VATICAN CITY — On Sunday, Pope Francis remembered the victims of attacks in Iraq and Bangladesh over the weekend and prayed for the conversion of persons “blinded by hate” who commit such acts of violence.
“I express my closeness to the families of the victims and the wounded in yesterday’s attack in Dhaka, and also of that which took place in Baghdad,” the Pope said during his weekly post-Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
“Let us pray together for them, for the departed, and let us ask the Lord to convert the hearts of the violent, blinded by hate.” He then led the crowds in the Hail Mary.
During the horror, 165 people were killed and more than 200 wounded, after a pair of bombs detonated in Baghdad late Saturday, the BBC reported. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
According to the BBC, the first car bomb struck the Iraqi capital’s Kerrada shopping and restaurant district; a second bomb struck at around midnight in a Shia Muslim area north of the city.
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, 28 people died, including six gunmen and two police officers, during a hostage scenario in the Hotel Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka. Most of the 20 hostages killed in the attack were foreigners from Italy, Japan, one from India, and one from the United States, the BBC reported.
Although the attack was staged by Islamic militants, authorities say the gunmen have no ties to the Islamic State, the BBC said.
Pope Francis sent a telegram on Saturday following the attack in the Bangladesh capital, in which he condemned “such barbarous acts as offenses against God and humanity.”
Before leading the crowds in the Angelus prayer, the Pope delivered his reflections on the day’s Gospel, during which he spoke about the role of missionaries.
“Missionaries always announce a message of salvation to everyone,” he said. This is true not only of missionaries who travel to far-away places, he added, but for all Christian missionaries.
This announcement says that the “kingdom of God is at hand,” he continued, because Jesus has brought God closer to us. “God is made one of us; in Jesus, God reigns in our midst — his merciful love defeats sin and human misery.”
The Pope referred to the Gospel reading in which Jesus speaks of sending out “laborers” to retrieve the harvest.
“All of this signifies that the kingdom of God is built day by day and already offers its fruits of conversion, of purification, of love and of consolation among men on this earth.”
“It is a beautiful thing” to build the kingdom of God day by day, the Pope said: “not to destroy; to build!”
Francis said the disciple of Jesus who undertakes this mission should be prepared to face difficulties and hostilities.
“Hostility is always at the beginning of the persecution of Christians,” he said, “because Jesus knows that the mission is an obstacle against the work of evil.”
It is for this reason that the disciples in the Gospel are sent out without money bag, sack or sandals, in order that they might “rely only on the power of the cross.”
“This means abandoning every reason for personal pride, careerism or hunger for power,” Francis said, so that they may be “humble instruments of salvation operated by Jesus’ sacrifice.”
To be a Christian in the world “is a wonderful mission,” Francis said, one which serves everyone without exclusion.
The Pope reflected on the need for Christians to carry out this mission joyfully.
“There is a great need for Christians to witness the Gospel with joy in their everyday life,” he said.
Referring to the line in the Gospel that the disciples “returned rejoicing” from their mission, he said: “This expression makes me think of how often the Church rejoices, is made happy when her children receive the Good News, thanks to the dedication of many men and women who announce the Gospel daily,” be they priests, sisters, consecrated persons or missionaries.
Francis concluded by issuing a challenge to the young people in the square to listen to God’s word and follow it. “Do not be afraid! Be courageous, and carry this torch of apostolic zeal which has been given to us by these exemplary disciples.”