May 2, 2014

Editorial

The pope speaks to the city and the world

It is traditional on Easter Sunday for the pope to deliver a blessing and brief address “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

The city is, of course, Rome, “the heart of Christianity,” and the world is the entire global village with all its religious, cultural, political, racial and economic diversity. While popes have always addressed themselves to the whole world, Pope Francis recognizes that his audience is  “linked by modern technology” now more than ever.

Pope Francis has delivered this Easter message twice. The first time, Easter 2013, he was the newly elected Bishop of Rome, and by his own admission he was something of a stranger to this city who came “from the ends of the Earth.”

A year later, the pope from Argentina is no stranger to the citizens of Rome or to the world at large. He has made himself known—by his humility, his compassion and his willingness to speak bluntly (and sometimes controversially) on some very sensitive issues.

Pope Francis has used his two messages to the city and the world to call for peace.

In 2013, the Holy Father said, “And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.” In particular, the pope called attention to the need for peace in the Middle East (Iraq and Syria), in Africa (Mali, Nigeria, the Congo, Central Africa Republic), and in Asia (Korea).

“Peace in the whole world,” which the Holy Father observes is “still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth!”

In 2014, Pope Francis once again used his address to the city and the world to ask the risen Lord “to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.”

The pope once again singled out regions of the world that cry out for peace:

“We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

“We ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq, and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic, and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

“We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.”

The Bishop of Rome speaks of peace to the city and the world out of a profound sense of pastoral care and responsibility. Pope Francis has described himself as “a pastor without boundaries.” His calling as the Vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter is to minister to the whole world from the symbolic center of the world, Rome. Pope Francis takes this dual responsibility seriously. He’s worked hard to be present to the priests and people of the Diocese of Rome. He has also reached out to people the world over—sometimes making telephone calls to people in distant parts of the world to assure them of his pastoral care.

The pope’s ministry says to everyone: “Come and see! In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: It is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast. Come and see! Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”

Could there ever be a more important message—for the city or the world? Come and see what love has accomplished! Come and experience the Good News. Come and feel in your hearts the mercy of God and the joy of our redemption. 

Pope Francis speaks to the city and the world every day in his words and his actions. Let’s listen carefully and watch closely. His delivery of Christ’s message—and our wholehearted acceptance of it—can set us free!

—Daniel Conway

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