These days we are celebrating the Ascension, Christ’s return to heaven; we are extending the Easter feast at the heart of our faith. Jesus conquered death. He is living with God. Suffering, disease, hatred and violence do not have the last word.
Through this feast we celebrate our hope. For us too, like Jesus, in every situation in which we find ourselves, God can open a way of life.
I think these days especially of the people of Syria. I spent Christmas in that country and often particular faces or words said to me come back to mind. The fighting in Aleppo has started again. Let us pray for that people which has been so deeply tried.
We want to remain close to the Syrian people. And last week we welcomed here in Taizé a refugee family from Homs, the parents with four children. We want to do everything we can so that they may find here a future of peace.
I want to share with you also another event we experienced recently. A week ago I was in Romania. We were four brothers and 80 young people from 19 countries. We went as pilgrims to celebrate Easter with the Orthodox Christians. They follow a different calendar, and this year Easter occurred so late for them.
What a beautiful welcome! The hospitality exceeded our expectations. For 25 years now many young Romanians have been coming to Taizé and to the European meetings. We have been going to visit the Christians there for a long time; a brother already went there in 1960, still during the Communist time. But for the first time we went there with a group of young people.
Patriarch Daniel received us. He told me what great esteem he had for Brother Roger, whom he knew personally. He appreciated the gift I brought him: a shawl that Brother Roger used to wear. Brother Roger was very sensitive to cold and had several shawls, which allowed me already to give them to Pope Benedict XVI and to the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Moscow.
In Bucharest the young people stayed in families and were spread out among ten parishes to take part in the Holy Week celebrations.
Saturday night, the Easter celebration begins at midnight and lasts until around 3.30am. It is followed by a large festive meal until dawn. Hundreds of times everyone sings "Hristos a înviat", Christ is risen. It is wonderful to see how the Easter joy explodes.
We are so grateful to the Orthodox Church for having opened its doors so we could participate in the Easter celebration. The beauty of the celebrations, the icons, the songs make us enter more deeply into the paschal mystery.
We had a very strong sense of unity. Unity among the different countries that the young people represented, unity among the different Churches, and also unity of the people and of the Romanian Church, which has experienced painful divisions in history. To such an extent that I said to myself, Easter is a celebration of unity. So I would like to share with you what I said to the young people in Bucharest during our final prayer.
The resurrection of Christ shows us that God is Father, that he does not abandon Jesus to death. Mary Magdalene was the first person to believe that Jesus who was dead was alive once again, invisibly. She heard from the Risen Christ these words: "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
This means, I think, that the risen Jesus introduces us into the mystery of God who is love and he gives us, so to speak, God as Father. If God is a Father for all, then we are all brothers and sisters.
Our divisions obscure the love of God, whereas our unity can make this love visible. Christ before his death said clearly to us: If you love one another as I have loved you, everyone will know that God is love.
Christ wants to lead us to this love: loving others, not because they are like me, or because they are as I wish them to be; loving them because they are loved by God.
If we want to be faithful to the risen Christ, we have to refuse divisions and reciprocal judgements among human beings. And this begins among Christians. At Taizé we want to do all we can to support a search for Christian unity, unity in reconciled diversity. Only then will our commitment to peace be credible and effective.
The world is increasingly torn. But we can plant seeds of unity. That was the goal of our pilgrimage in Romania.
All of us can plant seeds of unity wherever we are. The risen Christ is with us, he supports us.