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Pope Francis’ message for peace

On New Year’s Day, January 1, Pope Francis decried an attack in Istanbul, Turkey, just hours earlier that had killed 39 people and wounded about 70 others. He lamented that so many people in the world today are left grieving because of terrorism.

Addressing tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered for Mass at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, the Pope said that so many societies have become “cold and calculating,” bereft of compassion, He prayed that God will sustain “all men of goodwill who courageously roll up their sleeves to deal with the plague of terrorism and this bloodstain which is gripping the world in a shadow of fear and bewilderment.”

Sunday last week was also World Day of Peace and in his message to the world, the Pope called on every person and on every nation to heed the clear nonviolent way of Jesus. Unfortunately, today, he said, “we find ourselves engaged in a horrifying world war fought piecemeal.”

Today, in our own country, the Philippines, we are in the midst of the annual celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene. The image is now at the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta, drawing devotees from all over the country.

Tomorrow, the image will return to Quiapo Church in a procession known as the “Traslacion” at which millions will be in the procession or watching along the route from the Luneta, around the Quiapo area, and finally back to the Quiapo Church.

There are concerns this year that certain groups from Mindanao may carry out an attack such as the one last week in Istanbul, or previous ones im Berlin, in Paris, in Brussells, and in Dacca. The police and the military are now on full alert.

All these years, we have had mammoth Black Nazarene processions, joined by barefoot devotees in brown garb from all over the country, each one with a vow or a “panata.” Everything else stops in Metro Manila as the procession slowly makes its way around the city streets back to its revered place in the Quiapo Church. This year, in addition to the usual preparations for emergency medical assistance resulting from the crush of people, police and military units will be on full alert and the general public is urged to also be on guard.

We join Pope Francis in his New Year’s Day appeal for peace, against hatred and violence, for fraternity and reconciliation. The new year calls for hope and courage, he said. “I ask the Lord to support all people of goodwill who courageously roll up their sleeves in order to confront the scourge of terrorism and this bloodstain that is enveloping the world with the shadow of fear and confusion,” he said. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s people.”

We pray that his words will reach out and touch all people and all nations, including our own.

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