ROME – Saying Mass for the Congolese community of Rome Sunday, Pope Francis urged peace in the violence-plagued country while denouncing those who enrich themselves through the arms trade. He also described consumerism as “a virus that attacks the faith at the roots.”
At a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica opening the liturgical season known as Advent, a time of preparation for Christmas, Francis prayed for an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, noting that peace is “gravely threatened in the east of the country.”
He also denounced weapon suppliers, lamenting “conflicts fed by those enriching themselves with arms.”
“Consumerism is a virus that affects the faith at the root, because it makes you believe that life depends only on what you have, and so you forget about God who comes to meet you and who is next to you,” Francis said Sunday.
Reflecting on a passage of the Gospel of Luke, the pontiff said that when Jesus signaled the things that threaten the faith, he doesn’t speak about powerful enemies, hostilities or persecution, as these have always been present.
“The real danger, on the other hand, is what numbs the heart: it depends on consumption, it is letting oneself be burdened” by material needs, he said.
People today live for things but don’t really know what they live for, Francis said. People own many goods, but do nothing good for others, filling homes with things while they are empty of children. People fill their lives with hobbies, but have no time for God or others.
“When you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows and others become obstacles in the race and so we end up feeling threatened and, always dissatisfied and angry, the level of hatred rises,” Francis said. “We see it today where consumerism reigns: how much violence, even if only verbal, how much anger and desire to look for an enemy at all costs!”
“Thus, while the world is full of weapons that cause death, we do not realize that we continue to arm the heart with anger,” he said.
The condemnation of consumerism came as Francis spoke about the “no” about which Jesus warns in the Gospel, urging those who follow him not to do as in the “days of Noah,” when all people could think about was eating and drinking.
In other words, he said, “they reduced their lives to their needs, they were content with a flat, horizontal life, without momentum.”
The celebration was marked with joyous Congolese dancing and singing, with the rhythmically-swaying people approaching the altar serving as a vivid contrast with the usual solemn religious ceremonies seen in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Francis decided to say Mass for the Congolese community in Rome after receiving their invitation to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the first Congolese Catholic chaplaincy in the Eternal City.
During his homily, Francis also spoke about Advent, saying that it means “coming.”
“The Lord is coming,” he said. “This is the root of our hope: the certainty that God’s consolation comes to us in the midst of the troubles of the world. Not a consolation of words, but of His presence among us.”
Francis noted that the Congolese community in Rome comes from far away, and that most left homes and loved ones behind searching for hope. Even though they’ve found opportunities, he noted, they’ve also encountered many difficulties.
The pontiff closed his homily by mentioning Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta, the first Bantu woman to be recognized as blessed, the step before sainthood. She was killed during Congo’s civil war in 1964, after she warded off the rape attempts of a colonel. As Francis noted, the religious sister, much like Jesus, forgave her killer.
Through her intercession, Francis said, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Church as a whole pray so that those who fight will give up their weapons, and for a conversion “from an economy that uses war to an economy that serves world peace.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
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