By Devin Watkins
The last public event of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to North Macedonia was an encounter with the Church’s ministers and missionaries.
In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis thanked God for the presence of the Latin and Byzantine rites in the Balkan nation.
“I can see the Church breathing fully with both her lungs – the Latin rite and the Byzantine rite – and taking in the ever new and renewing air of the Holy Spirit.”
He said both lungs are necessary and complementary, since they “help us better to taste the beauty of the Lord.”
Pope Francis said the Church’s ministers often feel the need to “take stock” of their mission. He said the bottom line is usually “in the red”, with few priests and religious to serve so many houses and apostolates.
The risk, said the Pope, is that we can fall into the temptation of relying too heavily on ourselves, rather than on the Lord.
He said taking stock has the advantage of bringing priests and religious closer to the people they serve: families that fail to grow, the sick, elderly, young people frustrated without a future, and the poor.
These people, said Pope Francis, remind us that we are “a Church of beggars in need of the Lord’s Mercy.”
Secret of strength
“All too often we let ourselves think that things might be different if we were strong, powerful and influential,” he said.
The truth, said the Holy Father, is that the secret of our strength lies in something other than ourselves.
“Let us not deprive ourselves of the best of our mission; let us not stifle the heartbeat of the Spirit.”
Surprises among the pots and pans
Pope Francis told the priests and consecrated persons of North Macedonia that faith draws us more deeply into the world – not leading us to reject it – with trust in God’s unconditional love for us.
And he concluded with words of gratitude for their service and ministry.
“Thank you for having shown the familiar face of the God with us, the God who never ceases to surprise us amid the pots and pans!”