Pope Francis had a small crowd gathered around him today at the midday Angelus on this Ash Wednesday 2015, with a reported “more than 9,000” there to hear his words to the Faithful. Two years ago, at least 50,000 were present for Pope Benedict XVI’s final Angelus on Ash Wednesday. I was unable to find a printed number of attendees for last year’s Angelus on March 5, 2014. However, I did find this video of the event. At 1:46 into the video, there are clearly many more than 9,000 attending and it looks like at least 30,000 and probably much more than that. Compare what you see further at 21:46 to this look at today’s gathering at 28:03.
So where are the Faithful this year? The weather looked to be pleasant so it can’t be that. Recall that one year ago, we read and heard how vastly popular he was. What has happened in the intervening year? Was it something he said?
It’s unfortunate that so many did not hear what he had to say about keeping the bonds between brothers and sisters unbroken. It’s an important thing for families and the Church. In fact, I thought that this was his way of trying to speak to those of the Faithful who have been wounded by what he has said and done over the past two years, and more so by what some cardinals and bishops have said and done. Perhaps, he understands that the program they have been pursuing is damaging the fraternal bonds in our own house, inflicting wounds on his own brothers and sisters in the Church. I hope the likes of Kasper and Marx and Baldisseri reflect on these words as we move forward. I can hope things will change.
When the bond between brothers is broken, it leads to something that is truly ugly, that is bad for humanity. Even in families how many brothers and sisters have fought even over little things…over an inheritance… then they stop speaking to each other, they no longer greet each other…this is an awful thing. Brotherhood is such a great thing. Just think, brothers and sisters, they all dwelt in the womb of the same mother for nine months, they come from their mother’s flesh. We cannot break the bonds of brotherhood. We all know families where brothers and sisters are divided; where they have fallen out, maybe in our own families we have cases like these. Let’s ask the Lord to help us to reunite these families, to rebuild these families. The bonds of brotherhood should not be broken, because when they are broken, things happen like with Cain and Abel, when the Lord asks Cain, he responds I am not my brother’s keeper, this is awful, really terrible to hear.