The pope celebrated Mass in Skopje on the last day of a May 5-7 visit to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
According to 2002 estimates, Catholics and other non-Orthodox Christians in North Macedonia are just .4% of a population of over 2 million. The majority religion is Macedonian Orthodox at 65%. Islam is the next largest religion at over 33% of the population.
Local authorities estimated there were around 15,000 people at the Mass, held in Macedonia Square.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the “Bread of Life,” explaining that “The Lord came to give life to the world.”
Jesus, he said, “is the living Bread come down from heaven, who tells us: ‘Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”
But instead of answering this invitation to partake in “living Bread,” people often get used to mediocre, stale substitutes, he said.
“We thought that conformism would satisfy our thirst, yet we ended up drinking only indifference and insensitivity,” he said, and “We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety.”
“Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: Lord, we are hungry.”
Like the crowd which witnessed Christ’s miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, people are hungry to experience the multiplication of Christ’s mercy, Francis stated.
He explained that God’s mercy “can break down our stereotypes and communicate the Father’s compassion for each person, especially those for whom no one cares: the forgotten or despised.”
Noting that later in the Mass, Catholics would be approaching the altar for Communion, he said: “In every Eucharist, the Lord breaks and shares himself. He invites us to break and share ourselves together with him, and to be part of that miraculous multiplication that desires to reach out and touch, with tenderness and compassion, every corner of this city, this country, and this land.”
Earlier Tuesday, before saying Mass, Pope Francis visited the Mother Teresa Memorial House, which is built on the former site of Sacred Heart Church where St. Teresa of Kolkata was baptized. Mother Teresa’s childhood home and Sacred Heart Church were both destroyed in an earthquake in 1963.
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There the pope met religious leaders and poor and said a prayer in honor of Mother Teresa.
“God, Father of mercy and all goodness, we thank you for giving us the life and the charism of Saint Mother Teresa,” he prayed.
“In your boundless providence, you called her to bear witness to your love among the poorest of the poor in India and throughout the world,” he said. “She was able to do much good to those in greatest need, for she saw in every man and woman the face of your Son.”
Mother Teresa, the pope said, took up the words of Jesus on the cross: “I thirst,” sating “the thirst of the crucified Lord by accomplishing works of merciful love.”
Pope Francis prayed that St. Mother Teresa would intercede for the city of Skopje, her birthplace and the city in which she spent her young life.
“Here you learned from your parents to love those in greatest need and to help them,” he said. “Here, in the silence of the church, you heard the call of Jesus to follow him as a religious in the missions.”