Pope with mourners © Cristian Gennari (CBA)
Pope celebrates service with mourners and sufferers © Cristian Gennari (CBA)
In a moving ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis prayed with thousands of mourners and sufferers on Ascension Day. Pope Francis stressed that Jesus also knew pain and sorrow.
At the service, which was held under the motto "Drying the Tears," parents who lost their son to suicide and a Christian who fled Pakistan told of their fates, among others. "Jesus' weeping must not be without a response from those who believe in him. As he comforts, so we are called to comfort.", Francis said.
The celebration was in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy proclaimed by Francis. The symbolic focal point was Our Lady of Syracuse, a plaster relief from Sicily on which tears reportedly appeared in the summer of 1953. Since then, the Madonna is venerated as an image of grace.
Prayers at the service recalled persecuted Christians, victims of torture, slavery and medical experiments, as well as people with disabilities, physical or mental suffering, sexually abused children and refugees. Francis encouraged allowing grief: "If God has wept, then I too may weep and know that I am understood." It is "our poverty, but also our greatness, to implore the consolation of God," the pope said.
He encouraged the bereaved: "When you love, nothing and no one can tear you away from the people you have loved."