|Unprecedented moment...Pope Francis holds Saint Peter's remains while|
the faithful pray the Creed
Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass on Sunday to mark the Solemnity of Christ the King and close the Year of Faith proclaimed by his predecessor, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. Below, is the official English translation of Pope Francis' prepared remarks.
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
I offer a cordial greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price. With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ as the centre of creation, the centre of his people and the centre of history.
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20).
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. When this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.
2. Besides being the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them. Christ, the descendant of King David, is the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one; united with him, we share a single journey, a single destiny.
3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of the human race and of every man and woman. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.
While all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clinging to the crucified Jesus, begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). And Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard.
Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his Kingdom! Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise.
Then after the mass, Pope Francis dedicated the Sunday Angelus to persecuted and suffering Christians around the world. He prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square to close the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. In brief remarks before the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis greeted the pilgrims who had come from all around the world to take part in the celebrations.
He also had special greetings for the Ukrainian community, which is commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor - the great famine provoked by the Soviet Union, in which many millions of people perished. Pope Francis also expressed gratitude to missionaries who throughout the history of the Church have taken the Good News to the ends of the Earth. Below, is the translation of Pope Francis' remarks.
Before concluding this celebration, I wish to greet all the pilgrims, families, Church groups, movements and associations, who have come from many countries. Greetings also go to the participants of the National Congress of Mercy; I also greet the Ukrainian community, which is commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor, the "great hunger" caused by the Soviet regime, which caused millions victims.
On this day, our gratitude goes to the missionaries who, over the centuries, have proclaimed the Gospel and spread the seed of faith in many parts of the world, among them Blessed Junipero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan missionary, whose 300th birthday we are marking this Sunday.
I would not like to conclude without a word of thanks to all those who worked so hard during this Year of Faith: to Archbishop Rino Fisichella [President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization], who guided this journey. I heartily thank him and all his co-workers. Many thanks!
Now let us pray the Angelus together. With this prayer, we invoke the protection of Mary, especially for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because of their faith.
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