Pope Francis: Christians are called to serve God and neighbour as Jesus

Crowds in St Peter's Square

Crowds in St Peter's Square

Source: Vatican News

During the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis said "taking up the Cross" means imitating Jesus by expending our life in service to God and neighbour.

Addressing pilgrims in St Peter's Square, under beautiful blue skies, the Pope said that in the day's Gospel, Jesus speaks to His disciples about the mystery of His Passion, Death, and Resurrection - a teaching, Pope Francis said, that the disciples are not yet able to understand, because their faith "is still immature, and too closely tied to the mentality of the world."

The Pope said that for Peter and the other disciples - and for us too - the Cross is seen as "a 'stumbling block', whereas Jesus considers the 'stumbling block' [to be] escaping the Cross, which would mean avoiding the Father's will." This, the Pope said, is why Jesus rebukes Peter so strongly, saying to him, "Get behind me, Satan!"

In the Gospel, Jesus then explains, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

Pope Francis said that in this saying, Jesus "indicates the way of the true disciple, showing two attitudes": renouncing oneself, which means a real conversion; and taking up one's cross, which "is not just a matter of patiently enduring daily tribulations, but of bearing with faith and responsibility that part of toil and suffering that the struggle against evil entails."

"Thus, the task of 'taking up the cross' becomes participating with Christ in the salvation of the world."

Images of the Cross should be a "sign of our desire to be united with Christ through lovingly serving our brothers and sisters, especially the littlest and the weakest," Pope Francis said; adding, "The Cross is the holy sign of God's love and of Jesus's sacrifice, and is not to be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental necklace."

Instead, he explained, when we look at a crucifix, we should reflect on the fact that Jesus "has accomplished His mission, giving life, spilling His blood for the forgiveness sins." In order to be His disciples, Pope Francis said, we in turn must "imitate Him, giving our life unreservedly for love of God and neighbour."

After the Angelus, Pope Francis prayed for the "instability" in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. "I follow with concern the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean," he said. The Pope did not mention the countries involved.

"I appeal for constructive dialogue and respect for international law in order to resolve the conflicts that threaten the peace of the peoples of that region", he added.

Tensions have grown in the last few weeks in the eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey, over the vast gas and oil deposits discovered a decade ago. The two countries recently signed maritime agreements: last year Turkey with Libya, and last month Greece with Egypt.

Greece and Turkey are now at odds with the interpretation of their respective territorial waters borders and, therefore, their right to explore and use energy resources.

Tension between Ankara and Athens arose after 10 August with the deployment of the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis.

While trying to avoid escalating the confrontation, the EU has warned Turkey that it could face new sanctions, including tough economic measures, unless progress is made in reducing tensions.

On Wednesday, Turkey said it was open to talks with Greece without preconditions, although yesterday it announced new military training manoeuvres for another two weeks.

Pope Francis then looked ahead to the World Day of Prayer for the care of Creation, praying for Mauritius which is suffering the consequences of an oil spill off its coast. "From this date, until 4 October, we will celebrate, along with our fellow Christians of different Churches and traditions, the 'Jubilee for the Earth'."

Pope Francis then went on to greet the various movements around the world that will be honouring this day. He mentioned specifically "the concert that will take place in the Cathedral of Port Louis, capital city of Mauritius where, unfortunately, an environmental disaster has recently taken place."

Tens of thousands of people protested Saturday in Mauritius over the government's response to the oil spill from a grounded Japanese ship and the discovery of dozens of dead dolphins. Protesters marched peacefully through the capital, Port Louis, a month after the ship struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island nation.

Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios proclaimed September 1 as Creation Day for the Orthodox in 1989, followed by other Christian European Churches in 2001, and by Pope Francis in 2015.

The first ecumenical prayer service for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation took place in Assisi in 2018.

Watch the Angelus on the Vatican Youtube channel here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFWxsnmX5lw

Tags: Pope Francis, Angelus, Cross, Mauritius, Greece, Turkey

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