Pope from Juba: Christians be salt and light to bring peace
Juba (AsiaNews) - "Let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge." Let each one become "salt and light" to bring hope and peace to South Sudan. This is the appeal Pope Francis made in Juba this morning in his homily at the concluding Mass of his apostolic journey to Africa.
The Eucharistic celebration was held in front of 100,000 faithful at the John Garang mausoleum, the hero of independence of this young African country, plagued by a civil war that has made it the African country with the largest number of displaced persons and refugees.
The pope addressed this wounded humanity yesterday afternoon in an intensely touching encounter: together with Anglican Primate Justin Welby and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Pastor Iain Greenshields, who accompanied him on this ecumenical pilgrimage, he invoked God's peace, which is "not only a truce amid conflicts, but a fraternal fellowship that comes from uniting and not absorbing; from pardoning and not overpowering; from reconciling and not imposing."
It is everyone's task to build this peace he recalled today in his homily at Mass, dwelling on the images of salt that gives flavor and light not to be hidden under a bushel, proposed by the liturgy.
Francis commented, "when you consider its many wounds, the violence that increases the venom of hatred, and the injustice that causes misery and poverty, you may feel small and powerless. Whenever that temptation assails you, try looking at salt and its tiny grains. Salt is a tiny ingredient and, once placed on food, it disappears, it dissolves; yet precisely in that way it seasons the whole dish. In the same way, even though we are tiny and frail, even when our strength seems paltry before the magnitude of our problems and the blind fury of violence, we Christians are able to make a decisive contribution to changing history."
Hence - therefore - the appeal, in an African country with a large Christian majority: "In the name of Jesus and of his Beatitudes, let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge, in order to take up those of prayer and charity. Let us overcome the dislikes and aversions that over time have become chronic and risk pitting tribes and ethnic groups against one another. Let us learn to apply the salt of forgiveness to our wounds; salt burns but it also heals. Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil, and we will grow healthy within. Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us."
Even in a country as deeply wounded as South Sudan, each person, the pope explained, can become a light: "efore we worry about the darkness surrounding us, before we hope that the shadows around us will lighten, we are called to radiate light, to give brightness to our cities, our villages and homes, our acquaintances and all our daily activities by our lives and good works. The Lord will give us strength, the strength to be light in him, so that everyone will see our good works, and seeing them, as Jesus reminds us, they will rejoice in God and give him glory. If we live like sons and daughters, brothers and sisters on earth, people will come to know that all of us have a Father in heaven".
The flame of charity fuels this light. "We are asked to burn with love," Francis further added. "Never to let our light be extinguished, never to let the oxygen of charity fade from our lives so that the works of evil can take away the pure air of our witness. This country, so beautiful yet ravaged by violence, needs the light that each one of you has, or better, the light that each one of you is."
At the end of the celebration, before the Angelus prayer, the pontiff then expressed his thanks to the hundreds of thousands of faithful he had met over the past few days: "You have flocked here in great numbers from different parts, many making many hours if not days on the road," he said. "In addition to the affection you have shown me, I thank you for your faith, for your patience, for all the good you do and for the labors you offer to God without becoming discouraged, knowing how to go forward.
"Hope," he added, "is the word I would like to leave to each of you, as a gift to share, as a seed that bears fruit. As the figure of St. Josephine Bakhita (originally from Sudan ed.) reminds us, hope, here especially, is in the sign of the woman and I would like to thank and bless in a special way all the women of the country." And to the Mother of all women he once again entrusted "the cause of peace in South Sudan and the entire African Continent. To Our Lady we also entrust peace in the world, especially the many countries that are at war, such as the tormented Ukraine."
Finally-before departing for Rome-the promise made together with Anglican Primate Welby and Church of Scotland Moderator Greenshields: "We have come here and we will continue to accompany your steps, all three of us together, doing all we can so that they may be steps of peace, steps toward peace. You are in our hearts, you are in the hearts of Christians around the world. Never lose hope. And do not miss the opportunity to build peace."