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​A word for Nineveh

 Francis’ final hours in Mexico, just a short distance from its border with the United States of America, summarized the meaning and content of his 12th international journey as Pope. “I am a man: I only last a brief while, and the night is vast. But I look up: the stars are writing. Without grasping I understand: I am also the writing and in this very instant someone is spelling me out”. These beautiful verses by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz were used by Pope Bergoglio to bid farewell to the great country where he spent the five bustling days of a visit that concluded at Ciudad Juárez, one of the most violent cities in the world. One of his eloquent gestures was a moving homage to the victims of forced migration, the plague of our time.


Yet even in the dark of night, the Pope perceived many lights. They are the women and men he met in these days, “tomorrow’s prophets”, for whom he implored the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, that they may be missionaries, witnesses of mercy and reconciliation. These words were especially resonant in a prison where Francis celebrated the Jubilee of Mercy with inmates, assuring them that there is always the “possibility of writing a new story”. Because those who have “experienced hell” can, by breaking the cycle of violence and of exclusion, become prophets in

The Pope then spoke to labourers and entrepreneurs about the possibility and urgent need of a different future, framing the issue as only he can: “we do not have the luxury of missing any chance to encounter, any chance to discuss, confront or explore”, because the only way to prepare for tomorrow is to build the “needed framework” in order to reestablish social bonds. In this way labourers and entrepreneurs are united by the same responsibility to create jobs, the only way to defeat the poverty that is exploited by drug trafficking and violence. Again, the “Social Doctrine of the Church is against no one, but in favour of all”, because “we are all in the same boat”, Francis explained simply. a society ruled by a culture that discards people.

The final act of the Pontiff’s Mexican journey was the great Mass on the U.S. border. In a place that symbolizes the “human tragedy” that arises from the worldwide phenomenon of forced migration, which claims thousands of victims and which should be measured by recalling the names, the stories, the families, the “brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations”, the Pope spelled out once again.

The glory of God is the life of man, St Irenaeus stated in a verse dear to Paul vi. Today that phrase was repeated by Pope Montini’s Successor as he commented on the story of Jonah. The Prophet was sent by God to Nineveh, the great city that “was self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice”. Thus Jonah was sent “to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves”, with the word of mercy, in order to affirm that “there is always the possibility of change”. Nineveh converted and thus Francis made the same request here, imploring tears and conversion.

 

G.M.V.

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