At Lima Mass for 1.3 million, Pope Francis preaches message of hope

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

LIMA, Peru (CNS) — Pope Francis
took his message of hope to this sprawling, dusty capital of Peru, celebrating
Mass within view of the rocky, waterless Andean slopes where most of the city’s
poorest residents live.

The day’s Scripture readings, in
which Jonah was sent to Nineveh and Jesus set out toward Galilee, “reveal a
God who turns his gaze toward cities, past and present,” the pope said in
his homily.

Crowds lined the pope’s route to
the Las Palmas military base, where thousands of people arrived during the
night and throughout the morning to participate in the Mass.

Lima’s heat and blazing sun did
not wither the spirits of the estimated 1.3 million Mass attendees, who chanted
and sang as they waited for the liturgy to begin.

Mariana Costa of Lima felt fortunate.
She had missed a chance to see Pope Francis in Poland, she said, “and now
I have the opportunity to see him in my own country.”

As a young adult, she was
touched by his words to youth.

“Ultimately, we’re the ones
who have to work to make sure this faith is not lost,” she said.

Sister Maria Lucero of Lima was
struck by three messages the pope had for the priests, religious and
seminarians with whom he met in Trujillo the day before.

“He said to remember what
we are (and spoke of) joy and gratitude to God for everything we have and do
not deserve,” she said.

His words kindled a desire to
renew her efforts, “because the people here need it,” she said.

The scores of concelebrants
included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James
the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries,
including Peru. Cardinal O’Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis’
defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal
said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope’s words.

The place where Pope Francis
presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El
Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty
shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were
threatened by terrorist violence.

The poorest neighborhoods form
rings around Lima and other Latin American cities, as people migrate from other
parts of the country in search of opportunities.

Most build their own houses bit
by bit, sometimes in hazardous areas vulnerable to disasters, like the unusual
rains in early 2017 that left thousands homeless on the east side of Lima and in
cities such as Trujillo, which the pope visited Jan. 20.

The majority also work in the
informal economy, eking out a living with day labor, selling goods in markets
or working in small, family-run businesses with no health insurance, pension or
vacation time.

The pope spoke to them when he talked
of “our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice,”
which “can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away.”

While some people can to build
their lives, others are left “living on the fringes of our cities and
lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence,” he said. “It
is painful to realize that among these ‘urban remnants’ all too often we see
the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future.”

Seeing those things, people may
be tempted to become “indifferent, anonymous and deaf to others, cold and
hard of heart,” he said.

Jesus, who entered Galilee upon
hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, and shows a different way to respond, he

Jesus “began to sow the
seed of a great hope,” and the rippling effect of that joy and good news
has been passed down through the apostles and saints, including St. Rose of
Lima and St. Martin of Porres, whose relics he venerated in the morning, Pope
Francis said.

“It has come to us as a timely
antidote to the globalization of indifference,” he said. “In the face
of that love, one cannot remain indifferent.”

Walking through the city with
his disciples, Jesus saw people who had “given up in the face of
indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption,” Pope Francis said.
“He begins to bring light to many situations that had killed the hope of
his people and to awaken a new hope.”

Jesus taught his disciples to
see things they had overlooked before and to notice new needs, he said.

kingdom of heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives
of his people.”

His words rang especially true
after six days in which he raised issues such as corruption, rapacious
consumerism, environmental devastation, organized crime, violence against women
and industrial activities such as mining and industrial agriculture, which strip
indigenous peoples of their lands and livelihoods.

As he often does, the pope
challenged bishops and clergy to avoid clericalism and walk closely with the
people. He called on government officials to listen to and respond to the needs
of native peoples, youth, the elderly and children.

Jesus “continues to walk on
our streets. He knocks today, as he did yesterday, on our doors and hearts, in
order to rekindle the flame of hope,” the pope told the throng of

“Today the Lord calls each
of you to walk with him in the city, in your city. He invites you to become his
missionary disciple, so you can become part of that great whisper that wants to
keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with

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Fraser on Twitter: @Barbara_Fraser.

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