TBLISI, Georgia — To the great disappointment of Argentines up and down his native country, who have waited three years for the first pope from the global south to announce he’s going back home, Pope Francis on Friday said the trip won’t happen in 2017 because he has other commitments to Africa and Asia, though he gave no details.
Seeing that he won’t be able to go back for at least another year, Francis decided to address the never-ending rumors with a video message, released by the local Argentinian version of L’Osservatore Romano, the first national edition of the Vatican’s newspaper.
The pope opens the video saying he regrets he won’t be able to celebrate the county’s two hundred-year anniversary, nor celebrate among his people two events “that make our history, two events that are very important and very powerful, and that I value a lot.”
The events he’s refrerring to are the beatification of Mama Antula, and the canonization of Cura Brochero, who will be the first saint who was born and died in Argentina.
Francis said that “it goes without saying that I would have wanted to go to Argentina” for these two events, but it wasn’t possible.
“You don’t know how much I would like to see you again. And I won’t be able to do it next year either because there are commitments with Asia and Africa, and the world is bigger than Argentina,” he said.
The pope then said that he’s still an Argentine, that he travels with an Argentine passport and that he considers the Argentine people to be his.
“I’m convinced that as people, you’re the biggest treasure our homeland has,” he said.
After saying he prays for each of his countrymen and women at Mass, he said that it’s “the love for the homeland that makes me do this, and that makes me ask you to, once again, put the homeland on your shoulder, that homeland that needs for each one of us to give the best of us to improve, grow, mature.”
This he added, can only be done through the culture of encounter and opposing the “throwaway culture” being offered everywhere in the world.
“A culture of encounter where each has their place, where everybody can live with dignity and where it’s possible for each to express themselves peacefully without being insulted or condemned, or attacked or discarded,” he said.
Praising his country’s geographic wealth, “we have it all,” he insisted on Argentina’s real wealth being its people, with its generosity and their ability to walk together, helping and respecting their neighbor.
“I respect the Argentine people. I love it, I carry it in my heart, it’s the wealth of our homeland. And even if we can’t hold hands, count with my memory and my prayers so that the Lord makes you grow as a people,” he said.
Closing his video by underlining that it’s the Holy Year of Mercy, he gives “homework” to his fellow Argentines: To practice at least one of the fourteen works of mercy every two days. (When he read a list of those works on the video, he didn’t include the one he himself decided to add not long ago, care for the environment.)