Monday, December 09, 2013

Pope celebrates Mass with Egyptian Patriarch his daily Mass on Monday, Pope Francis appealed for an end to division and hatred in the Holy Land and the Middle East. 

The Holy Father concelebrated the Mass with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria (Egypt), Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, on the occasion of the public manifestation of “ecclesiastical communion” between the Patriarch and the Successor of Peter. 

The Pope spoke about his closeness to Egyptian Christians who are experiencing insecurity and violence, then renewed his appeal for religious liberty throughout the whole of the Middle East.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis turned his thoughts immediately to the Coptic faithful, recalling the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first Reading, which speak of a re-awakening of the heart in expectation of the Lord:

“We feel that the encouragement for ‘the faint of heart’ is directed to so many in your beloved land of Egypt who are experiencing insecurity and violence, sometimes because of their Christian faith. ‘Be strong, do not fear!’ Here are the consoling words that find their confirmation in fraternal solidarity. I am thankful to God for this encounter that gives me a way to reinforce your hope and our hope, because they are the same.”

The Gospel, he continued, presents “Christ who conquers the paralysis of humanity.” But, he noted, “the paralysis of consciences is contagious.” “With the complicity of the poverties of history and of our sin,” he said, “it can expand and enter into social structures and into communities to block entire peoples.” But, he said, “the command of Christ: ‘Arise, walk!’ can reverse the situation”:

“Let us pray with confidence that in the Holy Land and all the Middle East peace might be able to rise from the often recurring and sometimes dramatic breaks [in the peace process]. Rather, let hatred and divisions be ended forever! Let the peace agreements, often paralyzed by conflicting and obscure interests, be quickly resumed. Let real guarantees of religious liberty be given to all, together with the rights of Christians to live peacefully in the places where they were born, in the native country they love as citizens of more than two thousand years, in order that they might contribute as always to the good of all.”

Pope Francis then recalled that Jesus experienced the flight into Egypt with the Holy Family, and was welcomed into that “generous land.” And so he invoked the Lord, praying that He might “watch over the Egyptians, that along the paths of the world they might seek dignity and security”:

“And let us always go forward, seeking the Lord, seeking new paths, new ways to come closer to the Lord. And if it necessary to open a hole in the roof in order for us to bring everyone closer to the Lord, may our creative imagination of charity bring us to do this: to find and to make new paths of encounter, paths of brotherhood, paths of peace.”

For his part, Patriarch Sidrak expressed his joy at the opportunity to celebrate the divine liturgy with the Pope. He emphasized that at this delicate moment in history, the Church in Egypt needs the “paternal support” of the Successor of Peter. 

And, like Pope Francis, he too prayed for the gift of peace: “That the light of the Holy Nativity might be the star that reveals the path of love, of unity, of reconciliation, and of peace, gifts of which my Land has such great need. Asking for your blessing, Holy Father, we eagerly await it in Egypt.”

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