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Learning to embrace those who suffer

· Mass in Aparecida and a meeting with former drug addicts and alcoholics in Rio de Janeiro ·

Pope Francis consecrates his pontificate to the Virgin and entrusts the WYD and the people of Latin American to her

From the Good Samaritan embracing the beaten man on the road to Jericho to the embrace St Francis gave to the leper. From the embrace John Paul II gave to a child suffering from AIDS in 1987 while in the United States to the embrace Pope Francis gave a former drug addict Wednesday night at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. All these embraces express, with continuity of action, what makes the Church's history a history of salvation and hope.

We must learn to embrace those who suffer: this was the Pope's key message in Brazil, on a day which he began in the name of Marian devotion and concluded with the wounds of new poverty. On Wednesday morning, 24 July, Pope Francis went to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where he celebrated his first public Mass of this visit, and consecrated his Pontificate to the Virgin.

Shortly before, he had dedicated one of the two tweets of the day to the Madonna: “Never forget, young friends: The Virgin Mary is our Mother and with her help we can remain faithful to Christ”. He dedicated the second tweet to the memory of Pope John Paul II: “Let us thank Blessed John Paul II for WYD and for the many vocations born during these 28 gatherings”.

The Holy Father summarized his homily into three points — as is common with Ignatian spirituality  — which were lessons drawn from the Readings chosen for the celebration of the Mass: “I would like to speak of three simple attitudes: hopefulness, openness to being surprised by God, and living in joy”. Then he explained the Christian meaning behind each of them. In conclusion, Pope Francis consecrated his Pontificate to the Virgin before taking leave of the faithful. He did not leave without greeting and blessing those who had been forced to remain outside the sanctuary braving the tempestuous weather. It was there, while addressing them, that the Pope announced his desire to return to Aparecida in 2017, for the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of the Black Madonna.

The evening ended with a stop at a hospital in Rio dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, where the Pope visited with hospitalized patients — the majority of whom are drug addicts and alcoholics — and there he invited all to rediscover Christian value of an embrace and of solidarity.

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