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Pope Francis: audience, today too many Christians “risk their lives to attend Mass”

foto SIR/Marco Calvarese

“It is vital for us Christians to understand the value and significance of the Holy Mass, if we want to live our relationship with God ever more fully”. Pope Francis spoke these words during today’s Audience to introduce a new series of catechesis, having concluded the series on hope, in which “we will focus our gaze on the heart of the Church, that is, the Eucharist”, he explained to the 13,000 faithful present in St Peter’s Square today. “We cannot forget the large number of Christians across the world who, over two thousand years of history, have resisted until death to defend the Eucharist; and those who still today are risking their lives to attend Sunday Mass”, Pope Francis said, referring to the present and past history of the Church. “In the year 304, during the Diocletian persecution, a group of Christians from North Africa were caught while celebrating Mass in a house and were arrested”, he said, referring to the martyrs of Abitinae: “The Roman proconsul, during their trial, asked them why they had done that, knowing that it was absolutely forbidden. And they answered: ‘We cannot live without Sunday’, by which they meant: if we cannot celebrate the Eucharist, we cannot live, our Christian life would die”. These words are reminiscent of those spoken by Jesus to His disciples: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”. “Those Christians in North Africa were killed to celebrate the Eucharist”, the Pope stressed: “They bore witness to the fact that it is possible to give up one’s life for the Eucharist, because it gives us eternal life, making us partakers of Christ victory over death. Their witness challenges us all and demands an answer as to what it means to each of us to participate in the sacrifice of the Mass and to approach the Lord’s table”. “Are we looking for that well of living water that springs up” for eternal life, that “makes our lives a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and makes us one body in Christ?”, the questions asked by the Pope: “This is the most profound meaning of the Holy Eucharist, which means thanksgiving: thanksgiving to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that involves us and transforms us into His communion of love”.

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