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Love Jesus in all who suffer, pope says on Palm Sunday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus does not ask that people only contemplate his image, but that they also recognize and love him concretely in all people who suffer like he did, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesus is “present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own. They suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases. They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike,” the pope said April 9 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.

In his noon Angelus address, the pope also decried recent terrorist attacks in Sweden and Egypt, calling on “those who sow terror, violence and death,” including arms’ manufacturers and dealers, to change their ways.

In his prayers for those affected by the attacks, the pope also expressed his deepest condolences to “my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros, the Coptic church and the entire beloved Egyptian nation,” which the pope was scheduled to visit April 28-29.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens more injured April 9 in an Orthodox church north of Cairo as Coptic Christians gathered for Palm Sunday Mass; the attack in Sweden occurred two days earlier when a truck ran through a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15 others.

The pope also prayed for all people affected by war, which he called, a “disgrace of humanity.”

Tens of thousands of people carrying palms and olive branches joined the pope during a solemn procession in St. Peter’s Square under a bright, warm sun for the beginning of Holy Week.

The pope, cardinal and bishops were dressed in red vestments, the color of the Passion, and carried large “palmurelli,” bleached and intricately woven and braided palm branches. Hundreds of young people led the procession into St. Peter’s Square and later, youths from Poland handed the World Youth Day cross to young representatives from Panama, where the next international gathering will be held in January in 2019.

In his homily, the pope said that the day’s celebration was “bittersweet.”

“It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time” because the Mass celebrates the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem as the people and disciples acclaim him as king, and yet, the Gospel gives the account of his passion and death on the cross.

Jesus accepts the hosannas coming from of the crowd, but he “knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry, ‘Crucify him!’” the pope said.

Jesus “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs or in the videos that circulate on the internet,” but to recognize that he is present in those who suffer today, including “women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

“Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved,” the pope said.

We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem as the true Messiah, who is a servant of God and humanity, the pope said. He is not a dreamer peddling illusions, a “new age” prophet or con man; he takes on the sins and sufferings of humanity with his passion.

Jesus never promised honor and success would come to those who follow him, rather, the path to final victory requires picking up the cross and carrying it every day, Pope Francis said.

“Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily,” he said.

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‘Why are you killing me?’ — Murder of Congolese priest tied to mining of mineral used in cellphones

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WORCESTER, Massachusetts — A Congolese priest said he believes his colleague, Father Vincent Machozi, a Boston University alumnus gunned down in Congo, was “a martyr of the truth.”

Assumptionist Father Vincent Machozi,  pictured in an undated photo, was gunned down in Congo March 20. (CNS photo/courtesy the Assumptionists)

Assumptionist Father Vincent Machozi, pictured in an undated photo, was gunned down in Congo March 20. (CNS photo/courtesy the Assumptionists)

Father Mulumba Kambale Matsongani, a Congolese Assumptionist living in the Worcester diocese, shared memories of Assumptionist Father Machozi, who taught him in Congo. Both later studied and served in Massachusetts — Father Machozi in the Boston archdiocese, where he co-founded a Congolese Catholic community.

“He was a tremendous teacher. He’s a smart guy and he’s full of initiative,” Father Matsongani said of the 51-year-old priest, killed March 20. “He started an ecumenical movement in the (Congolese) Diocese of Butembo-Beni. He could unite all of the Christian churches to discuss important issues on faith, politics … and this was … appreciated by many.”

Assumptionist Father Benoit Griere, the orde’s superior general, said in a letter that Father Machozi had just celebrated Palm Sunday Mass, visited his mother and held a meeting with the elders of Butembo March 20 when a jeep with 10 armed soldiers arrived at his house.

“The soldiers demanded to know where Vincent Machozi was. Figuring out who he was in the small group gathered there, the assailants immediately riddled him with bullets. He died instantly.”

“Why are you killing me?” were his last words, according to an account of the attack by news.va, the Vatican news portal. That report included testimonies gathered by a Congolese priest who identified the killers as soldiers of the country’s armed forces.

The story said the soldiers stormed the perimeter of Mon Beau Village where traditional Nande leaders were gathered to take part in a reflection on peace. The soldiers said they wanted to “hit the head” of Father Machozi and Mwami Abdul Kalemire, a community leader.

They found Father Machozi despite the attempt by villagers to hide him. Kalemire, who left before the soldiers arrived, survived, the story stated.

It said Father Machozi had been threatened with death because he repeatedly “denounced the suffering of the Nande population caused by the presence of different armed groups dedicated to the illegal exploitation of coltan in the Territory of Beni, often with the connivance of the regular army.”

Coltan, short for columbite-tantalite, is a mineral used in the manufacture of cellphones.

Because of the death threats, Father Machozi came to the United States in 2003, but continued to edit a website, www.benilubero.com. He returned to Congo in 2011.

Father Matsongani said Father Machozi “could post some truth about what is going on in the Congo, so he was very much immersed in church and politics.” Among things he posted were interviews with people who escaped massacres, describing what they saw and heard, he said.

Father Machozi always sensed he was in danger; “he sounded even paranoid about that” at times, said Father Claude Grenache, superior of the Assumptionist Center in Brighton, Massachusetts, where the Congolese priest lived.

“We always were a little concerned about that; we didn’t want him to put the rest of the community in danger,” Father Grenache said.

“We’re all worried about our other guys” in eastern Congo, said Father Dennis Gallagher, Assumption College’s vice president for mission. He said two Congolese Assumptionists who studied at the college are now back in that dangerous region. He also expressed concern about the safety of peace and justice commissions in Assumptionist-run parishes there.

Father Machozi was born in 1965. At 17, he entered the Augustinians of the Assumption. After completing his studies in France he was ordained a priest in Angers in 1994. He taught at the seminary in Kinshasa, Congo, and studied for a doctorate at Boston University in conflict resolution.

— By Tanya Connor and William T. Clew

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