Pope Francis in North Macedonia: History is written by people like Mother Teresa

Pope Francis North Macedonia May 7 2019 credit vatican media Pope Francis holds a small sculpture of Mother Teresa in Skopje's cathedral May 7, 2019. | Vatican Media.

In the first-ever papal visit to North Macedonia Tuesday, Pope Francis lauded the lasting legacy of Mother Teresa, a saint unafraid to offer her life for love.

"This land was able to give to the world and to the Church in Mother Teresa just that kind of concrete sign of how one small person, anointed by the Lord, could permeate everything, once the fragrance of the Beatitudes was spread over the weary feet of our humanity," Pope Francis said in Skopje, Mother Teresa's hometown, May 7.

"How many people were put at ease by the tenderness of her glance, comforted by her caress, sustained by her hope and nourished by the courage of her faith, which could make even the most forgotten in our midst realize that they are not forgotten by God," the pope said in his meeting with Macedonian priests and religious in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

"History is written by people like this, people unafraid to offer their lives for love: whenever you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me," Pope Francis said.

Earlier Tuesday, Pope Francis visited Skopje's 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.

"All too often we let ourselves think that things might be different if we were strong, powerful and influential," Francis reflected, adding that the "secret of our strength" has another source.

He quoted St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who wrote "Certainly, the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed."

According to 2002 estimates, Catholics and other non-Orthodox Christians in North Macedonia are just 0.4% 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.

Pope Francis encouraged the small Macedonian Catholic community not to be discouraged by their minority status or to develop "an inferiority complex," but to use their vulnerability to empathize with those who struggle.

"Draw near to all those persons who daily struggle to make ends meet. Families that fail to grow, the elderly and abandoned, the sick and bedridden, young people frustrated and without a future, and the poor who remind us what we truly are: a Church of beggars in need of the Lord's Mercy," the pope said in his final address of his May 5-7 trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

"Draw near to the frustrations and the uncertainties felt by so many of our brothers and sisters who yearn for an anointing that can lift them up and heal their hope," he added.

Francis encouraged the priests and religious not to lose their zeal for mission, and asked everyone in the room to repeat together with him, "Come, Lord Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus!"

The meeting included Byzantine Catholic priests and their families leading the pope to meditate on Catholic family life.

"I like to think of each family as an icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Its daily life had its share of burdens," he said. "Through the faith built up by daily struggles, they are able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love."

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