Pope at Mass in L'Aquila: 'God can accomplish all things'

During Mass in the central Italian city of L'Aquila for the occasion of the 'Celestinian Pardon,' Pope Francis recalls God's power to accomplish all things, along with the courageous witness, often misunderstood, of Pope Celestine V who resigned in 1294.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

God can accomplish all things for those who believe.

Pope Francis stressed this during the Mass he celebrated in the central Italian city of L'Aquila, where he made a 28 August pastoral visit for the occasion of Celestinian Pardon.

He presided over the Eucharistic Celebration in the square before the Basilica of St. Mary in Collemaggio. 

The Pope's visit to the Italian city falls 13 years after a devastating 2009 earthquake which killed 309 people. The month of the quake, then-Pope Benedict XVI visited L'Aquila.

Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila
Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila

Tradition of the 'perdonanza' 

Each 28-29 August in L'Aquila, Catholics renew the solemn rite of Forgiveness (“Perdonanza”), the perpetual plenary indulgence that Pope Celestine V granted to the faithful.

In his homily, the Pope drew our attention to the saints, Pope Celestine V, and God's mercy which frees us and brings us joy.

“The saints' lives are a privileged vantage point from which we can glimpse the good news that Jesus came to proclaim – namely, that God is our Father and each of us is loved by Him. This is the heart of the Gospel, and Jesus is the proof of this Love – His incarnation, His face.”

Misunderstood Pope Celestine V & God beside the humble

Recalling that he celebrates Mass on "a special day" for the city, that of "the Celestinian Pardon," the Holy Father recalled that the relics of Pope Celestine V - who resigned from the papacy in 1294 - are preserved in L'Aquila.

Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila
Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila

The Holy Father observed that Pope Celestine "humbled himself," finding favour with God.

“We erroneously remember Celestine V as he 'who made a great refusal', according to the expression Dante used in his Divine Comedy. But Celestine V was not a man who said 'no', but a man who said 'yes'.”

In fact, the Pope noted, there is no other way to accomplish God’s will, than to assume the strength of the humble.

"Precisely because they are such, the humble appear weak and as losers in the eyes of men and women, whereas in reality," he explained, "they are conquerors because they are the ones who confide completely in the Lord and know His will."

It is “to the humble," Pope Francis said, "that God reveals His secrets, and by the humble He is glorified.” 

In this world so often dominated by pride, the Pope reflected, the Word of God invites us to become humble and meek. 

God can accomplish all things

Humility, the Holy Father explained, does not consist in belittling ourselves, "but rather in that healthy realism that makes us recognize our potentials as well as our misery."

“Beginning with our misery, humility makes us take our gaze off ourselves in order to turn it toward God, to the One who can do everything and who even obtains for us what we would not succeed in obtaining on our own. 'All things can be done for the one who believes.'”

The strength of the humble is the Lord, the Pope said, "not strategies or human means."

"In that sense, Celestine V was a courageous witness of the Gospel because there was no logic or power that was able to imprison or control him. In him," Pope Francis said, "we admire a Church free from worldly logic, witnessing completely to that name of God which is Mercy."

Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila
Mass in front of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Collemaggio, L'Aquila

This is the very heart of the Gospel, the Holy Father continued, "for mercy is knowing that we are loved in our misery."

The Pope invited all faithful to always draw closer to Christ, the Son of God and His mercy.

Joy of mercy

For centuries, he noted, "L’Aquila has kept alive the gift that Pope Celestine V himself left it," namely the reminder "that with mercy, and with mercy alone, can the life of every man and every woman be lived with joy."

“Mercy is the experience of feeling welcomed, put back on our feet, strengthened, healed, encouraged. To be forgiven is to experience here and now, that which comes closest to being resurrected. Forgiveness is the passage from death to life, from the experience of anguish and guilt to that of freedom and joy.”

May our Church, the Pope expressed, always be a place in which people can be reconciled "and experience that Grace that puts us back on our feet and gives us another chance."

The Pope prayed it may be "a Church of forgiveness, not once a year, but always."

The Holy Father recognized how much the people of L'Aquila have suffered, following the devastating 2009 earthquake, and warned against another type of suffering, an “earthquake of the soul.”

This type of earthquake puts us in contact with our own frailty, our own limitations, our own misery.

"In such a circumstance, we can allow life to make us bitter, or we can learn meekness."

Capital of forgiveness and transformation

"Too many times," the Pope lamented, "people base their worth on the place they occupy in the world."

"The Christian knows that his or her life is not a career after the manner of the world, but a career after the manner of Christ who said of himself that he had come to serve and not to be served," the Pope said.

Unless we understand that the revolution of the Gospel is contained in this type of freedom, the Pope suggested, we will continue to witness war, violence and injustice.

“Brothers and sisters, may L’Aquila truly be the capital of forgiveness, of peace and of reconciliation!”

Pope Francis concluded by recalling the people of L'Aquila's devotion to the Blessed Mother and praying "her maternal intercession obtain pardon and peace for the entire world."

Pope Francis' visit to L'Aquila falls the day after the Pope's consistory for the creation of 20 new Cardinals in the Vatican, and during the 27-29 August encounter the Holy Father requested for the world's Cardinals to gather in the Vatican together to reflect on the recently-published Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium on reforming the Roman Curia.

Full video of the Mass in L'Aquila

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28 August 2022, 10:59