During the prayer, Francis referenced the organ, pointing out how it must have “accompanied the life, the creativity, the imagination and the devotion of all those who were moved by its sound.”
“It has been the instrument of God and of men for lifting of eyes and hearts to heaven. Today it is a symbol of this city and its cathedral,” he said. “For those who live here, it is more than a monumental organ; it is part of the life, traditions and identity of this place.”
He said the organ can be a symbol of the Christian faith, which as St. Luke says, “is not to be hidden away, but to be made known and to resound in the various sectors of society.”
If the “music of the Gospel” is not heard in people’s lives, there can be no hope, he said. If the music of the Gospel does not sound in homes, in workplaces, in public, people will not recognize the duty to defend the dignity of every man and woman.
If the music of the Gospel stops, people will lose joy, compassion, trust, and the capacity for reconciliation. He stated: “If the music of the Gospel is no longer heard, we will lose the sounds that guide our lives to heaven and become locked into one of the worst ills of our day: loneliness and isolation.”
“Thank God” that the words of the Gospel of John continue to “echo in our midst,” the pope said: “Father, that all may be one… so that the world may believe.”
He explained that Jesus prayed these words before his Passion, “as he looked ahead to his own cross.” This constant and quiet prayer marks a path for everyone, shows the way to follow, he emphasized.
“We discover the only path possible for all ecumenism: that of confronting the cross of suffering… Jesus turning to his Father, and to us his brothers and sisters, continues to pray: ‘that all may be one.’”
These are not easy times, Francis said, especially for those who, even today, are experiencing exile and martyrdom for the faith. “Yet their witness makes us realize that the Lord continues to call us, asking us to live the Gospel radically, in joy and gratitude.”
“If Christ deemed us worthy to live in these times, at this hour – the only hour we have – we cannot let ourselves be overcome by fear, nor allow this time to pass without living it fully with joyful fidelity,” he said.
Following the prayer meeting Pope Francis met with elderly men and women in St. James’ Catholic Cathedral. Though a historically Lutheran country, Catholics make up around 25 percent of the population of just under 2 million.
At St. James’ the pope recalled the many trials older Latvians have experienced, such as war, political repression, persecution, and exile. “Yet you remained steadfast; you persevered in faith,” he said.
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“Neither the Nazi regime, nor the Soviet regime could extinguish the faith in your hearts. Neither could they stop some of you from becoming priests, religious sisters, catechists, or from serving the Church in other ways that put your lives at risk,” he said. “You fought the good fight; you ran the race, you kept the faith.”
He pointed to the words of St. James to have constancy in faith, and encouraged those present to persevere, to “not yield to disappointment or grief,” to not lose gentleness or hope.
Francis encouraged them to have, in their homes and homeland, “patient endurance and patient expectation,” so that “in this way you will continue to build your people.”
Before the meetings in the two cathedrals, Pope Francis started his day in Latvia with a brief speech to the country’s authorities. To them he said he was happy to know that the Catholic Church, in cooperation with the other Christian churches, is an important part of the country’s roots.
“The Gospel has nourished the life of your people in the past; today it can continue to open new paths enabling you to face present challenges, to value differences and, above all, to encourage ‘com-union’ between all,” he said.
The pope also praised the country’s liberty, which is celebrated during this year’s 100th anniversary of the country’s declaration of independence.