Pope Francis on Sunday joined the Church in the Philippines in commemorating 500 years of Christianity in the Southeast Asian nation.
He celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with several representatives of the Filipino Church, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, formerly the Archbishop of Manila.
In his homily, the Pope said Filipinos received the joy of the Gospel half a millennia ago, “and this joy is evident in your people.”
“We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers,” he said. “I want to thank you for the joy you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities.”
Recognizing the witness of faith Filipinos offer through their “discreet and hardworking presence”, Pope Francis also urged them to “persevere in the work of evangelization.”
He said the Gospel message of God’s closeness must be constantly proclaimed to others, so that none might perish.
Renewed appeal for peace in Syria
The Syrian civil war, he said after the Angelus prayer on Sunday, “has caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our times.”
“An untold number of dead and wounded, millions of refugees, thousands missing, destruction, violence of all kinds and immense suffering for the entire population, especially the most vulnerable, such as children, women and the elderly,” said the Pope.
In response, Pope Francis renewed his “heartfelt appeal” for all parties to the conflict to “show signs of good will, so that a glimmer of hope may open up for the exhausted population.”
He also called on the international community to provide “decisive and renewed” commitment to rebuilding the nation, so that “once the weapons are laid down, the social fabric may be mended and reconstruction and economic recovery can begin.”
“Let us all pray to the Lord that so much suffering in our beloved and martyred Syria will not be forgotten, and that our solidarity will revive hope.”
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Speaking ahead of the noon-day Marian prayer of the Angelus, the Pope considered why the fourth Sunday of Lent has such a joyous focus.
The reason, he said, is given in the Gospel: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life (Jn 3:16).”
“This joyful message is the heart of the Christian faith,” said the Pope, “God’s love found its summit in the gift of his Son to a weak and sinful humanity.”