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Pope condemns ‘wave of terror,’ urges young people to shun indifference

Pope Francis prays during a prayer vigil with youth at the Campus Misericordiae during World Youth Day in Brzegi, near Krakow, Poland, on July 30, 2016. Photo courtesy Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters)  Pope Francis condemned the “devastating wave of terrorism” and war that has hit the world and urged a huge crowd of young people not to be indifferent to the suffering of others.

The pope, who ends his five-day trip to Poland on Sunday (July 31), made an unscheduled stop at the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Krakow to recite a prayer for peace.

“Touch the hearts of terrorists so that they may recognize the evil of their actions and may turn to the way of peace and goodness, of respect for the life and for the dignity of every human being, regardless of religion, origin, wealth or poverty,” he said in the prayer on Saturday.

When he started the trip on Wednesday, Francis said the killing of an elderly priest in France by suspected Islamist militants and a string of other attacks were proof the “world is at war” but that it was not caused by religion.

From the church Francis went to a large field outside the city where he addressed hundreds of thousands of young people in Krakow for an international gathering of Catholic youth.

There, after watching dance representations of stories of struggle, conflict and redemption, he heard a young representative from Aleppo, Syria, say “God, where are you? Do you exist?”

In response, Francis asked the young people to pray for Syria and other places in conflict and said: “Once and for all, may we realize that nothing justifies shedding the blood of a brother or sister.”

He urged those who are better off not to remain remote from the suffering of others. “The times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes,'” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Francis addressed Polish priests and bishops, urging them to live simpler lives, focus on those most in need and shun worldly ambitions.

In the homily of a Mass, he told them not to lead “two-track lives” or to “remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves.”

Some media commentators have accused Polish church leaders of enjoying a lifestyle protected from the difficulties some Poles are facing in the economic transition from communism to capitalism.

Francis spoke to the bishops at a modern shrine to the memory of St. John Paul II that was built on the site of a stone quarry on the outskirts of Krakow where German occupiers forced the future Polish pontiff to work during World War II.

Francis’ trip to Poland has taken place in the shadow of the Polish pontiff, who has cultlike status in the country for his role in inspiring its people to stand up to communist rule in the 1980s.

The shrine houses relics of the late pope, such as the blood-stained white cassock he was wearing on May 13, 1981, when he was shot and nearly killed by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

(Additional reporting by Wojciech Zurawski and Wiktor Szary)

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Philip Pullella

6 Comments

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  • All the advice by Francis cited here is sound and wholly consistent with the gospel preached by Jesus, in my humble opinion.

  • Are you declaring that the heart of a terrorist cannot be touched? I won’t dispute the long odds, but hope springs eternal. The gospel that I believe iterates that the very thing Francis urges in this specific example is at least within the realm of possibility, but one need not be foolhardy in one’s approach to the task. As I understand it, prayer is not limited by proximity.

  • Well, you’ve covered a lot of ground, and frankly I can’t really disagree with your analysis. I particularly agree with your statement regarding the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ. I was raised Catholic, and embrace those genuine Christians among Catholics who truly believe and understand the exclusive God of the Trinity, and who practice their faith in every effort to live according to the Gospel. Though not a Catholic now, I respect the Church, while practicing my Christianity through the auspices of an Evangelical non-denominational church. Further, I fully endorse the view that Islam preaches a false understanding of God, for which I think they are to be pitied rather than condemned. God who is just and knows all things will graciously judge each of us as individuals on our own measure of faith, obedience to His Word, and the works we have done on His behalf through Christ Jesus.

  • I think it unlikely that I will return to the Catholic faith, but I will always be grateful to that Church for the seeds planted in my childhood that bore later fruit as an adult after wandering through a spiritual desert entirely outside the faith. I embrace sincere and dedicated Catholics as brethren; I must enquire, given your own faith journey, whether you would exclude those of us outside Catholicism and Orthodoxy, from membership in the catholic (i.e. universal) Body of Christ?

  • With all due respect and collegiality, I’m afraid I have to disagree with you without getting into specifics which would probably involve splitting theological hairs. I’m happy that you have found such assurance in your embrace of Catholicism.

  • Always happy to receive the benefit of prayers from a fellow believer. My thanks.

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