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Forgive like Jesus, don’t accuse like the devil, pope tells Capuchins

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Confessors have two choices: to be like Jesus who readily forgave sins or like the devil who always condemns, Pope Francis said.

“You can either do the work of Jesus, who forgives, by giving your lives in prayer (and) through many hours seated there or you do the work of the devil who condemns and accuses,” the pope said during Mass Feb. 9 with Capuchin friars from around the world.

Capuchin friars attend an early morning Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Capuchin friars attend an early morning Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica was held in conjunction with the veneration of the relics of two Capuchins, Sts. Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic; Pope Francis requested their relics be brought to the Vatican for the Year of Mercy.

Both saints, the pope told the friars, spent long hours in the confessional as ministers of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Recalling the day’s Gospel passage, in which the Pharisees and scribes condemn Jesus and his disciples for not observing traditions, the pope reminded the Capuchins that confessors are called to be “great forgivers in the confessional.”

“The confessional is for forgiving,” he said. “If you cannot give someone absolution, please, do not ‘beat’ him.”

The pope repeated the story of a former Capuchin provincial who was sent to a shrine as a confessor after his retirement. The friar, who usually had a long line of people waiting for him, “always found a way to forgive or at least leave that person’s soul in peace with a hug.”

However, the priest expressed concern that he was forgiving too much. “And what do you do when you feel that way?” the pope recalled asking him.

“I go to the chapel in front of the tabernacle, and I tell the Lord: ‘I’m sorry Lord, forgive me, I think I forgave too much today. But Lord, it was you who gave me a bad example,’” the friar responded.

Forgiveness, the pope explained, is a “caress from God” and confessors who do not forgive become like the scribes in the Gospel “who are always there to accuse,” much like “the great accuser in the Bible: the devil.”

Pope Francis also called on the Capuchins to be humble and sincere if they are not up to the task of forgiving with mercy.

“If you do not feel it, be humble and say: ‘No, no, I’ll celebrate Mass, I’ll clean the floor, I’ll do everything except confess because I do not know how to do it well,” the pope said.

Commission on sex abuse votes that member take leave of absence

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The papal commission on child protection voted that one of its members, a survivor of abuse and victims’advocate, take a leave of absence and consider other ways to contribute to the advisory body.

Peter Saunders, founder and chief executive officer of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told reporters, however, that he would not leave his position on the commission.

“I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will talk only with him about my position,” he said Feb. 6.

Pope Francis established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014 to recommend better ways to protect minors and vulnerable adults and how best to promote “local responsibility in the particular churches” concerning abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed Feb. 8 that the 17-person commission, which includes another abuse survivor, “approved unanimously with one abstention” that Saunders take a leave of absence to think about other ways to help the commission externally.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the pontifical commission and one of the pope’s top cardinal advisers, said in a written statement, “Peter Saunders has been asked to advise the commission on the possible establishment of a victim survivor panel to work with the commission.”

Saunders told the Associated Press Feb. 6 that the members concluded they could not trust him to stick to the commission’s mandate as a purely advisory body.

Father Lombardi told reporters Feb. 8 that it was clear the commission’s “course of action is not undertaking a discussion, investigation, judging individual cases” of abuse or lack of accountability.

Saunders has been openly critical of Pope Francis and other top-level church leaders and of the slow pace of the commission’s work when it came to bishops’ accountability in acting upon suspected and known instances of abuse by priests.

He and a group of Chilean Catholics and clerics have voiced particular concern about the pope’s nomination of Bishop Juan Barros in 2015 to the Diocese of Osorno, Chile. The bishop had been accused of covering up for a priest who was known to have committed sexual abuse. Bishop Barros, however, denied having had knowledge of Father Fernando Karadima’s criminal behavior, prior to news about the abuse in the press.

The papal commission, meanwhile, released a press release Feb. 8 saying it was preparing the final version of proposals to make to the pope, including “a request for him to remind all authorities in the church of the importance of responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them.’ Members also were working on a recommendation for a universal day of prayer for abuse victims and preparing materials for a special penitential liturgy.

The commission also is developing a website to share best practices for protecting minors, and “workshops on the legal aspects of the protection of minors to establish more transparency around canonical trials” are being planned for later in the year.

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Open God’s heart with prayer, pope tells Padre Pio prayer groups

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Praying is not like taking an aspirin, something one does just to feel a little better, Pope Francis told thousands of members of Padre Pio Prayer Groups from around the world.

Prayer is not a business negotiation with God, either, the pope told more than 60,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 6. Prayer is a “work of spiritual mercy,” a time to entrust everything to the heart of God, he said.

People venerate the body of St. Padre Pio in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 6. The bodies of Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic were brought to Rome at the request of Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

People venerate the body of St. Padre Pio in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 6. The bodies of Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic were brought to Rome at the request of Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pilgrims were in Rome for the Year of Mercy and a week of special events that included veneration of the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, both Capuchin friars who often spent more than 12 hours a day hearing confessions.

Although many faithful believe the body of Padre Pio, who died in 1968, is incorrupt, church officials have never made such a claim. When his body was exhumed in 2008, church officials said it was in “fair condition.” Chemicals were used to ensure its long-term preservation and the face was covered with a silicone mask.

Pushed through the center of Rome Feb. 5 in glass coffins on rolling platforms, the relics of Padre Pio and St. Leopold were escorted by Italian military police, dozens of Capuchin friars and thousands of faithful.

When the procession reached St. Peter’s Square, the boundary of Vatican City State, the Italian police stood at attention and the Swiss Guard took over the honor-guard duties. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s, welcomed the relics, blessed them with incense and accompanied them into St. Peter’s Basilica where they were to stay for veneration until Feb. 11.

At the papal audience, joining members of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups from around the world were staff members of the hospital he founded, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (House for the Relief of Suffering), whose work is supported by the prayers and donations of the prayer groups.

Pope Francis told them that their devotion to Padre Pio should help them rediscover each day “the beauty of the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy.”

With his long hours in the confessional, the pope said, “Padre Pio was a servant of mercy and he was fulltime, carrying out the ‘apostolate of listening’ even to the point of fainting.”

“The great river of mercy” that Padre Pio unleashed, he said, should continue through the prayers and, especially, the willingness to listen and to care for others shown by members of the prayer groups.

If prayer were just about finding a little peace of mind or obtaining something specific from God, then it would basically be motivated by selfishness: “I pray to feel good, like I’d take an aspirin,” the pope said.

“Prayer, rather, is a work of spiritual mercy that carries everything to the heart of God” and says to him, “You take it, you who are my father.”

Padre Pio, he said, used to tell people prayer is “a key that opens God’s heart.”

“God’s heart is not armored with all sorts of security measures,” the pope said. “You can open it with a common key, prayer.”

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Vatican joins international appeals for increase in aid to victims of Syrian crisis

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican joined international appeals for raising money to provide emergency and long-term assistance to the millions of people affected by the crisis in Syria.

Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country walk with their families Jan. 14 after crossing into Jordanian territory, near the the capital, Amman. (CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country walk with their families Jan. 14 after crossing into Jordanian territory, near the the capital, Amman. (CNS photo/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, attended the Syria Donors Conference in London Feb. 4 and said the Catholic Church would continue to help the region through its fundraising efforts. The Vatican released a copy of the archbishop’s address the same day.

The meeting, co-hosted by the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations, was meant to gather together leaders from world governments and NGOs to raise funding and support to address the six-year-long humanitarian crisis.

The conference website said there are 13.5 million vulnerable and displaced people inside Syria, and 4.2 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries in need of assistance.

U.N. agencies have appealed for $8.4 billion to help those in Syria and refugees in host countries.

In his address, Archbishop Gallagher said the crisis in Syria was marked by “ever-increasing human suffering, including extreme cases of malnourishment of innocent children and other civilians, especially among the high number of people who are trapped in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.”

Religious minorities, including Christians, “suffer disproportionately the effects of war and social upheaval in the region,” he said.

“In fact, their very presence and existence are gravely threatened,” he said, which is why “Pope Francis has repeatedly called attention to the particular needs of Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East.”

The Vatican and the Catholic Church have been responding to the crisis “from the very beginning” by providing not just
“emergency aid but also the medium and long-term needs of refugees and host countries,” he said, adding that the Vatican welcomes the conference’s emphasis on providing education, jobs and economic development as part of aid programs.

Just last year, he said, Catholic dioceses, aid agencies and NGOs in partnership with governments and other international organizations provided $150 million in humanitarian assistance that directly benefited more than 4 million people. The assistance went to educational programs, food and nonfood aid, health care, housing, work programs and direct cash assistance.

Catholic agencies and entities, he said, “make no distinction regarding the religious or ethnic identity of those requiring assistance,” but they do try to give priority to the most vulnerable and those most in need, which include religious minorities.

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Relics of St. Padre Pio, St. Leopold arrive in Rome for jubilee Year of Mercy

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Thousands of people waited hours outside a Rome church to glimpse the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, two Capuchins popular as miracle workers and known particularly for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions.

Pilgrims surround the exhumed body of St. Padre Pio at a Catholic church in Rome Feb. 3. Pope Francis asked the Capuchins to bring the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the Feb. 10 celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official "missionaries of mercy." (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

Pilgrims surround the exhumed body of St. Padre Pio at a Catholic church in Rome Feb. 3. Pope Francis asked the Capuchins to bring the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the Feb. 10 celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official “missionaries of mercy.” (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

Pope Francis asked the Capuchins to bring the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the Feb. 10 celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official “missionaries of mercy.”

The hearse carrying Padre Pio’s crystal coffin was about 90 minutes late getting to Rome’s Basilica of St. Lawrence Feb. 3 because pockets and clusters of faithful repeatedly forced it to slow down as it drove from San Giovanni Rotondo, 235 miles to the southeast.

Posters pasted up all over the center of Rome giving the detailed schedule for Masses, prayer services and other devotions feature a large photo of Padre Pio and a smaller photo of St. Leopold.

In the celebrations, St. Leopold “is given the backseat, but that’s been his life,” said Capuchin Father Clayton Fernandes, secretary-general of the order. St. Leopold was a Croatian-born friar who ministered in Padua, Italy, and died in 1942. Father Fernandes said, “He was 4-feet-5-inches tall,” and was known to prophesy and to levitate.

While St. Leopold is well known in Croatia and around Padua, his fame pales in comparison to that of Padre Pio, who was born in 1887 and died in 1968.

From 1918 to the very end of his life, Padre Pio bore the stigmata, wounds similar to those inflicted on Christ when he was crucified.

“For 50 years, he bore the marks of Christ,” Father Fernandes said, yet the marks disappeared as soon as he died. There were accusations that they were self-inflicted, but the Capuchin said doctors examined them when he was operated on for appendicitis and said they did not believe they were self-inflicted.

“People realized that this was not just an ordinary guy; he had special gifts,” Father Fernandes said. His primary gift was the ability “to read hearts, he could tell you what you were going through before you told him.” He also was said to bilocate.

“Padre Pio is special for all these reasons and more,” Father Fernandes said. “Padre Pio has won the hearts of the people because he spoke to their reality, the reality of a family that struggles because of economic difficulties, because they have someone who is sick.”

“We need more Padre Pios today: priests, confessors, even laypeople who just take the time to listen to another and say, ‘I’m interested in what you are going through. Maybe I can’t do much, but remember, I think about you and pray for you.’ This is precisely what Padre Pio did and continues to do,” Father Fernandes said.

At the same time, there are stories of Padre Pio yelling at people and being harsh with penitents. While Padre Pio was not always gentle, Father Fernandes said, he seemed to know what was needed to bring each individual to conversion.

“He was tough,” Father Fernandes said. People would flock to him, expecting him to work a miracle, “but they didn’t want to change.”

“Conversion is a process that starts with me,” he said. Padre Pio or any good confessor, spiritual guide or friend can help people on the path, but it takes a personal decision.

“This is the secret to his success, you could say: He was able to look deep into people and say, ‘Look, what you are asking for is not really what you need. You need something more’ or ‘you need something different,’” Father Fernandes said. He was like any good father, who knew that sometimes what a child asks for is not what the child really needs.

The Capuchin also insists that Padre Pio “was not a one-man show.” The other friars in his community and in his province supported his work and assisted him, especially in replying to the thousands of letters that would arrive each week. “They believed that he had a special gift from God, not that he was perfect.”

“There is one precise reason why Pope Francis wants Padre Pio and St. Leopold (at the Vatican for the jubilee),” he said: “It’s because they are missionaries of mercy. And mercy as encountered in confession. These are two friars who spent the big part of their life in the confessional.”

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God wants to save you; will you let him? pope asks

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God doesn’t want to condemn anyone; he wants to save every person in the entire world, Pope Francis said.

“The problem is letting him enter one’s heart” to transform one’s life, the pope said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 3.

Pope Francis poses with U.N. troops from Argentina during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses with U.N. troops from Argentina during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“This is the heart of God, the heart of a father who loves his children and wants them to live rightly and justly and, therefore, to live in fullness and be happy,” he said.

The pope continued a series of talks dedicated to divine mercy, looking specifically at how divine mercy and divine justice go hand in hand.

“It might seem that they are two things that contradict each other,” he said, but they don’t because “it is precisely God’s mercy that brings true justice to fruition.”

God’s justice is different from the human administration of legal justice, which is “retributive, that imposes a penalty on the guilty,” the pope said.

“This path still does not lead to true justice because it doesn’t actually conquer evil but simply contains it,” the pope said. “Rather, it is only by responding to (evil) with the good that evil truly can be overcome.”

The Bible shows that true justice bypasses a court system, he said. The one who is wronged goes directly to the one who is guilty “in order to invite him to conversion, to help him to understand that he is doing wrong, to appeal to his conscience.”

Through this act of persuasion, the one guilty of wrongdoing “can open himself to the forgiveness that the injured party is offering him. And this is beautiful,” the pope said.

This is the way that families try to work out their conflicts, he said. The one who has been offended “loves the culprit and wants to salvage the relationship that binds them, not cut off this relationship,” he said.

But it is not an easy path to take, he added. “It requires that the person who was wronged be ready to forgive and desire the salvation of and what’s best for the one who has wronged him.”

These reciprocal acts of forgiveness and conversion are the only way true justice can triumph, the pope said, because “if the guilty one recognizes the evil committed and stops doing it, then the evil is no more and the one who was unjust becomes just.”

“This is how God acts with us sinners,” he said. God constantly offers forgiveness and helps people recognize their sin in order to set them free.

That is because “God doesn’t seek our condemnation, but our salvation. God doesn’t want to condemn anybody,” not even those whom many think deserve it like Pontius Pilate or Judas, he said. “The Lord of mercy wants to save everybody.”

God’s immense heart “goes beyond our small concept of justice” and opens up people’s horizons to his limitless mercy, he said.

This is the kind of paternal heart people want to encounter in the confessional, the pope said.

While the priest may seek to help the penitent understand the evil committed, “we all go to the confessional to find a father, a father who helps us change our life, a father who gives us the strength to go on, a father who forgives us in the name of God.”

That is why the sacrament of penance or reconciliation is such a big responsibility for the priest, the pope said, because the people “who come to you are just looking for a father” and the priest in the confessional is there “in the place of the father who brings justice with his mercy.”

At the end of the audience, the pope greeted members of “American Circus,” an Italian troupe who, wearing bright red, white and blue outfits, performed a routine featuring cheerleading, acrobatics and juggling.

The pope was especially impressed with the juggler who bounced small rubber balls, including with the bottom of his feet, at lighting speed.

“The one that was in the front was great, wasn’t he?” the pope commented to Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household who was sitting next to the pope at the general audience.

Speaking to the performers directly, the pope told them, “you create beauty and beauty always brings us closer to God.”

He also recognized the hard work and training that goes into their craft and said they are a wonderful example “for all of us.”

“The seduction of an easy life, to end up with good results without effort, this is a temptation,” he said.

But with their talent and the hard work they put in behind the scenes, “you offer us a witness that life without constant exertion is a mediocre life,” he told them. “I thank you so much for your example.”

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Religious are called to show closeness of God to people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An encounter with Jesus changes people’s lives, and that should be especially noticeable in those who are consecrated completely to serving God, the church and others, Pope Francis said.

“One who has this encounter becomes a witness and makes the encounter possible for others, too,” he said Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Overlapping by two months, the Catholic Church’s special Year of Consecrated Life has led to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, emphasizing God’s love and mercy for each individual and the mission to share that experience with the world, the pope told thousands of consecrated men and women who joined him in St. Peter’s Basilica and hundreds of others who watched on screens outside once the basilica was full.

The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide his people toward his son, “the light that has no end.”

The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna were praying in the temple at the time and recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

The event, the pope said, is a “feast of encounter,” not just the meeting of Jesus with Simeon and Anna, but the encounter of people’s hopes and expectations for a savior with the fulfillment of those hopes in Jesus.

Christ’s birth is the ultimate encounter, he said; God’s decision to have his son born into the world, to live and suffer and die for the salvation of humanity, shows that he did not want to “remain outside of our drama, but wanted to share our lives.”

In the same way, whether living in a cloistered convent or traveling the world as a missionary, Pope Francis said, “consecrated men and women are called to be a concrete and prophetic sign of this closeness of God and of sharing with the fragile, sinful and wounded condition of people today.”

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, spoke as one of the consecrated people, telling the congregation that as Christians and as religious “we are guardians of awe.”

The experience of an encounter with Jesus constantly must be renewed, he said. One’s spiritual life must never be simply routine, the mission and charisms of an order must never be “crystallized into abstract doctrine” and the spiritual insights of the order’s founder “are not to be sealed in a bottle. They aren’t museum pieces.”

“Our founders were moved by the Spirit and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty” as they ministered in Jesus’ name to real people living real lives, the pope said. “They didn’t stop in the face of obstacles or when others misunderstood them because they preserved in their hearts the awe of having encountered Christ.”

“They did not domesticate the grace of the Gospel,” he said, but lived with an “all-consuming desire to share it with others.”

“We, too, are called today to make prophetic and courageous choices,” the pope said. In that way, “others will be attracted to the light and can encounter the father’s mercy.”

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Vatican says pope won’t be acting in proposed movie

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will not be an actor in a proposed movie based on the Gospels, a Vatican spokesman said.

While details about how the pope may or may not be involved in the movie project are not yet known, it was clear the pope was not an actor and would not have an acting role as claimed by a film production company, the spokesman said Feb. 2.

A Los Angeles-based entertainment publicity and marketing firm said in a press release Feb. 1 that the pope would be “playing himself in the family film ‘Beyond the Sun’ from AMBI Pictures.”

Monika Bacardi, AMBI Pictures co-founder, was quoted in the press release as saying, “We appreciate Pope Francis’ permission to film him and use his image in our movie.”

The press release included undated photos of the pope meeting at the Vatican with the other AMBI-Pictures co-founder, Andrea Iervolino.

The film, which was set to begin production this year, aims to help children “learn and incorporate Jesus’ parables” by portraying children from different cultures searching for Jesus in the world around them, the press release said.

All profits from the film were to go to two charities in Argentina, which help young adults and vulnerable children.

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‘What would the church be like if there were no sisters?’ pope asks

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Catholic Ne ws Service

VATICAN CITY — Respond to the crisis of vocations with intensified prayer, not despair or a lax admissions process, Pope Francis told women and men religious.

Pope Francis leaves an audience with religious from around the world in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Sept. 17. The pope praised women religious for always heading to the "front lines" to bring the church's tenderness and motherly love to those most in need. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis leaves an audience with religious from around the world in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Sept. 17. The pope praised women religious for always heading to the “front lines” to bring the church’s tenderness and motherly love to those most in need. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He said he is tempted to lose hope, too, asking God, “What is happening? Why is the womb of consecrated life sterile?”

But he warned against fast fixes, saying some religious “congregations experiment with ‘artificial insemination,’” in which they accept anybody, leading to a host of problems.

The vocations process must be done “with seriousness, and one must discern well that this is a true vocation and help it grow,” he told members of religious orders, secular institutes and consecrated virgins Feb. 1 in the Vatican audience hall.

The pope met with some 5,000 men and women taking part in events in Rome to mark the close of the Year for Consecrated life, which began Nov. 30, 2014, and was to end Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Jubilee of Consecrated Life.

Handing his written text over to Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Institutes for Apostolic Life, Pope Francis said he preferred to speak from his heart “because it’s a bit boring to read” a prepared talk.

Both his prepared text and his impromptu talk highlighted the three most important “pillars” of consecrated life: being prophetic; being near all people; and having hope.

It is important to be obedient while being prophetic, which is always about following God and reflecting his divine love, he told his audience.

Obedience for a religious is not the same as “military obedience,” he said; it’s about giving one’s heart and seeking to discern what is being asked.

If the rules or requirements are not clear, then one must speak with one’s superior and always obey the final word, he said. “This is prophecy — against the seeds of anarchy, which is sown by the devil.”

Just doing whatever one feels like is “anarchy of the will,” which is “the child of the devil, not God.”

Jesus wasn’t an anarchist, the pope said; he didn’t round up his disciples to fight against his enemies. While he pleaded that God “take this cup from me,” he still requested his father’s will be done.

Likewise, the pope said, if members of a religious community are asked to obey something that doesn’t sit well, then, he gestured taking a big pill and gulping it down. “Since my Italian is so poor I have to speak sign language,” he smiled, adding that “one must stomach that obedience.”

Being prophetic is telling and showing the world that “there is something truer, more beautiful, greater and better that we are all called to,” he said.

Consecrated men and women are called “not to distance myself from the people and live in comfort,” but to be close to Christians and non-Christians in order to understand their problems and needs, he said.

However, when it comes to offering love and attention, the sisters and brothers who live in one’s community get priority, he said, especially elderly members who may be isolated in an infirmary.

“I know that you never gossip in your communities. Never, ever,” the pope said smiling.

Backstabbing and gossip are a danger to religious life, he said.

“Whoever gossips is a terrorist,” he said, because they drop harmful words like bombs against others, leaving behind destruction while the attacker walks away unscathed.

“If you feel like saying something against a brother or sister,” he said, “bite your tongue. Hard. No terrorism in your communities.”

Resolve differences or problems face-to-face with the person in question, he said. But when it’s time for general chapters or other forums involving community life, then people need to be forthright in voicing concerns openly and frankly.

He said, “In public, you have to say everything you feel because there is the temptation to not say things during the chapter” meetings, which then leads to resentment afterward.

“During this Year of Mercy, if each one of you were able to never be a gossip-terrorist it would be a success for the church, a success of great holiness. Be brave,” he said.

The pope thanked religious men and women for their work, especially consecrated women. “What would the church be if there were no sisters?” he asked, recalling their presence in Catholic hospitals, schools, parishes and missions around the world.

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Power corrupts because the powerful don’t recognize sin, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Anyone with a bit of power in the church or in the world needs to be on guard against allowing their sinfulness to turn into corruption, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.

“All of us who have any power, whether it is ecclesiastical, religious, economic or political power,” he said, have an easier risk of becoming corrupt “because the devil makes us feel certain ‘I can do it myself.’”

At Mass in the chapel of his residence Jan. 29, Pope Francis focused on the day’s reading from the Second Book of Samuel, which described how King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and instead of asking forgiveness, plotted to have Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle.

“This is a moment in David’s life when we see something that can happen in all our lives: the passage from sin to corruption,” the pope said. In the story, David “takes the first step toward corruption. He has the power, he has the strength,” so instead of repenting, he tries to cover up what he did. Only later will he accept God’s mercy and convert once again.

“When our situation is so secure and people think the best of us and we have so much power,” the pope said, it is easy to stop recognizing sin as sin, which is the root of corruption.

“The Lord always forgives,” Pope Francis said, “but one of the worst things about corruption is that the corrupt person doesn’t think he needs forgiveness, he just doesn’t feel it.”

The pope ended his homily by asking the small congregation pray for the church, “for the pope, for bishops, priests, consecrated people, the lay faithful: ‘Lord, save us, save us from corruption. Yes, Lord, we are all sinners, but never let us be corrupt. We ask for this grace.’”

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