Paolo Ruffini – Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication
There is an aspect of Pope Francis' journey to Mozambique, Madagascar and Mauritius that connects it with all the other travels of the Popes, without in the least reducing its importance, but strengthening it instead.
This aspect is the union of the People of God as they await the Pope, a central aspect of the Petrine ministry that perhaps not even pictures of the journey can communicate.
A huge multitude of people, reflecting in their faces, their eyes, their gestures, the expression of their expectation, their joy, the strength of an encounter.
The miracle of a people standing along the roadside for kilometers, gathered in open spaces, camped out, in the midst of the dust, just to see the Pope pass by, to catch his eye, to concentrate in an instant their personal and collective history, to be seen and blessed by the Pope: this is the powerful testimony of what the Church is.
Hundreds of thousands of people coming together in unity, to proclaim their faith with joy, and to be confirmed by the Successor of Peter.
Hundreds of thousands of people, each one of them embodying the visible presence of God, who Himself waits to be seen in each of one these faces.
Hundreds of thousands of people, in turn restoring to the Successor of Peter and to the Church, all the strength of God's people.
In this exchange of glances, this encounter of fragility and faith, lies the mystery of the Church that the Lord entrusted to Peter and to his successors. There is also the mystery of the "munus petrino" that gives the Church her strength, despite the difficulties she has always faced, and continues to face.
Pope Francis spoke about it during the inflight press conference. When he answered a question about a possible schism, he said he is not afraid, and that he trusts in prayer. When he referred to the faith of the Mozambican, Malagasy, Mauritian populations. When he explained what it was that made Christianity spread and grow: not proselytism but being recognized by love, by being united.
Jesus spoke about it during the Last Supper, when He addressed Peter during those dramatic hours preceding His death and resurrection, and following the celebration of the crowd in Jerusalem that had welcomed him as a king. Jesus did so by explaining that the power of Peter and his successors, what saves it from the gates of hell, lies in the prayer for Peter that Jesus Himself entrusted to God the Father.
As Saint John Paul II explained, the words of Jesus (Lk 22:31-32) "undoubtedly refer to the eschatological dimension of the Kingdom, when the Apostles will be called to "judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel" (Lk 22:30). But they also have value for its present phase, for the time of the Church here on earth. And this is the time of trial" (...). Those words serve "also for us to induce us to see in the light of grace the election, the mission and the very power of Peter. What Jesus promises and entrusts to him comes from Heaven, and belongs - must belong - to the Kingdom of Heaven" (General Audience, Wednesday 2 December 1992).