Baku, Azerbaijan (Monday, October 3, 2016, Gaudium Press) The joyful witness of Azerbaijan’s small Catholic community, which has “accomplished wonders” even after years of persecution, was at the centre of Pope Francis’ address at Baku’s Salesian centre, where he celebrated Sunday Mass as part of his day-long pastoral visit to the nation.
In this Eucharistic celebration I have given thanks to God with you, and also for you,” Pope Francis said during his Angelus address at the conclusion of Sunday’s Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
“Here,” he said, “the faith, after the years of persecution, has accomplished wonders.”
The Pope recalled “the many courageous Christians who trusted in the Lord and were faithful in the face of adversity.”
The Holy Father encouraged the Azerbaijan Catholics in their joyful witness “to faith, hope and love, united among (themselves) and with (their) Pastors.”
He made particular mention of the Salesians, as well as the Missionary Sisters of Charity, for their respective ministries, before entrusting all of these intentions to Mary.
In a few off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis acknowledged how Catholics in Azerbaijan – who number in the hundreds nationwide – are truly a “community of the periphery,” and encouraged them to move forward without fear.
The Holy Father likened his visit to the small Catholic community to that of the Holy Spirit, who descended on the small “community” gathered in the Upper Room.
Earlier that morning, during his homily for the Mass, Pope Francis spoke on “two essential aspects of the Christian life: faith and service.”
The Lord “invites patient waiting, without ever losing hope; above all, he emphasizes the importance of faith, since it is by faith that man will live.”
“When faith is interwoven with service, the heart remains open and youthful, and it expands in the process of doing good,” the Holy Father continued.
“Thus faith, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, becomes powerful and accomplishes marvellous deeds.”
In following the call to service, Pope Francis warned Christians against two key temptations: that of becoming lukewarm, and that of seeing service only as a way of gaining prestige and power.
Finally, the Pope recalled the words of the recently canonized St Teresa of Calcutta, saying: “The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace.”
Source Vatican radio