The Pope changes from the political to the pastoral on the last day in Bangladesh


DHAKA, Bangladesh – After traveling a political and diplomatic tightrope for most of their November 26 to December 2 visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh for the exodus of Rohingya Muslims escaping violence and persecution, The last day of Pope Francis was surprisingly pastoral in tone.

There were no dramatic appeals to those in power, there are no surprise gestures, like taking the refugees home with him on the papal plane. In contrast, Francis maintained the established program for most of his trips abroad, spending his last hours in Bangladesh with a local religious community, young people and the poorest of the poor.

There was no talk of migrants and refugees, climate change or injustice.

Instead, on Saturday he saw a Pope who was relaxed, who abandoned his prepared comments in favor of a spontaneous conversation. A Pope who allowed two girls in floral dresses to lead him by the hand, who took his time to greet many of the patients in the Home of Mother Teresa and who clearly felt the joy of the hundreds of nuns, many of whom They dressed in blue. sari of the Missionaries of Charity, who almost tormented him after waiting for hours for the opportunity to greet him as he pbaded them on their way to the altar.

Talking with young people, the last appointment of his visit to Bangladesh, which is a Muslim majority country, Francis said that their lives are not without direction because they have a God given purpose, a "computer software" of some kind. [19659002] "He guides us and directs us with his grace, it is as if he placed within us computer software, which helps us to discern his divine program and, in freedom, to respond," said Francis.

"But like all software, it also needs to be constantly updated, keep updating your program, listening to God and accepting the challenge of doing his will."

The Pope's words came as he addressed some 7,000 students gathered at the Notre Dame College in Dhaka, where he received a warm welcome while touring a sports camp where the meeting took place.

Much of his speech focused on "wisdom", taking up the story shared by a young man named Anthony, who said that young people grow up in a "fragile world that screams". for wisdom. "

The wisdom of God, said Francisco," opens us up to others ", to look beyond the personal comforts and the" false values ​​that blind us to those great ideals that make life more beautiful and valuable ". Wisdom, added the pontiff, teaches how to defend oneself from a self-enclosed mentality of "my way or the road."

Catholic nuns from Bangladesh greet Pope Francis during his visit to the Holy Rosary Church in Dhaka, Bangladesh , on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Credit: AP Pho to / Aijaz Rahi.)

"When a people, a religion or a society becomes a 'small world', they lose what they They better have and immerse themselves in the "I'm good and you're bad" mentality, he said.

As it has become a tradition for Francis, he urged young people to "not spend all day playing with their phones," and instead interact with their elders, looking for wisdom in the eye. Also according to the practice of the past, Francis defined himself as a "grandfather" for young people.

The elders, the Pope told the students, transmit the wisdom of the experience, which can have the added value of avoiding repeating the mistakes of the past. They also serve as reminders that "history did not start with us".

Aware of the fact that only a small percentage of the 40,000 students who benefit from Catholic education in Bangladesh are Christians, since Christians represent less than 0.5 percent of the total population of 160 million, Francisco spoke to the who belong to other religions, particularly Muslims, saying that by gathering together as they did on Saturday, they showed determination to foster "an atmosphere of harmony, of reaching out to others, regardless of their religious differences."

Before getting to know To the young people, Francisco had a session with the Bengalis in the consecrated life, including a group of cloistered women. Two priests, a nun, a religious brother and a seminarian shared their experiences. Here the Pope left aside his prepared comments and delivered the speech in Spanish with an interpreter translated into English, saying that "we are here to listen to the Pope, not to get bored."

He repeated some of his usual words on these occasions. For example, after noting that on Friday, during an interreligious meeting, someone had quoted Cardinal Jean-Lois Tauran praising Bangladesh as an example of harmony between religions, the church must also be an example of harmony in the interior. There are many enemies of harmony within the Church, said Francis.

"I like to mention one, that's enough as an example," he said, before apologizing for being repetitive about it. "The enemy of harmony in a religious community, in a presbytery, in the episcopate, in seminaries, is the spirit of gossip, and this is not a novelty of mine." Some 2,000 years ago, a man named St. James said in a letter he wrote to the Church, the brothers and sisters of the language.

"An image that I like to use to illustrate what the spirit of gossip is terrorism," he continued. "Because those who speak ill of others , do not do it publicly, as a terrorist does not say & # 39; I am a terrorist & # 39 ;. Those who speak ill of others do so by hiding. Talk to one, throw a bomb and leave. And the bomb is destroyed when it goes, easily, to throw another bomb. "

He also urged the religious to pray for a" spirit of joy ", saying that it produces great sadness to see priests, bishops or nuns who have a Sad face, to the point that "one would like to ask them" if they had "vinegar for breakfast.

"I badure you that I feel great tenderness when I find bishops, nuns or elderly priests who have lived their lives to the fullest," said Francisco. "His eyes are indescribable, of joy and peace", with the spark of having lived with joy. This, he added, is more visible in the old nuns who "spent their whole lives serving with joy and peace, have roguish eyes, bright, full of life, because they have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit."

Pope Francis blesses the cemetery of the historic Church of the Holy Rosary, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo / Andrew Medichini.)

After speaking, Francis pbaded some minutes in silent prayer in the adjoining cemetery, where many religious men and women who served the local church are buried, blessing the graves and praying in silence.

Francis's last day of travel often includes a visit to those on the outskirts of society. In the Central African Republic, it was a pediatric hospital; in Colombia, an orphanage. Here, it was the "House of Mother Teresa", which tends to both orphaned children and the elderly.

The Pope's visit was short, and he spent his time greeting the patients who had been waiting for him in two small rooms and a group of children, the elderly and the sick who were in the courtyard.

The house, founded in 1976, is part of a complex of Holy Rosary Church, which cares for thousands of orphaned children and people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

After completing his agenda, Francis was on his way to the airport for his flight back to Rome, where he plans to land at 11:00 p.m. local. Once again, you are expected to hold a press conference during the flight.

On Sunday, he will resume his normal activities leading the weekly prayer of the Angelus from a balcony in the Apostolic Palace overlooking the Plaza de San Pedro.

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