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Home » Home » Historic Visit – Pope Francis in North Macedonia

Historic Visit – Pope Francis in North Macedonia

Pope Francis in Skopje, capital of Northern Macedonia on 7 may 2019 (Photo courtesy by Vatican News - for education only)

Pope Francis in Skopje, capital of Northern Macedonia on 7 may 2019 (Photo courtesy by Vatican News – for education only)

(WEBPUBLICA) SKOPJE – NORTH MACEDONIA – Pope Francis on Tuesday celebrated Holy Mass in Macedonia Square, the main square of the capital, Skopje. In his homily, he explained how Jesus, the “bread of life”, satisfies the true hunger and thirst of man, Vatican News reported.

“I am the bread of life.”  Basing his homily on these words of Jesus in the day’s Gospel, Pope Francis reflected on what the world is hungering for and how the followers of Jesus can help satisfy this hunger.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).  We have just heard the Lord speak these words.

In the Gospel, a crowd had gathered around Jesus.  They had just seen the multiplication of the loaves; it was one of those events that remained etched in the mind and heart of the first community of disciples.  There had been a party: a feast that showed God’s superabundant generosity and concern for his children, who became brothers and sisters in the sharing of bread.  Let us imagine for a moment that crowd.  Something had changed.  For a few moments, those thirsting and silent people who followed Jesus in search of a word were able to touch with their hands and feel in their bodies the miracle of a fraternity capable of satisfying superabundantly.

The Lord came to give life to the world.  He always does so in a way that defies the narrowness of our calculations, the mediocrity of our expectations and the superficiality of our rationalizations.  A way that questions our viewpoints and our certainties, while inviting us to move to a new horizon enabling us to view reality in a different way.  He is the living Bread come down from heaven, who tells us: “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”.

All those people discovered that hunger for bread has other names too: hunger for God, hunger for fraternity, hunger for encounter and a shared feast.

We have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation and ending up as prisoners of dishonour, labels and ignominy.  We thought that conformism would satisfy our thirst, yet we ended up drinking only indifference and insensitivity.  We fed ourselves on dreams of splendor and grandeur, and ended up consuming distraction, insularity and solitude.  We gorged ourselves on networking, and lost the taste of fraternity.  We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety.  Prisoners of virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavor of the truly real.

Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: Lord, we are hungry.  We are hungry, Lord, for the bread of your word, which can open up our insularity and our solitude.  We are hungry, Lord, for an experience of fraternity in which indifference, dishonor and ignominy will not fill our tables or take pride of place in our homes.  We are hungry, Lord, for encounters where your word can raise hope, awaken tenderness and sensitize the heart by opening paths of transformation and conversion.

We are hungry, Lord, to experience, like that crowd, the multiplication of your mercy, which can break down our stereotypes and communicate the Father’s compassion for each person, especially those for whom no one cares: the forgotten or despised.  Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: we are hungry for bread, Lord: the bread of your word, the bread of fraternity.

In a few moments, we will approach the table of the altar, to be fed by the Bread of Life.  We do so in obedience to the Lord’s command: “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35).  All that the Lord asks of us is that we come.  He invites us to set out, to be on the move, to go forth.  He urges us to draw near to him and to become sharers in his life and mission.  “Come”, he says.  For the Lord, that does not mean simply moving from one place to another.  Instead, it means letting ourselves be moved and transformed by his word, in our choices, our feelings and our priorities, daring in this way to adopt his own way of acting and speaking.  For his is “the language of bread that speaks of tenderness, companionship, generous dedication to others” (Corpus Christi Homily, Buenos Aires, 1995), the language of a love that is concrete and tangible, because it is daily and real.

In every Eucharist, the Lord breaks and shares himself.  He invites us to break and share ourselves together with him, and to be part of that miraculous multiplication that desires to reach out and touch, with tenderness and compassion, every corner of this city, this country, and this land. (Source – Vatican News)

Meeting people and officials

Pope Francis, who is on a historic first trip to North Macedonia, has met with the country’s leadership and held Mass in the main square of the capital, Skopje, RFE (Radio Free Europe) reported.

Francis was welcomed by the outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov, and other government officials.

He has sought to encourage the country’s drive toward integration into the EU and NATO after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece last year.

Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian.

But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. North Macedonia is home to an estimated 15,000 Catholics.

In meetings with Ivanov and with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the presidential palace, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multiethnic and multifaith culture, calling it an example of peaceful coexistence and a bridge between East and West.

“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said.

“It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity

Pope Francis (Courtesy photo for education only)

Pope Francis (Courtesy photo for education only)

and for fundamental rights.”

In his speech, President Ivanov complained about delays in accepting Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family.

“You come at a time when [North] Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the [North] Macedonian [nation] is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” he said.

Viktor Dimovski, state secretary of North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, told the media on May 6 that the pope’s historic visit comes at a crucial moment as the country seeks entry into the European Union and NATO.

“The pope’s visit strengthens further internal cohesion and unity, and brings messages of reconciliation and solidarity,” he said.

The pope’s visit also included a prayer at the memorial of North Macedonia’s most famous native daughter, Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in Skopje when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.

Francis was surrounded by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity nuns in praying before the memorial. Mother Teresa was canonized by Francis in 2016.

Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to “sow these seeds” of solidarity.

“Living together is not always easy, we know that,” the pope said in a video message. “But it’s worth struggling toward because the most beautiful mosaics are the ones that are richest in colors.”

With the name dispute with Greece now resolved, North Macedonia, which has been an EU aspirant since 2005, hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Skopje also expects to become the 30th NATO member at the end of the year.

Stevo Pendarovski, who was elected president in a runoff election on May 5, said he saw his victory as a “ticket for NATO and EU.”

Six Western Balkan countries — Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia — are in various stages of the accession process to join the EU, RFE reported quoting other news agencies.

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