Pope Francis says "The Church, as catholic, universal, is an open space in which all are welcomed and gathered together by God’s mercy and invitation to love." FULL TEXT + Video in Cyprus

(2-6 DECEMBER 2021)



Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace in Nicosia
Thursday, December 2, 2021

Beatitudes, dear brother Bishops,
dear priests
men and women religious, dear catechists, brothers and sisters, Χαίρετε! [Greetings!]

I am happy to be among you. I wish to express my gratitude to Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï for the words addressed to me and greet Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa with affection. Thanks to all of you, for your ministry and your service; in particular to you, sisters, for the educational work that you carry out in the school, much frequented by the children of the island, a meeting place, a place of dialogue, learning the art of building bridges. Thanks! Thank you all for your closeness to people, especially in social and work contexts where it is more difficult.


I share my joy of visiting this land, walking as a pilgrim in the footsteps of the great Apostle Barnabas, son of this people, disciple in love with Jesus, intrepid herald of the Gospel who, passing through the nascent Christian communities, saw God's grace at work and he rejoiced "and exhorted everyone to remain faithful to the Lord with a steadfast heart" ( Acts 11:23). And I come with the same desire: to see God's grace at work in your Church and in your land, to rejoice with you for the wonders that the Lord works and to exhort you to persevere always, without getting tired, without ever getting discouraged. God is greater! God is greater than our contradictions. Come on!

I look at you and see the richness of your diversity. It's true, a nice "fruit salad"! All different. 

 I greet the Maronite Church, which over the centuries has landed on the island on several occasions and, often going through many trials, has persevered in the faith. When I think of Lebanon, I feel so much concerned about the crisis it is facing and I feel the suffering of a people tired and tried by violence and pain. I bring in my prayer the desire for peace that rises from the heart of that country. I thank you for what you are doing in the Church, for Cyprus. Cedars of Lebanon are mentioned many times in Scripture as models of beauty and grandeur. But even a great cedar starts from the roots and slowly sprouts. You are these roots, transplanted to Cyprus to spread the fragrance and beauty of the Gospel. Thanks!

I also greet the Latin Church, present here for millennia, which over time has seen the enthusiasm of faith grow together with its children and which today, thanks to the presence of so many migrant brothers and sisters, presents itself as a "multicolored" people. , a real meeting place between different ethnic groups and cultures. This face of the Church reflects the role of Cyprus in the European continent: a land of golden fields, an island caressed by the waves of the sea, but above all a history that is intertwined with peoples and a mosaic of encounters. So is the Church: catholic, that is, universal, an open space in which all are welcomed and reached by the mercy of God and the invitation to love. There are and there are no walls in the Catholic Church. And this, let's not forget! None of us have been called here to proselytize as preachers, ever. Proselytism is sterile, it does not give life. We have all been called by the mercy of God, who never tires of calling, never tires of being near, never tires of forgiving. Where are the roots of our Christian vocation? In God's mercy. We must never forget that. The Lord does not disappoint; his mercy does not disappoint. Always waiting for us. There are and there are no walls in the Catholic Church, please! It is a common home, it is the place of relationships, it is the coexistence of diversities: that rite, that other rite…; one thinks it that way, that nun has seen it that way, that other has seen it in that other ... The diversity of all and, in that diversity, the richness of unity. And who makes the unity? The Holy Spirit. And who makes the diversity? The Holy Spirit. Who can understand understand. He is the author of diversity and he is the author of harmony. St. Basil used to say: "Ipse harmonia est ”. He is the One who makes the diversity of gifts and the harmonious unity of the Church.

Dear friends, I would now like to share with you something about St Barnabas, your brother and patron, taking a few words from his life and mission.

The first is patience . We speak of Barnabas as a great man of faith and balance, who is chosen by the Church of Jerusalem - it can be said by the Mother Church - as the most suitable person to visit a new community, that of Antioch, made up of several newly converted from the paganism. He is sent to go and see what is happening, almost like an explorer. It finds people who come from another world, another culture, another religious sensibility; people who have just changed their lives and therefore have a faith full of enthusiasm, but still fragile, as in the beginning. In all this situation, Barnabas' attitude is one of great patienceHe knows how to wait. He knows how to wait for the tree to grow. It is the patience of constantly setting out on a journey; the patience to enter the life of people hitherto unknown; the patience to accept the novelty without hastily judging it; the patience of discernment, which knows how to grasp the signs of God's work everywhere; the patience to "study" other cultures and traditions. Barnabas above all has the patience of accompaniment: let it grow, accompanying. It does not crush the fragile faith of the new arrivals with rigorous, inflexible attitudes, or with too demanding requests regarding the observance of precepts. No. He lets them grow, accompanies them, takes them by the hand, talks with them. Barnabas is not scandalized, as a father and a mother are not scandalized by their children, they accompany them, they help them to grow. Keep this in mind: divisions, proselytism within the Church do not go. Let it grow and accompany. And if you have to scold someone, scold them, but with love, with peace. He is the man of patience.

We need a patient Church,dear brothers and sisters. Of a Church that does not allow itself to be upset and disturbed by changes, but serenely welcomes novelty and discerns situations in the light of the Gospel. On this island, the work you do in welcoming the new brothers and sisters who come from other shores of the world is precious: like Barnabas, you too are called to cultivate a patient and attentive gaze, to be visible and credible signs of patience. of God who never leaves anyone out of the house, never anyone without his tender embrace. The Church in Cyprus has these open arms: it welcomes, integrates, accompanies. It is also an important message for the Church throughout Europe, marked by the crisis of faith: you don't need to be impulsive, you don't need to be aggressive or nostalgic or complaining, but it is good to go on reading the signs of the times and also the signs of the crisis. It is necessary to begin again to proclaim the Gospel with patience, to take the Beatitudes in hand, above all to announce them to the new generations. To you, brother Bishops, I would like to say: be patient shepherds in proximity, never tire of seeking God in prayer, seeking priests in the encounter, brothers of other Christian confessions with respect and care, the faithful where they live. And to you, dear priests who are here, I would like to say: be patient with the faithful, always ready to encourage them, be tireless ministers of God's forgiveness and mercy. Never rigorous judges, always loving fathers. Brother Bishops, I would like to say: be patient pastors in your closeness, never tire of seeking God in prayer, seeking priests in encounters, brothers of other Christian confessions with respect and care, the faithful where they live. And to you, dear priests who are here, I would like to say: be patient with the faithful, always ready to encourage them, be tireless ministers of God's forgiveness and mercy. Never rigorous judges, always loving fathers. Brother Bishops, I would like to say: be patient pastors in your closeness, never tire of seeking God in prayer, seeking priests in encounters, brothers of other Christian confessions with respect and care, the faithful where they live. And to you, dear priests who are here, I would like to say: be patient with the faithful, always ready to encourage them, be tireless ministers of God's forgiveness and mercy. Never rigorous judges, always loving fathers.

When I read the Parable of the prodigal son: the older brother was a rigorous judge, but the father was merciful, the image of the Father who always forgives, indeed, who is always waiting for us to forgive! Last year a group of young people doing shows, pop music, they wanted to make the parable of the prodigal son, sung in pop music and the dialogues… Beautiful! But the most beautiful thing is the final discussion, when the prodigal son goes to a friend and says: “I can't go on like this. I want to go home, but I'm afraid that dad will close the door in my face, throw me away. I have this fear and I don't know how to do it "-" But your dad is good! " - "Yes, but you know ... my brother is there, warming his head". Towards the end of that pop opera about the prodigal son, his friend tells him: “Do one thing: write to your dad and tell him you want to come back but you're afraid he won't welcome you well. Tell your dad that, if he wants to welcome you well, put a handkerchief on the highest window of the house, so your dad will tell you first if he will welcome you or chase you away ”. That act ends. In the other act, the son is on his way to his father's house. And when he is on his way, he turns, and you see his father's house: it was full of white handkerchiefs! Full! This is God for us. This is God for us. He never tires of forgiving. And when the son begins to speak: "Ah, sir, I did ..." - "Shut up", he stops his mouth.

To you priests: please, do not be rigorous in confession. When you see that some person is in trouble you say: "I understand, I understand". This does not mean "wide sleeve", no. It means the heart of a father, just as the heart of a father is God. The work that the Lord does in the life of every person is a sacred story: let us be passionate about it. In the multiform variety of your people, patience also means having ears and hearts for different spiritual sensitivities, different ways of expressing faith, different cultures. The Church does not want to standardize - please, no! - but to integrate all cultures, all people's psychologies, with maternal patience, because the Church is mother. This is what we wish to do with God's grace in the synodal itinerary: patient prayer, patient listening for a Church docile to God and open to man.

In the story of Barnabas there is a second important aspect that I would like to underline: his encounter with Paul of Tarsus and their fraternal friendship, which will lead them to live the mission together. After the conversion of Paul, who had previously been a relentless persecutor of Christians, "everyone was afraid of him, not yet believing that he was a disciple" ( Acts 9:26). Here the Book of the Acts of the Apostles says a very beautiful thing: "Barnabas took him with him" (v. 27). He introduces him to the community, tells what happened to him, guarantees for him. Let's listen to this “ he took it with him". The expression recalls the same mission of Jesus, who took the disciples with him along the streets of Galilee, who took upon himself our humanity wounded by sin. It is an attitude of friendship, an attitude of sharing life. To take with oneself, to take upon oneself is to take on the history of the other, to give oneself the time to know him without labeling him - the sin of labeling people, please! -, to carry him on his shoulders when he is tired or wounded, as the Good Samaritan does (cf. Lk 10 : 25-37). This is called fraternity . And this is the second word that I would like to say to you. The first, patience ; the second, fraternity .

Barnabas and Paul, as brothers, travel together to proclaim the Gospel, even in the midst of persecutions. In the Church of Antioch, "they stayed together for a whole year and taught many people" ( Acts 11:26). Both, then, by the will of the Holy Spirit, were reserved for a greater mission and "set sail for Cyprus" ( Acts13.4). And the Word of God ran and grew not only for their human qualities, but above all because they were brothers in the name of God and this fraternity of theirs made the commandment of love shine. Different brothers, different - like the fingers of a hand, all different - but all with the same dignity. Brothers. Then, as happens in life, happens an unexpected event: the Acts say that the two have a strong disagreement and their separate ways (cf. Acts15.39). Even among the brothers there is discussion, sometimes they argue. Paul and Barnabas, however, do not separate for personal reasons, but because they are discussing their ministry, on how to carry out the mission, and they have different visions. Barnabas also wants to take young Marco on a mission, Paul does not want to. They argue, but from some subsequent letters of Paul it becomes clear that there was no rancor between the two. Even to Timothy, who has to join him later, Paul writes: "Try to come quickly to me [...] Take Mark with you [really him!] And bring him, because it will be useful for my ministry" ( 2 Tm4,9.11). This is fraternity in the Church: one can discuss visions, points of view - and it is convenient to do so, it is convenient, this is good, a little discussion is good - about different sensitivities and ideas, because it is bad to never discuss. When there is this too rigorous peace, it does not belong to God. In a family, brothers discuss, exchange points of view. I suspect those who never argue, because they have hidden "agendas", all the time. This is the fraternity of the Church: you can discuss visions, sensitivities, different ideas, and in some cases say things to each other frankly, this helps in some cases, and not say them from behind with a chat that is not good for you. to nobody. Discussion is an opportunity for growth and change. But we always remember: we discuss not to make war, not to impose ourselves, but to express and live the vitality of the Spirit, which is love and communion. We argue, but we remain brothers. I remember, as a child, there were five of us. We argued among ourselves, sometimes strongly, not every day, and then we were all together at the table. The discussion of the family that has a mother, the mother Church: the children argue.

Dear brothers and sisters, we need a fraternal Churchthat it is an instrument of fraternity for the world. Here in Cyprus there are many spiritual and ecclesial sensitivities, various stories of origin, of rites, of different traditions; but we must not feel diversity as a threat to identity, nor should we get jealous and worry about their respective spaces. If we fall into this temptation fear grows, fear generates mistrust, mistrust leads to suspicion and sooner or later leads to war. We are brothers, loved by one Father. You are immersed in the Mediterranean: a sea of ​​different stories, a sea that has rocked many civilizations, a sea from which people, peoples and cultures from all over the world still disembark. With your fraternity you can remind everyone, the whole of Europe, that in order to build a future worthy of man it is necessary to work together, to overcome divisions, tear down walls and cultivate the dream of unity. We need to welcome and integrate, to walk together, to be all brothers and sisters!

I thank you for who you are and for what you do, for the joy with which you proclaim the Gospel and for the efforts and renunciations with which you sustain it and make it progress. This is the way designed by the holy Apostles Paul and Barnabas. I wish you always to be a patient Church, which discerns, which is never frightened, discerns, accompanies and integrates; and a fraternal Church, which makes room for the other, discusses but remains united, and grows in discussion. I bless you, each of you. And please keep praying for me, because I need it! Efcharistó! [Thanks!]

 FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot - Translation from Italian


Anonymous said…
Nice words from his holiness ; now comes the hard part to see them transfer into deed