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Our Lenten Journey: Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags:


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Our Lenten Journey: Friday, March 14, 2014

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March 13, 2013, to March 13, 2014: For Pope Francis, a year of reform and evangelization

March 13th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As leader of the universal church, a pope must direct his ministry in both of the ways traditionally described by the Latin terms “ad intra” and “ad extra”: inwardly to the church itself, and outwardly to the rest of the world.

Pope Francis has accordingly spent the first year of his pontificate pursuing two ambitious projects: revitalizing the church’s efforts at evangelization and reforming the church’s central administration.

Pope Francis holds a monstrance containing the Eucharist as he leads Benediction during the World Youth Day vigil on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 27, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As he wrote in his first apostolic exhortation in November, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Catholics must go out into the world to share their faith with “enthusiasm and vitality,” not “like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”

He wrote that the church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” namely, the “saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

With his affable, informal manner and simple language, Pope Francis has focused on a message of mercy, forgiveness and concern for the poor. He has taken largely for granted those elements of church teaching, including sexual and medical ethics, that contemporary culture tends to reject as censorious and intolerant. He has thus elicited extraordinary levels of curiosity and good will far beyond the ranks of practicing Catholics around the world.

At the same time, the pope has carried out an all-but-explicit electoral mandate to reform the Vatican bureaucracy. A major topic of discussion at the cardinals’ meetings before the March 2013 papal conclave was the previous year’s controversy over published revelations of corruption and incompetence in the Roman Curia and Vatican City State.

Pope Francis has moved swiftly in this area, launching investigations of the Vatican’s accounting practices and the Vatican bank, expanding the reach of Vatican City laws against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, establishing a new office to supervise Vatican finances under an oversight board that includes laypeople and setting in motion a constitutional overhaul of the entire curia.

One might have predicted some tension, if not conflict, between these two goals: preaching the Gospel with renewed zeal and energy to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics (and 5.9 billion others), while transforming the highly traditional bureaucratic culture of an enclave with fewer than 3,000 employees in Rome.

The demands of governing the Vatican have presumably played a role in Pope Francis’ choice to spend little time away. For a pope who stresses the need to evangelize and serve those on society’s “peripheries,” he has spent far more time than either of his predecessors within the Vatican’s walls.

Blessed John Paul visited 129 countries outside of Italy during his 26-year papacy, pioneering the role of the pope as globetrotting evangelist. Even the less peripatetic Pope Benedict XVI took as many as five international trips in a single year.

Pope Francis has taken one international trip so far, to Brazil in July, and his planned pastoral trips for 2014  to the Holy Land and South Korea will be relatively short, only three and five days long, respectively.

Yet, he has hardly cut himself off from his global flock. With the highly quotable expressions and spontaneous gestures that have made him an instant television and social media star, Pope Francis has proved he can grab the world’s attention without leaving St. Peter’s Square.

The pope’s ad intra and ad extra commitments are not merely compatible; they actively reinforce each other.

It is not hard to see how reforming the Vatican’s handling of money should bolster the cause of evangelization, especially the ministry to the poor on which the pope has placed such emphasis.

By the same token, much of Pope Francis’ preaching — particularly his warnings against clericalism, careerism and materialism among priests — obviously applies all the more urgently to his closest collaborators in the Vatican.

Most effectively, with his simplicity of life and extraordinary accessibility, the pope himself serves as the foremost model of both the evangelical poverty and the ecclesiastical service he preaches. In the process he is leading Catholics to a conclusion many will find remarkable: that even the church’s most exalted institutions should be open to them.


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Former student in Argentina recalls life lessons from the future pope

March 13th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As some high school teachers may know, it can be a challenge to get a room full of rowdy teenage boys to learn, much less be interested in, the required class curriculum.

But a 28-year-old Pope Francis survived and succeeded when he taught literature at the Jesuit-run School of the Immaculate Conception in Santa Fe, Argentina, according to a former student.

Jorge Milia, today an Argentine writer, reveals in a lengthy interview then-Father Jorge Bergoglio’s approach to education and teaching methods, which also shed light on his pastoral style as pope.

A pilgrim waves Argentina’s flag as Pope Francis leaves his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican last month. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“We were a group of rebellious adolescents, in full hormonal turmoil, hankering and hungry for anything new,” he said. “We had no desire to study.”

But Father Bergoglio knew how to handle the chaos, Milia said. The Jesuit loved “to pose challenges” and thrash out new ways of encouraging them to do the work.

He’d break up a more cumbersome piece of reading with a snippet of poetry “that moved everyone of us so much that, 50 years later, many of us still remember the whole thing by heart.”

His signature style was one of accompaniment, Milia said.

Father Bergoglio exuded genuine “wonder when discovering some image hidden in the passage of a text” and was able to transmit to others that same awe and passion for the magic of literature.

“His ability to read Italian and German also offered an interesting range” of material and perspective, Milia said.

The future pope walked through the material together with the students, getting them to participate and find their way, guiding them with suggestions and explanations rather than like the “typical teacher, who orchestrates and dictates,” Milia said.

The future pope helped shore up their self-confidence and build new skills by making the students: take turns at teaching a class; explore creative writing; spend the summer cataloguing the school library; and experience teamwork and foster team spirit by putting on plays, he said.

“He gave importance and support to whoever ventured an in-depth pursuit on their own,” Milia said.

He made them read existentialist and leftist writers, “not to propose them as an example” to follow, but to parse their opinions, “analyze them, break them down piece by piece” so the students would be able to “examine any kind of argument” and never be “hoodwinked.”

“His unwavering vocation (was) to not let us founder, to entrust us with concrete goals, to convince us what counted was working methodically, every day and not trying just to wing it.”

The students always went to Father Bergoglio for help and support, he said, adding, “We knew we could tell him any kind of problem and be absolutely certain that he would help us find a solution.”

For example, a group of students wanted to form a Beatles cover band. Milia said they went to the priest, who “listened with interest” and reminded them if they wanted something, they’d have to work hard for it.

Bit by bit, with the priest’s support, the students got hold of the instruments, sound equipment, sheet music and practice space they needed, and “The Shouters” was formed.

Milia said the same open-door policy Father Bergoglio had with students, he had with their parents, devoting time and attention to the mothers and fathers who wanted to follow up and check on their children’s progress.

Milia said his own parents were especially grateful to the young priest “for knowing how to deal with me. I was an unruly adolescent. He didn’t try to limit my exuberance, but sought to channel it in a positive way, giving it structure” and purpose.

Father Bergoglio actually flunked Milia in literature his senior year, he said, “even though I was a member of the Academy of Literature” and a co-author of a collection of short stories.

The former student said he had failed to hand in an assignment and study for the test. Even though he did OK on the final, his grade average was poor.

“Deep down, I was asking for it, and this didn’t make him happy at all,” he said.

The Jesuit teacher wanted the students to understand the importance of diligent, dedicated work and being responsible. Being called out on his poor attitude and lack of effort was something “I’ll always be grateful to him for,” Milia said.


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‘Here we are’ — Francis’ top 10 quotes from his first year as pope

March 13th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In his formal documents, many speeches and unscripted morning homilies the past year, Pope Francis has given the church a bounty of memorable sound bites.

Here’s a look at what could be the top 10 most quotable quotes.

Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish on the outskirts of Rome last month. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

• “Brothers and sisters, good evening. You all know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him… but here we are.” (First words as pope: March 13, 2013)

• “The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.” (First Angelus as pope, March 17, 2013)

• “This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad, sad priests, in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with ‘the odor of the sheep.’ This I ask you: Be shepherds, with the ‘odor of the sheep,’ make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.” (Chrism Mass, March 28, 2013).

• “Ask yourselves this question: How often is Jesus inside and knocking at the door to be let out, to come out? And we do not let him out because of our own need for security, because so often we are locked into ephemeral structures that serve solely to make us slaves and not free children of God.” (Pentecost vigil, May 18, 2013).

• “Men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’ If a computer breaks it is a tragedy, but poverty, the needs and dramas of so many people end up being considered normal. … When the stock market drops 10 points in some cities, it constitutes a tragedy. Someone who dies is not news, but lowering income by 10 points is a tragedy! In this way people are thrown aside as if they were trash.” (General audience, June 5, 2013).

• “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.” (“Lumen Fidei,” June 29, 2013).

• “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? … The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies.” (News conference during flight from Brazil to Rome, July 28, 2013).

• “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” Nov. 24, 2013).

• “Gossip can also kill, because it kills the reputation of the person. It is so terrible to gossip. At first it may seem like a nice thing, even amusing, like enjoying a candy. But in the end, it fills the heart with bitterness, and even poisons us.” (Angelus, Feb. 16, 2014).

• “The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife, and let’s not talk about the perfect mother-in-law. It’s just us sinners.” A healthy family life requires frequent use of three phrases: “May I? Thank you, and I’m sorry” and “never, never, never end the day without making peace.” (Meeting with engaged couples, Feb. 14, 2014).


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Our Lenten Journey: Thursday, March 13, 2014

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Diocesan reports on family life surveys indicate lack of understanding of church teachings

March 7th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A handful of U.S. bishops have released some results of public responses to a survey for the Vatican in preparation for the upcoming synod on the family.

Several U.S. bishops wrote short reports for the public giving a general sense of the responses. The material was to be submitted to the Vatican by the end of January.

Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., said there are pastoral results from the survey on family life “which we can attend to and I hope we will.” (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Among the comments in common with many of the brief reports was that Catholics admit to a poor understanding of the church’s teachings on the family.

Father Dennis Gill, director of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship and coordinator of the project, told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website, that the church has its educational work cut out for it. He said the nearly 900 responses to the survey showed poor knowledge of Catholic teaching.

“One thing we did learn was that we have to be much more proactive,” he said. “We cannot just depend on church teaching filtering through the cracks. We need to have an evangelical (aggressiveness) to putting on the table just what we believe on all these issues.”

What is needed, Father Gill said, is not simply a renewed effort to present church teaching in the same ways. “Somehow the Gospel has to be presented in a way that is compelling, engaging, insisting on a response,” he said.

In one of the more thorough reports, Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., posted a detailed blog with highlights and put on his diocesan Web page an 18-page summary of the results of more than 6,800 responses from the public.

Among Bishop Lynch’s observations in his blog were that it “is impossible to share in a medium such as this is all of the free-form comments which I would characterize as serious, lacking in polemics, sincere, and reflecting little of the polarity which exists in the church today. I am very proud of what was said, how it was said and who said it.”

Even before the October extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, Bishop Lynch said, “there are pastoral results from the survey which we can attend to and I hope we will.”

For instance, he said, “I have made it known that I will not tolerate any discrimination or anything which smacks of the punitive to children of same-sex couples. I think all representatives of the church’s many ministries can be kinder, gentler, more welcoming and less judgmental of those who find our praxis and preaching on marriage and family life to be at odds with their experiences.”

Bishop Lynch said that it’s clear the church needs to help people understand “that divorce itself is not something which bans a person from reception of the sacraments and that annulments do not ‘illegitimize’ children born of previous marriages.” Addressing such issues can help the process of healing for many within the church, he said.

All bishops around the world were asked to complete the 39-item questionnaire and encouraged to seek input from the people of their dioceses about the responses. In some dioceses, that resulted in the survey itself or a reworked version of the key questions being posted online for public response.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, for example, put the whole questionnaire up for public participation, using the online SurveyMonkey site.

While many dioceses in the U.S. encouraged the public to weigh in on the questionnaire, fewer have released more than limited explanations of the results. Bishop Lynch’s posts and a similar-sized report by Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik were among the most detailed. Some individual bishops and some entire bishops conferences said they would not be releasing details at the request of the Vatican.

In both the Pittsburgh and St. Petersburg dioceses, the largest number of responses came from people who are over age 50, married and who attend Mass weekly or more often.

In his introduction to the report published online and in the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper, Bishop Zubik said the bottom line he took away from about 3,000 responses was “we must throw open the doors, windows, websites and all means of modern communication to connect with all families and truly listen to their hopes and hurts. It is important that we, with greater intensity and intentionality, support families in these challenging times. God created the family. He loves every member of every family. We must do no less as the church.”

The Pittsburgh report observed that the church’s teaching on the family is “known by few and therefore not put into practice by the vast majority of Catholics.”

It said some of the difficulties are cultural, for instance that children and parents are involved in separate activities that limit common experiences of prayer, meals, recreation and dialogue.

“Catholic parents and children are often isolated from one another not only in the family home but in the community as well because Catholic families do not often interact with other Catholic families,” the Pittsburgh report said. “Catholics who live and practice the faith have become a minority in the United States even within the wider Catholic community. There is a greater need to foster family peer ministry: family-to-family faith sharing, service activities and prayer.”

Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski of Metuchen, N.J., also had a big response to the online survey, with nearly 6,000 participants, he said in a letter of thanks to people for answers that “went the extra mile.”

“Your responses were thoughtful, honest, forthright, detailed and personal,” Bishop Bootkoski said. “I assure you that your voices were heard.”

He said he was moved and inspired by “the personal accounts of suffering and pain, as well as joy and fulfillment, that many of you shared,” including “some of your most intimate life experiences and critical encounters with the church and her people.”

Bishop Bootkoski said that in addition to helping the universal church at the synod, he believes the insights generated by the survey will have a long and lasting local impact.


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Viewpoint: What can we give up for Lent in order to enrich others?

March 7th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,


“As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community.” Here in the first sentence of his Lenten message, Pope Francis gives us a needed reminder that we are called to walk on the “path of conversion.”

A man prays during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Andrew’s Church in the Manhattan borough of New York March 5. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the penitential season of Lent, a time of reflection, prayer, fasting and charity before Easter. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

But conversion is not a once and for all done deal. It is a lifelong journey. We must remember that we are a work in progress. We need to keep in mind and heart the challenge put before us on Ash Wednesday: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

As individuals, church and nation, we are called by God to turn away from all evil. Sins like pride, greed, lust, indifference, nationalism, consumerism, secularism, anger, abortion, violence and war must give way to the central Gospel virtue of love – love for all, including our enemies. And our love must have a preferential concern for the vulnerable and poor.

“Charity, love” writes the pope, “is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us.”

The Holy Father teaches that “The logic of the incarnation and the cross” is “God’s logic, the logic of love.”

The pope writes, “It is striking that the Apostle [Paul] states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. …

“What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us.”

“In imitation of our Master,” writes Pope Francis, “we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope.”

The pope teaches that there are three types of destitution. The first type is material destitution – normally called poverty – affects “those living in conditions opposed to human dignity.”

Pope Francis warns against making power, luxury and money our idols. He urges us not to let these idols take priority over the need to have everyone benefit from a fair distribution of wealth.

But sadly, fair distribution of wealth is not the case in the U.S. or throughout most of the world.

The pope challenges our consciences to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

“No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin,” adds the pope.

Finally, there is spiritual destitution which occurs when we turn away from God.

The Holy Father writes, “If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us. …

“Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty,” writes Pope Francis.

“Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”


Tony Magliano is a syndicated social justice and peace columnist who lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.

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Francis once had a pet parrot… And nine other things you might not know about the pope


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran walked onto the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, telling the crowds in Latin: “I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope!” not many people recognized the name of then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now, just one year since his March 13, 2013, election, there are still many things most people do not know about the 265th successor of Peter.

Pope Francis holds a parrot handed to him by a pilgrim during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Here is a list of 10 things people should know about Pope Francis. He:

1. Has a way with birds: Pope Francis expertly handled a white dove and a green parrot during different general audiences in St. Peter’s Square. According to the pope’s sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio, the future pope had a parrot when he was in the seminary. And because he loved to play jokes, she said, “I wouldn’t put it past him that he taught the little beast a swear word or two instead of how to pray.”

2. Has colorful work experience on his resume: In addition to having worked sweeping floors in a factory and running tests in a chemical laboratory as a teenager, the pope also used to work as a bouncer. Later, when he was no longer kicking troublemakers out of clubs, he taught high school literature and psychology, which, he said, helped him discover the secret to bringing people back … to church.

3. Was a Jesuit Oskar Schindler: When then-Father Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit province in Argentina, he ran a clandestine network that sheltered or shuttled to safety people whose lives were in danger during the nation’s murderous military-backed dictatorship.

According to witnesses, the future pope never let on to anyone what he was doing, and those who were helping him find rides or temporary housing for “guests” never realized they had been part of his secret strategy until years later.

4. Is a homebody with missionary zeal: Even though he has traveled extensively, the future pope considers himself “a homebody” who easily gets homesick. However, he wanted to join the Society of Jesus because of its image as being “on the frontlines” for the church and its work in mission lands.

He wanted to serve as a missionary in Japan, but he said his superiors wouldn’t let him because they were concerned about his past health problems.

5. Has an achy back: When the pope was 21, the upper half of his right lung was removed after cysts caused a severe lung infection. While that episode never caused him further health problems, he said his current complaint is sciatica.

The worst thing to happen in his first month as pope was “an attack of sciatica,” he said. “I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt. Sciatica is very painful, very painful. I don’t wish it on anyone.”

6. Was the strongest contender behind then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave. If the Argentine had been elected pontiff then, he would have chosen the name John after Blessed John XXIII and taken his inspiration from “the Good Pope,” according to Italian Cardinal Francesco Marchisano.

However, during the 2013 conclave, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes told the newly elected pope, “Don’t forget the poor,” and that, the pope said, is when it struck him to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.”

7. Starts his day at 4:30 a.m. “I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the rosary,” he has said. His workday includes reading letters, cards, documents and reports as well as meeting cardinals, bishops, priests and laypeople. He eats lunch between noon and 1 p.m., then rests for about 30 minutes before returning to work.

But his favorite part of the day is eucharistic adoration in the evening, when he often falls asleep in prayer. “Between 7 and 8 o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day,” he said.

8. Can juggle a lot of plates: Jesuit Father Juan Carlos Scannone, the pope’s friend and former professor of Greek and literature, said the pope is “a one-man band” who can juggle many different tasks at the same time.

“Once I saw him writing an article on the typewriter, then go do his laundry, then received someone who needed spiritual guidance. Spiritual work, a technician and a manual laborer all at the same time and with the same high quality,” the priest said.

9. Travels light: When he boarded the papal plane for Brazil last July, people were stunned the pope was carting around his own carry-on bag. What’s inside? “It wasn’t the key for the atom bomb,” he told journalists. “There was a razor, a breviary, an appointment book, a book to read, I brought one about St. Therese, to whom I have a devotion. I have always taken a bag with me when traveling; it’s normal.”

10. Had his “hog” help the homeless: Pope Francis briefly owned what became the most expensive 21st-century Harley-Davidson motorbike in the world. Though he prefers walking and cheaper car models, Harley-Davidson gave him a brand new Dyna Super Glide in June that the pope autographed and put up for auction, raising a hefty $326,000 for a Rome soup kitchen and homeless shelter.


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Pope Francis defines ‘true fasting’ on this first Friday of Lent

March 7th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis criticized those who practice fasting as a mere ritual, rather than as a sacrifice representative of a religion of love.

The pope made his remarks March 7, the first Friday of Lent, in his homily at morning Mass in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives.

People receive food rations at a community soup kitchen in a Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb. 13. Pope Francis says the best way of fasting is caring for the needy. (CNS photo/Enrique Marcarian, Reuters)

“These hypocritical people are good persons,” he said, referring to the Pharisees who criticized Jesus and his followers for not fasting as required by Jewish law. “They do all they should do. They seem good. But they are ethicists without goodness because they have lost the sense of belonging to a people.”

True fasting entails sharing goods with the needy, Pope Francis said, according to a report by Vatican Radio.

“This is the charity or fasting that our Lord wants,” he said. “This is the mystery of the body and blood of Christ. It means sharing our bread with the hungry, taking care of the sick, the elderly, those who can’t give us anything in return: This is not being ashamed of the flesh.”

The pope called on Christians to follow the example of the good Samaritan, drawing close to the beneficiaries of their charity in an act of true fraternity.

“When I give alms, do I look into the eyes of my brother, my sister?” he asked. “Am I capable of giving a caress or a hug to the sick, the elderly, the children, or have I lost sight of the meaning of a caress?

“These hypocrites were unable to give a caress,” the pope said. “We will be judged by the way we behave toward this brother, this sister.”


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