In Skopje, Francis praised North Macedonia’s openness to migrants, backing its quest for membership in the European Union. The Mass was dedicated to the “hunger for God”. For him, “We have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation and ending up as prisoners of dishonour, labels and ignominy.”
Skopje (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today visited Skopje, the capital of Northern Macedonia, the birthplace of Mother Teresa, who was remembered in each of the three events held this morning, which were centred on the values of fraternity, integration, and care of the poor.
The pontiff was welcomed with great enthusiasm by thousands of people present at the late morning Mass (pictured) in a city where Catholics are less than 1 per cent. In his address during his meeting with North Macedonia’s president and other authorities, Francis praised the country’s openness to migrants who knock on its doors. He also expressed support for its desire to join the European Union.
During the liturgy, he spoke of the world’s hunger for God today. “We have become accustomed to eating the stale bread of disinformation and ending up as prisoners of dishonour, labels and ignominy. We thought that conformism would satisfy our thirst, yet we ended up drinking only indifference and insensitivity. We fed ourselves on dreams of splendour and grandeur, and ended up consuming distraction, insularity and solitude. We gorged ourselves on networking, and lost the taste of fraternity. We looked for quick and safe results, only to find ourselves overwhelmed by impatience and anxiety. Prisoners of a virtual reality, we lost the taste and flavour of the truly real.”
Responding to the greetings by North Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov, Francis described the country as “a bridge between East and West and a meeting-point for numerous cultural currents,” praising its capacity for integration and coexistence.
For the Holy Father, North Macedonia’s “precious patrimony” is its “multiethnic and multi-religious countenance”. He described the country as a “crucible of cultures and ethnic and religious identities [that] has resulted in a peaceful and enduring coexistence in which those individual identities have found expression and developed without rejecting, dominating or discriminating against others. [. . .] Here, in fact, the different religious identities of Orthodox, Catholics, other Christians, Muslims and Jews, and the ethnic differences between Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Croats, and persons of other backgrounds, have created a mosaic in which every piece is essential for the uniqueness and beauty of the whole.”
Francis went on to stress the “generous efforts made by your Republic [. . .] to welcome and provide assistance to the great number of migrants and refugees coming from different Middle Eastern countries. [. . .] The ready solidarity offered to those in such great need – people who had left behind so many of their dear ones, to say nothing of their homes, their work and their homeland – does you honour. It says something about the soul of this people that, having itself experienced great privations, you recognize in solidarity and in the sharing of goods the route to all authentic development. It is my hope that you will cherish the chain of solidarity that emerged from that emergency, and thus support all volunteer efforts to meet the many different forms of hardship and need.
“I wish likewise to pay homage in a very special way to one of your illustrious fellow-citizens, who, moved by the love of God, made love of neighbour the supreme law of her life. She won the admiration of the whole world and pioneered a specific and radical way of devoting one’s life to the service of the abandoned, the discarded, and the poorest of the poor. I am naturally referring to the woman universally known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The last event of the morning was the Mass celebrated in Macedonia Square, in the centre of which stands a statue dedicated to Alexander the Great. After the welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis went to the Memorial House of Mother Teresa greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.
In his homily, Francis spoke of the “hunger for God” citing the Gospel: "Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (Jn 6:35). “Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: Lord, we are hungry. We are hungry, Lord, for the bread of your word, which can open up our insularity and our solitude. We are hungry, Lord, for an experience of fraternity in which indifference, dishonour and ignominy will not fill our tables or take pride of place in our homes. We are hungry, Lord, for encounters where your word can raise hope, awaken tenderness and sensitize the heart by opening paths of transformation and conversion.
“We are hungry, Lord, to experience, like that crowd, the multiplication of your mercy, which can break down our stereotypes and communicate the Father’s compassion for each person, especially those for whom no one cares: the forgotten or despised. Let us not be afraid to say it clearly: we are hungry for bread, Lord: the bread of your word, the bread of fraternity.”
“Hunger for bread, hunger for fraternity, hunger for God. How well Mother Teresa knew all this, and desired to build her life on the twin pillars of Jesus incarnate in the Eucharist and Jesus incarnate in the poor! Love received and love given. Two inseparable pillars that marked her journey and kept her moving, eager also to quench her own hunger and thirst. She went to the Lord exactly as she went to the despised, the unloved, the lonely and the forgotten. In drawing near to her brothers and sisters, she found the face of the Lord, for she knew that “love of God and love of neighbour become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God” (Deus Caritas Est, 15). And that love alone was capable of satisfying her hunger.”