By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a heartfelt letter to his homeland Sept. 30, Pope Francis told his fellow Argentines that he will not be able to visit this or next year because of obligations in Asia and Africa.
"You don’t know how much I would love to see you again," Pope Francis said in the letter addressed to the people of Argentina, which is a transcript of an accompanying video message.
"For me, the people of Argentina are my people, you are important," he wrote. "I continue to be an Argentine, and I still travel with an Argentine passport. I am convinced that the people are the biggest treasure of our homeland."
Pope Francis said he wanted to go to Argentina to beatify "Mama Antula" and to canonize "Cura Brochero." He was referring to Maria Antonia de Paz Figueroa, an 18th-century Catholic laywoman who championed the Ignatian spiritual exercises in Argentina after the Jesuits were expelled, and Jose Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, a "gaucho," or cowboy priest, known for his affinity for the poor. She was beatified in August and he will be canonized in October.
Pope Francis did not say where or when his travel to Asia and Africa will occur.
He said he placed his return to his homeland "in the Lord’s hands." The pope said he found consolation in the letters he receives from Argentina, which are so numerous that he cannot reply to all.
"It gives me joy and leads me to pray, and I pray for you at Mass, for your necessities, for each one of you," he said.
He said that while Argentina is lauded for its richness in mountains, forests, coasts and mining, "the biggest treasure our homeland has is its people, a people who know solidarity, know how to walk with one another, know how to help, respect," and don’t take a step back.
"I respect, love and carry (those people) in my heart," he said.
As the teachers of yesteryear once did, he said he, too, dispenses homework, and the homework he gives them is to go out and practice the works of mercy, while reminding them to also pray for him.