· May God “disperse every plan of terror and of death, that man no longer dare to shed the blood of a brother” ·
This was the heartfelt hope with which Pope Francis recalled the “carnage Thursday evening in Nice, which cut short so many innocent lives, even many children”. Greeting the numerous faithful, including a group of Chinese, who gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus on Sunday, 17 May, with “deep sorrow” the Pope assured his closeness “to each family and to the entire French nation in mourning. May God, the Good Father, welcome all of the victims into his peace”, Francis said, “support the injured and comfort the families”. He then offered his “ paternal and fraternal embrace to all the residents of Nice and the entire nation of France”, and called for silent prayer followed by a collective Hail Mary.
Earlier, as customary, commenting on Sunday’s Gospel passage, the Pope spoke of the well-known episode recounted by Luke, in which Jesus is welcomed into the home of Martha and Mary. “Both welcome the Lord”, the Pope explained, “but they do so in different ways. Mary sits at Jesus feet and listens to his words, whereas Martha is completely caught up in preparing things”. Thus Martha “a risks forgetting — and this is the problem — the most important thing, which is the presence of the guest”. Indeed, Francis added, a “guest is not simply to be served, fed, looked after in every way. It is important above all that he be listened to. Remember this word: Listen! Because the guest should be welcomed as a person, with his story, his heart rich with feelings and thoughts, so that he may truly feel he is with family”. Otherwise, the Pope commented, “if you welcome a guest into your home and continue to do things, have him sit there, he and you silent, it is as if he were of stone: a guest of stone”.
Therefore, the Pontiff continued, to welcome a guest, “one thing is necessary: listen to him”. When we welcome a guest, we must “show him a fraternal attitude, to enable him to realize he is with family, and not in a temporary shelter”. This means that “hospitality, which is one of the works of mercy, appears truly as a human and Christian virtue”. It is a virtue, the Pope warned, that “in today’s world is at risk of being overlooked. In fact, nursing homes and hospices are multiplying, but true hospitality is not always practised in these environments. Various institutions are opened which provide for many types of disease, of loneliness, of marginalization, but opportunities are decreasing for those who are foreign, marginalized, excluded from finding someone available to listen to him: because he is foreigner, a refugee, a migrant”. Indeed, Francis said, “even in one’s own house, among one’s own family members, it might be easier to find services and care of various kinds than listening and welcome.
Today we are so taken, by excitement, by countless problems … that we lack the capacity to listen”. Therefore he asked that we “learn to listen”, because, he concluded, “in the capacity to listen is the root of peace”.