At Mass for 1.3 million, Pope Francis says Jesus “continues to walk on our streets”

Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Mass at Las Palmas Air Base in Lima, Peru, Jan. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis concluded his three-day visit to Peru by celebrating Mass for 1.3 million people at an airbase on the outskirts of Lima. He told them and the millions watching on national television that Jesus “continues to walk on our streets” just as he did in Galilee 2,000 years ago. “He knocks today, as he did yesterday, on our doors and hearts,” the pope said, “in order to rekindle the flame of hope.”

The scores of concelebrants included Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries, including Peru. Cardinal O'Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis’ defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope’s words.

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Pope Francis concluded his three-day visit to Peru by celebrating Mass for 1.2 million people.

At a Mass enriched by beautiful singing, music and a festive atmosphere, the pope recalled in his homily some of the great people whom Jesus had called down the centuries “to sow the seeds of a great hope: that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that God is among us.” It started with Simon and Andrew, then James and John, he said, and “it then passed through St. Rose de Lima, Saint Turibius, St. Martin de Porres, St. Juan Macías, St. Francisco Solano” and “a cloud of witnesses” right down to our own day. And now Jesus “has come to us,” Francis continued, to call us “to act once more as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference.”

The place where Pope Francis presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were threatened by terrorist violence.

Pope Francis drew attention to the situations of injustice and suffering that are wounding so many of God’s children today in this overwhelmingly Catholic country of 31 million people, whose economy is growing but also producing great inequalities.

Pope Francis: Jesus “is here in Lima, or wherever you are living, in the routine of your daily life and work.”

“Looking at the city,” Francis said, “we can start by saying that there are citizens who find adequate means to develop their personal and family life—and that pleases us.” But, he continued, “the problem is the many non-citizens, the half-citizens or urban remnants. They are found along our roadsides, living on the fringes of our cities and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence. It is painful to realize that among these ‘urban remnants’ all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents.”

“Daily situations of pain and injustice can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away,” the pope said. He reminded them that that is not what Jesus wants. Rather, Francis said, “he continues to call us; he wants to anoint us with his Spirit so that we, too, can go out to anoint others with the oil capable of healing wounded hopes and renewing our way of seeing things.”

Francis told the vast crowd that had been here all day and were now listening to him in total silence: “Yes, he is here in Lima, or wherever you are living, in the routine of your daily life and work, in the education to hope that you impart to your children, amid your aspirations and anxieties; within the privacy of the home and the deafening noise of our streets. It is there, along the dusty paths of history, that the Lord comes to meet each of you.”

“Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the face of indifference.”

Earlier in the day, Francis told the Peruvian bishops that they are called to “a prophetic ministry” to denounce the injustices and corruption that are widespread in this land. Now at his last Mass in this country, he told Peruvian Catholics that Jesus is calling them to be missionary disciples and to act to overcome these wrongs.

Pope Francis reminded them that they are not to lose heart or hope in the front of injustice because they are not alone. He assured that that today “Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope.”

“The kingdom of heaven is among you,” Pope Francis said. “It is there wherever we strive to show a little tenderness and compassion, wherever we are unafraid to create spaces for the blind to see, the paralyzed to walk, lepers to be cleansed and the deaf to hear, so that all those we had given up for lost can enjoy the resurrection.”

“Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city,” the pope said. “He invites you to become his missionary disciple so that you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!”

Material from Catholic News Service was used in this report. This story has been updated.

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