Pope Francis meets with members of the Missionary Fraternity of the Cities Pope Francis meets with members of the Missionary Fraternity of the Cities  (Vatican Media)

Pope Francis: Our wounded cities need healing balm of fraternity

Pope Francis meets with a French missionary fraternity dedicated to working in cities, and praises their efforts to bring God’s tenderness and compassion to the existential peripheries of urban areas.

By Devin Watkins

As the Missionary Fraternity of the Cities were on pilgrimage to Rome, Pope Francis met with the France-based Catholic organization on Thursday in an audience in the Vatican.

The missionaries serve people in marginalized and underprivileged parts of cities, and seek to bring pastoral care and the message of the Gospel to people on the peripheries of society.

In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis invited the Fraternity’s members to draw on the examples of Saints Peter and Paul to rekindle their missionary zeal.

Serving existential peripheries of society

The Pope urged them to observe the Nativity Scene, which he said depicts “a poor place, a periphery, a suburb of that time.”

The shepherds, he noted, were a marginalized group with a bad reputation, but God chose to announce to them first the Gospel of salvation.

“They are poor but have an open heart,” he said, adding that this is the experience of the Missionary Fraternity of the Cities.

“You do not have to go far, in your service at the heart of the cities, to discover the existential peripheries of our societies, which are often within reach, in your neighborhood, at the corner of the street, on the same landing,” he said.

Their mission, added Pope Francis, is to bring to urban dwellers the same joyful proclamation that was announced to the shepherds.

He said we should not fear to leave our certainties in order to share in the daily life of others who are marginalized.

“Among them, too, many have an open heart and await, without knowing it, the joyful announcement,” he said.

Fraternity is ‘yeast of peace’

Pope Francis went on to invite the missionaries to instill fraternity and openness into the neighborhoods where they serve.

“Fraternity is the yeast of peace that the peripheries need: it allows each person to feel welcomed as they are, where they are,” he said.

The Pope highlighted the presence of Jesus in every person, despite their social conditions.

He urged the missionaries to “show the presence of a compassionate God, a God who wants to express and act through your gestures, your words, your simple presence.”

He said God is always patient, moving at the pace of each person, in all of our wounds, anger, and rebellions.

God’s tenderness in areas marked by hatred

In conclusion, Pope Francis noted that the urban areas where the missionaries work are often wounded by “violence, indifference, and hatred”.

“You have the courageous and important mission,” he said, “to bring God's closeness, compassion, and tenderness to people who are often deprived of dignity and love.”

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04 January 2024, 10:54