Vatican City, 11 November 2015 (VIS) – Pope Francis concluded his brief pastoral visit to Florence yesterday with Mass celebrated before fifty thousand people in the “Artemio Franchi” stadium. Even the detainees in the Florentine prison participated in a way, as the altar at which the Holy Father consecrated the Eucharist was produced by them, for which he warmly thanked them.
In his homily, the Holy Father began from Christ's question to His disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”. “Jesus is interested in what people think, not to keep them happy, but to be able to communicate with them”, he explained. “Without knowing what people think, the disciple isolates himself and begins to judge people according to his own thoughts and convictions. Maintaining a healthy contact with reality, with what people experience, their tears and their joys, is the only way of being able to help them … to open their hearts to God. In reality, when God wanted to speak with us He incarnated Himself. Jesus' disciples must never forget where they were chosen from – that is, among the people – and must never give in to the temptation to assume detached attitudes, as if what the people think and live did not affect them or as if it were of little importance to them. … This also applies to us. The fact that we are gathered today to celebrate Holy Mass in a sports stadium is a reminder of this. The Church, like Jesus, lives amid the people and for the people. For this reason the Church, throughout her history, has always carried within her the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?”.
“Safeguarding and announcing the true faith in Jesus Christ is at the heart of our Christian identity, since in recognising the mystery of the Son of God made man, we can enter into the mystery of God and the mystery of man. … Today, too … our joy is sharing this faith and answering the Lord Jesus together: 'You, for us, are the Christ, the Son of the living God'. Our joy is also that of going against the grain and surmounting current opinion, that, like then, does not manage to see Jesus as more than a prophet or a teacher. Our joy is recognising in Him the presence of God, the envoy of His Father, the Son who came to make Himself an instrument of salvation for humanity”.
“At the root of the mystery of salvation is “the will of a merciful God, who does not give up when confronted with man's incomprehension, blame and misery, but rather gives Himself to him, to the point of making Himself man in order to encounter every person in his or her true condition. This, God's merciful love, is what Simon Peter recognises in Jesus' face. It is the same face that we are called upon to recognise in the forms in which the Lord assures us of His presence among us: in His Word, that illuminates the darkness of our minds and our heart; in the Sacraments, that regenerate us from our death to new life; in fraternal communion, that the Holy Spirit generates among His disciples; in boundless love, that renders generous and tender service to all; in the poor, who reminds us that Jesus wished for the supreme revelation of Himself and His Father to take the image of Himself humiliated and crucified. This truth of faith, this truth scandalises … those who do not tolerate the mystery of God impressed on the face of Christ”.
“In reality, the communion between the divine and the human, fully realised in Jesus, is our aim, the culmination of human history according to the Father's plan. … God and man are not the two extremes of an opposition: they always seek each other, as God recognises in man His own image and man recognises himself only by looking at God. … This is the road on which we can encounter humanity … with the spirit of the good Samaritan. It is not by chance that humanism, to whose most creative moments the city of Florence bears witness, has always had the face of charity”.
“At the end of the Mass the Pope greeted the cardinal archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, and the members of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and thanked the detainees who had constructed the altar. He then transferred by car to the “Luigi Ridolfi” stadium where he departed by helicopter to return to the Vatican.