Pope Francis’ spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his March 6 Angelus address, just two days after a March 4 attack at a Missionaries of Charity convent and nursing home for the elderly and disabled persons in Aden, the provisional capital of Yemen, left 16 dead.
Four of the victims were sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, the community founded by Blessed Mother Teresa. Other victims of the attack included volunteers at the home, at least five of whom were Ethiopian. Many were Yemenis. The nursing home had around 80 residents, who were unharmed.
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest from India who had been staying with the sisters since his church was attacked and burned last September, has been missing since the attack, Agenzia Fides reports. Sources close to CNA say the priest was abducted from the convent chapel.
In his address, Pope Francis pointed to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which was recounted in the day’s Gospel from Luke. A better name for the parable could be that of “the merciful Father,” the Pope said, noting how the father in the passage is “a man always ready to forgive and who hopes against all hope.”
In tolerating the younger son’s decision to leave home when he could have easily opposed, the father is respecting his son’s freedom, as God does with us, Francis explained.
“God lets us be free, even to make mistakes, because in creating us he gave us the great gift of freedom,” he said.
However, the father continues to carry the younger son in his heart, “faithfully awaiting his return,” Francis said, explaining that the father has the same attitude of tenderness toward his older son.
He reminds the older son not only of how they have been together and what they have in common, but he also expresses the need for the older son to welcome his brother with joy.
Francis then pointed to a third, “hidden son” in the parable, describing him as the one who “did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.”
This “Servant-Son,” Jesus, is the extension of God’s hand and heart, the Pope said, explaining that he is the one who welcomed the prodigal son, prepared his “banquet of forgiveness” and taught us to be merciful like the father.
Turning to the image of the father in the parable, Pope Francis said that he reveals the heart of God, and shows us “the merciful Father who in Jesus loves us beyond all measure, always waiting for our conversion each time we err.”
Just like the father in the parable, God continues to consider us his children even when we are lost, the Pope said, explaining that even the most serious mistakes we make “don't scratch the fidelity of his love.”
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The Sacrament of Confession, he said, is our opportunity to start again, and is the place where God welcomes us and “restores to us the dignity of his children.”
Pope Francis closed his address with an appeal to intensify their path of interior conversion throughout the rest of Lent.
“Let us allow ourselves to be reached by the gaze of our father, full of love, and return to him with our whole heart, rejecting any compromise with sin,” he said.
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Francis gave a shoutout to the new pilot program “Humanitarian Corridors,” aimed at helping refugees.
An joint-ecumenical initiative of the Sant'Egidio Community, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, the Italian government and the Waldensian and Methodist churches, the projects provides aid and safe passage to those fleeing war and violence.
The first 100 out of the 1,000 refugees who will come from camps in Lebanon, Morocco and Ethiopia, have already transferred to Italy. Among them are sick children, disabled persons, elderly and widows of war with children.