Pope Francis prays for end to ‘inhuman violence’ after recent terrorist attacks
VATICAN— On Sunday Pope Francis prayed for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Spain, Burkina Faso and Finland, asking the Lord to bring peace and to end the violence of terrorism around the world.
After praying the Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis led the 10,000 people present in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silence and in a ‘Hail Mary’ for those killed or wounded in the most recent terrorist attacks.
“In our hearts we bear the pain of the terrorist acts that in recent days have caused many victims in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland,” he said Aug. 20.
“Let us pray for all the dead, for the wounded and for their relatives; and we plead for the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence. Let us pray together in silence and, afterwards, to Our Lady.”
The night of Aug. 13 gunmen opened fire in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing at least 18 people and taking hostages before police ended the standoff early Monday morning.
On Thursday of that week, at least 13 people were killed and more than 100 injured in Barcelona Aug. 17 after a van sped into a crowd of people in the Las Ramblas tourist area.
Then, on Aug. 18, a stabbing in Turku in Finland left two people dead and injured eight others. Originally considered to be a murder, it is now being treated as an act of terror, according to police.
Before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading about the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her demon-tormented daughter.
At first, the Lord does not seem to hear her cry of pain, the Pope pointed out. But she does not let this discourage her.
“The inner strength of this woman, which allows her to overcome every obstacle, is found in her maternal love and in the confidence that Jesus can fulfill her request. And this makes me think of the strength of women,” he said.
We have all known many strong women, he continued, who with their fortitude have achieved great things. “We can say that it is love that moves faith and faith, on its part, becomes the reward of love.”
Francis explained how it is the woman’s great love for her suffering daughter that leads her to persevere in her request for the Lord’s healing, shouting: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!”
“This evangelical episode helps us understand that we all need to grow in faith and strengthen our trust in Jesus,” Francis said. “He can help us find the way when we have lost the compass of our journey; when the road does not look flat, but hard and difficult; when it is difficult to be faithful to our commitments.”
“It is important to daily feed our faith, listening attentively to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a ‘crying’ towards Him – ‘Lord, help me!’ – and with concrete attitudes of charity towards our neighbor,” he said.
In the Gospel, the woman’s perseverance and act of faith lead Jesus to heal her daughter. “This humble woman,” the Pope said, “is pointed at by Jesus as an example of unshakeable faith.”
“Her insistence on invoking the intervention of Christ is for us a stimulus to not discourage us, not to despair when we are oppressed by the hard tests of life.” The Lord does not turn away from us when we present our needs. If sometimes he seems insensitive to our demands for help, it is only to test and strengthen our faith.
And when this happens “we must continue to shout like this woman: ‘Lord, help me! Lord, help me!’ Thus, with perseverance and courage,” he said. “And this is the courage needed in prayer.”
“Let us trust in the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis concluded, “so that He will help us to persevere in the faith.”
“The Spirit infuses courage into the hearts of believers; he gives our life and our Christian witness the power of conviction and persuasion; he encourages us to overcome disbelief towards God and indifference to our brothers.”