“For me, and for all who exercise roles of leadership within the Church, the words and actions of Pope Francis provide great encouragement but also great challenge”, Archbishop Eamon Martin said paying tribute to Pope Francis who is marking the second anniversary of his pontificate today.
Speaking at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, ahead of participating in the universal ‘24 hours for the Lord’ prayer initiative, Archbishop Martin continued, “I remember this day two years ago hearing Cardinal Tauran announce the words ‘Habemus Papam’ and that a cardinal from Argentina, Jorge Maria Bergoglio would be the new Pope, the first to choose the name Francis. Like many people I wondered just who this man was and what kind of pope might he be. The keywords of his Petrine Ministry has been “joy” and “mercy” and, from the beginning, Pope Francis has shown great humility while constantly encouraging us to show mercy in our lives and to reach out to those in the margins of society, to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Joy and mercy are the themes in his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) which was published in November 2013. It opens with the words:
“The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”
Pope Francis had previously published the Encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), in which he carried on the work started by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Of course the Pontificate of Pope Francis has not only been captured in words, but also in the many images which we have witnessed of the Holy Father reaching out and evangelising through action as well as words. When he says “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (EG, 49), we really get some insight to what lies close to the heart of Pope Francis.
Another important theme, so far, in the ministry of Pope Francis is the importance of the Church’s pastoral support for marriage and the family. The Synod of Bishops in Rome last October addressed this theme and will continue to do so when it gathers again for three weeks during this October. Already the Synod has highlighted that marriage preparation should be understood as a life-long catechesis – or itinerary of faith – about the Sacrament of Marriage. Pope Francis also addressed marriage and family in his message for World Communications Day 2015 saying, “families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society. Families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children. We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live.”
I ask the faithful to join with me in offering my prayerful good wishes to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for continued health and happiness in his future ministry. May the Holy Spirit pour out upon him in abundance and bless him with all the gifts needed to shepherd the flock of the Catholic Church, and to strengthen all our brothers and sisters in the faith and to be an inspiration to all people of goodwill throughout the world. Ad multos annos!
· Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland
· ‘24 hours for the Lord’ takes place across the Universal Church on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 March on the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation. Dioceses and parishes across the world are taking part in the ‘24 hours for the Lord’ prayer initiative and the theme for this year is God rich in mercy (Eph 2:4). As Catholics are encouraged to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) during Lent, special opportunities will be available in dioceses and parishes in Ireland for prayer and confession today and tomorrow. Pope Francis himself will be participating in the initiative and will preside at a penitential service in Saint Peter’s Basilica in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre of the Church’s mission of the new evangelisation. Full details are available on catholicbishops.ie and on Twitter @CatholicBishops and #24hoursfortheLord.
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