Eucharist is bread of sinners, not reward of saints, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People’s hearts and the entire church must be wide open to wonder and devotion to Christ and ready to embrace everyone – sinner and saint alike, Pope Francis said.
“The church of the perfect and pure is a room where there isn’t a place for anyone; the church with open doors that celebrates around Christ is, on the other hand, a large hall where everyone – the righteous and sinners – can enter,” the pope said in his homily during Mass June 6, to mark the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“The Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the journey, let’s not forget this!” he said during the early evening Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica with about 200 people, who wore masks and maintained social distance.
It was the second year the Mass was held with a reduced congregation and without the traditional outdoor Corpus Christi procession afterward as part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The ceremony instead concluded with a long moment of silent eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of the images presented in the reading from the Gospel of St. Mark which detailed Jesus’ instructions for preparing and finding a place for Passover and the Lord’s Supper.
Pope Francis said the image of a man carrying a jar of water reminds people that humanity is thirsty, “always seeking a source of water that satisfies and restores.”
“All of us journey through life with a jar in our hands” as “each one of us is thirsty for love, joy, a successful life in a more humane world,” he said, adding that only God can satisfy that real thirst for something more – that hope in an eternal life that sustains people in life.
Because that thirst is often not acknowledged, with fewer people seeking or asking about God, Christians must evangelize, the pope said.
It is not enough for the church to be a small group “of the usual people who gather to celebrate the Eucharist. We have to go into the city, encounter people, learn to recognize and reawaken the thirst for God and yearning for the Gospel,” he said. It will be that renewed thirst that brings people to the altar to encounter God in the Eucharist, he added.
The other important image is the grand upper room they find for the Passover meal, he said, a meal that will be significant because of a tiny morsel of bread.
“God makes himself small like a piece of bread,” so humble, hidden and sometimes invisible, that it is necessary that one’s heart be large, open and vigilant to recognize, welcome and adore him, the pope said.
“Instead, if our heart is less like a large room and more like storage closet where we regretfully keep old things, like an attic where we have long stored away our enthusiasm and dreams, like a cramped and dark room where we live alone, with ourselves, our problems and bitterness,” he said, “then it will be impossible to recognize this silent and humble presence of God.”
The church also must be a large, welcoming space, “not a small exclusive club, but a community with its arms wide open, welcoming to everyone,” and willing to lead to Christ the wounded, the wayward and those who have done wrong, he said.
“To celebrate and live the Eucharist,” he said, “we, too, are called to live this love, because you cannot break Sunday’s bread if your heart is closed to others, you cannot eat this bread if you do not give the bread to the hungry, you cannot share this bread if you do not share the sufferings of those in need.”
Earlier in the day, the pope greeted hundreds of people spread out in St. Peter’s Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The Eucharist, he said, shows “the strength to love those who make mistakes” because Jesus gave the world the bread of life on the night he was betrayed.
Jesus reacts to the evil of Judas’ betrayal with a greater good, responding to Judas’ “no” with the “yes” of mercy, he said. “He does not punish the sinner, but rather gives his life for him, he pays for him.”
“When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus does the same with us: he knows us; he knows we are sinners; he knows we make many mistakes, but he does not give up on joining his life to ours,” the pope said. “He knows that we need it, because the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners. This is why he exhorts us: ‘Do not be afraid! Take and eat.’”

Pope Francis leads Benediction of the Eucharist during Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, Reuters pool)

Pope appeals for peace in Holy Land, says death of children ‘unacceptable’

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The injury and death of so many innocent people, especially children, caused by escalating violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip is “terrible and unacceptable,” putting the area at risk of sinking into “a spiral of death and destruction,” Pope Francis said.
The pope launched an appeal for calm and asked leaders of both sides “to put a stop to the roar of weapons and to follow the paths of peace, even with the help of the international community,” he said May 16 after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them are even children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it,” he said.
The growing hatred and violence in different cities in Israel “is a serious wound to fraternity and to peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if we do not open immediately to dialogue,” the pope said, asking, “Where will hatred and vengeance lead? Do we really think we can build peace by destroying the other?”
The pope appealed for calm, a cease-fire and constant prayers so that “Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers and sisters.”

Palestinian Suzy Eshkuntana, 6, is treated by a medic at a hospital after being pulled from the rubble of a building during Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City May 16, 2021. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

He then led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims, the children and for peace.
Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican’s press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Pope Francis spoke over the telephone May 17 with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While the Vatican did not comment on the content of the conversation, the Turkish communications department said the two leaders discussed the ongoing attacks.
According to a written statement reported by Andalou Agency, Erdogan said Israel’s attacks were an atrocity and that the latest violations were putting regional security in danger.  
Pope Francis’ appeal May 16 came as Israel escalated its assault on Gaza and it also faced growing civil unrest in its mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
Jewish mobs had destroyed Arab property, and Arab mobs attacked Jewish businesses and burned synagogues, with attempted lynchings on both sides over the past week.
The violence between Israel and Hamas was at its worst since the 2014 Gaza War with Israeli airstrikes and hundreds of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip killing at least 145 Palestinians and 10 Israelis, according to Reuters May 16. Efforts by the international community were underway to broker a cease-fire.

Welcoming migrants, refugees is opportunity for growth

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As countries become more culturally and ethnically diverse, their Catholic communities become more “catholic” and their societies can increasingly reflect the fact that all people are brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said.
“In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as church and to enrich one another,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be marked Sept. 26 in most countries.
“All the baptized, wherever they find themselves, are by right members of both their local ecclesial community and the one church, dwellers in one home and part of one family,” the pope wrote in the message, which was released May 6 at the Vatican.
The message called on all Catholics to build up the church by welcoming and getting to know Catholic migrants and refugees and reaching out with a witness of charity to members of other religions, and it called on all people to enrich the diversity of their countries by accepting newcomers and ensuring they are not left languishing in poverty.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, was asked about people who fear, for example, that continuing migration will bring more Muslims to Europe, contributing to a further decline of Christianity on the continent.
“It is a real problem if one feels insecure or threatened or vulnerable in one’s faith life because of others,” he said. “We need to get beyond the ‘wall,’ beyond the barrier,” and a first step could be to ask, “Have I ever spoken with or even listened to someone from that other faith? Do I know what I am talking about or am I relying on images and slogans and hearsay?”
A Christian has an obligation to seek the truth, the cardinal said, “and not rely on these fear-mongering cliches which are not only baseless but are, in fact, serving other motives.”
The theme the pope chose for the day is “Toward an ever wider ‘we,’” and it builds on the teaching in his encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”
In the encyclical, his message said, “I expressed a concern and a hope that remain uppermost in my thoughts: ‘Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.”
“God willing,” he said, “after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us.’”
God created human beings different from one another but as members of one family, the pope said. “When, in disobedience we turned away from God, he in his mercy wished to offer us a path of reconciliation, not as individuals but as a people, a ‘we,’ meant to embrace the entire human family, without exception.”
In today’s world, though, “this ‘we’ willed by God is broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured,” he said.
“Our ‘we,’ both in the wider world and within the church, is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” Pope Francis said. “The highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, those living on the existential peripheries.”
For Catholics, he said, bucking the trend and welcoming others is part of “a commitment to becoming ever more faithful to our being ‘catholic,’” or universal.
Catholics, he said, are called to work together “to make the church become ever more inclusive as she carries out the mission entrusted to the Apostles by Jesus Christ” to proclaim the Gospel and care for those in need.
“In our day,” the pope said, “the church is called to go out into the streets of every existential periphery in order to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytizing, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone.”
The global movement of people, he said, means “our societies will have a ‘colorful’ future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges. Consequently, we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace.”
“We must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us and, in acknowledging our profound interconnection, build bridges that foster a culture of encounter,” the pope insisted.
Joining the Vatican news conference from England, Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster said people in wealthy nations that extract resources from poorer countries and contribute heavily to climate change must recognize “that we are not blameless” in causing people to flee their homes.
In response, he said, “the aim of the church is to welcome, protect and promote all, knowing that human life and well-being are at risk, not national security.”

Pope calls for monthlong global prayer marathon for end of pandemic

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has called for a global prayer marathon for the entire month of May, praying for the end to the pandemic.
“The initiative will involve in a special way all shrines in the world” in promoting the initiative so that individuals, families and communities all take part in reciting the rosary, “to pray for the end of the pandemic,” said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in a press release April 21.
“It is the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father that the month of May be dedicated to a prayer marathon dedicated to the theme, ‘from the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God,’” it said.
The theme refers to the miraculous event recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-12) when all the church prayed for Peter, who was imprisoned until God sent an angel to free him, illustrating how the Christian community comes together to pray in the face of danger and how the Lord listens and performs an unexpected miracle.
Each day in May, there will be a livestream from one of 30 chosen Marian shrines or sanctuaries to guide the prayer at 6 p.m. Rome time (11 a.m. CST) on all Vatican media platforms.
The pope will open the monthlong prayer May 1 and conclude it May 31, the council said.

Pope Francis prays as he leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 21, 2021. Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the importance of speaking the words of prayers out loud rather than seeing prayer just as a mental exercise or form of meditation. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Saints accompany, intercede for Christians in prayer

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians are never alone in prayer but instead are accompanied by myriad saints who protect them and seek God’s intercession, Pope Francis said.
Whenever men or women open their hearts to God, they will always be in the “company of anonymous and recognized saints who pray with us and who intercede for us as older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on this same human adventure,” the pope said April 7 during his weekly general audience.
Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the connection between prayer and the communion of saints who are “not far from us” and are a reminder of Jesus Christ because they have also “walked the path of life” as Christians.
“In the church, there is no mourning that remains solitary, no tear that is shed in oblivion, because everything breathes and participates in a common grace,” he said.

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 7, 2021. The pope said Christians are never alone in prayer but instead are accompanied by countless saints who have preceded them. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The tradition of having graveyards around churches is a sign of that sharing, he said. It is “as if to say that every Eucharist is attended in some way by those who have preceded us. There are our parents and grandparents, our godfathers and godmothers, our catechists and other educators,” who have not only transmitted faith but also “the way of praying.”
The saints, he explained, are “witnesses that we do not adore – that is understood, we do not worship these saints – but whom we venerate and who in thousands of different ways bring us to Jesus Christ, the only Lord and mediator between God and human beings.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said the lives of saints also serve as a reminder that “even in our lives, though weak and marked by sin, holiness can blossom.”
“In the Gospels, we read that the first ‘canonized’ saint was a thief and he was ‘canonized’ not by a pope, but by Jesus himself,” he said. “Holiness is a path of life, of encounter with Jesus, whether long or short, or in an instant, but always a witness” of God’s love.
The pope also highlighted the need for Christians to pray for one another, which is “the first way of loving” others.
In times of tension, he said, “one way to dissolve the conflict, to soften it, is to pray for the person with whom I am in conflict. Something changes with prayer; the first thing that changes is my heart, my attitude. The Lord changes it to make an encounter possible, a new encounter, and prevents the conflict from becoming a war without end.”
Pope Francis said the first thing people must do in times of anguish is to ask “our brothers and sisters, the saints above all, to pray for us” because they will “give us hand to obtain from God the graces we need most.”
Christians who “have not reached the breaking point” and persevere in times of trial perhaps owe it to the intercession of the saints who are not only in heaven, but also the holy men and women here on earth, the pope added.
“They don’t know it, neither do we, but there are saints, everyday saints, hidden saints or as I like to say the ‘saints next door,’ those who live in life with us, who work with us, and lead a life of holiness,” he said.

Gift of the Holy Spirit connects people to Christ, pope says at audience

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Every Christian is unique because the Holy Spirit inspires something new and original in each person, creating “an endless field of holiness,” Pope Francis said.
“The one God, the Trinity of love, allows the variety of witnesses to flourish – all are equal in dignity, but also unique in the beauty that the Spirit has willed to be expressed in each of those whom God’s mercy has made his children,” the pope said March 17 during his weekly general audience.
During the audience livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis concluded his series of talks about prayer by looking at prayer as a relationship with the Holy Trinity, in particular with the Holy Spirit.
“The first gift of every Christian existence is the Holy Spirit,” he said. It is the key, essential gift because without the Holy Spirit, “there is no relationship with Christ and with the Father.”
The Spirit opens the human heart to Christ’s presence “and draws it into that ‘vortex’ of love that is the very heart of God,” he said.
The Holy Spirit “dwells in us; it is he who transforms us deeply and makes us experience the moving joy of being loved by God as his true children,” the pope said.
The Spirit writes the story of the church and of the world, he said, and “we are open pages, available to receive his handwriting.”
“In each of us, the Spirit composes original works because there is never one Christian who is completely identical to another,” creating a vast and flourishing “field of holiness.”

Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican March 17, 2021. The pope spoke about the role of the Holy Spirit in making Jesus present in people’s lives. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The church invites the faithful to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, to make Christ present so he can guide and transform his disciples, he added.
Calling on the Spirit for support and inspiration is important, especially when one has not prayed in a long time, has lost the desire to pray or recites prayers “like a parrot,” with no depth of feeling or faith, he said.
“This is the moment to say to the Spirit, ‘Come. Come, Holy Spirit and warm my heart. Come, teach me to pray, teach me to look to the Father, the son, teach me the way the path of faith goes, teach me to love, and above all, teach me to have an attitude of hope.’”
“If Christ were only far away in time, we would be alone and lost in the world,” Pope Francis said, but with the Spirit, “the possibility of encountering Christ is open to Christians of every time and place.”
Christians must “keep alive this flame” of the Holy Spirit, of God’s love, in their heart, the pope said, the same way the lamp next to the tabernacle stays lit “even when the church empties and darkness falls, even when the church is closed.”
“No one sees it, yet it burns before the Lord,” he said. “That’s how the Spirit is in our heart, always present like that lamp.”

For Lent, read the Gospel, fast from gossip, pope says at Angelus

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People should fast from gossiping and spreading hearsay as part of their Lenten journey, Pope Francis said.
“For Lent this year, I will not speak ill of others, I will not gossip and all of us can do this, everyone. This is a wonderful kind of fasting,” the pope said Feb. 28 after praying the Sunday Angelus.
Greeting visitors in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said his advice for Lent included adding a different kind of fasting “that won’t make you feel hungry: fasting from spreading rumors and gossiping.”
“And don’t forget that it will also be helpful to read a verse from the Gospel every day,” he said, urging people to have on hand a pocket-size edition to read whenever possible, even if it is just a random verse.
“This will open your heart to the Lord,” he added.
The pope also led a moment of prayer for the more than 300 girls who were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen Feb. 26 in Jangebe in northwestern Nigeria.
Adding his voice to statements made by Nigeria’s bishops, the pope condemned the “vile kidnapping of 317 girls, taken away from their school,” and he prayed for them and their families, hoping for their safe return home.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 28, 2021. In his Angelus address, he encouraged people to read the Gospel during Lent and fast from gossip. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The nation’s bishops had already warned of the deteriorating situation in the country in a Feb. 23 statement, according to Vatican News.
“We are really on the brink of a looming collapse from which we must do all we can to pull back before the worst overcomes the nation,” the bishops wrote in response to a previous attack. Insecurity and corruption have put into question “the very survival of the nation,” they wrote.
The pope also marked Rare Disease Day, held Feb. 28 to raise awareness and improve advocacy and access to treatment.
He thanked all those involved in medical research for diagnosing and coming up with treatments for rare diseases, and he encouraged support networks and associations so people do not feel alone and can share experience and advice.
“Let us pray for all people who have a rare disease,” he said, especially for children who suffer.
In his main address, he reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (Mk 9:2-10) about Peter, James and John witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and their subsequent descent back down to the valley.
The pope said pausing with the Lord on the mountain “is a call to remember – especially when we pass through a difficult trial – that the Lord is risen and does not permit darkness to have the last word.”
However, he added, “we cannot remain on the mountain and enjoy the beauty of this encounter by ourselves. Jesus himself brings us back to the valley, amid our brothers and sisters and into daily life.”
People must take that light that comes from their encounter with Christ “and make it shine everywhere. Igniting little lights in people’s hearts; being little lamps of the Gospel that bear a bit of love and hope: this is the mission of a Christian,” he said.

Lent is time to grow in faith, hope, love and to share them, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As Christians pray, fast and give alms during Lent, they also should consider giving a smile and offering a kind word to people feeling alone or frightened because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said.
“Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need,” the pope wrote in his message for Lent 2021.
The message, released by the Vatican Feb. 12, focuses on Lent as “a time for renewing faith, hope and love” through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. And, by going to confession.
Throughout the message, Pope Francis emphasized how the Lenten practices not only promote individual conversion, but also should have an impact on others.
“By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others,” he said. “Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain.”
The pope’s message contained several references to his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”
For example, he prayed that during Lent Catholics would be “increasingly concerned with ‘speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn,’” a quote from the encyclical.

Pope Francis hears the confession of a priest at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome in this March 7, 2019, file photo. In his message for Lent, Pope Francis said the season is “a time for renewing faith, hope and love.” (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be ‘willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference,’” he said, again quoting the document.
The Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer were preached by Jesus and continue to help believers experience and express conversion, the pope wrote.
“The path of poverty and self-denial” through fasting, “concern and loving care for the poor” through almsgiving and “childlike dialogue with the Father” through prayer, he said, “make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of fasting “as a form of self-denial” to rediscover one’s total dependence on God and to open one’s heart to the poor.
“Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the one who comes to us, poor in all things, yet full of grace and truth: the son of God our savior.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presenting the message at a news conference, also insisted on the importance of “fasting and all forms of abstinence,” for example, by giving up “time watching TV so we can go to church, pray or say a rosary. It is only through self-denial that we discipline ourselves to be able to take the gaze off ourselves and to recognize the other, reckon with his needs and thus create access to benefits and goods for people,” ensuring respect for their dignity and rights.
Msgr. Bruno-Marie Duffe, secretary of the dicastery, said that at a time of “anxiety, doubt and sometimes even despair” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lent is a time for Christians “to walk the way with Christ toward a new life and a new world, toward a new trust in God and in the future.”

Christianity without liturgy is absent of Christ, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The liturgy is not a spectacle to be observed but a prayerful event where Christians encounter Christ’s presence in their lives, Pope Francis said.
Throughout the Catholic Church’s long history, people have been tempted to practice a private or “intimist Christianity” that failed to recognize the importance of the liturgy in spiritual life, the pope said Feb. 3 during his weekly general audience.
However, “I would dare say that Christianity without liturgy is a Christianity without Christ,” he said.
Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the significance of the liturgy in Christian life.
While there are certain forms of spirituality in the Catholic Church “that have failed to adequately integrate” the liturgy, the pope noted that “much has been achieved in recent decades,” particularly thanks to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium.”

Pope Francis smiles as he leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Feb. 3, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The document, he said, “comprehensively and organically reaffirms the importance of the divine liturgy for the life of Christians” because in the liturgy men and women can truly encounter Christ who is “not an idea or sentiment, but a living person.”
Along with sacred Scripture and the sacraments, the liturgy “may not be dispensed with because in Jesus Christ, it became a way of salvation.”
“Therefore, there is no Christian spirituality that is not rooted in the celebration of the holy mysteries,” the pope said.
The Mass or Divine Liturgy, he continued, is the spiritual act at the heart of “the whole Christian experience” because Jesus makes himself present and “gives himself to his faithful.”
“Every time we celebrate a baptism, or consecrate the bread and wine in the Eucharist, or anoint the body of a sick person with holy oil, Christ is here!” the pope said. “He is present just as he was when he healed the weak limbs of a sick person or when, at the Last Supper, he delivered his testament for the salvation of the world.”
Christians who go to Mass, he added, are not “spectators of something that slips away without our involvement” but instead are active participants who celebrate it “through the diversity of gifts and ministries.”
Christians are called to transform their lives into an act of worshipping God, Pope Francis said, “but this cannot happen without prayer, especially liturgical prayer.”
“This thought can help all of us: When I go to Sunday Mass, I go to pray in community, I go to pray with Christ who is present,” he added, departing from his prepared remarks. “When we go to a baptism, Christ is there present. (You may say), ‘But Father, this is an idea, a figure of speech.’ No, Christ is present! In the liturgy, you pray with Christ who is next to you.”

World needs Christians to show what journey toward unity looks like, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Unity requires prayer, love and fighting the devil, who always sows division, Pope Francis said.
The devil “fosters division everywhere and in every way” by tempting people “with the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. He is astute: He magnifies others’ mistakes and defects, sows discord, provokes criticism and creates factions,” the pope said Jan. 20 during his weekly general audience.
God, on the other hand, “has another way. He takes us as we are, different, sinners and always nudges us toward unity,” he said.
In his audience talk, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, the pope reflected on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrated Jan. 18-25. The theme for the 2021 celebration, “Abide in my love … You shall bear much fruit,” is taken from the Gospel of St. John (15:1-17).
“The root of communion is the love of Christ, who makes us overcome our prejudices to see in others a brother or sister to be loved always,” the pope said.
In fact, the pope invited everyone to discover other Christian denominations – their traditions and their history – and see them as “gifts from God” present in one’s neighborhood or town.
“Let us begin to pray for them and, when possible, with them. We will thus learn to love and appreciate them,” he said.
The pope said that at this time of “serious hardship” in the world, the prayer for Christian unity was even more necessary.
“It is urgent that we set aside particular interests to promote the common good and so our good example is fundamental: It is essential that Christians pursue the path toward full visible unity.”
When Jesus prayed that his disciples “may all be one,” he was not ordering them to be united, but was praying “to the Father for us,” the pope said.
“This means that we are not able to achieve unity by ourselves, with our own strength. Above all, unity is a gift, it is a grace to be requested through prayer,” he said.
Unity is a difficult task, not just for Christian communities, but for each individual, he said.

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Jan. 20, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Even the Apostle Paul felt a lacerating conflict within himself: wanting the good but inclined toward evil,” he said.
The root of so many divisions in the world – divisions in the family, society, a nation and among believers – is found inside the human heart, Pope Francis said.
From these internal struggles flow many of the conflicts and tensions in society, which is why “the solution to these divisions is not to oppose someone, because discord generates more discord. The true remedy begins by asking God for peace, reconciliation, unity.”
Praying for unity also means fighting “because our enemy, the devil, is the one who divides,” he added.
People need to ask themselves how they live each day and whether “we nurture conflict or fight for greater unity with the tools that God has given us: prayer and love.”
Christians also need to ask, “Do I pray for unity? It is Jesus’ will but, if we inspect the intentions for which we pray, we would probably realize that we have prayed little, perhaps never, for Christian unity. And yet, the world’s faith depends on it,” the pope said.