No one can stay neutral or inert
On Saturday, 4 October , the Feast of St Francis, the Secretary of State presided at Mass in the Pauline Chapel in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncios in several countries of the Middle East. The following is a translation of his homily, which was given in Italian.
Our meeting is the fruit of the peace brought to the world by Christ, who gave himself for all of us, as the Eucharist which comes to nourish us every day with the newness of his divine life, and is illuminated by the noble and holy figure of St Francis, a witness to the way of charity, of humility and of poverty as the privileged paths to take to truly become new beings, capable of comprehending and fulfilling the will of the Father and attaining salvation. The Saint from Assisi teaches us the rationale, the courage and the patience of dialogue, even with those furthest away, in order that, touched by the purity of our intentions, they may amend and desist from their violent and subversive tactics.
Today we are celebrating this Holy Eucharist with anxiety for what is occurring in several countries in the Middle East.
We are seriously alarmed at seeing the growing threats to peace, and dismayed at the situation of the Christian communities living in the territories between Syria and Iraq, controlled by an entity which tramples on rights and adopts terroristic methods as it seeks to extend its power.
These communities, who have lived in those lands since apostolic times, are thus facing situations of grave danger and of open persecution. They are often forced to abandon everything and flee from their homes and their country.
It is depressing to observe how persistent and active the forces of evil are; what great strides the conviction has made in a few corrupt minds that violence and terror are the methods to employ in order to impose dominion over others, even masked by the pretense of expressing a particular religious viewpoint!
This is an obvious perversion of genuine religious consciousness with tragic consequences, which calls for a response. The Church cannot remain silent in the face of the persecution suffered by her children, and the international community cannot remain neutral between the assailant and the assailed.
“Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge” (Ps 16:1). Thus prays the Psalmist. He, who has no shortage of difficulties and violent adversaries, turns confidently to the Lord. He is not dismayed by the wicked and their machinations, because he knows that his life is in God’s hands. He knows that his true strength and security is the Lord, who gives him peace and gladness, and who is preparing for him a definitive future of joy. It is a gladness which does not fail even in tribulation and danger, because it is grounded in God. It is a joy like that felt by St Francis, who identified with the Crucified Christ to the point of receiving the stigmata within his own flesh. It is the gladness of every faithful Christian who knows that History is guided by Providence, and that the forces of evil will not prevail.
This certainty which makes us rejoice, far from letting us be idle or inactive spectators, spurs us as individuals and as a Christian community, as a Church, to constant and trusting prayer and to implement every practical initiative to raise the awareness of Governments and to inform public opinion. Everything possible should be done to alleviate the situation of our sorely tried brothers and to stop the aggressors. Providence also needs our support and that of our freedom and of our diligence and creativity, of our initiative and our daily effort.
Persecuted Christians and all those who are suffering unjustly must be able to recognize the Church as the institution that defends them, that prays and acts for them, that is not afraid to assert the truth, that makes itself the voice of the voiceless, defender and support for the abandoned, displaced and discriminated against.
Indeed, everything depends on God and on his Grace, but it is also necessary to act as if everything depended on us, on our prayer and on our solidarity.
I thank you, dear Apostolic Nuncios who work in the Middle East, for having accepted this invitation to come to the Vatican during these days in order to study in depth cum et sub Petro the situation in the countries where you are posted to represent the Holy See. I thank you for your work and your presence, by which you contribute to the peace and understanding among the peoples. The voice of the Holy Father speaks through you. Through you are made clear the actions of the Apostolic See to uphold the right to life and to religious freedom, the cornerstones ot human rights. Through your prudent work, awareness is raised among Governments and international organizations with regard to their duty to guarantee peace and security in the manner established by international law, in order to render the aggressors harmless.
We are all called to commit ourselves to this task for world peace, for the continuity and development of the presence of the Christian communities of the Middle East, for the common good of humanity.
In the rejoicing hymn that we proclaimed, taken from the passage in Matthew, Jesus thanks and praises the Heavenly Father for having revealed the divine mysteries to babes, to those who have a pure and simple heart (cf. Mt 11:25), and not to those who are closed to the love of God, thinking they do not need it and can do without it. And this revealed mystery is Jesus Christ, in whom the true face of the Father is unveiled and whose yoke is truly easy and whose burden is light, while other yokes are so heavy and inhuman as to crush and disfigure the face of the human being.
May St Francis, profoundly identified with Christ Our Peace, and for this reason the prophet of peace and dialogue, intercede for us, help us to be credible witnesses of the Risen Christ. Let us pray to the Lord to convert the hearts of aggressors and bend them to his easy yoke.