Missionary appeal: “Pray, pray, pray for Afghanistan”
ROME — As Taliban insurgents were entering Kabul and the United States evacuated it’s embassy personnel from Afghanistan, Pope Francis on Sunday called for dialogue to end the conflict so that locals can live in peace, safety, and with mutual respect.
“I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the clamor of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue,” Francis said to the thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
“Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,” he said.
Francis’s words came at the end of his Sunday Angelus prayer, and as news from Kabul spoke of the Taliban entered the capital on Sunday morning.
Personnel were evacuated from the U.S. embassy as Afghan nationals lined up at ATMs to withdraw their life savings.
Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan has suffered from violence and war. Now the country is once again experiencing the suffering caused by armed conflict, forced exile and hunger. The situation is especially difficult for civilians where Barnabite Fr. Giovanni Scalese, head of Missio sui iuris, serves by offering a Catholic presence in the Asian country. He urges everyone to draw close spiritually to the people and pray that Lord may save Afghanistan from more suffering and bring them lasting peace.
At the end of the Angelus address, Pope Francis also called for prayers for Haiti, where a violent earthquake on Saturday caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of wounded – including Cardinal Chibly Langlois, who was hurt but is reportedly now out of danger. The country is still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake of 2010.
“I want to express my closeness to the dear people hard hit by the earthquake,” Francis said. “While I lift up my prayer to the Lord for the victims, I extend my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the interest of the international community to help might move toward them. May the solidarity of all alleviate the consequences of the tragedy!”
Marking the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Francis stressed the humility of the Mother of God and recalled that “she lived out her life for the most part within the domestic walls, she lived out her life in the ordinary, in humility.”
“The days of the Full of grace were not all that striking,” he said. “They followed one after the other, often exactly the same, in silence: externally, nothing extraordinary. But God’s gaze was always upon her, admiring her humility, her availability, the beauty of her heart never stained by sin.”
According to the pope, “this is a great message of hope for us. For you, who live the same exhausting and often difficult days. Let us celebrate her today with the love of children, animated by the hope of one day being with her in Heaven.”
UN fears humanitarian catastrophe
The United Nations secretary general, Antonio Guterres, has asked for a stop to the offensive in Afghanistan, which is taking a heavy humanitarian toll on the civilian population. 250,000 people – 80% women and children – have already been forced to leave their homes. He has appealed for a start to peace talks. The secretary general also expressed his shock over reports of abuse of women. In order to save Afghans fleeing the violence, many are calling for the establishment of humanitarian corridors. The humanitarian and health situation is worsening by the hour, said Guterres, stressing that “conflicts in urban areas result in continuous carnage, with civilians are paying the highest price” of the violence.