VATICAN CITY—On Sunday Pope Francis said that with a growing sense of emptiness and insecurity gripping the world, Jesus Christ is needed more than ever before, since he alone knows how to answer humanity’s deepest questions.
“The world needs Christ more than ever, needs his salvation and his merciful love,” the Pope said June 19.
“Many people sense a void around and inside of them. Perhaps some of us too,” he said, noting that others “live in restlessness and insecurity because of precariousness and conflict.”
Each person needs to have “adequate responses” to their deepest existential questions, he said, explaining that since “Jesus knows the heart of man like no other,” he is able to heal and to give life and consolation to humanity.
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which fell on same day as the opening of the June 19-26 Pan Orthodox Council in Crete. Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Dialogue, has been tapped to be the Vatican’s observer at the council.
The Pope offered special greetings to the council participants, who also celebrated the solemnity of Pentecost—according to the Julian calendar—the day of the council’s opening.
He asked in pilgrims to unite in prayer “with our brother orthodox, invoking the Holy Spirit so that he assists with his gifts the Patriarchs, archbishops and bishops united in the Council,” and led them in praying Hail Mary.
In his speech before the Angelus, Francis focused on the day’s Gospel from Luke in which Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” —a question that Peter responds to with his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ of God.”
Jesus’ question is being repeated to each one of us today, Francis said, and asked aloud “Who is Jesus for the people of our time? For me, for you, for you, for you. Who is Jesus for each one of us?”
All of us are called “to make Peter’s response our response, professing with joy that Jesus is the Son of God, the eternal Word of the Father who became man to redeem mankind, pouring out upon him the abundance of divine mercy,” he said.
The Pope then pointed to how after Jesus speaks to the apostles, he addresses the entire crowd, telling them that “if one of you wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.”
This cross, Francis said, is not a mere “ornamental” or “ideological” cross, but rather consists of the daily sacrifices made for others – including parents, children, friends, relatives and even enemies – out of love.
It also involves the adoption of an attitude of solidarity, especially with the poor, and of commitment to working for justice and peace.
By assuming these attitudes, “you always lose something,” he said, but urged pilgrims to remember Jesus’ advice that “whoever loses their life (for Christ) will find it.”
“Therefore, let us confidently abandon ourselves to him: Jesus, our brother, friend and savior,” Francis said, adding that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the strength to grow in faith and to act on what we believe, rather than saying one thing and doing another.
He noted that the Virgin Mary “is always close to us and goes before us” on the path of faith, and prayed that all of us would take her hand “when we pass through the most dark and difficult moments.”
After reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis noted how tomorrow, June 20, marks the U.N.’s World Day of Refugees, which this year holds the theme: “With refugees. We are on the side of those forced to flee.”
Refugees, he said, “are people like everyone else, but from whom war has taken their house, work, relatives and friends.”
“Because of this we wish to be with them: to meet them, to welcome them, to listen to them, to become with them artisans of peace according to the will of God,” Francis said, and wished pilgrims a happy Sunday before asking for their prayers.
by Elise Harris