The city of Blaj is in Transylvania and is the principal religious and cultural centre of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church in the region. Pope Francis arrived there from Bucharest on Sunday morning, and was joined by over 100,000 people for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
The Pope’s Homily
The Pope took his inspiration from the Gospel of the day (John 9:2), in which we hear how Jesus restores the sight of the man born blind. Instead of acknowledging the miracle, the Pharisees question everything about it, including the authenticity of the man’s blindness, and Jesus’ right to heal on the Sabbath. “The whole scene and the arguments that follow show how hard it is to understand the actions and priorities of Jesus, who brings someone from the periphery into the centre”, said Pope Francis.
“The blind man had to live not only with his own blindness, but also with the blindness of those around him”, continued the Pope. He pointed to “the resistance and hostility that can arise in the human heart when, instead of putting people at the centre, we put special interests, labels, theories, abstractions and ideologies, which manage only to blind everything around them”. Pope Francis contrasted this with the Lord’s approach: “Far from hiding himself behind inaction or ideological abstractions, He looks people in the eye”, said the Pope. “He sees their hurts and their history. He goes out to meet them and He does not let Himself be sidetracked by discussions that fail to prioritize and put at the centre what is really important”
Pope Francis then referred to the experience of Romania under communism: “You were forced to endure a way of thinking and acting that showed contempt for others and led to the expulsion and killing of the defenseless and the silencing of dissenting voices”, he said. The Pope spoke about the seven Greek-Catholic Bishops he had come to beatify. “With great courage and interior fortitude, they accepted harsh imprisonment and every kind of mistreatment, in order not to deny their fidelity to their beloved Church”, he said. “They handed down to the Romanian people a precious legacy that we can sum up in two words: freedom and mercy”: the freedom to live a “diversity of religious expressions”, and the mercy that “conquers anger and resentment by love and forgiveness”.
Freedom and Mercy
Pope Francis concluded his homily by warning against new forms of “ideological colonization” that “quietly attempt to assert themselves and to uproot our peoples from their richest cultural and religious traditions”. “May you be witnesses of freedom and mercy”, said the Pope, “allowing fraternity and dialogue to prevail over divisions, and fostering the fraternity of blood that arose in the period of suffering, when Christians, historically divided, drew closer and more united to one another”.