An estimated 10,000 people were present, according to the Vatican.
The Vatican said an estimated 10,000 people attended Pope Francis' Angelus address and prayer on Aug. 20, 2023. Vatican Media.
Francis’ reflection before the Marian prayer drew on the day’s Gospel reading: the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter.
Originally, Jesus did not respond to the foreign woman’s request, explaining that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Francis summarized what happened: The woman asked Jesus “to liberate her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. But the Lord pays no attention to her. She insists, and the disciples advise Jesus to acknowledge her so she might stop. Jesus, however, explains that his mission is directed to the children of Israel, using this image: ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.’ And the woman responds, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Then, Jesus says to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”
“We see,” the pope noted, “that Jesus changed his behavior; what made him change it was the strength of the woman’s faith.”
He explained that at the time of the episode in the Gospel, Jesus’ preaching was directed toward the chosen people, while later, “the Holy Spirit would push the Church to the ends of the world.”
Upon witnessing the great faith of the Canaanite woman, however, Jesus anticipates the universality of God’s work, Francis continued. “Faced with her concrete case, he becomes even more sympathetic and compassionate.
Pope Francis addressed a crowd of 10,000 people from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday address and Angelus prayer on Aug. 20, 2023. Vatican Media.
The Canaanite woman, Pope Francis said, probably did not know the laws and religious precepts of the nation of Israel. Her faith, instead, was based on deeds rather than concepts.