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God dreams big and ‘calls us by name,’ Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual’s pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said.

“He calls us by name and tells us, ‘Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,’” the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John’s account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb.

She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love.

In Mary Magdalene’s case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ’s death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.

Just as she is weeping near the tomb, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the pope said, even though she is stubbornly “blind” to recognizing the two angels and the Risen Christ.

Eventually, he said, “she discovers the most earth-shattering event in human history when she is finally called by name.”

“How beautiful it is to think that the first appearance of the Risen One, according to the Gospels, happened in such a personal way. That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and disappointment,” whose heart breaks “for us and who calls us by name,” he said.

Reading the Gospels, one can see how many people seek God, he said, “but the most extraordinary fact is that God was there in the first place,” long before, watching, worrying and wanting to bring relief.

Each and every person “is a story of love that God has written on this earth,” the pope said. “Each one of us is a story of God’s love” and he patiently waits and forgives each person.

Hearing God call her name revolutionized Mary Magdalene’s life just as it will revolutionize and transform the life of every man and woman, he said.

Christ’s resurrection brings a joy that does not come in dribs and drabs “with an eyedropper,” he said, but as “a waterfall” that will envelop one’s whole life.

The life of a Christian isn’t pervaded by “soft bliss, but by waves that knock everything over,” Pope Francis said. Think about it right now, he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “With the baggage of disappointments and defeat that each one of us carries in our heart, there is a God near us, calling us by name,” he said.

This God is not “inert,” he doesn’t bend to the whims of the world, and he will not let death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people have the last word.

“Our God,” the pope said, “is a dreamer, who dreams of the transformation of the world and achieved it with the mystery of the resurrection.”

The pope prayed that St. Mary Magdalene would help people listen to Jesus calling their name as they weep and mourn, and that they then venture forth with hearts filled with joy, proclaiming his living presence to others.

Having witnessed the Lord, “is our strength and our hope,” he said.

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Why be afraid when God always shows the way, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians always have hope, no matter how bleak, bad or uncertain the journey, because they know God is always by their side, Pope Francis said.

In fact, “even crossing parts of the world (that are) wounded, where things are not going well, we are among those who, even there, continue to hope,” he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 26.

Pope Francis reaches for his zucchetto as a gust of wind lifts it off his head during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis reaches for his zucchetto as a gust of wind lifts it off his head during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Just a few days before his visit to Cairo April 28-29, the pope continued his series of talks on the nature of Christian hope, saying it is rooted in knowing God will always be present, even to the end of time.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, he said, begins with the birth of Jesus as Emmanuel, “God with us,” and ends with the risen Christ telling his doubtful disciples to go forth and teach all nations, assuring them that “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

The apostle shows how “ours is not an absent God, sequestered in a faraway heaven. Instead he is a God impassioned with mankind,” so tenderly in love that he is unable to stay away, the pope said.

Human beings are the ones who are really good at cutting off ties and destroying bridges, not God, he said.

“If our hearts get cold, his remains incandescent,” the pope said. “Our God always accompanies us even if, through misfortune, we were to forget about him.”

In fact, the decisive moment between skepticism and faith is “the discovery of being loved and accompanied by our Father,” the pope said.

Life is a pilgrimage, a journey in which “the seduction of the horizon” is always calling the human “wandering soul,” pushing people to go and explore the unknown, he said.

“You do not become mature men and women if you cannot perceive the allure of the horizon, that boundary between heaven and earth that asks to be reached” by those who are on the move, he said.

Christians never feel alone “because Jesus assures us he not only waits for us at the end of our long journey, but accompanies us every day,” even through dark and troubled times, he said.

God will always be concerned and take care of his children, even to the end of all time, he said. “And why does he do this? Quite simply because he loves us.”

The pope said the anchor is one of his favorite symbols of hope.

“Our life is anchored in heaven,” he said, which means “we move on because we are sure that our life has an anchor in heaven” and the rope “is always there” to grab onto.

So if God has promised “he will never abandon us, if the beginning of every vocation is a ‘Follow me,’ with which he assures us of always staying before us, why be afraid then?” the pope asked. “With this promise, Christians can walk everywhere,” even in the worst, darkest places.

“It’s precisely there where darkness has taken over that a light needs to stay lit.”

Those who believe only in themselves and their own powers will feel disappointed and defeated, he said, “because the world often proves itself to be resistant to the laws of love” and prefers “the laws of selfishness.”

Jesus promising “I am with you always” is what keeps the faithful standing tall with hope, believing that God is good and working to achieve what seems humanly impossible.

“There is no place in the world that can escape the victory of the risen Christ, the victory of love,” the pope said.

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Pope Francis: Real Christian hope is rooted in faith

March 30th, 2017 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hope is not built on people’s predictions, assurances or line of reasoning, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Real Christian hope “is not based on our word, but on God’s Word” and promises of salvation and eternal life, the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 29.

Continuing a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope, the pope looked at how Abraham’s faith is held up as a model for everyone in the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (4:16-25).

Despite all logic — Abraham was old and his wife infertile — Abraham “believed, hoping against hope that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’” which shows how faith is so closely connected to hope, the pope said.

“Our hope is not based on human reasoning, predictions and assurances,” he said; real hope arises “where there is no more hope, where there is nothing left to hope for.”

True hope “is rooted in faith and, precisely for this reason, it is able to go beyond all hope” because it is built on faith in God and his promise, he said.

“This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest part,” he said, because from a human point of view, that promise seems “unsure and unforeseeable.”

Looking at the people gathered for the general audience, the pope asked them if they really believed in God’s love for them and his promise of eternal life.

“There is only one price” to be paid for this, he said. “Opening your heart. Open your hearts and God’s power will carry you forward. He will do miraculous things and he will teach you what hope is.”

Just “open your heart to faith and he will do the rest,” he added.

Mary, too, believed in the unbelievable when the angel told her she would become the mother of God, the pope said in remarks to pilgrims from Arabic-speaking countries, particularly Iraq.

Like Mary, they are called to embrace that which they do not understand God is doing, and to open their hearts and minds to him, so that his will may be done, he said.

He later launched an appeal for more to be done to protect civilians in Iraq, reaffirming his prayers for civilians trapped in parts of Mosul and those displaced by war.

The pope also greeted a delegation of Iraqi authorities representing Shiites and Sunnis, and one representing Christians and other religious minorities, who were accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“The richness of the beloved Iraqi nation lies precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, the strength of union, prosperity in harmony,” the pope said.

He encouraged them to continue their efforts and invited people to pray that “Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity through reconciliation and harmony among its diverse ethnic and religious communities.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Pope holds Christmas audience with Vatican employees, families

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity, his son, Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God's gift to humanity -- his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity — his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Also be sure to thank God for the gift of employment and pray for all those who are jobless or experience injustice and exploitation at work, he told Vatican employees during a special audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Dec. 22.

As Christmas carols in multiple languages played over the public announcement system, many children offered small gifts or notes to the pope, who celebrated his 80th birthday Dec. 17. Some people wore colorful Christmas sweaters, or others, including one small baby, had on red Santa Claus hats.

Multiple generations were present, with employees allowed to bring their parents, grandparents, children and newborns. Families whose members had special needs were seated in the front and were each greeted personally by the pope after the audience. The pope’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, alternated between providing security and doing cellphone-camera duty when he obliged people’s requests to take their picture with the pope.

The pope continued a tradition he began in 2014 of inviting people who work at the Vatican, along with their family members and loved ones, to receive pre-Christmas greetings. The now-annual meeting follows a longer-held tradition of the pope meeting with members of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administrative offices, as well as cardinals living in Rome and members of the papal household.

Pope Francis thanked the Vatican employees, most of them laypeople, for their hard work and dedication, recognizing that the small size of Vatican City often made coordination and cooperation a lot easier.

“We always have to thank God” for the gift of employment, he said, which is important for an individual’s well-being and entire families, he said.

He then asked for prayers for all those around the world, “who do not have work, or else, who often do jobs that are inappropriate, poorly paid or harmful to one’s health.”

The pope requested that everyone, according to their responsibilities, make sure jobs respected people’s dignity and their families and followed the Catholic Church’s social teaching.

The Vatican, above all, he said, must follow these Gospel guidelines, which also meant doing nothing deceitful or illegal in its employment arrangements — “nothing under the table.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @carolglatz.

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Everyone experiences doubts about the faith at times, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Everyone experiences doubts about the faith at times. “I have” many times, Pope Francis said, but such doubts can be “a sign that we want to know God better and more deeply.” Read more »

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Pope calls Christians to attract people to Christ, not proselytize

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to follow the example of St. Therese of Lisieux, who helped draw people to Jesus by way of attraction, not by proselytizing, Pope Francis said.

She was a reminder that an authentic witness is proclaimed through a union with Christ “in prayer, adoration and in concrete charity, which is serving Jesus, who is present in the least of our brothers and sisters,” he said Oct. 5 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from China during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets pilgrims from China during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Among the estimated 25,000 in St. Peter’s Square were 33 former prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, whom he greeted after the audience and posed for pictures.

Addressing the former prisoners and Polish pilgrims present, he said the day’s feast of St. Faustina Kowalska “reminded the world that God is rich in mercy and that his love is more powerful than death, than sin and every evil.”

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis reflected on his Sept. 30-Oct. 2 visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, which, along with his visit in June to Armenia, fulfilled his desire to encourage the Catholic communities in the Caucasus region, he said.

Recalling the Oct. 1 Mass in Tbilisi celebrating the feast of St. Therese, the patroness of the missions, the pope said, “This is what the religious men and women I met in Tbilisi do, as well as in Baku: They do it with prayer and charitable works. I encouraged them to be steadfast in the faith with memory, courage and hope.”

Although both countries celebrated the 25th anniversary of their independence from the Soviet regime, they still “face numerous difficulties in different aspects of social life” and the Catholic Church, in collaboration with other churches and Christian communities are called to be “a sign of charity and human development, he said.

“In Georgia, this mission naturally passes through the collaboration with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who form the vast majority of the populations,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said a “very important sign” of this collaboration was the presence of Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II at the airport upon his arrival as well as their meeting at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which houses the seamless tunic of Jesus, a garment the pope described as a “symbol of unity of the church.”

“This unity is supported by the blood of so many martyrs of different Christian confessions. Among the most tested are the Assyrian-Chaldeans in Tbilisi with whom I lived an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, Iraq and in the whole Middle East,” the pope said.

The witness of love and unity given by religious men and women as well as Christian families in Georgia was also witnessed in Azerbaijan. Although the majority of the population is Muslim, he said, they share a good relationship with the small Catholic community there and “maintain fraternal ties with Orthodox Christians.”

Pope Francis said the celebration of the Eucharist and the interreligious meeting in Baku were proof that “faith knows how to maintain the right relationship” between different faiths and expressed his hope that through this unity, the people of the Caucasus may “live in peace and mutual respect.”

The Eucharist is “where the spirit harmonizes different languages and gives the strength of witness” which creates communion in Christ and drives Christians to “seek an encounter and dialogue with all who believe in God, to build together a more just and fraternal world,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope calls for prayers for Syrian victims of terrorist attacks

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pray for victims of recent terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal.

At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit “beloved Syria” May 23, causing the death of “defenseless civilians.”

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian targets, which included a hospital.

Before leading the “Hail Mary,” the pope asked that everyone pray for the “eternal repose of the victims, solace for the relatives” and that God would “convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction.”

Also at the audience, the pope marked International Missing Children’s Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise people’s awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children.

“It is the duty of everyone to protect children, most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant behaviors,” the pope said.

He said he hoped civil and religious leaders could “rattle” people’s consciences and raise awareness so that no one would be indifferent to the problem of children who are “alone, exploited and removed from their families and social context, children who cannot grow up in peace and look to the future with hope.”

He invited everyone to pray that every missing child would be “returned to the affection of their own loved ones.”

According to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 8 million children around the world go missing every year. These children face increased danger of falling victim to abuse, exploitation and illegal activities, it said.

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Pope: Living out one’s faith is useless without a repentant heart

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Without a repentant heart, Christians can risk living out their faith superficially and fail to live out God’s desire for “mercy, not sacrifice,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Instead, Jesus’ love for sinners shows that the church is not “a community of perfect people, but disciples on a path who follow the Lord because they recognize themselves as sinners and in need of his forgiveness,” the pope said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 13.

Jesus’ mission is “to search for each one of us, to heal our wounds and call us to follow him with love,” he said.

The pope reflected on the Gospel passage, which recounted Jesus calling Matthew to follow him despite the fact he was a tax collector and considered a sinner by the people.

Jesus, he said, did not rebuke him for his past but dines with him and “opens up a new future.”

“There is no saint without a past and there is not sinner without a future. This is beautiful; this is what Jesus does,” he said.

However, like the scribes and Pharisees, there is also the temptation for Christians to fall into pride and arrogance and believe themselves better than others. For Christ, no sinner is excluded because “God’s healing power knows no sickness that cannot be cured,” the pope said.

Jesus, he added, was not afraid of talking to sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, thus revealing the true meaning behind the prophet Hosea’s call for “mercy, not sacrifice.”

“Those Pharisees were very religious in practice, but were unable to share a table with tax collectors and sinners,” he said. “While being faithful guardians of the law, they had no knowledge of God’s heart.”

Pope Francis called on the faithful to “look with mercy” upon others while reminding them that “we are all disciples in need of experiencing and living the comforting words of Jesus.”

“We all need to be nourished by the mercy of God because our salvation comes from this source,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Humble service, now ‘that’s amore,’ pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Serving others, helping them without making a show of it, “that’s amore,” Pope Francis said.

“Amore,” or love, “is the concrete service we render to one another,” the pope said March 12 during a special general audience for the Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a jubilee audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 12. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead a jubilee audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 12. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“Love isn’t words, but works and service, a humble service performed in silence” without seeking acclaim, the pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The audience began with the reading of St. John’s account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, which Pope Francis said was “an unexpected and moving gesture, so much so that Peter did not want to accept it.”

Jesus told the disciples that if he, their lord, washed their feet, they must do the same for others. “In this way Jesus indicates service as the path to follow if they want to live their faith in him and give witness to his love,” the pope said.

“Washing the apostles’ feet,” he said, “Jesus wanted to reveal the way God acts toward us and give an example of his new commandment of loving one another as he loved us, that is, by giving his life for us.”

Loving service also involves placing the gifts God has given one at the service of the community so it can grow, he said, but it also is expressed “in the sharing of material goods so that no one is in need.”

Members of other religions, he said, also see “this sharing and dedication to those in need” as a command of God and a path of true humanity.

“When you forget yourself and think of others, that’s love,” Pope Francis said. “And with the washing of feet, the Lord teaches us to be servants.”

To be “merciful like the Father,” which is the theme of the Year of Mercy, means “to follow Jesus on the path of service,” the pope said.

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Pope Francis: The church needs this Holy Year of Mercy

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church needs the extraordinary Holy Year to become an effective witness of God’s divine mercy, Pope Francis said.

“The jubilee is a favorable time for all of us, so that in contemplating divine mercy, which surpasses every human limitation and shines in the darkness of sin, we may become more convinced and effective witnesses,” the pope said Dec. 9 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus as he begins his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 9. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis presents a rose at an icon of Mary and the child Jesus as he begins his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 9. (CNS /Paul Haring)

One day after inaugurating the Year of Mercy, the pope dedicated his audience talk to the significance he hopes the year will have for the church saying that it is a time to experience the “sweet and gentle touch” of God’s forgiveness and his presence in difficult times.

“In short, this jubilee is a privileged moment,” he said, “so that the church may learn to choose only that which pleases God most”: forgiveness and mercy.

The Bible says that God saw the world, the planets and the animals he created and called them “good,” but when he looked at the man and woman he fashioned, he pronounced them “very good.”

The 4th-century doctor of the church “St. Ambrose would ask himself: ‘But why does it say very good? Why does it say that God is so happy after the creation of man and woman,’” the pope said. “In the end, it was because he had someone to forgive. This is beautiful! To forgive is God’s joy; the being of God is mercy. For this reason, in this year, we should open our hearts so that this love, this joy of God may fill us with this mercy.”

The work of reforming the church’s institutions and structures, he noted, also offers a living experience of God’s mercy that allows it to shine forth in the world. Without mercy, the pope said, any reform would be in vain because “we would become slaves of our institutions and our structures. No matter how renewed they may be, we would always be slaves.”

Only mercy can truly contribute to a “more human world,” the pope said, particularly at a time where forgiveness is “a rare guest in the areas of human life.” While some may believe that the church has more important objectives, he said, rediscovering divine mercy and forgiveness is essential to avoid falling into self-love, which can often be “disguised in Christian life as hypocrisy and worldliness.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of recognizing one’s sins during the Holy Year in order to “strengthen within us the certainty of divine mercy.”

“’Lord, I am a sinner. Come with your mercy.’ This is beautiful prayer and it’s very easy to say every day. ‘Lord I am a sinner. Come with your mercy,’” he said.

 

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