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Pope in Mozambique: Mass at Zimpeto Stadium, “you have a right to peace”. “No nation has a future” with vengeance and hatred

“Our peoples have a right to peace. You have a right to peace”. The Pope returned to some of the themes he had touched upon in his first speech in Mozambique in the homily of the Mass he celebrated at Zimpeto Stadium. The event was attended by about 60,000 people, who welcomed him with dances despite the rain – which is a blessing in this corner of the world. Once again, the Pope recalled one of the keywords that have characterised the first half of his apostolic journey to Africa. “It is not easy to speak of reconciliation while wounds are still open from the years of conflict, or to take a step towards forgiveness, which is not the same as ignoring pain or giving up our memories or ideals”, Pope Francis stated: “Even so, Jesus Christ is calling us to love and to do good. This means much more than simply ignoring the persons who harmed us, or trying to avoid encountering them. Jesus commands us to show an active, impartial and extraordinary benevolence towards those who have hurt us. Nor does Jesus stop there. He also asks us to bless them and to pray for them. In other words, to speak of them with words of blessing, with words of life not death, to speak their names not in insult or revenge, but to establish a new bond which brings peace”. “Jesus is no idealist, someone who ignores reality”, the Pope explained: when he says “love your enemies”, he is talking about “specific enemies, real enemies”: “those who hate us, exclude us, revile us and defame us”.

“Many of you can still tell your own stories of violence, hatred and conflict”, he said, referring to the troubled history of Mozambique: “some concerning things that happened to you personally, others concerning people you knew who are no longer alive, and others still, out of fear that the past wounds will reopen and reverse the progress already made towards peace, as in Cabo Delgado”. “Jesus is not calling us to an abstract, ethereal or theoretical love, like that celebrated in fine speeches”, Pope Francis emphasised. “The path he proposes is one that he himself already took, the path that led him to love those who betrayed him, who judged him unjustly, who killed him”. “In inviting us to do this – the Holy Father continued -, Jesus wants to end forever that common practice of being Christians yet living under the law of retaliation”. “We cannot look to the future, or build a nation, an ‘equitable’ society, on the basis of violence”, the Pope remarked. “I cannot follow Jesus if I live my life by the rule of ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth’. No family, no group of neighbours, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is vengeance and hatred. We cannot come to terms and unite for the sake of revenge, or treating others with the same violence with which they treated us, or plotting opportunities for retaliation under apparently legal auspices. An ‘equity’ born of violence is always a spiral with no escape, and its cost is extremely high”.

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