“Dear brothers and sisters: The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner,” the pontiff stated during his Aug. 10 weekly Sunday Angelus address.
“Children dying of hunger and thirst in their flight; women abducted; violence of every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies.”
“All this gravely offends God and humanity,” he told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “Hatred is not to be carried out in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!”
Going on, the Pope offered his thanks to those who, “with courage,” are “bringing relief to these brothers and sisters,” and urged that a political solution to the conflicts can be found on both a local and international level.
Pope Francis then announced to the crowd his nomination of Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq “In order better to ensure those dear suffering populations of my closeness to them.”
Cardinal Filioni, he revealed, “shall depart from Rome tomorrow (Monday).”
He then prayed for the war in Gaza “that cuts down innocent victims and does nothing but worsen the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” as well as for the victims of the Ebola virus and those who are working to stop it.
“Let us pray together the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Grant us peace, O Lord, in our days, and render us artificer’s justice and peace.”
“Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!” he said, and asked the faithful gathered to pray for him during his apostolic voyage to South Korea next week, saying “I need them.”
During his reflections on the day’s Gospel, the Roman Pontiff recounted Peter’s attempt to walk on the water when Jesus says “come,” in the midst of the storm. Peter’s decision to go, as well as his cry of “Lord, save me!” when beginning to sink, are “a beautiful icon of the faith of the apostle Peter,” the Pope said.
“In the voice of Jesus that tells him ‘come,’ he recognizes the echo of their first encounter on the shore of that same lake, and right away, once again, he leaves the boat and goes toward the teacher,” the pontiff observed. “And he walks on the water!”
Noting how Peter begins to sink only when he takes his eyes off the Lord and looks at the storm surrounding him, the pontiff pointed out that “the Lord is always there, and when Peter invokes him, Jesus saves him from danger.”
“In the character of Peter, with his impulses and weakness, comes the description of our faith: always fragile and poor, restless and yet victorious, the faith of the Christian walks to meet the risen Lord, in the midst of the storms and dangers of the world.”
Drawing attention to the final scene of the passage when the disciples recognize Jesus as “the son of God” and prostrate themselves in front of him, the Pope stated that “We are all disciples on the boat, united by the experience of weakness, of doubt, of fear, of ‘little faith.’”
It is also “an effective image of the Church,” he said, “a boat that must face the storms and at times seems on the verge of being overwhelmed.”
“That which saves it are not the quality or the courage of its men, but faith, which also allows (one) to walk in darkness, in the midst of difficulty.”
“Faith gives us the security of the presence of Jesus always beside us, of his hand that we grasp to escape dangers,” the Bishop of Rome concluded, stating that “All of us are this boat, and here we feel safe despite our limitations and our weakness.”
“We are safe especially when we know to put ourselves on our knees and adore Jesus, the only Lord of our lives. This is what always reminds us of our Mother, Mary.”
After leading faithful in the Marian prayer, Pope Francis again urged prayers and international help for the current conflict in Iraq and Gaza, revealing that his personal envoy to Iraq will leave Monday.
Peace, Pope Francis, Iraq, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Gaza