By Christopher Wells
In his first General Audience following his Apostolic Visit, Pope Francis called for a round of applause for the people of Chile and Peru who he was able meet on his journey. He thanked all those who helped make the visit possible, especially the tens of thousands of mostly young people who offered their time and talent as volunteers.
Chile - "My peace I give you"
The Holy Father reviewed the various stages of his journey noting the motto for his visit to each of the two countries. In Chile, the motto “My peace I give you” was made “more current and living” on account of various protests that took place ahead of his visit. He noted that the gift of peace – the peace each one of us needs – can only come as a gift from Jesus, dead and risen. And he asked for continued prayers for peace.
In addresses to different groups in Chile, the Pope encouraged the growth of Chilean democracy, and recalled the blessing of Christ upon peacemakers; and called for bearing witness through a “style of closeness.”
This style of closeness, he said, was exhibited in his visit to a women’s prison in Santiago, one of the high points of his visit to Chile, where he encouraged the inmates to prepare to re-enter the world after their sentences were completed.
Pope Francis also recalled his encouragement to the Bishops of Chile in the face of the many wounds of the Church in that country, especially that of the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. He commended them for their “refusal to make any compromises” with the sexual abuse of minors.
Peru - "United by hope"
The motto for the Pope’s visit to Peru, “United by hope,” prompted the reflection that unity does not mean a “sterile uniformity” where all are equal. Instead, unity consists in bringing together “all the riches of the differences that we have inherited from history and culture.”
He expressed his appreciation for the “environmental, cultural, and spiritual patrimony of Peru, but spoke out strongly once again against corruption.” The duty to battle corruption, the Pope said, is the responsibility of everyone.
The Holy Father also spoke briefly about his visit to Trujillo, recalling the fierce storm that struck the area last year, and his call to respond to all the storms of life, including crime, and issues like the lack of education, of work, and of housing.
In particular, Pope Francis noted the popular piety of the people, seen especially in his coronation of the Virgin della Porta, and in the devotion to the image of the “Señor de los Milagros,” the “Lord of Miracles,” and to the saints, especially the saints of Peru.
The Words of Jesus
Wrapping up his resume of his Apostolic Visit, Pope Francis said, “As always, the words of Jesus give everything its fullest sense, and so the Gospel of the final Eucharistic celebration has recalled the message of God for His people in Chile and Peru: ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mk 1:15). So, the Lord seems to say, ‘receive the peace I give you and you will be united in My hope’.”