Let the earth rejoice, even though it is greedily exploited: Pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing

[While the earth suffers “alteration of natural equilibria,” the pope stays his natural course preaching “climate change,” “weapons of love,” and consideration for migrants.]

Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Blessing

Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Blessing

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death.

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures for ever” (Ps 135:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead. That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!

His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies. We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.

Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation. Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life.

The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5-6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4). The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence. Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.

The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord. To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen. May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations. May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.

The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Iraq. May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all. May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all. May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.

The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance. May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.

On this glorious day, “let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria. I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33). Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot. By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10). “He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).

To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: “See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6). May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage and greater hope to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters. Of which we have great need!

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One comment on “Let the earth rejoice, even though it is greedily exploited: Pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing

  1. [Hat-tip to Pew Sitter: “Robert Royal: On Easter Francis called for ‘weapons of love,’ but we’ll need other, more tangible weapons as well, if our values are going to survive”]

    Belgium and “Our Values”

    Robert Royal
    MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016

    The bombings in Belgium, just days before Easter, were a potent reminder of something we, in the postmodern West, now have a hard time expressing. President Obama, on a visit to Argentina, said in response to the attacks: “Our values are right.” And that we must tell the terrorists, “you are not going to change our values of liberty and openness and the respect of all people.”

    Politics is not philosophy and presidents are not philosophers. There was nothing wrong – and a fair amount right – with that, as far as it goes. But there is also no little tension, as we know only too well, among “values” like liberty, openness, and respect. (We can’t, for example, seem to decide whether restricting marriage to a man and a woman is mere common sense or the rankest prejudice, or whether abortion is killing the innocent or female liberation.) Values only make sense – only have identifiable “value” – when we have a settled view of the world and the people in it.

    Liberty ungrounded in reality, as our Founding Fathers knew, becomes license; openness can become vacuousness, and an inability to distinguish right from wrong; and respect can shade into a kind of indifference that doesn’t really take others’ views, especially their religious views, seriously. We all, after all, believe the same thing, don’t we?

    Still worse, today, we no longer have an idea of why we value liberty, openness, and respect. We just do. It’s no coincidence that Belgium and France and the Scandinavian countries that most embraced these “values,” are now troubled.

    And an American president who watches a baseball game after a terror attack or does the tango while an ally is in mourning might fairly be regarded as failing in respect, and really not all that invested in large, abstract values. That’s how an otherwise intelligent man can seem to think that showing terrorists that they aren’t going to “change our values” also means that attacks should not change our plans. Or policies.

    In his Commentaries on the Gallic War, Julius Caesar famously wrote that “all Gaul (France) is divided into three parts,” and that the Belgians were the strongest (fortissimi) and bravest “because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of [our] Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germans, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are continually waging war.”

    That was long ago, and not only the Belgians but many Europeans have for some time believed that their “values” – and futures – lay instead precisely in increasing wealth and turning away from martial virtues. As a reaction to two catastrophic world wars, that’s understandable. As a residual Christian inclination to eschew violence as much as possible, it’s only natural. But as a basic stance, given the challenges that not only ISIS, but the world and human nature perpetually present, it’s suicide.

    Anyone acquainted with history knows that it’s happened before. Once robust Roman and Christian North Africa, the birthplace of Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Sts. Cyprian and Augustine, Felicity and Perpetua, lacking a strong secular state after the fall of the Western Empire, disappeared under Muslim assault. Except for their moral and intellectual achievements, in today’s North Africa those great figures might as well never have existed.

    Something similar is occurring all over the Middle East. It would be foolish to think it cannot also happen, in the longer run, in Europe or the Americas, especially given the West’s demographic collapse.

    Obama often says that ISIS isn’t an “existential” threat. By that, he may mean that terrorists and their armies are, for now, too small to conquer or destroy us. But there are many ways to be destroyed – and one of them is by undermining those very “values” the president thinks are “right.” Sometimes the undermining comes, unintentionally, from the very people who think they are defending them.

    Other nations may explain their values as they will. We Americas know – or used to – whence they come: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that men have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

    The American Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, though well aware that the United States only carries on part of the natural law tradition, argued, nevertheless, that the Declaration made certain claims. There are truths; we can know them; and we, we Americans, hold them. They don’t just exist in some abstract realm. They make a difference – perhaps all the difference.

    Such rights and truths did not exist in the pre-Christian ancient world. And they mostly do not exist, as they were once understood, in the post-Christian modern world, which has a hard time accounting for where “rights” come from and agreeing on what “values” might be, other than preferences.

    They certainly don’t come from the rationalists. Christopher Dawson once pointed out that a seminal Enlightenment figure like Voltaire only cared for reaching “rich polite educated people.” The central Enlightenment current thought itself the flower of civilization. For Voltaire, Plato was a madman, Thomas Aquinas’s work “like taking a course at Bedlam,” Shakespeare was “a low savage.”

    Only “the Brights” of his day, Voltaire thought, were worth addressing: “We have never claimed to enlighten shoemakers and servant girls, they are the portion of the apostles.” To the enlightened elite, ordinary people are always “bitter clingers” to guns and religion.

    Yesterday at Easter Mass, Pope Francis encouraged the use of the “weapons of love” against terrorism. That, too, is one of our values. But we’ll need other, more tangible weapons as well, if our values are going to survive.

    The terrorists have done us a favor, in a way, by reminding us of an urgent task: relearning that without a foundation in something that transcends mere values and even ourselves, our values are just a habit we happen to have retained from the latter days of the Christian West. Without a deeper foundation and more serious commitment, our values – and we – won’t last very long at all.

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