· 'La Stampa' interviews Pope Francis ·
"What does Christmas mean for you?", Andrea Tornielli asked in his interview with Pope Francis, published on Sunday, 15 December.
"It is the encounter with Jesus”, the Pope responded, “God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and promised to always be close to them. The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation. Many times after the midnight mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn mass. I experienced a profound feeling of consolation and peace. I remember one night of prayer after a mass in the Astalli residence for refugees in Rome, it was Christmas 1974 I think. For me Christmas has always been about this; contemplating the visit of God to his people.”
We cannot continue to think of Christmas without thinking about the Holy Land, continued the Pope. Fifty years ago Paul VI “had the courage to go out and go there and this marked the beginning of the era of papal journeys. I would also like to go there, to meet my brother Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and commemorate this 50th anniversary with him, renewing that embrace which took place between Pope Montini and Athenagoras in Jerusalem, in 1964. We are preparing for this.”
The most striking words of the Apostolic Exhortation were those on the economy that kills, noted Tornielli; in truth, responded the Pope, there is not a trace of Marxism – a wrong ideology – in the document, there is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the Social Doctrine of the Church. And when asked whether Christian unity was a priority for his pontificate, Francis responded recalling an image of 'an ecumenism of blood'. “In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox. Their blood is mixed. To those who kill we are Christians. We are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time has not yet come. Unity is a gift that we need to ask for”.
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