Be witnesses of hope in the face of evil, Francis urges Catholics in Nagasaki

PopeFrancisNagasakiBaseballStadium Pope Francis greets Japanese Catholics at Mass in Nagasaki, Japan Nov. 24, 2019. | Vatican Media

On the Feast of Christ the King Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to not be indifferent to evil, but to bear witness to hope and to the kingdom of God still to come.

"If, as missionary disciples, our mission is to be witnesses and heralds of things to come, we cannot become resigned in the face of evil in any of its forms," he said Nov. 24, at Mass in a baseball stadium in Nagasaki, Japan.

"Rather, we are called to be a leaven of Christ's Kingdom wherever we find ourselves: in the family, at work or in society at large," he said. "We are to be a little opening through which the Spirit continues to breathe hope among peoples."

Catholics, Francis added, have a common goal: The kingdom of heaven -- "a goal that cannot be only about tomorrow."

"We have to implore it and begin to experience it today, amid the indifference that so often surrounds and silences the sick and disabled, the elderly and the abandoned, refugees and immigrant workers."

"All of them are a living sacrament of Christ our King," he stated.

Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass with the Catholics of Nagasaki, the central place of Christianity in Japan, during his three-day visit to the country. The visit was part of a larger trip of six days, which began with three days in Thailand.

There are over 62,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Nagasaki, over 4% of the population. Overall in Japan, the percentage of Catholics is less than half of one percent.

In his homily Nov. 24, the pope said Nagasaki "bears in its soul a wound difficult to heal, a scar born of the incomprehensible suffering endured by so many innocent victims of wars past and those of the present…"

"Let us lift our voices here and pray together for all those who even now are suffering in their flesh from this sin that cries out to heaven," he said.

He also emphasized that Catholics know the history of "our failures, sins, and limitations," but do not want to be defined by them: "We want to renew our faith and our commitment."

Like the crowd which surrounded Jesus at his crucifixion, the easy route is to shout "save yourself!" and not think about one's responsibility toward the innocent and suffering, he said.

"Like the good thief, we want to speak up and profess our faith, to defend and assist the Lord, the innocent man of sorrows."

In his homily, Pope Francis also pointed to the Japanese martyrs St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions, who were crucified in 1597 because they would not renounce their faith.

Their witness and the witness of the hundreds of other martyrs "is a distinguished element of your spiritual heritage," he noted.

"We want to to follow in their path, to walk in their footsteps and to profess courageously that the love poured out in sacrifice for us by Christ crucified is capable of overcoming all manner of hatred, selfishness, mockery and evasion."

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