Catholics Urged to Emulate Pope as Witnesses for Justice

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Echoing Pope Francis’ vision for the church, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land, encouraged Catholics to be witnesses for the poor and for justice in the world out of love for the crucified Christ.

During a Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Father Pizzaballa reminded the 300 people gathered for the liturgy of thanksgiving for Pope Francis that the new pontiff invoked the spirit of simplicity and humility of the saint whose name he had chosen as an example for all people of faith.

The church is not an organization, but a “community of faith,” he added during his homily at the traditional burial site of Jesus.

“The church is on a journey, and we have to journey together,” he said. “We can’t greet Christ alone, but only in a community.”

In the Holy Land, where the church is hindered by many fetters and fears, the new pope has already offered an example of how to shed those binds, he said.

“Pope Francis, as the successor of Peter, will also help our small church in the Holy Land to work together,” he said.

Earlier, Father Pizzaballa told Catholic News Service the Holy Land is in need of someone who will open hearts and talk not only about the suffering, but also about hope “in every one of us.”

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal and Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, papal nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, concelebrated the Mass. The patriarchs of the Armenian and Coptic Catholic churches as well as representatives from the Greek, Syrian and Ethiopian Orthodox churches, were among clergy attending the Mass.

Some worshippers held up tablet computers, video cameras, digital cameras and cellphones to record the event.

A barefoot refugee from Eritrea, clutching several plastic bags, lit a candle at the side of the traditional tomb of Jesus and bent his head in prayer. As the Mass began in front of the tomb, the young man crossed himself, glanced at the ceremony and walked away.

“We rejoice together with all for the important gift the church has received from God in the person of Pope Francis,” said Archbishop Lazzarotto. “Our joy is particularly great here in the city of Jerusalem in the Holy Land.”

The worshippers — mostly pilgrims, religious and foreign diplomats — were joyous over the election of Pope Francis.

“I wanted to be in unity with the church and give thanks for the new pope,” Ivona Mudrecka, 40, a Polish volunteer working at a children’s home on the Mount of Olives, said after the Mass.

Mudrecka said Pope Francis gave her “pure hope for the future.”

“Everything is good with the coming of the new pope,” said Manuel Zrieneh, 48, who helped set up for the liturgy and was one of a few local Palestinians in attendance. “We need to pray for peace for all the people in the world, not just for us.”

Habib Yelouwassi, 36, a novice from Benin in the order of the Sacred Heart Fathers of Betharram, said he was especially moved by the pope’s breaking with protocol and first requesting prays from the faithful before he blessed them at his introduction to tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on 13 March.

“It shows he is humble,” Yelouwassi said.

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