#PopeFrancis "May he keep us all in his love and unite us..." FULL TEXT in #Assisi + FULL VIDEO - Ecumenical Peace Meeting
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is in Assisi, the hilltop town in central Italy where Saint Francis was born.
His one day visit to Assisi sees him taking part in the closing of the interreligious World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The theme of the 3-day international meeting this year is “Thirst for Peace. Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the First World Day of Prayer for Peace that St. John Paul convened back in 1986, an historic event which saw world leaders of different religions come together for the very first time to pray for peace.
The Pope travelled to Assisi by helicopter and after his landing near the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels where Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi and the local authorities greeted him, the Pope travelled by car to the Holy Convent of Assisi. Here he was welcomed by Father Mauro Gambetti, Custodian of the Holy Convent, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, a Muslim reprepresentative, Dr Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Syro-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Efrem II, a Jewish representative and the Supreme Head of Tendai Buddhism (Japan). They then moved to the Cloister of Sixtus IV where the representatives of Christian denominations and World Religions were waiting.
Pope Francis greeted all participants at the World Day of Prayer for Peace before having lunch in the refectory of the Holy Convent, a lunch that was also attended by and refugees from Syria.
During the afternoon Pope Francis met individually with Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, Archbishop Justin Welby, Patriarch Efrem II and a Jewish representative.
From 4pm local time Prayers for Peace take place in different venues. The Ecumenical Prayer of Christians takes place in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis, after which all the participants are meeting with the Representatives of other religions who have prayed in different places before moving to the podium in the Square.
A closing ceremony takes place at 5.15pm in St. Francis Square with messages read by Pope Francis, by a victim of war, Patriarch Bartholomew I, a Muslim representative, a Jewish representative, Japanese Buddhist Patriarch and by Professor Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.
A Letter appealing for peace is handed to children from various countries and all present observe a moment of silence for the victims of war. Then the signing of an Appeal for Peace,the lighting of two symbolic candles and the exchange of a sign of peace conclude the World Day of Prayer for Peace.
Pope Francis is scheduled to depart from Assisi at 6.30pm and arrive back at the Vatican City Heliport 1 hour later.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ Meditation during the Ecumenical prayer ceremony:
Meditation of His Holiness Pope Francis Lower Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Gathered before Jesus crucified, we hear his words ring out also for us: “I thirst” (Jn 19:28). Thirst, more than hunger, is the greatest need of humanity, and also its greatest suffering. Let us contemplate then the mystery of Almighty God, who in his mercy became poor among men. What does the Lord thirst for? Certainly for water, that element essential for life. But above all for love, that element no less essential for living. He thirsts to give us the living waters of his love, but also to receive our love. The prophet Jeremiah expressed God’s appreciation of our love: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride” (Jer 2:2). But he also gave voice to divine suffering, when ungrateful man abandoned love – it seems as if the Lord is also speaking these words today – “they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (v. 13). It is the tragedy of the “withered heart”, of love not requited, a tragedy that unfolds again in the Gospel, when in response to Jesus’ thirst man offers him vinegar, spoiled wine. As the psalmist prophetically lamented: “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Ps 69:21).
“Love is not loved”: this reality, according to some accounts, is what upset Saint Francis of Assisi. For love of the suffering Lord, he was not ashamed to cry out and grieve loudly (cf. Fonti Francescane, no. 1413). This same reality must be in our hearts as we contemplate Christ Crucified, he who thirsts for love. Mother Teresa of Calcutta desired that in the chapel of every community of her sisters the words “I thirst” would be written next to the crucifix. Her response was to quench Jesus’ thirst for love on the Cross through service to the poorest of the poor. The Lord’s thirst is indeed quenched by our compassionate love; he is consoled when, in his name, we bend down to another’s suffering. On the day of judgment they will be called “blessed” who gave drink to those who were thirsty, who offered true gestures of love to those in need: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
Jesus’ words challenge us, they seek a place in our heart and a response that involves our whole life. In his “I thirst” we can hear the voice of the suffering, the hidden cry of the little innocent ones to whom the light of this world is denied, the sorrowful plea of the poor and those most in need of peace. The victims of war, which sullies people with hate and the earth with arms, plead for peace; our brothers and sisters, who live under the threat of bombs and are forced to leave their homes into the unknown, stripped of everything, plead for peace. They are all brothers and sisters of the Crucified One, the little ones of his Kingdom, the wounded and parched members of his body. They thirst. But they are frequently given, like Jesus, the bitter vinegar of rejection. Who listens to them? Who bothers responding to them? Far too often they encounter the deafening silence of indifference, the selfishness of those annoyed at being pestered, the coldness of those who silence their cry for help with the same ease with which television channels are changed.
Before Christ Crucified, “the power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24), we Christians are called to contemplate the mystery of Love not loved and to pour out mercy upon the world. On the cross, the tree of life, evil was transformed into good; we too, as disciples of the Crucified One, are called to be “trees of life” that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world. From the side of Christ on the Cross water flowed, that symbol of the Spirit who gives life (cf. Jn 19:34); so that from us, his faithful, compassion may flow forth for all who thirst today. Like Mary by the Cross, may the Lord grant us to be united to him and close to those who suffer. Drawing near to those living as crucified, and strengthened by the love of Jesus Crucified and Risen, may our harmony and communion deepen even more. “For he is our peace” (Eph 2:14), he who came to preach peace to those near and far (cf. v. 17). May he keep us all in his love and unite us, so that we may be “one” (Jn 17:21) as he desires.