Catholics from around Belarus gathered in Minsk in the Church of Sts. Simon and Helen for a Lenten vigil between March 14 and 15, together with Pope Francis’ Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

Catholics from around Belarus gathered in Minsk in the Church of Sts. Simon and Helen for a Lenten vigil between March 14 and 15, together with Pope Francis’ Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

The Vatican’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, traveled to Minsk, Belarus in mid-March. On his agenda: discussions about a possible trip of Pope Francis to Ukraine…

“The village forgotten by God/ God forgotten by the village.” Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin used this expression, by local Belarus poet Vladimir Niakliaev, in the introduction of his homily during a celebration in Minsk’s main cathedral, part of his visit to Belarus.

His intention was that of calling to mind the many trials and tribulations suffered by the Belarussian people, whose history has seen truly difficult times: “Even in recent times,” he said, “priests were deported, churches destroyed, communities dispersed, while a highly organized and insistent propaganda machine intended to erase the image of God from believers’ minds.”

The cardinal added that God’s image cannot be erased, because it has been impressed on the hearts of the faithful by God Himself. And the cardinal compared the suffering of believers in this tormented land to that of Mary, who remained standing under the Cross of the Lord, carrying all of its weight.

The “resurrection” of the Belarussian people after persecution

“Resurrection, however, could not delay in coming,” continued the cardinal, “because God’s paternal heart cannot resist the lament of those who are victims, as part of the one great Victim, His Son, Jesus, Who became man for us and for our salvation, faithful until death to the Father’s will, so that salvation might be gained for all.”

Man without God sinks into the abyss of cruelty

Referring to the current situation in nearby Ukraine, the cardinal warned the community about the dangers that man risks when he strays from God: “Man then comes to know the abyss of cruelty: violence explodes into a brutality to which we are sometimes direct witnesses through the media: communities are destroyed, children and the elderly are massacred without pity, or forced to go underground for long periods of time, while their world, all they are used to and even those they love, are destroyed.” This, in fact, is the drama of man’s freedom: it can turn into a refusal of God, since He never forces man to love Him.

The experience of fighting for the faith against modern idols

Fighting for the faith — as the Belarussian people have done — is urgent, because without fighting there is no faith, he said. Today, however, at least in this country, this battle is not against those forces that seek to rip faith out of hearts: instead, it is against “the small idols that want to take God’s place: the myth of easy wealth, the loss of a sense of good and evil, indifference, going to church only out of tradition, feeling Catholic almost as an ethnic identity but living without sense, goals or direction. Living selfishly, as if God didn’t exist. Honoring Him through lip service but not from the heart.” Prayer is always the best instrument for getting closer to God and the Church, he said. “Don’t leave the Church, even if She is full of sins, and sometimes She disappoints you,” he urged. “In the Church, Christ’s heart is beating!”

The Pope’s thoughts for youth and children

The cardinal addressed part of his words to the youth, who are the future of the Church community. He called them to solid, sincere commitment in all spheres of their lives. He also wanted to remind them that God is our strength when we are fragile, that He is stronger than our sins, and that He has saved us through grace and not by our own merits: “You are the living tabernacle of God,” he added. “Never desecrate it!”

In closing, the Secretary of State communicated Pope Francis’ wishes for the children, and his caress for each and every one of them: “Feel the love that your mother and father have for you, and remember that God loves you even more,” he said.

For their parents, however, there was an admonition: “Remember that your children observe you, that it is your love that causes them to live and fills them with peace, while a bad example makes them sad, and can destroy their lives. Children are the most delicate of our possessions.”



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