Every night in this Church of Reconciliation common prayer continues with singing. This time is very precious. The words we sing carry us forward and are engraved in our memories and in our hearts.
At the same time, brothers remain in the church to listen to those who want to express a question, a joy or a difficulty. Priests are available for the sacrament of reconciliation, pastors to listen, and also sisters. On two afternoons, brothers and sisters remain in the church from 5:30 to 7pm, the Ursuline Sisters Thursday and Saturday evenings after the prayer.
We all need someone who listens to us and does not judge us, even if we entrust to him or her something we have done which is wrong or something of which we are ashamed. It is not a question in the first place of getting advice. Simply sharing a joy or a trial can help us see more clearly within us. Feeling that we are not alone can strengthen our hope.
If in all our churches we could give more importance to this listening. There should be times and places where men and women are available to welcome and listen.
Being listened to by another person renews our prayer. Our confidence that God is there, close to us, becomes stronger. Our sensitivity and understanding for others widen.
Every Thursday night we put the icon of mercy at the center of the church. It reminds us that Christ is close to our wounds. It awakens in us the courage of mercy for others.
In this way it happens that we make a surprising discovery: coming close to those who suffer can heal our own wounds. Often we receive a lot more than we give when we commit ourselves to care for those who are suffering.
I experienced this during my visit to Syria last December. I would like to talk about it so that we do not stop praying for that country which is suffering too much. Peace in that country is one of the conditions for the attacks, like the terrible one in Nice, to stop.
In such a situation of war, we cannot do much, but the little we can do, we must do. So I said to myself last year that it was essential to go to show at least a few people our solidarity and assure them of our prayers.
A sister from Syria had invited me to spend Christmas there. She welcomed me into their community. The meetings I had in that country undergoing trials which is Syria are still so alive in me.
Many refugees are crammed into the city where the sisters live. Food is lacking. But many people are committed to distributing food. I will never forget the morning I spent in a courtyard filled with Muslim women, pregnant or with babies, waiting for their food ration. Many of these women did not know where their husbands were.
In Syria, Christians and Muslims are active in bringing together children to supplement the lack of schooling. That is because the war continues and otherwise there will be a generation without education.
The sisters opened a kindergarten. This is a very powerful gesture. As the prophet Jeremiah in the Bible who buys a field while Jerusalem was besieged by an army, the sisters express in this way that there is a future for the children in their country.
A young woman told me: We want to live together between different religions, but our voice is not heard, the sound of weapons is stronger.
Then I went to spend Christmas days in Homs; fighting no longer was taking place in the city but outside. What a shock! Even if one is aware of the destruction through photos, seeing with one’s own eyes a city half of which is completely destroyed, meeting people who have lost everything and who are desperate, hurts.
I could not do much, just showing that we do not forget them and praying on Christmas Day with them in a chapel which had remained intact amid the ruins. The day before some young people had organized there a Christmas party for children. I was deeply moved to see young people do everything they could so that the children could spend a moment of joy.
From Syria I went straight to Valencia in Spain for the European meeting. There I was able to share what I had seen and heard. Among the brothers we said: we have to deepen our contacts with the Middle East. We are welcoming here two Arab refugee families, one Christian, from Iraq, the other Muslim, from Syria, from the area of Homs.
And we are pleased that there are Lebanese youth among us for several months. There were also Palestinians from Bethlehem here, who had to leave this morning. I asked Manuella to say a few words.
Manuella: We are happy to be here, to get to know people from so many different nations, and to share with you how we are living in Lebanon.
Lebanon is a living witness to the coexistence of 18 different faiths in the same country. Despite all the differences between its people, its small size and the presence of several schools of thought, Lebanon hopes to always remain the symbol of diversity in the Middle East.
For so long, Lebanon has been tirelessly seeking to maintain a good Christian-Muslim dialogue. It has definitely become a haven for thousands of refugees, Muslims and Christians, women and men, children and elderly, mostly from Iraq and Syria. Welcoming nearly two million refugees is only a simple act towards these men and women, sons and daughters of God.
We ask you to pray for our country and for the entire Middle East, and we will now sing a prayer in Arabic. (Arabic Song)
Timothy: There are flowers for those from South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Chad,
Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Algeria and Egypt.
For those from Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
For those from Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
For those from Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Ireland.
For those from Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and France.
For those from Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
For those from Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada
For those from Korea, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine.