Russia is anxious as a North Korean propaganda video animation posted on the Internet shows rising tensions in its immediate neighbourhood.
It appeared shortly before North Korea announced entering “a state of war” with South Korea, in the latest rhetoric against its neighbour and the United States.
‘DESTROYING’ US PLANE
The video shows a North Korean missile destroying a nuclear-capable American B-2 bomber aircraft, though there was no sign the attack actually happened.
On Thursday, the United States sent a pair of the planes on a first-of-its-kind practice run over the skies of South Korea.
U.S. officials said it was a diplomatic sortie and that the planes returned safely to their basis.
However Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made clear that Moscow fears the increased military activity near North Korea, which also include joint South Korean and American drills, will escalate the conflict.
‘BUILD-UP MILITARY ACTIVITY’
“We are concerned that, along with this adequate reaction of the Security Council, along with the collective reaction of the world community, unilateral actions are being taken around North Korea, which are manifested in the build-up of military activity,” he told reporters in Moscow. “The situation may slip out of control and fall into a vicious circle.”
And, in an apparent warning to the West, Russia has begun its own military manoeuvres in the Black Sea involving dozens of war ships and planes. The operations are held not far from the former Soviet republic of Georgia where Russia fought a brief war in 2008.
Washington remains sceptical, saying North Korea’s rhetoric only leads to increased isolation.
The tensions have done little to help at least hundreds of thousands of people, including many Christians, who are believed to spent this Easter in North Korean prison camps, known for torture, executions and slave labour.
Rights groups say North Korea is still the most hostile nation in which to live and practice the Christian faith. At least 100,000 or more Christians are believed to be languishing in camps for their refusal to worship nation founder Kim Il-Sung’s cult.
We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.
This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.
This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).
So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of His love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.
And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through Him we implore peace for all the world.
Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?
Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.
Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.
Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).
Dear brothers and sisters, who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity, and all of you joining us via communications media, I renew my wishes for a Happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy of hope and peace that each year is powerfully renewed on this day. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, support us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and a particular thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide you and all humanity on the paths of justice, love and peace!
He said listening to the Pope is an extraordinary experience, and that he puts you at ease, and makes it feel as if you have been heard.
“He is not one who listens to you thinking about what to say next,” Msgr. Feroci said. “He listens profoundly; empathetically; richly.”He recounted how during the lunch, Pope Francis joked, listened, reflected, and gave his perspective. Msgr. Feroci said Pope Francis urged them to be generous in offering confession.
“He said, ‘Open the doors of the Church, and then the people will come in…if you keep the light on in the confessional and are available, then you will see what kind of line there is for confession’…The Pope said he was confident of the need of the people of God for priests to open the doors and allow the people to meet God,” Msgr. Feroci told Vatican Radio.Father Mario Pasquale, who had served as a worker-priest for 40 years, told Vatican Radio that he felt “heard” during the meal with the Pope, and that he had the “feeling of being understood.”
He said Pope Francis told them he wants to meet the people in the parishes as Bishop of Rome.“You feel that the Pope has a lot of hope in his heart,” Father Pasquale said. “I had this feeling that this is someone who love the Church and invites you to love the Church, too, to the end – for life – and that it’s worth it.”
At the opening of the liturgy – which Pope Francis concelebrated with numerous cardinals – candles were lit among the faithful and passed in complete silence, illuminating the church as the Easter candle procession reached the altar.
Over 40,000 flowers and plants from Holland were used to decorate the basilica including daffodils and lilies.
Pope Francis also baptized four people during the service, including a 17-year-old U.S. Citizen of Vietnamese descent, a 30-year-old Albanian, a 30-year-old Russian and a 23-year-old Italian.
After the baptisms, a white cloth was placed over each of the four and flame from the main Easter candle was shared with smaller candles which were given to them to hold. Pope Francis then confirmed them as Catholics, making the sign of the cross on their forehead with oil and kissing them each on the cheek. The four also received their first Holy Communion during the Mass.
During his homily, the new Pope said that if following Christ seems difficult, “don’t be afraid.”
“Trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”
If people remember what God has done for them, he noted, they will not fear what lies in store for their lives.
“To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled is what opens our hearts to hope for the future,” he said.
The Pope observed that “newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us.”
“We are afraid of God’s surprises…He always surprises us!” he exclaimed. However, “Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up.”
Pope Francis reflected on the resurrection narrative from the Gospel reading where the women were sad and afraid to find the tomb of Jesus opened and empty after His death.
“Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future, He is the everlasting ‘today’ of God,” he emphasized.
Because of this, Pope Francis explained, sadness is the wrong place to look for life. “How often does Love have to tell us ‘why do you look for the living among the dead?’” he asked.
“Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness,” Pope Francis noted. That “is where death is” and “is not the place to look for the One who is alive.”
“Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome Him as a friend, with trust: He is life!”
Pope Francis, who earlier presided at a two-hour-long service in St Peter’s Basilica commemorating Christ’s Passion, sat on a balcony overlookng the Colosseum for the torch-lit ceremony. Various groups and people from different parts of the world carried a wooden cross from one to another of the fourteen stations. The Sistine Chapel Choir sang refrains to prayers in Latin, while an Italian actress helped read spiritual meditations that had been written earlier by young Catholics from Lebanon.
“We now continue this Via Crucis in our daily lives,” Pope Francis told those gathered in his final remarks. “Let us go forward waiting for the Resurrection of Christ — who loves us very much!” he added.
A choir of Maronite priests and seminarians from Lebanon then concluded the evening with a haunting chant in Arabic.
God never condemns
Pope Francis’ homily during the Via Crucis
Dear Brother and Sisters,
Thank you for having taken part in these moments of deep prayer. I also thank those who have accompanied us through the media, especially the sick and elderly.
I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Remember this! God judges us by loving us! If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.
Dear brothers and sisters, the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did. This evening we have heard the witness given by our Lebanese brothers and sisters: they composed these beautiful prayers and meditations. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to them for this work and for the witness they offer. We were able to see this when Pope Benedict visited Lebanon: we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others. That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world: a sign of hope.
We now continue this Via Crucis in our daily lives. Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this word of love and forgiveness. Let us go forward waiting for the Resurrection of Jesus – who loves us very much! He is all love!
Pope Francis gave this homily during the Via Crucis at the Colosseum in Rome on 29 March 2013