At today's Angelus, the Pope reflected on the figure of St. John the Baptist, focusing on two aspects: the "desert" and the "voice. The desert, the Pope commented, is an "empty place, where there is no communication, and the voice, the means of speaking, seem to be two contradictory images, but in the Baptist they are combined".
On the desert, Francis affirmed that "John preaches there, on the banks of the Jordan River, near the point where his people, many centuries before, entered the Promised Land", which has a symbolism: "To listen to God we must return to the place where for forty years He accompanied, protected and educated his people, in the desert. This is the place of silence and essentiality, where one cannot allow oneself to be entertained by useless things, but must concentrate on what is indispensable for living".
The Pope affirmed that all this can be applied to our present reality: "In order to proceed along the path of life, it is necessary to divest ourselves of the 'extra', because living well does not mean filling ourselves with useless things, but freeing ourselves from what is superfluous, in order to dig deep within ourselves, to grasp what is truly important before God. Only if, through silence and prayer, we make room for Jesus, who is the Word of the Father, will we know how to free ourselves from the contamination of vain words and idle talk. Silence and sobriety - in words, in the use of things, media and networks - are not only "ornaments" or virtues, they are essential elements of the Christian life".
Regarding the symbolism of "the voice," the Pope said that "this is the instrument with which we express what we think and what we carry in our hearts. We understand then that it is closely linked to silence, because it expresses what matures within, from listening to what the Spirit suggests. Brothers and sisters, if one does not know how to be silent, it is difficult to have something good to say; on the other hand, the more attentive the silence, the stronger the word. In John the Baptist this voice is linked to the authenticity of his experience and the limpidity of his heart".
At the conclusion of the Angelus, the Pope recalled that 75 years ago, on December 10, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. "In this regard, I am close to all those who, without proclamations, in the concrete life of every day fight and pay in person to defend the rights of those who do not count," Francis said.
On the other hand, the Pope expressed his joy "for the release of a significant number of Armenian and Azerbaijani prisoners. I look with great hope at this positive sign for relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, for peace in the South Caucasus, and I encourage the parties and their leaders to conclude the peace treaty as soon as possible".
Francis also recalled the suffering in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, and assured his "prayer also for the victims of the fire that occurred two days ago in the hospital of Tivoli".