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.”