357 Francis: "Religion, by its nature, must be at the service of peace and fraternity."
Day 357 Monday March 8th, 2021
Francis: "Religion, by its nature, must be at the service of peace and fraternity."
The strength of weakness
The 84-year-old pope has taken the message of peace and fraternity to Iraq, during historic three-day visit.
In the spirit of the motto of the apostolic journey - “You are all brothers” – from Matthew’s Gospel, the 84-year-old Pope encouraged Iraqis on this path, saying that only when they learn to look beyond their differences and see each other as members of the same human family will they be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding the country. Thus, they will leave future generations a better, more just and more humane world.
No pope has ever been able to travel to these countries until now. But it's a question of patience and perseverance. Pope Francis has just demonstrated this by making a historic visit to Iraq. A few months ago, no one would have bet on the possibility of such a trip.
John Paul II, despite being a champion of pontifical risk-taking, had to renounce a visit to Iraq during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. But Francis succeeded. In spite of the ongoing pandemic. In spite of the security risks for him and for those who came to meet him. In spite of the incredible political, ethnic and religious complexity of this land. It was probably not all absolutely perfect.
The Sunnis could have felt like the poor relatives of the visit in view of the historic moment that was the meeting between Francis and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shia authority in the country.
Kurdistan's strongman, Massoud Barzani, snatched a brief meeting with the pope, delicate in view of the political balance of the trip. And on Sunday, the Holy See added, in extremis, a greeting to the Patriarch of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East.
But this last-minute effort only testifies to the difficulty of the exercise, not of failure. During his first speech in Baghdad on Friday, the pope summed up the purpose of this very special journey in one sentence:
"Religion, by its nature, must be at the service
of peace and fraternity."
And that's what this man, weakened by age and whose only power comes from his conviction "that it is possible to hope for reconciliation and new life," preached and witnessed during his three full days in Iraq.
In one of the lands of the world that is most ravaged by hatred and arms, he came to sow these words: "Love is our strength."
Guillaume Goubert, La Croix.