Pope urges Peruvians to focus on hope, unity ahead of trip

Pope Francis at the general audience in St Peters Square on June 21 2017 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA Pope Francis at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, June 21, 2017. | L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis has sent a special message to Peruvians ahead of his visit to their country next year, telling them to look to the great saints of the nation as they prepare, and pointing to hope and unity as key areas of reflection.

Standing beside a statue of St. Martin de Porres, the Pope told Peruvians in his native Spanish that he will be with them in just a short time, and that "I have a great desire to go."

"You are a people with a large legacy, (and) the most beautiful legacy that a people can have is the legacy of the saints," he said, noting that Peru has "many saints, and great saints that mark Latin America."

Among the best-known of these are St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, St. Francis Solano, and St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, in addition to the widespread devotion to the image of Our Lord of the Miracles.

In his message, Pope Francis said it is the saints who built the Church in Peru, "from scattering to unity," referring to the divisions present in the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Spanish colony during the existence of which many of Peru's canonized saints lived.

"A saint always works along this line: from what is scattered to unity, which is what Jesus did. A Christian has to follow this path," Pope Francis said in his message, adding that "whoever works for unity looks forward."

While some look ahead with scepticism or bitterness, "a Christian cannot," he said. "A Christian looks ahead with hope, because he hopes to achieve that which the Lord has promised him."

Pope Francis closed the video telling Peruvians that he would see them soon, and that in the meantime, they have homework: "unity and hope, work on this. I'll pray for you, you pray for me."

The video message was published Aug. 5 by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani of Lima.

Francis' greeting comes just five months before his Jan. 15-21, 2018, visit to Chile and Peru. In Peru, he is slated to visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado, and Trujillo.

If his message is any indication, the saints and their role in evangelizing Peru will likely be a focus in his speeches, with a special emphasis on hope and unity – themes he is already known to speak about frequently.

As far as Peruvian saints, Rose of Lima is likely the most well-known. She was born in Lima to Spanish parents in 1586. At a very young age, she chose to consecrate her life to God.

As part of her commitment, she practiced very intense prayer and penance each day, at times depriving herself of food and sleep. She eventually joined the Third Order of St. Dominic, continuing her tough penances. After three years of illness, she died at the age of 31 in 1617.

Her feast day is celebrated Aug. 23 in many parts of the world, while in Peru and several other places it is observed Aug. 30.

Also among the more widely known saints is Martin de Porres, who was the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman.

Born in Lima in 1579, he was a talented medical apprentice and sought to enter the Dominican Order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a Peruvian law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.

Instead, he lived with the community and did manual work, earning the nickname "the saint of the broom" for his diligence and care in cleaning the Dominicans' quarters. Eventually, he was permitted to join the order despite the Peruvian law, and he worked with the sick in the infirmary.

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