that the warring parties respect religious sites

Pope Francis’ petition in the general audience for the Russian Orthodox nuns, the object of political dispute in the Ukraine conflict: “Consecrated persons are a support for the people of God.” In the catechesis, the pontiff dwelled on the meaning of being apostles today. “Relationships between us are also decisive for evangelization.”

Vatican City () – Pope Francis spoke today about the ongoing political confrontation over the Kiev Lavra, the caves where the oldest monastic institution of Russian Orthodoxy is located, currently hostage to the conflict in Ukraine. “I am thinking of the Orthodox nuns of the Kiev Lavra”, Francis said at the end of the general audience, addressing the faithful present in Saint Peter’s Square, “I ask the parties to the conflict to respect religious places. The nuns and People consecrated to prayer, whatever the confession to which they belong, are the support of the people of God”.

In recent days, the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, had appealed to Francis and the UN Secretary General, Guterres, to “prevent the expulsion of the monks” from the Lavra, against which there were also demonstrations in Kiev. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the complex became the property of the Ukrainian government with a free usufruct agreement by the monks of the Moscow Patriarchate, which today – in the context of the current war – Kiev does not want to renew. However, the Minister of Culture, Aleksandr Tkacenko, declared in the last hours that “the monks will be able to remain in the Lavra under certain conditions” and that “there will be no measure of force” against them.

Shortly before, in his weekly catechesis, Pope Francis had continued his reflection on the theme of zeal in evangelization, dwelling on “what it means to be an apostle today.” “Sometimes we call some saints, or more generally, bishops, ‘apostle.’ But are we aware that being an apostle concerns every Christian and, therefore, also each one of us?” asked the Pontiff.

Apostle -he explained- means to be sent on a mission. The event in which the Risen Christ sends his apostles into the world is exemplary and founding, transmitting to them the strength that he himself received from the Father and giving them his Spirit”. But another fundamental aspect is recognizing oneself as called: “everything depends on a free call from God “, the Pope commented. “God chooses us even to provide services that sometimes seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations: we must respond freely to the call that we receive as a free gift.”

In this framework, citing some documents from the Second Vatican Council, Francis invited us to also look at the collaboration of the laity with the hierarchy, which is not “a mere strategic adaptation to new situations that arise”, but something that has its own value. “The diversity of charisms and ministries – he added – must not give rise, within the ecclesial body, to privileged categories. Nor can it serve as a pretext for forms of inequality that cannot find a place in Christ and in the Church”.

Hence the invitation to “rethink many aspects of our relationships, which are decisive for evangelization. For example, are we aware that with our words we can damage the dignity of people, thus ruining relationships? While we try to dialogue with the world Do we also know how to dialogue among ourselves as believers? Is our speech transparent, sincere and positive, or is it opaque, equivocal and negative? Are we willing to dialogue directly, face to face, or do we send messages through intermediaries? Do we know how to listen? to understand the other’s reasons, or do we impose ourselves, perhaps even with plush words?

“Let us not be afraid to ask ourselves these questions,” Francis concluded. “They can help us to verify the way in which we live our baptismal vocation, our way of being apostles in an apostolic Church.”

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Written by Editor TLN

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