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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant) - Pope Francis is warning that freedom is under threat in Europe owing to consumerism and individualism. At Wednesday's general audience, the pontiff reflected on his recent trip to Hungary and discussed his visit through two images: roots and bridges.
"I have seen so many humble and hard-working people proudly cherish the bond with their roots," the pope stated.
"And among these roots, ... there are first and foremost the saints: saints who gave their lives for the people, saints who bore witness to the gospel of love and who were lights in times of darkness," he added. "So many saints of the past who today exhort us to overcome the risk of defeatism and the fear of tomorrow, remembering that Christ is our future."
The pontiff explained that the faith of the Hungarian people has been "tested by fire," from atheist persecution to Nazi and then communist oppression. But the country's firm roots enabled its survival.
But despite this survival, the pope cautioned that, in Europe, "freedom is under threat."
"Above all, with kid gloves, by a consumerism that anesthetizes, where one is content with a little material well-being and, forgetting the past, one 'floats' in a present made to the measure of the individual," he explained.
Pope Francis classified consumerism as a "dangerous persecution of worldliness" in which an individual only thinks of self and thereby suffocates his roots.
He continued, "This is a problem throughout Europe, where dedicating oneself to others, feeling a sense of community, feeling the beauty of dreaming together and creating large families are in crisis."
To combat what he views as a threat to freedom, the pope proposed some questions: "Each of us can ask ourselves, even as a people, each of us, what are the most important roots in my life? Where am I rooted? Do I remember them; do I care for them?"
The pontiff began his reflection on bridges by noting that Budapest is famous for its physical bridges. He views these physical bridges as metaphorically highlighting the importance of "building bridges of peace between different peoples."
"This is, in particular, the vocation of Europe, which is called, as a 'bridge of peace,' to include differences and to welcome those who knock on its doors," he added.
As an example of building bridges of peace, Pope Francis pointed to the many refugees from Ukraine welcomed into Hungary.
The pontiff's reflection then turned to Hungary's commitment to building "bridges for tomorrow." Among these metaphorical bridges, he noted the country's "great concern for ecological care — and this is a very, very beautiful thing about Hungary — ecological care and a sustainable future."
He then stated that the Church must build bridges that stretch to the people of today because proclaiming Christ is in need of constant updating so the people of today can rediscover Him.
The pontiff pointed to Sunday's Mass in Hungary as another example of building bridges. At Sunday Mass, "there were Christians of various rites and countries and of different denominations who work well together in Hungary," he said. "Building bridges, bridges of harmony and bridges of unity."
Pope Francis concluded with a prayerful reflection that incorporated his images of roots and bridges: "To the Queen of Hungary, therefore, we entrust that dear country; to the Queen of Peace, we entrust the building of bridges in the world; to the Queen of Heaven, whom we acclaim at this Easter time, we entrust our hearts that they may be rooted in the love of God."
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