The Beatitudes are not cheap words for those who think they know it all yet do not commit to faith; they are the fruit of a hopeful heart that yearns for peace and happiness, Pope Francis said.
Christ’s response to the longings and aspirations of those seeking a life of happiness are not a “product of those prophets of doom who seek only to spread dismay” or “mirages that promise happiness with a single ‘click,’ in the blink of any eye,” the pope said Tuesday, celebrating his first public Mass in Chile.
“The Beatitudes are born of the compassionate heart of Jesus, which encounters the hearts of men and women seeking and yearning for a life of happiness,” he said.
A sea of yellow and white flags waved throughout O’Higgins Park as Pope Francis arrived in his popemobile, greeting the estimated 400,000 people. People arrived by bus hours before the Mass. Police on horseback kept pilgrims orderly. Many lined up to buy souvenirs—flags, bags, key rings and photos featuring Pope Francis. Pilgrims shielded themselves from the sun with ball caps and sun hats.
Despite several acts of vandalism and protests against the pope’s visit that made headlines in the Chilean capital, there was an atmosphere of joy and hope as crowds sang a traditional Latin American hymn welcoming the pope. “Together like brothers, members of one Church, let us go walking toward the Lord’s encounter,” the faithful sang.
Reflecting on the Gospel reading from St Matthew, Pope Francis said Jesus’ proclamation of the beatitudes is the answer to those who seek an encounter with him.
Jesus’ first act before preaching, the pope said, was to “look out and see the faces of his people. Those faces awaken God’s visceral love. Jesus’ heart was not moved by ideas or concepts but by faces, persons. By life calling out for the life that the Father wants to give us,” he said.
Pope Francis said the people of Chile know about rebuilding as they continue to “get up again after so many falls…This is the heart to which Jesus speaks; that is the heart for which the Beatitudes are meant.”
By proclaiming the poor, those who mourn and the afflicted as blessed, Jesus “shakes us out of that negativity” and “the sense of resignation that tends to isolate us from others”.
Christians, the pope said, are also called to be peacemakers and work for reconciliation by “going out of our way to meet someone having a difficult time, someone who has not been treated as a person, as a worthy son or daughter of this land”. “This is the only way we must forge a future of peace, to weave a fabric that will not unravel,” Pope Francis said.
The offertory gifts included a statue of a Moai from Easter Island, sculpted by artist Pau Hereveri Tepano. Some of those present at the Mass travelled the nearly 2,300 miles from Easter Island. The gifts also included an earthenware piece depicting the Quasimodo, a traditional Chilean procession during Holy Week, when men and women in traditional dress go, on horseback, to give Communion to the sick and elderly who cannot make it to church.
Among the concelebrating bishops was Bishop Juan Barros, whose appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Osorno sparked several protests ahead of the pope’s visit. Bishop Barros’ former mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima, was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.
Pope Francis visited Peru January 18–21, with stops in Lima, Trujillo and Puerto Maldonado where he was to meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.
The Peru-Chile trip is Pope Francis’ fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he travelled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope. – CNS