In the shadow of the shroud

In the shadow of the shroud

Pope Francis in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians © dpa

It's not just a pilgrimage to the Shroud: In Turin, Pope Francis is once again focusing attention on the plight of migrants – and showing unexpected sentiments about home.

The key motif of this papal journey came right at the beginning: Francis sat for minutes in front of the Shroud of Turin with his eyes closed in the semi-darkness. What might he have been praying for? The northern Italian industrial metropolis, where the pope flew on Sunday, has enough problems.

Turin in economic crisis

Once an engine of the Italian economic miracle and a city of millions, the Fiat city today struggles like few others with the country's permanent crisis. Unemployment recently stood at almost 13 percent. At the same time, the mafia has discovered Turin as a stomping ground. The migration ie also offers potential for social tensions. Piedmont region, governed by Forza Italia and right-wing populist Lega Nord, refuses to accept more refugees.

Plenty of "Francis ies," in other words. The pope addressed them all even before his walk to the shroud on display in the cathedral. "Work is necessary not only for the economy, but also for the human person, for his dignity, for his participation in the state and for social cohesion," he said in the presence of invited guests in front of the cathedral. Again he denounced the scandalously high youth unemployment rate and – also this has become a characteristic with him – criticized the discrimination of women in the working world.

Worship of money

"'No' to an economy that throws people away … 'No' to the worship of money … No' to corruption … 'No' to the injustice that breeds violence," he shouted. Migrants should not be used as scapegoats; they themselves are victims of a world economy that is not concerned with people and the common good.

Apparently, the organizers of the subsequent Mass in the sunny Piazza Vittorio also wanted to give special weight to the refugee ie. A dark-skinned migrant asked in an intercession before tens of thousands for an end to exclusion; a black African family brought host bowls to the altar for the offertory service. And when Francis warned in his homily against striving for a "closed society" by fomenting fear of strangers, this seemed directly addressed to the politicians present. The image of the Crucified on the Shroud reminds us to help those who suffer and are persecuted, Francis said.

Feelings of home

In the meantime, he himself felt a sense of home: "I am a grandson of this earth," he confessed during the Mass. His father emigrated to Argentina from the Piedmont town of Asti in 1929. Audibly touched, the Pope quoted from a poem by Turin poet Nino Costa. On Monday, the second day of his visit, he spent several hours at a private meeting with relatives.

Francis had lunch at the archbishop's residence with prisoners, refugees and the homeless – now another regular feature of papal trips. Afterwards he went in an open carriage through densely lined streets in the footsteps of the holy heroes of Turin.

"Turin social saints"

The misery of the industrial revolution produced them, the "Turin social saints" of the 19th century. The exhibition of the shroud of the twentieth century. First and foremost, St. Giovanni Bosco (1815-1888), who founded the Salesian Order, today the second largest Catholic order of men. Don Bosco's 200th. The 200th anniversary of Don Bosco's birth is the occasion for the exhibition of the shroud, which continues until Wednesday. For many here, the youth pastor and revolutionary educator are virtually a Turin "global brand". Francis prayerfully commemorated the saint at his tomb in the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice.

Francis particularly emphasized the Salesians' hands-on approach. "Salesians are concrete," he said. They would go to the margins of society, recognize problems and address them. In this way, they saved many young people from falling into drugs and crime. In view of the high unemployment rate among young people in countries like Italy, he asked the religious to do more for the vocational training of young people.

Women's quota in the Vatican

The question of female heads of Vatican ministries has no urgency for Pope Francis. "When people say to me, 'Why no women at the head of a curia authority??, then I answer: this is functionary thinking," he said at a meeting with clerics and religious.

Women played an immensely important role in the life of the Church. They fulfilled, so to speak, the task that Mary had for the disciples at Pentecost. "The apostles cannot be imagined without Mary, Jesus willed it," the pope told Salesian sisters at the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice. They also spoke of the "Mother Church". Women religious should continue to engage in the church with all their might.

Visiting the dying

Pope Francis on Sunday afternoon visited the nursing home founded by Giuseppe Cottolengo (1786-1842), for patients, the elderly and the disabled. There he criticized a lack of respect for the elderly and the sick in the consumer society. Illness and the need for care were often seen only as a burden in the face of economic utility thinking. "This mentality harms society and it is our duty to develop 'antibodies' against this view of the elderly or disabled, as if their lives were no longer worth living," the pope said during his visit to the nursing facility.

He went on to criticize inadequate health care for poor people. While it is true that since the 19. There had been great medical progress in the twentieth century. At the same time, however, a disposable social culture has spread in which those in need are only a nuisance.

Exhortation to chastity

Pope Francis called on young people to practice sexual abstinence before marriage. The word "chaste" is no longer popular and is not heard with pleasure, "but even a pope has to speak the truth sometimes," he said at a meeting with tens of thousands of young people.

True love, he said, should not be confused with romantic feelings. Often behind the rejection of abstinence is only one's own need and no real love for the other person. It shows itself rather in the responsible acting for one another. "Be chaste!"The Pope called out to the young people who had traveled to Turin, especially from northern Italy.

He appealed to them to resist the hedonistic zeitgeist. This is promoted by advertising. "The advertisement persuades you, buy this, buy that. They pretend they are diamonds, but they are only selling glass." He who seeks a truly free life must swim against the current.

Historical guilt of Germany and the Allies

At a meeting with tens of thousands of young people, Pope Francis indirectly criticized Germany for its inaction during the Armenian genocide. Although more than a million Armenians were murdered in World War I, warring powers did nothing about it for military reasons, the Holy Father stressed. Earlier, he spoke about the "hypocrisy" of states when it comes to the arms trade and military benefits.

In his speech, however, Francis also expressed unequivocal criticism of the behavior of the Allies during the Holocaust. Again, he did not address any country directly. Despite aerial photos of the death camps, the tracks on which the death trains traveled were not interrupted, Francis said. Likewise, no one was bothered by the crimes committed in Stalin's camps, where many Christians were killed.

Visit to Waldensian community

Francis became the first pope to visit a church of the Protestant Waldensian community on Monday morning. There he asked the Waldensian Protestant Church for forgiveness for historical persecutions. The Catholic Church has shown "unchristian attitudes and behaviors," he said Monday during a visit to the Waldensian Church in Turin. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!" It was the first visit of a pope to a Waldensian place of worship. Francis was responding to an invitation from the Protestant community. The diversity of other Christian denominations must be respected, he stressed.

According to him, relations between Catholics and Waldensians have become closer in recent years. While important differences remain on anthropological and ethical ies, this should not prevent cooperation, he said. Catholics and Waldensians must work together to care for the poor and marginalized. As examples of successful cooperation, Francis cited an interdenominational Bible translation into Italian and a joint appeal against violence against women.

The in 12. The religious community founded in the sixteenth century by Lyon merchant Peter Valdes (c. 1140-1206) was suppressed for centuries and persecuted by the Catholic Church as heretics. According to its own information, today it counts about 100.000 members, many of them in Italy.

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Christina Cherry
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