(Source: CD/Vatican News)

Pope Francis turned his thoughts to Europe on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950.

Speaking to the faithful after the Regina Caeli prayer on Sunday, the Pope said that Declaration “inspired the process of European integration, enabling the reconciliation of the peoples of the continent after the Second World War, and the long period of stability and peace from which we benefit today”.

Inviting all those who hold positions of responsibility in the European Union never to fail to be inspired by the historic document, he urged them to face the social and economic consequences of the pandemic “in a spirit of harmony and collaboration”.

The Schuman Declaration

In 1950, European nations were still struggling to overcome the devastation wrought by World War II, which had ended 5 years earlier.

The Declaration presented by French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, on 9 May 1950, represents a milestone in the process that saw the merging of economic interests that would help raise standards of living and be the first step towards a more united Europe.

Most importantly, the pooling of coal and steel production proposed by Schuman aimed to make war between historic rivals France and Germany “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.

Support for environmental initiative in the Sahel

Also at the Regina Caeli on Sunday, Francis recalled the 40th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul’s first pastoral journey to Africa, during which he raised the alarm regarding the plight of people of the Sahel region who were struck by drought and its devastating consequences.

During his address at the Marian prayer, the Pope said that on “10 May 1980 (…) St. Pope John Paul II gave voice to the cry of the populations of the Sahel, sorely tried by drought”.

The Sahel region is a climate zone sandwiched between Sudan’s Savanna to the south and the Sahara Desert to the north, across West and Central Africa. It has long experienced a series of historic droughts that have had dramatic environmental and societal effects, including famines. on the Sahel nations and their populations.

“Today”, the Pope said, “I congratulate the group of young people for the launch of the initiative Laudato Trees“.

He explained that “the aim is to plant at least one million trees throughout the region of the Sahel, which will become part of the “Great Green Wall of Africa”.

He concluded expressing his hope that “many will follow the example of solidarity given by these young people”.

In the catechesis: A warning against ways of power, worldliness and self-affirmation

In his catechesis on Sunday, meanwhile, the Pope invited the faithful never to fall into despair, but to trust in Jesus in the knowledge that he is always at our side and that there is a place awaiting us in Heaven.

Francis centred his remarks on the Gospel passage of the day (Jn 14: 1-12), in which, he said, we hear the beginning of Jesus’ so-called “Farewell discourse” when, at the end of the Last Supper and just before the start of the Passion, Jesus reassures the disciples saying “Do not let your hearts be troubled”.

The Lord is saying these same words to us, he said, “But how can we make sure that our hearts are not troubled?”

“Believe in me”

The Pope explained that God indicates two “remedies”, the first being “Believe in me”.

It would seem, he said, rather theoretical, abstract advice. Instead, Jesus wants to tell us something precise.

“He knows that, in life, the worst anxiety, anguish, is born of the sensation of not being able to cope, of feeling alone and without points of reference when faced with events”, the Pope continued, highlighting that we cannot overcome this anguish alone, “when one difficulty is added to another”.

Thus, he said, Jesus asks us to have faith in Him, knowing that He is always at our side and entrusting ourselves to Him.

“My Father’s house has many rooms”

The second “remedy” for a troubled heart, the Pope continued, is expressed in Jesus’ words: “My Father’s house has many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you”.

This is what Jesus did for us, he said: “He reserved a place in Heaven for us. He took our humanity upon Himself (…) to Heaven where there is a place reserved for everyone”.

The Pope said we do not live “aimlessly and without a destination. We are awaited, we are precious”.

He invited the faithful not to forget that here on earth we are passing though, but our true dwelling place is in Heaven.

“We are made for Heaven, for eternal life, to live forever”, he said, and “this forever will be entirely in joy, in full communion with God and with others, without any more tears, resentments, divisions and troubles”.

“I am the Way”

The Pope concluded his reflection pointing the way on “how to reach Heaven”.

He said Jesus’s decisive phrase is: “I am the Way”, meaning that the way to go up to Heaven is Jesus: “to have a living relationship with Him, to imitate Him in love, to follow in His footsteps”.

Christians, he said, must ask themselves if they are on paths that do not lead to Heaven, such as the paths of power, of worldliness, of self-affirmation.

And he invited them to follow Jesus’s way which is “the way of humble love, of prayer, of meekness, of trust”.

“It is not the way of my self-centeredness, it is the way of Jesus, who is the center of my life. It is to go ahead every day saying: ‘Jesus, what do you think of this choice I made? What would you do in this situation, with these people?'”.

Let us ask Jesus, he said, for the directions to get to Heaven, and may Our Lady help us to follow him.

Mother’s Day

After the recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer, the Pope marked Mother’s Day asking for prayers for mothers’ across the globe, and for those who are in heaven.

In the Santa Marta Mass: prayers that Europe might grow in “fraternal unity of diversity”

Earlier at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope invited al to “pray to the Lord for Europe that it might grow united in this fraternal unity that allows all peoples to grow in unity in diversity”.

During his homily, the pontiff reflected on Jesus’s intercessory role before His Father described in the Gospel (John 14:1-12).

Then he focused on Peter’s description of the role of the apostles (Acts 6:1-7). This also applies to the role of the successors of the apostles, the bishops.

Their first task, Pope Francis emphasized, is prayer, then the proclamation of the Word.

Jesus’s intercessory role

The Pope said that the first part of John chapter 14 describes Jesus’s intercessory role before the Father on our behalf.

So many times Jesus spoke about the Father’s care for us, Pope Francis said. “He spoke of the Father as the One who takes care of us just as He takes care of the birds of heaven and the lilies of the field”, he said.

“Jesus is very strong in this passage. It is as if He is opening the doors of the omnipotence of prayer: ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it’ (John 13-14)”.

Pope Francis then recalled that prayer requires courage and the same boldness is needed in preaching the Gospel.

Abraham and Moses provide examples to us. Both “negotiated” with the Lord, Pope Francis said: Abraham, when the Lord told him about what was to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33), and Moses, when God wanted to destroy His people and make Moses the head of another nation (Exodus 32:7-14).

Deacons and bishops

The Pope then turned to the first reading in which Peter is inspired to create a new service in the Church after the Greek-speaking converts complained that their widows were being neglected.

“The apostles didn’t have time for all of these things and Peter, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, ‘invents’ (we can say it this way) the deacons”, Pope Francis said.

This resolved the situation, the Pope went on. The people in need could be well taken care of and the Apostles, as Peter said, could devote themselves “to prayer and to the proclamation of the Word”.

Bishops’ primary duty

Pope Francis then went on to develop the thought that the primary task of a bishop is to pray.

The bishop, he said, “is the first to go to the Father, with the confidence, the boldness, with which Jesus went in order to fight on behalf of his people”.

“Something is not right”, Pope Francis continued, “if other things take away space for prayer”.

He reminded us that it is “God who does things, we do very little. God does things in His Church”. It is, therefore, “prayer that makes the Church progress”.

This reality is so because Jesus stands before the Father and has promised that “whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified”.

The Pope concluded his homily saying that “the Church progresses in this courageous prayer because she knows that without this ascension to the Father, she cannot survive”.

More of the Pope’s Regina Caeli addresses:

3/5: On World Press Freedom Day, Pope encourages journalists to be at service of truth, peace, voiceless

26/4: Pope urges more efforts in fight against malaria, “which threatens millions of people in many countries”

19/4: Pope clamours: “The time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal injustice!”

13/4: Francis sounds alarm for women victims of domestic violence in coronavirus lockdowns

In Easter blessing, Pope urges world to “ban forever… indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.