As is customary following the Pope’s return from an apostolic trip, Francis on Wednesday dedicated his general audience catechesis to his six-day, three-nation trip to Africa from which he returned on Monday. You will see how the Holy Father decries poverty in the world, particularly in those places where “wealth and poverty coexist,” side by side, calling this a scandal.
If Pope Francis had been at Mass at the North American College on Thanksgiving Day, he would have heard an extraordinarily memorable phrase from Archbishop Thomas Tobin’s homily, a phrase he make his own for evermore. I did not write the story down but here it is, roughly – except for the dialogue between the man and God – that was unforgettable!
Abp. Tobin was telling the story of a man who is in a slum area of a city, a terrible, decrepit, run down shantytown neighborhood. There is no running water, little electricity, little, if any, sanitation. Total poverty and destitution. Demoralized, the man looks around and then looks up and says: “God, how on earth could you let this happen?!
And God answered: “Funny thing, I was just going to ask you the same question!”
That story was seared into my heart and mind on Thanksgiving Day and it was the first thing I thought of when I heard the Pope talk today about poverty in the world.
If you think about Francis’ Africa trip, it personified the man and his pontificate: his preferential option for the poor, the marginalized, for mercy, tenderness and love, for caring for others, for pardon and reconciliation.
THE PREMIERE OF THE FILM “CALL ME FRANCIS” was shown last night in the Paul VI Hall to 7,000 poor and homeless of Rome. The event was arranged by the Almoner of His Holiness, Abp. Konrad Krajewski who also saw to it that, as they left the hall, each Vatican guest received a boxed dinner. The Italian-language film debuts tomorrow in Italy in 700 theaters and make its world debut in March of 2016, which will mark the third anniversary of Francis’ election. “Call me Francis” by producer Daniele Luchetti, examines the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from childhood to his election to the papacy in 2013.
POPE FRANCIS WEDNESDAY BLESSED A MOBILE CHAPEL built into a car – a so-called “autocappella” – belonging to the “Marian Mission of the Rosary of the Shrine of Pompeii” just before the weekly general audience. The chapel carries an image of Our Lady of Pompeii to dioceses around the world, with the aim of carrying out evangelization based on the Marian devotion of the Rosary. Missions organized by the Shrine of Pompeii, not far from Naples, bring copies of the icon to any diocese that requests one. There is a special period of prayer and evangelization. The Marian Mission of the Rosary of the Shrine of Pompeii has organized prayer activities at thousands of parishes, hospitals, military barracks, schools, factories, and prisons throughout Italy and other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and Malta.
HOLY FATHER RECALLS BRIEF BUT BEAUTIFUL TRIP TO AFRICA
Pope Francis dedicated this week’s general audience to his just-completed trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, exclaiming at the start of his catechesis, “How beautiful is Africa!”
He briefly highlighted each part of his six-day, three-nation trip.
He said Kenya “is a country that represents well the global challenge of our time: protecting creation, reforming the model of development so that it is equitable, inclusive and sustainable.” He reflected on Nairobi, the largest city in East Africa, noting that, “where wealth and poverty coexist side by side, this is a scandal! Not only in Africa, also here, everywhere! The coexistence of wealth and poverty is a scandal, it is a disgrace to humanity.”
He encouraged Kenyans to treasure the wealth of their country, the “natural and spiritual wealth, made up of land resources, the new generations and the values that form the wisdom of the people.” He spoke of his joy in bringing the word of hope of the Risen Jesus to Kenyans, urging them to “Be strong in faith, not fear,” the theme and motto of the visit. ‘
In Uganda, his second stop, the Pope said his visit was “under the sign of the Martyrs, 50 years after their historic canonization by Pope Paul VI,” making the motto of the Uganda trip: ‘You will be my witnesses’.”
He said his visit to Uganda was developed “with the fervor of witness animated by the Holy Spirit. Witness is the service of catechists … Witness is the charity of those who strive to give, … serving the poor, the disabled, the sick. The witness of young people who, despite difficulties, retain the gift of hope and try to live the Gospel and not in the world, going against the current. The witness of priests, daily renewing their ‘yes’ to Christ and dedicate themselves with joy to the service of the holy people of God …. All these forms of witness … are yeast for all of society, as evidenced by the effective work done in Uganda in the fight against AIDS and in the reception of refugees.”
The third stage of his apostolic trip, noted the Holy Father, “was the Central African Republic, the geographic heart of the continent, the heart of Africa. ” He said the CAR was actually uppermost in his intentions when the trip was planned, explaining that, “this country is trying to get out of a very difficult period of violent conflicts and much suffering among the population. So I wanted to open in Bangui, a week before the start of the Holy Year, the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy as a sign of faith and hope for the people and, symbolically, to all Africans most in need of rescue and relief.”
The motto for the Central African Republic was, “Let’s go to the other side.”
“Go to the other side,” said the Pope, “in a civic sense, means leaving behind the war, division, poverty, and choosing peace, reconciliation and development. But this presupposes a ‘passage’ that takes place in the minds, attitudes and intentions of individuals. And in this area is crucial contribution of religious communities.” The Pope highlighted the moments of Evangelical fellowship and sharing Muslim prayer and commitment to peace.
Francis spoke of the final Mass in the stadium in Bangui where we “renewed our commitment to follow Jesus, our hope, our peace. The face of the Divine Mercy! That last Mass was wonderful: it was full of young people, a stadium full of youth! More than half of the population of the Central African Republic is a minor, under 18: a promise to move forward!”
In very moving words, Pope Francis spoke of the countless missionaries, the men and women who left their own countries to lead a life elsewhere in service to people they did not know but would come to know and serve and love. He recounted personal stories of missionaries he had met, including one nun, 81 years old – “just two years older than me” said Francis, who turns 79 on December 17. That nun was a nurse and midwife, and had given birth to 3,280 children. “A whole life given for the lives of others,” exclaimed the Holy Father.
Francis told the young people of CAR to “think about what you want do in your life. Think of this nun and many like her who have given their lives and the thousands have even died there. … It’s time to think and ask the Lord to make you know your will. But please, do not you exclude the possibility of being missionaries, to bring love, humanity, faith in other countries. Not to proselytizing: No. … Faith is preached, first by witness and then by word. Slowly.”