Pope Francis embraces Maurizio Fratamico during a prayer vigil for those who weep.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Pope Francis embraces Maurizio Fratamico during a prayer vigil for those who weep.

May16, 2016
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY - The tears shed by men, women and children around the world each day cry out for mercy, compassion and consolation, Pope Francis said.

"How many tears are shed every second in our world?" the pope asked May 5 as he led a special Year of Mercy prayer service for those who weep.

"Each is different but together they form, as it were, an ocean of desolation that cries out for mercy, compassion and consolation."

Before the pope spoke, he and the congregation listened to three testimonies.

Giovanna Astarita and Domenico Pellegrino and their son Raffaele spoke about the suicide of Antonio, the couple's first son. He was only 15.

"Antonio dragged my life, my soul and my mind into that tomb, too," Giovanna said. Faith in God and an experience of God drying her tears is the only thing "that prevents me from going crazy."

Maurizio Fratamico spoke about how he worked, travelled, made a lot of money, "used and threw away" a lot of young women, but felt empty and alone.

Thanks to the tears of his parents and his own tears of remorse, Fratamico has set out on a journey of faith and has found "the joy I was always seeking."

Qaiser Felix, a Catholic journalist from Pakistan, spoke about how his reporting on anti-Christian discrimination led to threats against him and against his family, eventually forcing them to flee and to try to start life over in Italy.

"To know persecution and the fear of death is a terrible experience, especially when I think of my children," he said.

In his homily, Pope Francis said everyone has experienced sadness or suffering that makes them yearn for a comforting presence.

When one is in pain, he said, God offers consolation and "in his tenderness comes to wipe the tears from our eyes."

For centuries, the pope said, Christians have drawn consolation from knowing they are not alone in their pain; Jesus, too, knew what it meant to weep for the loss of a loved one.

"In one of the most moving pages of the Gospel, Jesus sees Mary weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus" and he, too, begins to weep, the pope said.

But in addition to offering consolation to believers, Jesus' tears encourage believers to open themselves to compassion for others, he said.

"(Jesus') tears teach me to make my own the pain of others, to share in the discouragement and sufferings of those experiencing painful situations."