02 January 2017
Catholic News Service
Scourge of terrorism is enveloping the world, says Pope in first message of 2017
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on Christians celebrating their 'apostate holiday'
Pope Francis has called on the world to say no to hatred and violence and to embrace fraternity and reconciliation, in the wake of the recent terrorist attack on a nightclub in Turkey.
Speaking to some 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for the first noon Angelus of 2017, the Pope lamented the brutal act of terrorism that struck during a night of "well-wishes and hope" in Istanbul. The Pope offered his prayers for the entire nation of Turkey as well as those hurt and killed.
"I ask the Lord to support all people of good will 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.
A gunman opened fire during a New Year's Eve celebration at a popular nightclub, killing at least 39 people and wounding at least 70 more. In a statement following the attack, Islamic State claimed responsibility: "In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday."
Earlier in the day, the Pope spoke of how maternal tenderness, hope and self-sacrifice were the "strongest antidote" to selfishness, indifference and "lack of openness".
The Pope said he learned so much about unconditional love, hope and belonging from seeing mothers who never stop embracing, supporting and fighting for what is best for their children incarcerated in prisons, ill in hospitals, enslaved by drugs or suffering from war.
"Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children," he said.
Just like all mothers of the world, Mary, Mother of God, "protects us from the corrosive disease of being 'spiritual orphans,'" that is when the soul feels "motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim".
"This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul," which soon "forgets that life is a gift we have received -- and owe to others -- a gift we are called to share in this common home," he said.
The Pope also presided over an evening prayer service with eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God on the last day of 2016 in St Peter's Basilica.
As the year ended, he asked people to reflect on how God has been present in their lives and to thank the Lord for all signs of his generosity.
Gazing upon the manger, we remember how Jesus "wanted to be close to all those who felt lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened. Close to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that sin, shame, hurt, despair and exclusion would not have the final word in the lives of his sons and daughters".
His sacrifice and love challenges people "not to give up on anything or anyone," and to find the strength to forge ahead "without complaining or being resentful, without closing in on ourselves or seeking a means of escape, looking for shortcuts in our own interest."
"Looking at the manger means recognising that the times ahead call for bold and hope-filled initiatives, as well as the renunciation of vain self-promotion and endless concern with appearances."
He urged everyone to help "make room" for young people, who are often marginalised and forced to migrate or beg for undignified jobs. Everyone has a duty to help them grow and fulfill "the dreams of their ancestors" in their own nation and community.
After the prayer service, the Pope walked into St Peter's Square instead of using the popemobile. He walked the entire periphery of the square, stopping to shake hands, receive cards and notes, offer happy New Year's greetings, bless babies and chat with people lining the barricades.
In the centre of the square, the Pope prayed silently before the Vatican Nativity scene, which was created by a Maltese artist. He also stood before the twisted and crumbled spire from the St Benedict Basilica in Norcia which, like dozens of villages and towns, was damaged in a series of recent earthquakes in central Italy.
Photo - A member of the Iraqi Special Forces shoots his machine gun at an Islamic State militant drone in the al-Barid district in Mosul.
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