Pope Francis on Monday said he sees “still greater omens of greater destruction and desolation” in the world and called on people “to put aside selfishness, indifference and antagonism.”
The 85-year-old pontiff’s remarks come on the heels of a Pew Research Center survey that revealed nearly two in five Americans believe humanity is living in the “end times,” including 29% of non-Christians and 23% of the religiously unaffiliated.
Francis made his remarks at the Vatican during a Mass honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron of Mexico, who first appeared to an indigenous peasant in 1531. The Guadalupana Intercontinental Novena, or series of special prayers, begins leading up to the 2031 quincentenary observance of the apparition.
The pope said the 1531 event came at a “complicated and difficult time for the inhabitants of the new world. The Lord wanted to transform the upheaval aroused by the encounter between two different worlds, to transform it into a recovery of meaning, into a recovery of dignity, into openness to the Gospel, into an encounter.”
Today, Francis said, is “a difficult time for humanity … a bitter period, full of the roar of war, of growing injustices, famines, poverty, suffering.”
He added, “although this horizon appears gloomy and disconcerting, although it appears with still greater omens of greater destruction and desolation, still divine faith, love and condescension teach us and tell us that this too is a propitious time of salvation.”
The pontiff said Mary “came to accompany the American people on this harsh path of poverty, exploitation, socioeconomic and cultural colonialism. She is in the midst of the caravans that, seeking freedom and well-being, walk north. She is in the midst of those American people threatened in their identity by a savage and exploitative paganism, wounded by the active preaching of a practical and pragmatic atheism.”
As he has done recently, the pontiff warned against divisive messages during the period.
“I am concerned about ideological-cultural proposals of various kinds that want to appropriate the encounter of a people with their mother, that want to dismember, make up the mother,” he said in a computer-generated translation of his Spanish remarks. “Please don’t let the message drip into mundane and ideological guidelines.”
Speculation about the end of the world is not unusual and has been heightened in recent years by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. Along with the Pew Research survey that linked end-times speculation to the climate crisis, two noted evangelical authors, David Jeremiah and Michael Youssef, released books this fall warning of the apocalyptic period.