Pope Francis Sunday said he is praying for the families of victims of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and hopes differences can be resolved peacefully.
“I am following with concern the recovery in recent days of armed tensions in the Caucasus region, between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the pope said after leading the Angelus prayer July 19.
“In particular, while I assure you of my prayers for the families of those who lost their lives during the clashes, I hope that, with the commitment of the international community and through dialogue and the goodwill of the parties, a lasting peaceful solution can be reached, which has at heart the good of those beloved populations,” he continued.
At least 16 people have died in fighting at the border of the two Caucasus countries the past week. The clashes were followed by protests in Azerbaijan, the BBC reports.
The fighting is due to conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which is recognized internationally as belonging to Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians. The dispute over the territory has been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis also spoke about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, noting that it “shows no signs of stopping.”
“I wish to assure my closeness to those who are facing the disease and its economic and social consequences,” he stated, adding that he is especially thinking of those people whose suffering is “aggravated by situations of conflict.”
Pointing to the recent UN Security Council resolution, the pope renewed his call “for a global and immediate ceasefire, which allows the peace and security indispensable to providing the necessary humanitarian assistance.”
In his address before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the first parable in the day’s Gospel reading
In the parable of the good seed and the weeds “Jesus makes us know the patience of God, opening our hearts to hope,” Francis said.
In the parable, weeds sown by an enemy grow up among the wheat in a man’s field. The servants ask if they should pull up the weeds, but the master says to wait, because if they do, they would risk also pulling out the wheat.
The master tells the servants “we must wait for the moment of the harvest: only then will they be separated and the weeds will be burned,” the pope recounted.
The pope explained that “the good seed and the weeds represent not the good and the bad in the abstract, but we human beings, who can follow God or the devil.””
God, like the owner of the field, plants only good seeds. And he acts openly, in the light of the sun, Francis continued.
Instead, the enemy, who represents the devil, “takes advantage of the darkness of the night and works out of envy, out of hostility, to ruin everything,” the pope said. “His intent is to hinder the work of salvation, to ensure that the Kingdom of God is hindered by unfair operators, scandal sowers.”
According to Pope Francis, some people, like the servants in the parable, want to quickly eliminate evil and wicked people from the world.
But the master is wiser and has a longer view:, and people “must know how to wait, because the enduring of persecutions and hostilities is part of the Christian vocation,” the pope stated.
“Evil, of course, must be rejected, but the wicked are people with whom one must use patience,” he emphasized. This does not mean having “hypocritical tolerance,” but “justice softened by mercy.”
“If Jesus came to seek sinners rather than the righteous, to heal the sick even before the healthy, the action of us his disciples must also be addressed not to suppress the wicked, but to save them,” he stated.
“Those who seek out the limits and defects of others do not cooperate well with God, but rather those who know how to recognize the good that grows silently in the field of the Church and of history, cultivating it until maturation.”
“And then it will be God, and only He, to reward the good and punish the wicked,” the pope said.