Vatican City, Jan 25, 2015 / 12:35 pm
During his weekly Angelus address, Pope Francis decried the recent escalation of violence in Ukraine, and later called on Christians to pray for unity with one another.
"With deep concern, I am following the worsening of clashes in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many victims among the civilian population," the Pope said Jan. 25, addressing the crowds from the window of the Apostolic Palace.
Thirty people were killed by rocket fire in Mariupol, Ukraine, amid clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, according to BBC. The attacks are the latest in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine which has left 5,000 people dead since April 2014.
Assuring his prayers for the suffering in Ukraine, the Pope renewed his "heartfelt appeal" for dialogue to be resumed, and for "an end to every hostility."
Beginning his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel, which recounts John the Baptist's arrest, followed by Jesus' coming to Galilee with the proclamation: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14).
"Jesus Christ himself is the living and working Word in history: he who listens to him and follows him enters the Kingdom of God," the Pope said.
He is the "fulfilment of the Divine promises because it is he who gives man the Holy Spirit, the 'living water' which quenches our restless hearts," which "thirst for life, love freedom, peace: thirst for God."
"How often do we feel, or have we felt, thirst in our hearts," the Holy Father remarked.
He noted that the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes on Jan. 25, is taken from Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well: "Give me a drink" (John 4:7). The end of the week is marked by vespers presided over by the Holy Father at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Pope Francis said it is "ugly" for Christians to be divided, adding: "Jesus wants us united: one body!"
Having been divided by "our sins," the Pope continued, "we must pray a great deal that the Holy Spirit might unite us once again."
In becoming man, the Pope continued, God took upon himself "our thirst, not only for material water," but for "a full life, a life of freedom from the slavery of evil and death."
"God thirsts for us, for our hearts, for our love, and has placed this thirst in the heart of Jesus. Therefore, in the heart of Christ, human and Divine thirst meet."
Stressing that Jesus desires the "unity of all," Pope Francis noted that the devil, "the father of division, is one who always divides, who always makes war, does much evil."
"May Jesus' thirst become ever more our thirst!" he said.
Before leading the crowds in the recitation of the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis appealed to Mary, "Mother of Christ, mother of the Church," who "unifies us all as a good mother."
After the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Pope recalled that Jan. 25 is the World Leprosy Day, and expressed his nearness to all those "who suffer from this disease," as well as their caretakers.
In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope extended a particular greeting to the Filipino community in Rome. This being his first Angelus address since returning from his apostolic visit to the Philippines, the Holy Father commented on their "strong and joyful faith."
"Thank you so much for all the good that you have done for us, because you have sown the faith among us, have made a beautiful witness of faith."
Pope Francis went on to greet the other pilgrims in the square, especially the young boys and girls from Catholic Action in Rome, one of whom was invited to address the crowds alongside the Holy Father.
Concluding his address, the Pope asked the faithful to not forget to pray for him.