The challenge of Francis

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maurizio_piccirilliThe extraordinary Jubilee is Pope Francis challenging response to obscurantism and extremism. A provocation during this time of war which is inflaming half the world over , where ideology merges with religion in a mix of hatred and atrocity. An encouragement to give body to the Christian faith. No longer whitened tombstones ready to shear their robes but totally indifferent to the precepts of the Gospel too often ignored. A Jubilee to discover again Christ’s message and behave accordingly because to be a Christian is not only just another title to add to a name but a demonstration in daily life. And so the meaning to be given to this Holy year is Mercy, one of the precepts that Pope Francis, more than any other has espoused over the two years of His Pontificate. Divine mercy which was so profused by Christ during His life on earth. And towards And towards the last, the individual. Supreme value of humility.

And yet, when we speak of Jubilee today, the topics have nothing to do with religion. We speak of money, public works and security. Of course this is very important, considering above all the climate we are living in with the Isis menace hanging over our heads. But what about the rest? Ever since the Jubilee was set up, it has been synonomous of penitance, confession of one’s sins, but by now it just seems an excuse for doing business. “The Italian and Roman economy will be boosted thanks to the extraordinary Jubilee” it has been said. Naturally, this is true, but the spirit of this event is another. And it is right in this historical moment, which sees the Jihardists threatening the Christians in the name of some religious fanaticism that in itself is a heretic within Islam. And the last tragedy which hit Kenya, the massacre on the premises of a university perpetrated by Al Shabaab is clear evidence.

Those who cut heads in the name of god (small letters because the One God is not a ler –note of the editor) Christians must respond with faith: prophesying their faith. Merciful too, and it iso f no pure coincidence, the title that always accompanies th name of Allah in the prayers. Not Christians only on ID cards but in their actions, in the examples they set, as Pope Bergoglio often says.
The calling of Christian sto Romei s an exhortation to rediscover values starting from one’s life-style less materialistic. Freeing oneself from the “weak” thought of relativism. May the Jubiliee go back to its Franicscan style, not only in deference to the Pope who is called Francis, but in order to per discover those values again which Christianity has lost and given for granted after centuries of the enlightenment whose decline is under everyone’s eyes. Empty churches, fewer people taking up priesthood vocations.

Hence, there is no necessity for large-scale public works and to spend millions. We need to equip the city in order to accomodate the exceptional number of people. Streets need to be put in order, more public toilets-and decent-parking for coaches. The latter can and should stay away from the centre: going on fot is part of the penitance. The Jubilee is not to be taken as an outing but as a path of prayer. And may the Diocese of Rome then, open up the churches that are closed, right in the centre of Rome. Artistic jewels and forgotten treasures of spiritualità. “Open your doors to Christ” is the message; give back strength to that sentiment which combines that compassion and mercy towards the shortcomings of mankind, the weaker and less fortunate. Today who are not just the poor and destitute but the countless refugees resulting from this total war which is contaminating too many countries.

They are our next door neighbors hit by misfortune and who are plagued by violence in their countries.
A Jubilee of contrition, of piety, not business. May the politicians and managers bear this well in mind. Many of the public structures built for the Jubilee in 2000 have no longer been used; one need only think of the Esplanade in the Tor Vergata where John Paul II embraced youth and that huge cross symbol of the Holy Year of the millenium, which has ended up in pieces in an automobile junkyard.

Translation provided by Marina Stronati

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