(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. In his homily the pope encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report
Recalling the establishment of the Institute by Benedict XV in 1917, during the First World War, Pope Francis said that today we are living though another “piecemeal” world war. When we see the persecution and worrying exodus of Christians, he said, just like the people of the Old Testament, we cry out “Why?”
Persecution of Christians
In today’s reading from the prophet Malachi, the pope continued, we read about those who turn away from God and do evil, yet they go unpunished. In the same way today, he said, we see unscrupulous people who destroy others in order to pursue their own ends and we ask God, “Why?”
We find the answer in the verses of Malachi, Pope Francis said, as we read about the way God listens to his people and records their suffering in a ‘book of memories’.
Pray and trust in the Lord
Pointing to the words from St Luke’s Gospel, the pope said if we pray and trust in the Lord, we know that “everyone who asks, receives; those who seek, find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened”.
But do we really know how to pray, to knock on the door of God’s heart, the pope asked? The Gospel reminds us that if we, sinners, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit is God’s great gift to us, Pope Francis concluded, so let us learn how to knock courageously on the door of God’s heart. May courageous prayer inspire and sustain your service to the Church, he told the Oriental Church leaders, so that it may bear fruit which does not wither and die.