In Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis said the wounds of the Church and the world are the wounds of Christ, and they must be touched and seen.
“To consider the wounds of society and of the Church is not a defamatory and pessimistic action,” the pope said Sept. 15. “If we want to give substance to our faith, we must learn to recognize in these human sufferings the same wounds of the Lord.”
“Look at them, touch them. To touch the wounds of the Lord in our wounds, in the wounds of our society, our families, our people, our friends. Touch the wounds of the Lord there,” he said.
“And this means for us Christians to take the history and the flesh of Christ as a place of salvation and liberation.”
The pope spoke during a day trip to Palermo, which included a stop in the central-Sicilian town of Piazza Armerina. In his speech to the Catholics of the area, he noted the many “wounds” which affect them, such as social and cultural underdevelopment, exploitation of workers, lack of youth employment, alcoholism, addiction, and the loss of family ties.
“In the face of so much suffering, the ecclesiastical community may appear, at times, disoriented and tired,” he said. Though sometimes, “thanks to God, it is lively and prophetic, while seeking new ways of announcing and offering mercy above all to those brothers who have fallen into disinterest, into mistrust, into the crisis of faith.”
He said he recognizes the difficulty of keeping the faith in the midst of such problems and encouraged young people to approach their priests and bishops and tell them if they are having difficulty trusting in the Church.
“So many times, I have heard some young people say: ‘Yes, I trust God, but not the Church,’” the pope said. “But why? – ‘Because I am against priests.’ Ah, you are against priests, then approach the priest and say: ‘I do not trust you for this, for this and for this.’”
“Also approach the Bishop and say to him: ‘I do not trust this Church, for this and for this reason.’ This is courageous youth! But with the desire to hear the answer,” he said. To priests, Francis said to “have patience,” to listen to young people and dialogue with them.
He said the ministerial priesthood and the Eucharist are inseparable, because “the priest is the man of the Eucharist” and addressing priests, he encouraged them to “gather around the bishop and among themselves to bring the Lord to all.”
“Dear priests, how necessary it is to patiently build the joy of the [priestly] family, loving each other and supporting one another!” he said.
Priests, he continued, are called to be the first to overcome prejudices and “the first to pause in humble contemplation before the difficult history of this earth, with the wise pastoral charity which is a gift of the Spirit.”
“Consoled by God, you can be comforters, wipe away tears, heal wounds, rebuild lives, broken lives that trustfully entrust themselves to your ministry,” he stated.
At the end of the encounter, the pope prepared to give his apostolic blessing, but asked, beforehand, for everyone to prepare their hearts to receive it. “Think of [your] friends. And also think of [your] enemies, the people I do not love, and who do not love me. Open your heart to everyone, because this blessing descends on everyone,” he said.
After the visit to Piazza Armerina, Pope Francis traveled by helicopter to Palermo, where he celebrated Mass in a park near the city’s beachfront, in memory of 25 years since the death of Don Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, who was assassinated by Mafia hitmen on Sept. 15, 1993.
In his homily, the pope condemned the Mafia, saying whoever is a member of the Mafia “does not live as a Christian,” because his life blasphemes God.
Don Pino used to say, “If everyone does something, a lot can be done,” Francis repeated, asking: “How many of us put these words into practice?” Standing before God today, ask yourself the questions: “What can I do? What can I do for others, for the Church?”
“Do not wait for the Church to do something for you, you begin. Do not wait for society, you start!” the pope continued. “Do not think of yourself, do not run away from your responsibility, choose love!”
He said: The victory of faith is found in the daily gift of self. Just as it is written on the tomb of Don Puglisi: “No one has greater love than this: to give his life for his friends.”
“Lord, give us the desire to do good; to seek the truth detesting falsehood; to choose sacrifice, not laziness; love, not hate; forgiveness, not revenge,” he prayed.