Pope Francis had a busy year in 2015, and June was no exception. In between two papal visits to Sarajevo and Turin, he released his much-anticipated encyclical, "Laudato Si.”
The Sarajevo trip took place on June 6th. The elephant in the room was the country's civil war. Although it ended 20 years ago, helping to heal the war's wounds was one of the Pope's top goals. He gave a stirring speech about the importance of equality and rejecting divisions.
"In order to successfully oppose the barbarity of those who would make of every difference the occasion and pretext for further unspeakable violence, we need to recognize the fundamental values of human communities, values in the name of which we can and must cooperate.”
Later, he said Mass at the same stadium that Pope John Paul II had come to years ago. Sixty thousand people filled the venue, but from the helicopter it seemed like more.
There was a special place in the stadium reserved for those who were hurt or mutilated during the war. In his homily, Pope Francis directly called out those who he held responsible for wars.
"In the context of global communications, we sense an atmosphere of war. Some wish to incite and foment this atmosphere deliberately, mainly those who want conflict between different cultures and societies, and those who speculate on wars for the purpose of selling arms.”
Later in the day, he heard powerful testimony from priests and nuns who were persecuted during the civil war.
"The militants forced the pastor, Father Vinko, to put my rosary under his shoes. He refused to do so. One of the militiamen, unsheathing his sword, threatened to hit me if he did not trample and desecrate the rosary. Then I said to the pastor: 'Father Vinko, let them kill me, but, for the love of God, do not trample our Sacred object!'”
The Pope was moved and he responded without notes. He told them that they must forgive, but they cannot forget what happened during the war.
"You don't have the right to forget your history. Not for revenge, but to make peace. Not to look at them as something strange, but to love as they have loved.”
Later that month, Pope Francis' "ecology encyclical” was released. "Laudato Si” instantly became one of the most talked-about encyclicals in the history of the Church.
In the document, the Pope doesn't focus on technical solutions to care for the environment. Rather he encourages Christians to embrace changes in their everyday lifestyle. More specifically, he calls for extreme consumerism to stop.
Experts in theology, science, and business gathered at the Vatican to address the controversy that came with the document's release.
CARD. PETER TURKSON
"It's a call to dialogue on all levels for the solution of problems which are common to all of us.”
Eastern Orthodox metropolitan of Pergamon
"I've been involved with ecumenical gatherings for many, many years, but it's the first time that I'm confronted with so many mass media. So may God help me, help protect me.”
A few days after releasing the new papal document, Pope Francis traveled north to visit the Holy Shroud in Turin, Italy.
There was silence as Pope Francis prayed for several minutes in front of the relic, which is said to have covered Jesus' dead body. When he finished praying, the Pope reached out and touched the frame that holds the Shroud.
Even though a Pope has never officially recognized this linen cloth as the one that covered the body of Jesus after his Crucifixion, the Holy Shroud is nonetheless the most prized relic of the Catholic Church.
After vising the relic, Pope Francis stopped speak to tens of thousands of young people. He spoke with them about love and urged them to avoid living a hedonistic lifestyle.
"Often, advertisers want to convince us that something is beautiful and that it's good. They make us believe they're selling diamonds, when in reality, it's only glass.”
True love, according to Pope Francis, entails respect and service. People must not love others just to satisfy their own need for pleasure.
"It's a love that recognizes the life of the other as something sacred. It says: 'I respect you, I don't want to use you.' It's not easy. We all know the difficulties that rise when trying to overcome the simplistic and hedonistic concept of love. Forgive me, if I said something you weren't expecting, but please, I ask you to make an effort to live a chaste love.”
The Pope also had a private meeting with some of his relatives who live in the Turin area.