Pope prays for exploited women, Mary's intercession on feast of Assumption

IMAGE: CNS photo/Narong Sangnak, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Celebrating the feast of the
Assumption just three days after visiting a group of young women rescued from
the sex trade, Pope Francis prayed for all exploited women and girls.

“The Lord bows down to the lowly in order to raise them
up as is proclaimed in the Magnificat,” Mary’s hymn of praise to God, the
pope said Aug. 15.

“Mary’s canticle leads us to think of many painful
situations today and particularly those of women overpowered by the burdens of
life and the drama of violence, women who are slaves of the abuse of the
powerful, girls forced into inhuman work, women forced to surrender body and
spirit to the greed of men,” Pope Francis told thousands of people
gathered to pray the Angelus with him.

The pope prayed that exploited women soon would be able to
live “a life of peace, justice and love in expectation of the day they finally
will feel held by hands that do not humiliate them, but tenderly lift them and
lead them on the path to life.”

Pope Francis also prayed on the feast day that Mary would
intercede to bring “compassion, understanding and agreement” to the
many places in the world experiencing war and violent conflicts.

“My thoughts particularly go to the inhabitants of
North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently struck by new
massacres,” he said, referring to reports that suspected rebels killed 42
people in the town of Beni Aug. 13. Such massacres, he said, have been
occurring for months in “shameful silence.”

Thousands of people also gathered under the window of the
Apostolic Palace Aug. 14 for the Angelus prayer with the pope. In his Sunday
Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus’ words in the day’s Gospel
reading: “I have come to set the earth on fire.”

“The fire Jesus is speaking about is the fire of the
Holy Spirit present and alive in us from the day of our baptism,” the pope
said. “This fire is a creative force that purifies and renews, burning
away every human misery, every selfishness, every sin, transforming us from

To renew the world and build the kingdom of God, he said,
the fire must start in the hearts and lives of individuals. “It does not
start from the head; it starts from the heart.”

The Holy Spirit gives those with open hearts “the
boldness and fervor to proclaim Jesus and his consoling message of mercy and
salvation, navigating on the open sea without fear,” the pope said.

Without the Holy Spirit’s help, he said, the Christian
community would “let itself be held back by fear and calculation,”
preferring to play it safe.

The church, Pope Francis said, “does not need
bureaucrats and diligent functionaries, but passionate missionaries consumed
with the drive to bring everyone the consoling word of Jesus and his

“The apostolic courage that the Holy Spirit lights in
us like a fire helps us overcome walls and barriers, makes us creative and
pushes us to set out on unexplored or uncomfortable paths, offering hope to all
we meet,” the pope said.

Expressing his admiration for priests, religious and lay
missionaries who devote — and even risk — their lives to share the Gospel,
Pope Francis said the need is greater than ever for Christians willing to allow
their hearts to be moved with compassion and reach out to those suffering
material and spiritual poverty. Evangelization and mission, he said, need
“the healing rhythm of closeness.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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