In the pope’s messages to pilgrims from different countries, he also asked people to pray for peace in Ukraine.
“This week we will celebrate St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church. May he, during this month of March which is dedicated to him, be an intercessor for the peace that the world so badly needs,” Pope Francis said in his greeting to French pilgrims.
The pope also asked young people to pray for their peers in Ukraine who are suffering. He was speaking during a brief meeting with Catholic school students from Milan, northern Italy, in St. Peter’s Basilica just before the general audience.
He said: “I ask you to think, let’s think of so many children, boys and girls, who are at war, who today in Ukraine are suffering. They are like you, six, seven, 14 years old. You have before you a future, a security of growing up in a society in peace. Instead, these little ones, even little ones, have to flee from the bombs. They are suffering so much with that cold that it is there.”
“Let each of us think of these kids, boys and girls, who are suffering today, 3,000 kilometers [1,800 miles] from here. Let us pray to the Lord, I will make the prayer, you pray with me with your heart and mind.”
The pope then prayed for “all the children who are living under the bombs, who see this terrible war, who have no food, who must flee, leaving home, everything. Lord Jesus, look upon these children, these children, they are the victims of the pride of us, the adults. Lord Jesus, bless these children and protect them. Together we pray to Our Lady to protect them.”
Noah and the Flood
In his general audience address, Pope Francis offered a reflection on chapter six of the Book of Genesis on the flood that struck the world in the time of Noah.
“The Bible narrative — with the symbolic language of the time in which it was written — tells us something shocking. God was so embittered by the widespread wickedness of humans, which had become a normal style of life, that he thought he had made a mistake in creating them and decided to eliminate them. A radical solution,” he said.
“It might even have a paradoxical twist of mercy. No more humans, no more history, no more judgment, no more condemnation. And many predestined victims of corruption, violence, injustice would be spared forever.”
Pope Francis said that in modern times, too, people can be “overwhelmed by the sense of powerlessness against evil or demoralized by the ‘prophets of doom,’” which makes people “think it would be better if we had not been born.”
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“Should we give credit to some recent theories, which denounce the human race as an evolutionary detriment to life on our planet? All negative? No,” Francis said.
Pope Francis highlighted how in the biblical account of the flood, God entrusted an elderly person, Noah, with the task of saving life on Earth. Noah is an example of righteousness for older people, in particular, he said.
“Noah does not preach, he does not complain, he does not recriminate, but rather he takes care of the future of the generation that is in danger … He builds the ark of acceptance and lets people and animals enter it,” Francis said.
“In his care for life, in all its forms, Noah obeys God’s commandment, repeating the tender and generous gesture of creation, which in reality is the very thought that inspires the command of God: a new blessing, a new creation.”
Much of the pope’s general audience reflection focused on the topic of corruption.