POPE SENDS CONDOLENCES FOLLOWING IRAN AIR CRASH – POPE AT AUDIENCE: LIVE TRIALS BY CLINGING TO CHRIST – POPE FRANCIS: I AM CLOSE TO THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE

POPE SENDS CONDOLENCES FOLLOWING IRAN AIR CRASH

The Pope Wednesday expressed sadness and condolences after a passenger plane crashes in Iran with 176 people on board. Pope Francis sent a message of condolence to all those who lost loved ones following an air crash in Tehran, Iran. (vaticannews)

The Ukrainian International Airlines passenger plane went down on Wednesday morning after taking off from Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran en route to Kyiv. The plane was carrying 176 passengers, mostly from Iran and Canada.

In the message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis “commends the souls of the deceased to the merciful love of the Almighty, and he sends condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives”. The Pope also invoked God’s blessings of strength and peace upon all affected by the tragedy.

POPE AT AUDIENCE: LIVE TRIALS BY CLINGING TO CHRIST

Pope Francis resumed his weekly general audience on Wednesday following the Christmas break, continuing his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles.
By Lydia O’Kane (vaticannews)

A new year but a continuing catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. Pilgrims and tourists joined Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday to hear him deliver another installment of this book of the Bible, which sees St Paul continue his journey not only by land but by sea.

The Pope recalled how Paul, now a prisoner, is taken by ship to Rome into the heart of the Empire, so that the word of the Risen One may be realized: “You will be witnesses to me … to the ends of the earth”.

The Pontiff described how on leaving Crete, the journey becomes dangerous and they are shipwrecked; but St Paul encourages all on board not to be afraid.

God’s providential care
Pope Francis noted that on landing on Malta, the travelers experience a warm welcome but, he goes on to say, their time there is not without hazards. Paul himself is bitten by a viper but is unharmed and he goes on to heal many people on the island.

The Pope pointed out that Paul’s sea voyage can serve as a symbol of God’s providential care for us through our passage from death to life in the waters of baptism.

He also emphasized that “a ‘tried’ Christian can certainly become closer to those who suffer, making his heart open and sensitive to solidarity with others.”

Live trials by clinging to Christ
Paul teaches us to live trials by clinging to Christ, said Pope Francis, “in order to mature the ‘conviction that God can act in any circumstance, even in the midst of apparent failure’ and the ‘certainty that those who offer themselves and give themselves to God out of love will surely be fruitful’”.

Concluding his catechesis, the Pope prayed that the Lord would “sustain us in our own trials and open our hearts to those who today experience shipwrecks and arrive on our shores.”

POPE FRANCIS: I AM CLOSE TO THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE

At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis calls for prayers for Australia, which is battling massive wildfires.

By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)
Pope Francis asked everyone “to pray to the Lord to help the people [of Australia] in this difficult time” as major fires rage across the nation. Addressing Australian- speaking pilgrims at the general audience, the Holy Father said “I am close to the Australian people”.

Major bushfires have broken out around Australia, with more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land burned in recent weeks. More than twenty people have lost their lives in the fires.

Authorities warn of revitalized blazes
Australian authorities warned people on Wednesday to prepare for another wave of evacuations as temperatures in the country’s southeast began to rise after a days-long cool spell, bringing the danger of revitalised blazes.

Firefighters have used the break from extreme heat and high winds to strengthen containment lines around several major fires, as the military continued efforts to provide supplies to thousands of people who have been left homeless.

Complicating the recovery effort, authorities have forecast another temperature spike as soon as Friday, with little rain, meaning a return to hazardous conditions.

Response of the Church in Australia
Earlier this week, the president of the Australian Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, issued a statement about the “unprecedented” crisis facing the country. Like Pope Francis, he too called for prayer, noting that, “A genuine Catholic response to a crisis of this magnitude must draw strength from prayer which inspires concrete and compassionate action”.

Archbishop Coleridge announced that the Bishops Conference is preparing a national response to the fires, including assistance to those affected by the fires, collaboration with aid agencies, and a special collection to be taken up this weekend.

“With broad and deep roots across the nation”, the Archbishop said, “the Church stands ready to walk alongside people throughout their journey of recovery”.