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Pope Francis laments destruction of grain in Ukraine war

The cry of millions who suffer hunger rises up to Heaven

 The cry of millions who suffer hunger rises up to Heaven  ING-031
04 August 2023

After praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, 30 July, Pope Francis made an appeal to the authorities of the Russian Federation, calling for the Black Sea Initiative to be restored and for grain to be transported safely. Earlier, he had reflected on the day’s Gospel Reading of Matthew on the parable of the merchant. The following is a translation of the Hoy Father’s words which he delivered in Italian.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today the Gospel narrates the parable of a merchant in search of precious gemstones, who, Jesus says, “on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mt 13:46). Let us pause a little on the actions of this merchant, who first seeks, then finds and finally buys.

The first action: to seek. He is an enterprising merchant, who does not stand still, but leaves his house and sets out in search of precious pearls. He does not say: “I am satisfied with the ones I have”; he looks for more beautiful ones. And this is an invitation to us not to close ourselves up in habit, in the mediocrity of those who are complacent, but to revive desire, so that the desire to seek, to go on, is not extinguished; to cultivate dreams of good, to seek the newness of the Lord, because the Lord is not repetitive. He always brings newness, the newness of the Spirit. He always makes the realities of life new (cf. Rev 21:5). And we must have this attitude: to seek.

The merchant’s second action is to find. He is an attentive person who “has a keen eye” and knows how to recognize a pearl of great value. This is not easy. Let us think, for example, of the fascinating oriental bazaars, where the stalls, filled with goods, are crowded along the walls of streets filled with people; or of some of the stalls one sees in many cities, full of books and various objects. Sometimes if one stops to look closely in these markets, one can discover treasures: precious things, rare volumes that, mixed in with everything else, one does not notice at first glance. But the merchant in the parable has a sharp eye and knows how to find, he knows how to “discern” to find the pearl. This too is a teaching for us: every day, at home, on the street, at work, on holiday, we have the possibility of glimpsing good. And it is important to know how to find what counts: to train ourselves to recognize the precious gems of life and to distinguish them from junk. Let us not waste time and freedom on trivial things, pastimes that leave us empty inside, while every day life offers us the precious pearl of the encounter with God and with others! It is necessary to know how to recognize it: to discern in order to find it.

And the merchant’s last action: he buys the pearl. Realizing its immense value, he sells everything, he sacrifices all his goods just to have it. He radically changes the inventory of his warehouse; there is no longer anything other than that pearl: it is his only wealth, the meaning of his present and his future. This too is an invitation for us. But what is this pearl for which one can renounce everything, the one of which the Lord speaks to us? This pearl is Him: it is the Lord! Seeking the Lord and finding the Lord, encountering the Lord, living with the Lord. The pearl is Jesus: He is the precious pearl of life, to be sought, found and made one’s own. It is worth investing everything in him because, when one encounters Christ, life changes. If you meet Christ, your life changes.

Let us then return to the merchant’s three actions: seeking, finding and buying — and ask ourselves some questions. Seeking: am I searching, in my life? Do I feel fine, accomplished, do I settle for things, or do I exercise my desire for good? Am I in spiritual retirement? How many young people are in retirement! The second action, finding: do I practise discerning what is good and comes from God, knowing how to renounce what leaves me with little or nothing? Finally, buying: do I know how to spend myself for Jesus? Is he in first place for me, is he the greatest good in life? It would be nice to say to him today: “Jesus, You are my greatest good”. Each one of you in your heart, say now: “Jesus, you are my greatest good”.

May Mary help us to seek, find and embrace Jesus with all of ourselves.

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, today we are observing two World Days declared by the un : International Day of Friendship and the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The first promotes friendship between peoples and cultures; the second combats the crime that turns people into commodities. Trafficking is a terrible reality, affecting too many people: children, women, workers..., so many exploited people; all living in inhumane conditions and suffering indifference and rejection by society. There is so much trafficking in the world today. May God bless those who work to fight against trafficking.

Let us not cease to pray for tormented Ukraine, where the war is destroying everything, even grain. This is a grave offence to God, because grain is his gift to feed humanity; and the cry of millions of brothers and sisters who suffer hunger rises up to Heaven. I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, that the Black Sea Initiative may be restored and grain may be transported safely.

The coming 4 August will mark three years since the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut. I renew my prayer for the victims and their families, who are seeking truth and justice, and I hope that Lebanon’s complex crisis may find a solution worthy of the history and values of that people. Let us not forget that Lebanon is also a message.

I ask you to accompany me with prayer during my journey to Portugal, which will begin next Wednesday, on the occasion of World Youth Day. A great many young people, from all continents, will experience the joy of the encounter with God and with their brothers and sisters, guided by the Virgin Mary, who after the Annunciation, “arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). I entrust World Youth Day pilgrims and all young people of the world to her, shining star of the Christian path, so venerated in Portugal.

And now I greet you all, people of Rome and pilgrims from Italy and many countries. In particular, I greet the choir of children from Veliko Tarnovo, in Bulgaria, and the group of young Mexicans, as well as the teenagers from Biadene and Caonada. And I greet the young people of the Immacolata.

And I wish you all a happy Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!