His Apostolic Exhortation, Evangellii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, released soon after his inauguration, was to provide us with a clear outline of the direction he would be taking the Church and he has continued to lead according to his words since the publication of that document.
On Holy Thursday, he visited a refugee community on the outskirts of Rome where he continued his now established tradition of washing the feet of those who would rarely be chosen for such an important re-enactment of one of Jesus’s most profound teachings to his disciples. On this occasion, Pope Francis washed the feet of refugees of different faiths, including Muslims, Hindus and Christians. His message was one of peace. “We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” he said.
He also highlighted the great tragedy of ongoing war and violence in the world and highlighted in particular those who invest or work in the industries that manufacture the weaponry that is used so violently across so many parts of the world.
His message is a powerful one, as the funding and supply of weapons to the conflict in Syria and Iraq alone must be worth billions of dollars and yet opposition to this is rarely voiced as powerfully as it was by Pope Francis.
He followed this message with his Easter message, calling on the world to reach out and accept those who are fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.
At the same time, in Pakistan, Christian men, women and children had gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday in a park when their lives were destroyed by a suicide bomber.
The message of Jesus, that came to fruition in the first Easter Sunday, is even more relevant in the world today. During Holy Week we witnessed the acts of service and love, the importance of forgiveness, and the horror of violence as Jesus faced his own death on a cross. On Easter Sunday we celebrate his Resurrection and his call to reach out to the ends of the earth with a message of peace and love for all people.
Let us hope and pray that Jesus’s message will bear fruit across all nations.
In Pope Francis we have an outstanding messenger willing to voice this message in uncompromising words.