AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE – FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ – POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION – 25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

After reports on the weekly general audience, the papal appeal for Iraq and his meeting with religious leaders from that nation and the Holy Father’s Message to young people in Barcelona, I offer an interesting story about the Catholic Church in India. We know the word “catholic” means universal but on occasion we can forget about the faithful in nations other than the ones we live in, the believers around the world in the Universal Church.

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: The peace that springs from faith is a gift: it is the grace of feeling that God loves us and that he is always beside us.

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE

Pope Francis at today’s general audience again focused the weekly catechesis on hope, this time linking that virtue to faith. Above all, he explained how the faithful should put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible, hoping against hope.

“In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s audience,” said the Pope, referring to the reading that precedes the weekly catechesis in all languages, “Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.

“In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the ‘many nations’ gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

Francis explained that, “faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.”

“And now, said the Holy Father, “I would like to ask you a question: are we all convinced of this? Are we convinced that God wishes us well and that all that He promised us is able to bring it to fruition? But Father, how much do we have to pay for this? There is just one price: opening your hearts. Open your hearts and this strength of God will lead you ahead, it will do miraculous things and will teach you what hope is. This is the only price: open your heart to faith and He will do the rest. This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest, highest element of our hope! A hope based on a promise that from a human point of view seems uncertain and unpredictable, but which is no less even when faced with death, when it is the God of Resurrection and life Who promises. This is not a promise from anyone? He Who promises is the God of Resurrection and of life.

“Today we are all in the square, we praise the Lord, we will sing the Lord’s Prayer, then we will receive the blessing. But this passes. But this is also a promise of hope. If today we have an open heart, I assure you that all of us will meet in the square of Heaven that never comes to an end. This is God’s promise, and this is our hope, if we open our hearts. Thank you.”

FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Before today’s weekly general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the meeting of the permanent Committee for Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iraqi superintendents: Shiite, Sunni, and those for the Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans/Mandaeans.

At the end of the weekly catechesis in Italian, Pope Francis greeted that delegation of Iraqi superintendents, noting it was “composed of representatives of different religious groups, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The richness of the dear Iraqi nation consists precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, strength in union, prosperity in harmony.

“Dear brothers,” continued the Holy Father, “I encourage you to go ahead on this road and I invite you to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity in reconciliation and harmony between the various ethnic and religious groups. My thoughts go to the civil populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and those displaced by war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness. In expressing my profound sorrow for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all my appeal for every effort to be made to protect civilians, an imperative and urgent obligation.”

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION

Pope Francis has sent a Message to a symposium for youth in Barcelona, Spain telling the young people they should reflect on the challenges of evangelization. The theme of the four-day meeting that began March 28 is “He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) – Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ’s call.

The symposium was organized by the CCEE, Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, the Spanish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the archdiocese of Barcelona. Joining Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona are other church leaders including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow.

The message was sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Holy Father urged youth “to conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.”

25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

About 25,000 people took part in the annual Lenten Walking Pilgrimage in the western Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in which Catholics, members of other Christian Churches and other religions also participated. A large number of priests, religious, Catholic lay people and members of other confessions and religions participated in the overnight march led by the Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay.    The pilgrimage began at night on March 25 from Cross Maidan, wound its way to the Basilica of Mount Mary (some 20 kilometers distant) the following morning, Sunday, where it concluded with Holy Mass.

Cardinal Gracias, president of India’s Latin-rite bishops, began the pilgrimage with his blessings and reciting prayers to the Virgin, interceding for the city of Mumbai and the whole of India.  He prayed in particular for harmony and peaceful coexistence among the different components of Indian society, asking that,”Christians in India may live their faith in peace.”

More than 50 percent of the participants were boys and girls from remote villages of Goral, Uttan, Vasai Agassi, Korlai, Roha and from the suburbs of Maharashtra. Cardinal Gracias recited a special prayer for the young people: “Mary Seat of Wisdom guide our young people, and direct their steps towards mission, both for the country and for the Church, and intercede for the young people present, to contribute mission of the Church and the growth of the nation. We also pray for our young people for their faith and for their vocational discernment.”

The cardinal led the pilgrimage for a short distance, reuniting with the crowd at the time of recitation of the Holy Rosary. The pilgrims walked for seven hours at night, animated by prayers, songs and the many volunteers.  Felix Sequeira, one of the pilgrimage organizers told AsiaNews: “About 25,000 pilgrims carried four statues in procession decorated with flowers and lights: Mary Queen of Peace, Jesus carrying the Cross, Mary Mother of Sorrows and St. Joseph Patron of the pilgrimage.”

The pilgrimage is held every year in March, during the season of Lent. The first edition took place in the Marian Year 1988, when some devotees have decided to organize a Lenten march for peace. “Since then, the number of participants has grown from year to year with people of every creed and caste,” Francis Fernandes, president of Marian Seva Sangh, a main organizer, told AsiaNews. (Source: AsiaNews)

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