The Vatican

Pope's plea for peace and dialogue in the Middle East and Sudan

"The Middle East does not need war but peace," Pope Francis implored this morning in St. Peter's, in his catechesis on apostolic zeal. "Of a peace built on justice and dialogue, and fraternity," said the Holy Father, who asked for prayers for Sudan "to live in peace," with the Sudanese saint Josephine Bakhita as a witness of evangelization. He also asked for prayers for the Synod in this month of the Rosary.

Francisco Otamendi-October 11, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

Saint Bakhita ©CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

In the cycle of catechesis On 'Passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer', the Pope focused his meditation this morning on "St. Josephine Bakhita: witness of the transforming power of Christ's forgiveness", with the Gospel text of Jesus on the Cross, when he exclaims: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34)".

"Josefina was born in Sudan and, when she was just seven years old, she was kidnapped and turned

in slavery. During her slavery she endured numerous physical and moral sufferings. Despite the many wounds she received, when she met Christ she experienced a great inner liberation, she felt understood and loved, and capable of loving and forgiving, as Jesus forgave those who crucified him," the Pope explained in the General Audience.  

"His example shows us the way to free ourselves from our fears and slavery, to unmask our hypocrisies and selfishness, to reconcile with ourselves and sow peace in our families and communities," the Holy Father added. "Your witness of life teaches us that apostolic zeal is expressed in gestures of mercy, joy and humility." 

In concluding his reflection on the Sudanese religious saint, Francis stressed that "forgiveness does not take anything away, but adds dignity to the person, it makes us look away from ourselves towards others, to see them as fragile as we are, but always brothers and sisters in the Lord. Forgiveness is the source of a zeal that becomes mercy and calls us to a humble and joyful holiness, like that of St. Bakhita".

Our Lady of Pilar

Throughout his catechesis in various languages, to which Croatian was added today, the Pope invited the faithful to pray the Holy Rosary in this month of October. He did so by addressing the German-speaking faithful, for example, and also the Spanish-speaking faithful. This was his prayer: "Let us pray to Our Lady of Pilar -whose party may it help us to follow the path of holiness, witnessing to the transforming power of Christ's forgiveness. May God bless you. Thank you very much. 

Germans and Poles: Rosaries to the Virgin Mary

In his words to the German-speaking pilgrims, with universal scope, as is customary in the Pope's catechetical addresses, Francis used the invocation "Mother of the Church". "Dear brothers and sisters, in the month of October we are especially invited to pray the Holy Rosary, contemplating with Mary the mysteries of salvation and invoking her intercession for our needs. Holy Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us".

Prayer for the SynodThe Pope's words to the Polish-speaking faithful included a new invitation to pray the Rosary. "I cordially greet the Polish people. In this month, many of you pray the Rosary, asking for Our Lady's help. May her intercession obtain God's mercy for your country. Remember also in your prayers all the participants in the Synod of Bishops I ask you to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the Church. I bless you from my heart.

Peace in the Middle East

Francis left for the end of the Audience, in Italian, his message about the conflict in Middle EastThe president of the Republic, who called for the guns and attacks to be silenced, as he did on Sunday after the prayer of the Angelus. This morning, the Pontiff said that "the Middle East does not need war but peace, a peace built on justice and dialogue and fraternity".

"I follow with tears and apprehension what is happening in Israel and Palestine: so many people dead, others wounded," the Pope noted, "I pray for the families who have seen a day of celebration transformed into a day of mourning, and I ask that the hostages be released immediately. It is the right of those who are attacked to defend themselves".

Francis then acknowledged that he was "very concerned about the siege in which the Palestinians live in Gaza. There have been many innocent victims. Terrorism and extremism do not help to reach a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It feeds hatred, violence, revenge, and causes only suffering to one and the other," he stressed.

Helping Afghanistan 

During the catechesis, the Pope also addressed "a special thought to the people of Afghanistan, who are suffering after the earthquake that has caused thousands of victims, among whom are many children. I invite people of good will to help this sorely tried people, contributing in a spirit of fraternity to alleviate the suffering of the people and to support the necessary reconstruction".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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