Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Pope Francis urged both Christians and Muslims to respect each other, utilizing education to promote peace. At the end of his Angelus address to pilgrims, he also greeted Muslims worldwide who ended their month of fasting known as Ramadan on August 9.
The pontiff preached about God’s love as the greatest treasure of humanity. Speaking about the reading of the Gospel for the day’s Mass, Pope Francis spoke about humanity’s desire for an encounter with Christ. This is a key aspect of humanity, he said, and that all people "have this desire in our hearts, be it explicit or hidden." The Gospel of St. Luke’s speaks of Jesus and His disciples walking towards Jerusalem while He reveals to them what is really important for him at that time. Jesus’s thinking, said the Pope, include a distancing from material goods, as well as faith in the providence of the Father and his interior vigilance while awaiting the Kingdom of God. This Gospel, said the Pope, teaches that a Christian is someone who carries within him a deep desire to meet the Lord together with his fellow human beings. This can be summed up in Jesus’ words: “for wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.”
Addressing the pilgrims, Pope Francis asked them two questions, “do you have a heart with a wish or do you have a closed heart, a sleeping heart, a heart that is anesthetized." His second question was: “Where is your treasure”, what for you is the most important and precious reality that attracts your heart like a magnet?" "Is it" he asked, "God’s love which is the desire to do good to others and live for the Lord?"
Pope Francis also described how God’s love keeps families united and gives meaning to our daily tasks and also aids in facing obstacles. The Pope declared that therein lies the true treasure for mankind. God’s love isn’t something vague and generic, he said, "it has a name and a face, Jesus Christ." The Pope said "God’s love gives value and beauty to every human activity" and it gives meaning to negative experiences. God’s love, he said, allows humanity to move beyond negative experiences and not remain prisoners of evil but also be open to hope and the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage.
He also recalled that his remarks fell on the commemoration of St. Clare of Assisi who abandoned a worldly life in order to consecrate herself to Christ in poverty, following in the footsteps of St. Francis – Il Poverello. St. Clare, he said, bears witness to St. Luke’s Gospel.
After praying the Angelus prayer with the pilgrims, the Pope also recalled that August 15 is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which is also known as the Holy Dormition of the Theotokos.
Greeting the Muslim world, the Pope expressed the hope that Christians and Muslims will "promote mutual respect, especially through the education of the new generations." In the past, he has also brought attention to the plight of persecuted Christians, especially those of the Mideast, who face dire circumstances in Muslim-majority countries.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Catholic Archbishop Kevin McDonald, head of the English and Welsh bishops’ office for interfaith relations, referred to the Pope's greetings to the Muslim world, as well as interfaith tensions in the UK following the horrific murder of an off-duty soldier - Lee Rigby - in broad daylight by a Muslim convert from Christianity this year. "I think it's very significant because Pope Francis has emerged as an international figure, people are talking about him and he's very much part of the landscape so I think the fact that he is sending a message in person has been very well received...."
"At the Bishops Conference we circulate it to all dioceses and send it to a long list of Muslim contacts, but we also encourage priests at the local level to take it round to their mosques....so it has quite a wide circulation," said the archbishop. He added, "I think there is a lot of goodwill in England....we had this awful event of the killing of Lee Rigby and shortly after that, I and other religious leaders were invited to the local mosque and we had a very good meeting.....I felt there was a very real sense that we need to do something together...I think there's an increasing number of people in this country who do have a sense that they need to nurture the young people in a different kind of way and to take steps to counteract any danger of radicalization - the picture is mixed but there are a lot of positive signs....."
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.