to freedom has been closed off before them.
He mentions particularly the children whose innocence is being exploited and maturing years are taken from them through violence, especially from within the walls of their own home.
“All of us when we allow ourselves to be mastered by sin lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep,” he said. “But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us he lowered himself even to accepting death on a cross.”
But in this Easter Sunday address, the pope especially remembered the hundreds of thousands, even millions, of victims of international tensions orchestrated by the turbulence of fanaticism, thirst for political and economic power, and driven by blind ideology.
“The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes,” Pope Francis said.
However, he added that although their situation is dire, there are signs of hope amidst the seeming hopelessness, which comes from the many people who stretch out a hand in welcome, offer a shield of protection and a hug to warm the hearts of those rejected by so many.
“Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey,” the pope continued.
In calling for prayer both for those who are in dire need of a welcome and those who offer one, he said, “In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflict and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
He singled out for special mention people involved in bringing comfort to those suffering in Syria, in what he described as a war that continues to sow horror and death.
He looked towards the Middle East, beginning first with the Holy Land and then across to Yemen and Iraq.
The people of the newest nation in the world, South Sudan, he described as enduring continuing hostilities, noting that unrest in Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also being aggravated by famine that is currently affecting wide swathes of Africa.
Although he did not mention Venezuela by name, where a Vatican peace negotiating mission has hit a brick wall, he did speak of Latin America as being attacked by political and social tensions that in some cases are overflowing into violence.
“May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law,” he prayed in remembering these people.
Pope Francis also mentioned the Ukraine, which he described as still being subjected to conflict and bloodshed, praying that social harmony may return to the land so long deprived of stability and peace.
Then looking at the many socio-political tensions being played out in Europe, the pope said, “May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.”
As he once again proclaimed, “The Lord is risen,” he concluded by simply wishing the world a happy Easter.
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