Swat the fly of resentment; use the ointment of forgiveness

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – If people took seriously the Gospel call to forgive one another, the world would be a much better place, Pope Francis said.
“How much suffering, how many wounds, how many wars could be avoided if forgiveness and mercy were the style of our life,” he said Sept. 13 before reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope was commenting on the day’s Gospel reading, Matthew 18:21-35, in which Jesus tells his disciples to forgive “not seven times but 77 times.”
“In the symbolic language of the Bible,” the pope explained, “this means that we are called to forgive always.”
Jesus’ admonition is especially important for family life, he said. “How many families are disunited, do not know how to forgive each other? How many brothers and sisters bear resentment within? It is necessary to apply merciful love to all human relationships: between spouses, between parents and children, within our communities, in the church and in society and politics as well.”
In the day’s Gospel passage, Jesus emphasizes his point with the parable of the merciful king who forgives the enormous debt of his servant and yet that servant refuses to forgive the small debt of another servant. When the king hears about it, he hands the man over “to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”
“In the parable we find two different attitudes: God’s – represented by the king who forgives a lot, because God always forgives – and the human person’s,” the pope said. “The divine attitude is justice pervaded with mercy, whereas the human attitude is limited to justice.”
Pope Francis told the people in the square that while he was celebrating Mass that morning, “I paused, touched by a phrase in the first reading from the book of Sirach. The phrase (in the Italian Lectionary) says, ‘Remember your end and stop hating.’ A beautiful phrase.”
“Just think,” the pope said, “you will be in a coffin and will you take your hatred there with you? Think of your end and stop hating, stop resenting.”
Pope Francis said that he knows it is not an easy command to follow because, even when a person thinks he or she has forgiven another, “resentment returns like a bothersome fly in the summer that keeps coming back.”
True forgiveness, he said, “is not something we do in a moment; it is something continuous against that resentment, that hatred that keeps coming back.”
When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, they say, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“These words contain a decisive truth,” the pope said. “We cannot claim God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we in turn do not grant forgiveness to our neighbor. It is a condition.”
Pope Francis summarized his talk: “Think of your end, of God’s forgiveness and stop hating. Reject resentment, that bothersome fly that keeps coming back. If we do not strive to forgive and to love, we will not be forgiven and loved either.”

Lack of respect for life, for nature have same root

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A lack of respect for human life from conception to natural death and a lack of respect for the environment are both signs of a person claiming power over something that is not theirs to control, Pope Francis said.
“They are the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that lead human beings on the one hand to destroy species and plunder natural resources and, on the other, to exploit poverty, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the nuclear family (and) to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to its natural end,” the pope said Sept. 3.
Pope Francis made his remarks in a speech written for a group of laypeople advising the French bishops’ conference on ways to promote and implement the teaching of “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
The group, which included the actress Juliette Binoche, traveled to Rome by train as a carbon-saving alternative to traveling by plane.

Pope Francis meets with a group of clergy and laypeople advising the French bishops’ conference on ecological policies and on promoting the teaching in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” Sept. 3, 2020. The actress Juliette Binoche was part of the meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Vatican press office said the pope handed his prepared text to members of the group and then had an unscripted conversation with them, telling them that his own “ecological conversion” began in 2007 by listening to Brazilian bishops at the Latin American bishops’ meeting in Aparecida, Brazil.
At the time, “I understood nothing,” he said. But he began listening and studying and dialoguing with scientists and theologians. The result was “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical published in 2015.
Ecological concern is a Christian concern, he said.
“The Bible teaches us that the world was not born in of chaos or by accident but by a decision of God who called it – and always will call it – into existence out of love,” the pope said. “The universe is beautiful and good, and contemplating it allows us to glimpse the infinite beauty and goodness of its author.”
Christians have a moral obligation to respect the creation God has entrusted to them “as a garden to cultivate, protect, make grow according to its potential,” he said. “And if human beings have the right to make use of nature for their own needs, they cannot in anyway claim to be its owners or despots, but only administrators who must give an account of their use.”
Jesus taught his followers to live in harmony, with justice, in peace and recognizing others as brothers and sisters, the pope said. But “when one considers nature only as an object of profit and self-interest – a vision that consolidates the whim of the strongest – then harmony is shattered and serious inequality, injustice and suffering result.”

Making the poor a priority isn’t political, it’s the Gospel

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Church teaching on giving priority to the well-being of the poor and marginalized is not a political or ideological choice; it lies at the very heart of the Gospel, Pope Francis said.
The preferential option for the poor, which includes feeding the hungry and drawing close to the excluded, “is the key criterion of Christian authenticity,” he said Aug. 19 during his weekly general audience.
The principle also would include making sure that any vaccine developed for the novel coronavirus helps everyone, he added.
“It would be sad,” he said, if priority for a vaccine “were to be given to the richest. It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all.”
During his audience, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis continued a series of talks on the principles of the church’s social doctrine as a guide for healing and building a better future, particularly as the world is struggling with a pandemic and its negative effects.

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 19, 2020. The pope said that the church’s preferential option for the poor includes making sure any vaccine developed for COVID-19 helps everyone. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In fact, he said, a proper response to the pandemic is twofold:
“On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and the lack of protection for the weakest.”
“It would be a scandal if all of the economic assistance we are observing – most of it with public money – were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of creation,” the pope said.
These are the four criteria that should be used “for choosing which industries should be helped: those which contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the least, to the common good and the care of creation.”
Pope Francis said the COVID-19 pandemic “has exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world” and it has made those inequalities and discrimination even worse.
One of the responses that must not be missing is the preferential option for the poor, he said.
This key element of the church’s social teaching “is not a political option, nor is it an ideological option,” he said; it is “at the center of the Gospel.”
Jesus “stood among the sick, the poor, the excluded, showing them God’s merciful love,” he said.
The preferential option for the poor is a duty for all Christians and communities, he said, and it means doing more than providing needed assistance; it requires remedying the root causes and problems that lead to the need for aid.
“Many people want to return to normality” and get back to business, the pope said, but this “normality” must not entail ongoing social injustice and the degradation of the environment.
“The pandemic is a crisis, and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before: either we come out of it better or we come out of it worse,” he said. “We must come out of it better” and build something different.
The world needs an economy and remedies that do not “poison society, such as profits not linked to the creation of dignified jobs,” but rather profits that benefit the general public.
“We must act now to heal the epidemics caused by small, invisible viruses and to heal those caused by the great and visible social injustices,” he said.
By “starting from the love of God, placing the peripheries at the center and the last in first place,” he said, “a healthier world will be possible.”
The pope concluded by praying, “May the Lord help us and give us the strength to come out of it better, responding to the needs of today’s world.”

Migrants seeking new life end up instead in ‘hell’ of detention

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Decrying the unimaginable “hell” migrants experience in detention centers, Pope Francis urged all Christians to examine how they do or don’t help – as Jesus commanded – the people God has placed in their path.
Christians must always seek the face of the Lord, who can be found in the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned and foreigners, the pope said on the anniversary of his first pastoral visit as pope to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Jesus warned everyone, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” and Christians today must look at their actions every day and see if they have even tried to see Christ in others, the pope said in his homily during Mass July 8.
“Such a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is possible also for us, disciples of the third millennium,” he said.
The Mass, held in the chapel of the pope’s residence, marked the seventh anniversary of his first apostolic journey to an island that has been a major destination point for migrants seeking a new life in Europe.
However, since 2014, at least 19,000 people have died, drowning in the Mediterranean Sea during those boat crossings. Pope Francis mourned their deaths during his 2013 visit with prayers and tossing a floral wreath into the rippling water.
In his homily at the Vatican chapel July 8, he remembered those who are trapped in Libya, subjected to terrible abuse and violence and held in detention centers that are more like a “lager,” the German word for a concentration camp. He said his thoughts were with all migrants, those embarking on a “voyage of hope,” those who are rescued and those who are pushed back.
“Whatever you did, you did for me,” he said, repeating Jesus’ warning.
The pope then took a moment to tell the small congregation – all wearing masks and sitting at a distance from one another – what had struck him about listening to the migrants that day in Lampedusa and their harrowing journeys.
He said he thought it strange how one man spoke at great length in his native language, but the interpreter translated it to the pope in just a few words.
An Ethiopian woman, who had witnessed the encounter, later told the pope that the interpreter hadn’t even translated “a quarter” of what was said about the torture and suffering they had experienced.
“They gave me the ‘distilled’ version,” the pope said.
“This happens today with Libya, they give us a ‘distilled’ version. War. Yes, it is terrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that they live there,” in those detention camps, he said.
And all these people did was try to cross the sea with nothing but hope, he said.
“Whatever you did … for better or for worse! This is a burning issue today,” the pope said.
The ultimate goal for a Christian is an encounter with God, he said, and always seeking the face of God is how Christians make sure they are on the right path toward the Lord.
The day’s first reading from the Book of Hosea described how the people of Israel had lost their way, wandering instead in a “desert of inequity,” seeking abundance and prosperity with hearts filled with “falsehood and injustice,” he said.
“It is a sin, from which even we, modern Christians, are not immune,” he added.
The prophet Hosea’s words call everyone to conversion, “to turn our eyes to the Lord and see his face,” Pope Francis said.
“As we undertake to seek the face of the Lord, we may recognize him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. And this encounter becomes for us a time of grace and salvation, as it bestows on us the same mission entrusted to the apostles,” he said.
Christ himself said “it is he who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, seeking an encounter with us and requesting our assistance,” the pope said.
The pope ended his homily by asking Our Lady, the solace of migrants, “help us discover the face of her son in all our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee from their homeland because of the many injustices that still afflict our world today.”

God listens to everybody – sinner, saint, victim, killer

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Everyone lives a life that is often inconsistent or a “contradiction” because people can be both a sinner and a saint, a victim and a tormentor, Pope Francis said.
No matter what one’s situation is, people can put themselves back in God’s hands through prayer, he said June 24 during his weekly general audience.
“Prayer gives us nobility; it is able to protect one’s relationship with God, who is the true companion along humanity’s journey, amidst thousands of hardships in life, good or bad, but always with prayer,” he said.
The audience, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace, was the pope’s last general audience talk until Aug. 5, according to Vatican News. His Sunday Angelus address was to continue throughout July, however.
With the start of summer vacation for many, the pope said he hoped people could have a peaceful moment of rest despite the ongoing restrictions “connected to the threat of infection from the coronavirus.” 
May it be a time of “enjoyment of the beauty of creation and a strengthening of ties with mankind and with God,” he said in greetings to Polish-speaking viewers and listeners.
In his main talk, the pope continued his series on prayer and reflected on the role prayer played in the life of David – a young shepherd whom God called to become king of Israel.
David learned early in life that a shepherd takes care of his flock, protects them from danger and provides for them, the pope said.
Jesus, too, is called “the good shepherd” because he offers his life for his flock, guiding them, knowing each one by name, he said.
When David was later confronted for his terrible sins, he realized he had become a “bad shepherd,” someone who was “sick with power, a poacher who kills and loots,” the pope said.

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 24, 2020. During the audience, the pope said people can put themselves back in God’s hands through prayer. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

He no longer acted like a humble servant but had robbed another man of the only thing he loved when he took the man’s wife as his own.
David wanted to be a good shepherd, but sometimes he failed and sometimes he succeeded, the pope said.
“Saint and sinner, persecuted and persecutor, victim and even executioner,” David was full of contradictions – being all of these things in his life, he said.
But the one thing that stayed constant was his prayerful dialogue with God. “David the saint, prays, David the sinner, prays,” always lifting his voice to God either in joy or deep despair, the pope said.
This is what David can teach the faithful today, he said: to always speak with God, no matter the circumstances or one’s state of being, because everyone’s life is often marked by contradiction and inconsistencies. 
People should tell God about their joy, sins, sorrows and love – everything, the pope said, because God is always there, and he listens.
Prayer returns people to God “because the nobility of prayer leaves us in God’s hands,” he said.
The pope also noted the day’s feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist. 
He asked that people learn from this saint, how to be courageous witnesses of the Gospel, above and beyond any individual differences, “preserving harmony and friendship that are the basis for the credibility of any proclamation of faith.”

Prayer is a ‘fight’ with God

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – True prayer is a “fight” with God in which those who think they are strong are humbled and faced with the reality of their own mortal condition, Pope Francis said.
The story of Jacob wrestling with God throughout the night is a reminder that although prayer reveals “that we are only poor men and women,” God also has a “blessing reserved for those who have let themselves be changed by him,” the pope said June 10 during his weekly general audience.
“This is a beautiful invitation to let ourselves be changed by God. He knows how to do it because he knows each of us. ‘Lord, you know me,’ each one of us can say. ‘Lord, you know me. Change me,’” the pope said.
In the audience, livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, the pope continued his series of talks on prayer. And before concluding the audience, he reminded the faithful of the June 12 observance of the World Day Against Child Labor.
Calling child labor a “phenomenon that deprives boys and girls of their childhood,” the pope said that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced children and young people in many countries to work in “jobs that are inappropriate for their age to help their families in conditions of extreme poverty.”
He also warned that “in many cases, these are forms of slavery and imprisonment, resulting in physical and psychological suffering.”
The pope’s concern for child labor comes nearly a week after the death in Pakistan of Zhora Shah, an 8-year-old child maid who allegedly was beaten to death by her employers after accidentally releasing their prized parrots. The case has sparked outrage in Pakistan and around the world.
“Children are the future of the human family,” Pope Francis said. “It is up to all of us to foster their growth, health and serenity!”
In his main talk, the pope reflected on the story of Jacob, an “unscrupulous man” who despite the odds, “seems to succeed in every feat in his life.”
“Jacob – we would say in today’s modern language – is a ‘self-made man.’ With his ingenuity, he is able to conquer everything he wants. But he is missing something: he lacks the living relationship with his own roots,” the pope said.
It is on a return trip to see his brother Esau – whom he defrauded for an inheritance – that Jacob encounters the stranger who fights with him. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope said that this struggle is “the symbol of prayer as a battle of faith and as the triumph of perseverance.”
Overcome by a strike to the hip, the stranger – whom Jacob later realized is God – blesses him and gives him the name “Israel.” The pope said that Jacob ultimately enters the promised land with a limp, but also “with a new heart.”
“Before he was a confident man, he trusted in his own cunning,” he said. “He was a man impervious to grace, resistant to mercy. But God saved what was lost.”
“We all have an appointment with God in the night,” Pope Francis said. “He will surprise us when we do not expect it, when we find ourselves truly alone.”
But, the pope said, “we need not fear because in that moment, God will give us a new name that contains the meaning of our whole life.”

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

Pandemic is an opportunity for mission, service to others

By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While isolation, social distancing and economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic prove to be a challenge, Christians are called by God to take part in the church’s mission in the world, Pope Francis wrote in a message for World Mission Sunday 2020.
“The impossibility of gathering as a church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday,” the pope wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican May 31.
“In all of this, God’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’ is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: ‘Here am I, send me!’” he said.
World Mission Sunday will be celebrated Oct. 18 at the Vatican and in most dioceses.
In his message, the pope said that despite the suffering and challenges posed by COVID-19, the church’s “missionary journey” continues. Although pain and death “make us experience our human frailty,” it also serves as a reminder of “our deep desire for life and liberation from evil.”
“In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer,” he wrote. “The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.”

Capuchin Franciscan Brother Andrew Corriente hands out food to those in need in Washington May 19, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. Christians are called by God to take part in the church’s mission in the world to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis wrote in a message for World Mission Sunday 2020. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

To be a “church on the move,” he explained, is neither a program nor “an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will,” but rather follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit “who pushes you and carries you.”
Pope Francis said the celebration of World Mission Sunday offers an opportunity to reaffirm that one’s prayers, reflections and offerings are ways “to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his church.”
He also reminded Christians that the mission of evangelization is “a free and conscious response to God’s call” that can only be discerned by one’s “personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his church.”
“In all of this, God’s question, ‘Whom shall I send?’ is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: ‘Here am I, send me!’” the pope said. “God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil.”

To meet a displaced person is to encounter Christ, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The sad reality of people displaced within the borders of their own country, a crisis that has been ignored for far too long, is an opportunity for Christians to encounter Jesus, Pope Francis said.
“In each of these people, forced to flee to safety, Jesus is present as he was at the time of Herod. In the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, strangers and prisoners, we are called to see the face of Christ who pleads with us to help,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020.
“If we can recognize him in those faces, we will be the ones to thank him for having been able to meet, love and serve him in them,” he said.
The Vatican will mark World Day of Migrants and Refugees Sept. 27 with the theme: “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee.”
During a livestreamed news conference May 15, Cardinal Michael Czerny, undersecretary for the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, said that this year’s focus on internally displaced persons is a continuation of Pope Francis’ teachings that center on “the discarded, the forgotten, the set aside.”
The pope’s message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees “is an invitation to discover them, to discover that they exist and that they are here among us; in our own country, in our own diocese, in our own parish,” the cardinal said.
According to the 2020 Global Report on Internal Displacement, there are an estimated 50.8 million internally displaced persons worldwide. Among them, there are 45.7 million displaced due to conflict and violence and 5.1 million who were forced to move because of disasters.
However, Cardinal Czerny said, it is yet to be seen “how much the COVID-19 pandemic is a driver of internal displacement.”
In his message, the pope said the sufferings endured by internally displaced persons have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the light of the tragic events that have marked 2020, I would like this message, although concerned with internally displaced persons, to embrace all those who are experiencing situations of precariousness, abandonment, marginalization and rejection as a result of COVID-19,” he wrote.
Recalling the day’s theme, the pope said that Jesus, Mary and Joseph experienced the same “tragic fate” of the displaced and refugees, a fate “marked by fear, uncertainty and unease.”
Displaced people, he said, “offer us this opportunity to meet the Lord, even though our eyes find it hard to recognize him: his clothing in tatters, his feet dirty, his face disfigured, his body wounded, his tongue unable to speak our language.”
Reflecting on the pastoral challenge to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” migrants, the pope said he wished to expand on those verbs to further explain the church’s mission.
The pope said that the precariousness experienced by many today due to the pandemic “is a constant in the lives of displaced people,” and “all too often we stop at statistics” and fail to understand the suffering of those on the margins.
“But it is not about statistics, it is about real people!” he said. “If we encounter them, we will get to know more about them. And knowing their stories, we will be able to understand them.”
To be close to displaced persons, he continued, means to serve them and not turn them away due to fear and prejudices that “often prevent us from becoming neighbors.”
Sharing, an essential element of Christian life, is another important aspect that allows for men and women to “grow together, leaving no one behind,” the pope said.
“The pandemic has reminded us how we are all in the same boat,” he said. “Realizing that we have the same concerns and fears has shown us once more that no one can be saved alone,” he said.
The pope said the coronavirus pandemic also serves as a reminder of the importance of co-responsibility and that in order “to promote those whom we assist, we must involve them and make them agents in their own redemption.”
“To preserve our common home and make it conform more and more to God’s original plan, we must commit ourselves to ensuring international cooperation, global solidarity and local commitment, leaving no one excluded,” the pope said.

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Jesus gives strength to face the unexpected

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – When faced with uncertainties, adversities or trials, those who place their trust in Christ will not be left alone to fend for themselves, Pope Francis said.
Just as the disciples left Jerusalem after Christ’s death and headed to Emmaus with only their sadness and fear, people may often find themselves discouraged when solely focused on their own hopelessness, the pope said April 27 before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer.
Nevertheless, Christians are called to hope in God and not focus on doubt or fear, he said in the address, which was livestreamed from the library of the Apostolic Palace.
When one chooses to follow God, “we will discover that there is nothing unexpected, there is no uphill climb, there is no night that cannot be confronted with Jesus,” the pope said.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, the pope said the disciples on the way to Emmaus made two trips. While their escape from Jerusalem was a sad and easy “downhill” journey, the pope said their return after encountering Christ was full of joy even though they were tired from the uphill travel.
“In the first, there is the Lord walking beside them, but they don’t recognize him; in the second, they don’t see him anymore, but they feel him near them,” he said. “In the first, they are discouraged and hopeless; in the second, they run to bring the good news of the encounter with the risen Jesus to the others.”
By opening their hearts to Christ, listening him explain Scripture and inviting Jesus to their home, he added, the disciples’ encounter with him is the same that all Christians must follow to experience joy.
“These are the three steps that we can also take in our homes: First, to open our hearts to Jesus, to entrust him with our burdens, hardships, disappointments in life,” the pope said.
“Second, to listen to Jesus, to take the Gospel, read this passage from chapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel; and third, pray to Jesus with the same words of those disciples, ‘Lord, stay with us.’ Lord, stay with me; Lord, stay with all of us because we need you so we can find the way,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis celebrated his daily morning Mass in the chapel of residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
At the start of each of his livestreamed Masses, the pope has offered prayers for groups that have suffered or who are on the front lines of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
During the Mass April 26, the pope prayed for those who are sad and worried about the future.
“Today in this Mass, we pray for all those who are suffering from sadness, because they are alone or because they do not know what to expect in the future or because they cannot support their families because they do not have money, they do not have work. There are so many people who suffer from sadness,” he said.
During his April 25 Mass, the pope offered prayers for funeral service workers who at times are overwhelmed by the increased death tolls due to the pandemic.
“What they do is so painful, so sad and they feel the pain of this pandemic so closely,” he said. “Let us pray for them.”
The pope has also prayed for those who continue to work to lift spirits, even in the midst of suffering and fear. At the start of his morning Mass April 27, the pope offered prayers for artists who, “through the path of beauty, show us what path to follow.”
“May the Lord grant all of us the grace of creativity in this time,” he said.
In his homily, the pope also reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from St. John in which Jesus reproaches the crowd after the multiplication of the loaves for following him “not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”
Pope Francis said that at times, Christians can do the same and focus on temporal things and lose “the enthusiasm that Jesus’ words had grown in their hearts.”
“The Lord always makes us return to that first encounter, that first moment in which he looked at us, spoke to us and made us want to follow him,” the pope said.
“This is a grace we should ask from the Lord because in life, we always have this temptation to distance ourselves when we see something else,” he said.

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Pope begins New Year with apology, prayers for peace

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis began the New Year with an apology for losing his patience the night before with a woman who grabbed his hand and yanked him closer to her while he was greeting people in St. Peter’s Square.
To get away, the pope had slapped her hand and gave her a very serious scowl. A video of the incident went viral on Twitter.
Reciting the midday Angelus prayer Jan. 1, Pope Francis was talking about how God’s offer of salvation in Jesus is “not magic, but patient, that is, it involves the patience of love, which takes on inequity and destroys its power.”

Pope Francis slaps a woman’s hand after she grabbed his hand while walking to visit the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 31, 2019. At his Angelus Jan. 1 the pope apologized for the “bad example” he gave when he slapped the hand of the woman. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Then, briefly departing from his prepared text, the pope said that “love makes us patient. We often lose our patience; me, too, and I apologize for my bad example last night.”
Returning to his text, Pope Francis said that in gazing upon the Nativity scene with the eyes of faith, “we see the world renewed, freed from the dominion of evil and placed under the regal lordship of Christ, the baby lying in the manger.”
The church marks Jan. 1 as both the feast of Mary, Mother of God, and World Peace Day, he said, urging Catholics to pray for peace and to recognize their responsibility to work for peace.
For the 2020 celebration of World Peace Day, he said, the focus was on peace as a “journey of hope, a journey which proceeds through dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion.”
“Jesus is the blessing of those oppressed by the yoke of slavery, both moral and material,” he said. “He frees with love.”
To those who are enslaved by vice and addiction, the pope said, Jesus bears the message that “the Father loves you, he will not abandon you, with unshakable patience he awaits your return.”
Jesus opens the doors of fraternity, welcome and love to those who are victims of injustice or exploitation; pours “the oil of consolation” on the sick and the discouraged; and opens windows of light for prisoners who feel they have no future, he said.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he told the people in the square, “let’s get down from the pedestals of our pride and ask for the blessing of the holy Mother of God. She will show us Jesus. Let’s let ourselves be blessed, let’s open our hearts to goodness and that way the year that is beginning will be a journey of hope and peace, not through words, but through daily gestures of dialogue, reconciliation and care for creation.”
Pope Francis used his midday address to thank and encourage all the initiatives Catholics, their parishes and dioceses around the world undertake to promote peace.
“My thoughts also go to the many volunteers who, in places where peace and justice are threatened, courageously choose to be present in a nonviolence and unarmed way, as well as to the military who carry out peacekeeping missions in many areas of conflict,” the pope said.
Addressing everyone, “believers and non-believers because we are all brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis urged people to “never stop hoping in a world of peace,” which must be built together, day by day.