Pope Francis calls for end to ‘bloody clashes’ in Burma

Genaud_DSC6695.jpg Pope Francis delivers a general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace. Credits: Vatican Media.

Pope Francis appealed on Wednesday for an end to "bloody clashes" and the release of political leaders in Burma.

Speaking at the end of his general audience on March 3, the pope lamented the deaths of protesters following a military coup in the Southeast Asian country on Feb. 1.

"Sad news of bloody clashes and loss of life continue to arrive from Myanmar," he said, using the country's official name.

"I would like to draw the attention of the authorities involved to the fact that dialogue prevails over repression and harmony over discord."

"I also appeal to the international community to ensure that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence. May the young people of that beloved land be granted the hope of a future where hatred and injustice make way for encounter and reconciliation." 

Referring to a speech he made to diplomats on Feb. 8, he added: "Finally, I repeat the wish I expressed a month ago: that the path towards democracy taken in recent years by Myanmar may be resumed through the concrete gesture of the release of the various political leaders imprisoned."

The pope's intervention came after days of deadly clashes between police and protesters. The UN Human Rights Office reported that on Feb. 28 at least 18 people were killed and more than 30 wounded after security forces fired live ammunition into crowds.

Following his appeal, the pope looked ahead to his March 5-8 visit to Iraq.

"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet those people who have suffered so much; to meet that martyred Church in the land of Abraham," he said.

"Together with the other religious leaders, we shall also take another step forward in brotherhood among believers. I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers, so that it may unfold in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits." 

"The Iraqi people are waiting for us; they awaited St. John Paul II, who was not permitted to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be a good one."

In his general audience address, Pope Francis continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May 2020 and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.

He dedicated Wednesday's audience -- the 25th address in this catechetical cycle -- to prayer and the Holy Trinity. The audience took place in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions.

He said: "In our journey of catechesis on prayer, today and next week we will see how, thanks to Jesus Christ, prayer opens us up to the Trinity -- to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit -- to the immense sea of God who is Love. It is Jesus who opened up Heaven to us and projected us into a relationship with God." 

The pope suggested that before the Incarnation, human beings did not truly know how to pray. 

"Not all prayers are equal, and not all are convenient: the Bible itself attests to the negative outcome of many prayers, which are rejected," he said. 

"Perhaps God at times is not content with our prayers and we are not even aware of this. God looks at the hands of those who pray: to make them pure it is not necessary to wash them; if anything, one must refrain from evil acts." 

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The pope said that the "most moving" recognition of the poverty of human prayer came from the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his ill servant (Matthew 8:5-13).

"He felt totally inadequate: he was not a Jew, he was an officer in the detested occupying army. But his concern for his servant emboldens him, and he says: 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed,'" he recalled.

"It is the phrase we also repeat in every Eucharistic liturgy. To dialogue with God is a grace: we are not worthy of it, we have no rights to claim, we 'limp' with every word and every thought... But Jesus is the door that opens us to this dialogue with God."

The pope said that before Christ, God's love for humanity remained hidden from many cultures.

"So much so that most mythologies do not contemplate the possibility of a god who cares about human affairs; on the contrary, they are considered bothersome and boring, entirely negligible," he said.

He continued: "God who loves humanity: we would never have had the courage to believe in him, had we not known Jesus. The knowledge of Jesus made us understand this, it let this be revealed to us. It is the scandal -- it is a scandal! -- that we find inscribed in the parable of the merciful father, or in that of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep." 

Pope Francis said that Jesus revealed the depth of love found within the Holy Trinity. He added that we could glimpse this mystery in Eastern Orthodox icons.

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Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he said: "The sacred humanity of Jesus is therefore the way by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father."

"And this is the grace of our faith," he concluded. "We really could not have hoped for a higher vocation: the humanity of Jesus -- God who came close to us in Jesus -- made available to us the very life of the Trinity, and threw wide open this door of the mystery of the love of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." 

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