Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2 April 2017
I am deeply saddened by the tragedy that has struck Colombia, where a gigantic mudslide, caused by torrential rains, engulfed the city of Mocoa, claiming many lives and causing injuries. I pray for the victims and assure my closeness and yours to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones, and I thank all those who are striving to render assistance.
News continues to arrive of the bloody armed conflicts in the Kasai Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo: clashes which are resulting in many deaths and forced displacement, and which have also struck people and property of the Church: churches, hospitals, schools.... I assure my closeness to this nation and I exhort everyone to pray for peace, that the hearts of the perpetrators of these criminal acts do not remain slaves to hatred and violence, because hatred and violence always destroy.
In addition, I am closely following the events in Venezuela and Paraguay. I pray for those peoples, who are very dear to me, and I invite everyone to tirelessly persevere, in avoiding all hostility, in seeking political solutions.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to thank you for coming here, to this Mass. I wish to thank everyone, all those who worked for this double “marathon”: last Sunday [for the inauguration of the restored Cathedral] and this Sunday. Thank you very much! And I would like to thank you, sick people. There are 4,500 sick people here! Thank you, who, through your suffering, help the Church to carry the Cross of Christ. Thank you! Thank you very much!
At the end of this celebration, may our thoughts turn to the Blessed Virgin, whom you venerate in the Cathedral Church dedicated to her. Let us offer to Mary our joys, our sorrows and our hopes. Let us ask her to fix her merciful gaze upon those among us who are suffering, particularly upon the sick, the poor, and those who lack dignified work.
Recalling the apostolic zeal of the two lay figures of your land, Blessed Odoardo Focherini and Venerable Marianna Saltini, witnesses of Christ’s charity, I greet you with gratitude, dear lay people. I encourage you to be protagonists in the life of your communities, in communion with your priests: always focused on what is essential in proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel.
I thank you, dear Bishop Francesco, and all of you, Bishops of the Emilia-Romagna Region, for your presence, and above all the Pastor of this diocese, Bishop Francesco Cavina: I exhort you to stand alongside your priests through listening, tenderness and attentive closeness.
Lastly, I would like to thank each and every one of you, dear faithful, priests, men and women religious, the Authorities and, in a special way, those who have contributed to the organization of this visit, with a particular thought to agesci [Italian Association of Catholic Guides and Scouts] and the choir, composed of all the choirs of the diocese, which enlivened this liturgy.
Let us entrust our life and the future of the Church and of the world to Mary, our Mother, reciting together the Angelus prayer.
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