GENERAL AUDIENCE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE, THE POPE’S APPEAL FOR PEACE IN SYRIA

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Pope Francis has renewed His appeal for Aleppo at the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. “Our thoughts turn once again towards our beloved and battered Syria. I keep receiving tragic news about the fate of the people of Aleppo, whose suffering I join through prayer and spiritual closeness – the Pope said -, expressing deep sorrow and deep concern for what is happening in this battered city, where young, elderly, sick, young and old people, everyone dies … I renew my call to engage with all our strength in the protection of the civilians, as an imperative and urgent requirement. I appeal to the conscience of those responsible for the bombings, who must answer for their actions before God.”

Francis made his catechesis on the words of forgiveness uttered by Jesus on the cross. Words that “becomes a concrete act in the forgiveness offered to the good thief.” The Pontiff pointed out that “Jesus saved us while remaining on the cross. From there, he makes his gift of love, the root of our forgiveness forever. Dying on the cross, an innocent between two criminals, he testifies that God’s salvation can reach any man in any condition, even in the most negative and painful situation. This is why the Jubilee is of grace and mercy for everyone, good and bad, those in health and those who suffer. To those who cannot get out of a hospital bed, who live locked in a prison, to those who are trapped in war… I tell all of them: look at the crucifix; God is with you, He stays with you on the Cross and offers Himself as the Savior to all of us. Let the power of the Gospel enter your heart and soothe you, give you hope and the intimate certainty that no one is excluded from His forgiveness”.

Commenting on the attitude of the good thief, Francis said that “his words are a wonderful model of repentance, a packed down catechesis to learn to ask Jesus to grant us forgiveness.” Thus, “Jesus is there, on the Cross, to be with the guilty: through this closeness, He offers them salvation. What is a scandal for the leaders and for the first thief, is the foundation of his faith for the second. Thus, the good thief becomes a witness of grace; the unthinkable happened: God loved me to the point of dying on the Cross for me.” Moreover, the good thief “asks Jesus to remember him. How much tenderness in this expression, how much humanity there! This is the need of the human being not to be abandoned, God is always near. This way, a condemned man becomes an exemplary Christian, who relies on Jesus the “true” face of his Father’s mercy.” Then, he added: “It is true, he was a thief. He had been stealing all his life. But in the end, he regretted what he had done, looking at the good and merciful Jesus, he managed to steal Heavens: he is a good thief!”

In a packed St. Peter’s Square, the Pope lit a torch, a “symbol of the love of families in Rome and in the whole world”, to donate it to the Delegation of the Diocese of Rome, which organized a Family Week from 2 to 8 October, and finally addressed a thought “to the group of workers dismissed in the Basilicata,” hoping “that the severe employment situation can find a positive solution through everyone’s effective commitment to open paths of hope: unemployment rates cannot grow any further”.

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