By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp - Abu Dhabi
The Catholic community in Abu Dhabi celebrated the first anniversary of the Pope's visit to their country on Wednesday evening.
Bishop Paul Hinder, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Arabia, celebrated an open-air Mass in the compound which houses St Joseph Cathedral and St Theresa's Church.
A people remembering
Many people who met the Pope during his private visit to the Cathedral or who participated in the Mass held at Zayed Sport City were present for Wednesday's Thanksgiving High Mass.
In many ways the anniversary brought the congregation back to that special moment one year ago: the same choir sang the same songs sung last year, the same Deacon proclaimed the Gospel, and Bishop Hinder read a portion of the Pope's homily delivered last year. As soon as Holy Mass came to an end, the people in attendance remained and were able to reminisce through photos and a video recalling Pope Francis' entire visit.
Has the Pope’s visit made a difference?
"The question we have to ask ourselves at the distance of twelve months: has the visit of Pope Francis truly been an occasion to deepen our faith and to renew our commitment?" Bishop Hinder said.
Did they perhaps only recall that they were the only ones the Pope visited on the Arabian peninsula, the numbers that were present, or who was able to get close to the Pope and shake his hand or receive a blessing? “Are we simply happy that the Successor of Peter came to strengthen our faith?" he asked.
Listening to Pope Francis again
"I know that Pope Francis was deeply impressed with the way he was received in this country", Bishop Hinder continued, "and by the faithful at the stadium". He then asked if those in attendance last year had "taken to heart" what the Pope had come to tell them, if they had read the Document on Human Fraternity since last year, or had re-read the Pope's homily.
The Bishop then reminded the congregation of that homily by reading a portion out loud:
"Look at Jesus: he left nothing written, built nothing imposing. And when he told us how to live, he did not ask us to build great works or draw attention to ourselves with extraordinary gestures. He asked us to produce just one work of art, possible for everyone: our own life. The Beatitudes are thus a roadmap for our life: they do not require superhuman actions, but rather the imitation of Jesus in our everyday life. They invite us to keep our hearts pure, to practice meekness and justice despite everything, to be merciful to all, to live affliction in union with God. This is the holiness of daily life, one that has no need of miracles or of extraordinary signs. The Beatitudes are not for supermen, but for those who face up to the challenges and trials of each day. Those who live out the Beatitudes according to Jesus are able to cleanse the world. They are like a tree that even in the wasteland absorbs polluted air each day and gives back oxygen. It is my hope that you will be like this, rooted in Jesus and ready to do good to those around you. May your communities be oases of peace."
Commitment to the Pope’s message
"Dear brothers and sisters", Bishop Hinder concluded, "we look back to the Papal visit in gratitude. Even more important is our commitment to the message which Pope Francis has given us - to keep in mind and heart the words of Jesus to not be afraid. Only have faith".