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World needs those who can bring God’s hope, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is built on patiently enduring everything life brings and knowing how to see God’s presence and love everywhere, Pope Francis said.

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God “never tires of loving us” as he “takes care of us, dressing our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy, meaning, he consoles us and he never tires of consoling us,” the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 22.

The pope also invited all Catholics to “rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation” during the Lenten season. The pope asked people to make time for confession to “experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the father,” who welcomes and forgives everyone.

During his main audience talk, the pope continued a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope. In the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (15:1-5), he said that it is “by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

This endurance or perseverance, the pope said, is the patient ability to remain faithful and steadfast even when dealing with the most unbearable burdens. It is persevering even when “we would be tempted to judge unfavorably and give up on everything and everyone.”

The encouragement or consolation St. Paul talks about, the pope said, is “the grace to know how to grasp and show the presence and compassionate action of God in every situation, even in one greatly marked by disappointment and suffering.”

When St. Paul says, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak,” he isn’t separating the Christian community into a special class of those who are “strong” and a group of “second-class citizens” who are weak, the pope said.

In actuality, the strong are those who experience and understand their fragility and know they need the support and comfort of others, he said. And when people are experiencing their fragility and vulnerability, they “can always offer a smile or hand to a brother or sister in need,” showing them strength.

It’s about people offering one another what they can and knowing that the truly strong one is Christ, who takes care of everyone. “In fact, we all need to be carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and to feel surrounded by his tender and caring gaze,” Pope Francis said.

That strength to endure and find encouragement all comes from God and his sacred Scriptures, the pope said, not from one’s own efforts.

The closer people are to God with prayer and reading the Bible, the more they will have the energy and feel the responsibility to go to those in need, “to console them and give them strength.”

The aim of serving others then will not be to feel proud of oneself, he said, but to “please our neighbor for the good, for building up,” as the Apostle Paul says.

People will realize they are “a channel for broadcasting the Lord’s gifts and, in that way, concretely become a sower of hope,” the pope said.

Planting seeds of hope “is needed today. It’s not easy,” Pope Francis said. But with Christ at the center of one’s life, it will be him who “gives us the strength, the patience, the hope and the consolation” needed to live in harmony.

At the end of the general audience, the pope highlighted that the day also marked World Water Day, established by the United Nations 25 years ago.

The pope greeted participants attending the conference, “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome March 22.

He said he was “happy this meeting is taking place” as part of continued joint efforts to raise awareness about “the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone.”

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Pope appeals for aid as famine grips ‘martyred South Sudan’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war.

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

A health worker examines a 4-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition Feb. 13 in Dablual, South Sudan. Pope Francis appealed for humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, where famine threatens the lives of millions of people already suffering due to a three-year civil war. (CNS photo/Nicolas Peissel/EPA)

In the “martyred South Sudan,” he said, “a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a serious food crisis, which has struck the Horn of Africa and condemns millions of people to starve to death, among them many children,” the pope said.

At the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican Feb. 22, the pope said that a solid commitment from the international community to assist South Sudan is crucial.

The United Nations Feb. 21 declared a famine in two counties of South Sudan, adding that the catastrophic food shortages will continue to spread, threatening millions of lives.

Civil war has destabilized the world’s youngest country for more than three years due to a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar.

“This famine is man-made,” said Joyce Luma, director of the U.N. World Food Program.

Despite efforts to hold off the famine, she added, “there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve.”

Pope Francis urged governments and international organizations to “not stop at just making statements,” but take concrete steps so that necessary food aid “can reach the suffering population.”

“May the Lord sustain these, our brothers and sisters, and those who work to help them,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Never lose hope in God’s love, pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must never lose hope and should remind themselves that God loves them even at their worst, Pope Francis said.

God’s love provides “security” both in difficult moments and even when “I have done something terrible and evil,” the pope said Feb. 15 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall  at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

“No one can take this security from us. We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me!” he said.

Among the thousands of pilgrims present at the Paul VI audience hall were numerous student groups from Europe, including several children’s choirs from Italy and Spain.

When greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the pope was interrupted by each choir that broke out in song to greet him.

Despite several ovations, one choir continued singing to the amusement of Pope Francis. He laughed heartily while praising them for their persistence in finishing the entire song.

“When you want something, that’s how you do it. That’s what we should do with prayer; when asking something from the Lord: insist, insist, insist. That is a beautiful example, a beautiful example of prayer,” the pope said off-the-cuff, following his praise of the determined choir group.

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which the apostle says Christians “should boast in hope of the glory of God.”

“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,” St. Paul writes.

The pope said boasting is “surprising” since from a young age, people are taught that boasting reflects “a certain pride” and reveals “a lack of respect for others, especially toward those less fortunate than us.”

“How is it possible to do this without offending, without excluding anyone?” the pope asked.

He explained that Christians are called first to “boast of the abundance of grace we have received in Jesus Christ” by “learning to read everything with the light of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we pay attention, acting, in our history, in our lives, we are not alone, but above all with God. It is he who is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the storyline of his plan of salvation and who fulfills it in us through his son,” the pope said.

By seeing one’s life illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he added, “we are at peace with God and experience freedom.”

However, the pope continued, St. Paul’s second invitation to boast in times of tribulation “is not easy to understand.”

While it may seem to be unrelated with the peace that comes from “boasting of the abundance of grace,” Pope Francis said that peace does not mean the absence of difficulties, but that “God loves us and he is always close to us.”

“It’s easy to say: ‘God loves us,’” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. “But think a little; is each one of us capable of saying: ‘I am sure that God loves me?’ It is not so easy to say, but it is true. This is a good exercise, to tell yourselves, ‘God loves me.’ This is the root of our security, the root of our hope.”

God’s love, he said, nourishes Christian hope that “doesn’t separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize others.”

“Our greatest boast is having, as a father, a God who does not make preferences, who excludes no one, but rather opens his home to all human beings, beginning from the last ones to the far away so that as his children, we learn to console and support one another,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Pope: Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope isn’t about believing in something that may or may not come true, like hoping tomorrow’s weather will be pleasant, Pope Francis said.

“Christian hope is the expectation of something that already has been fulfilled and that certainly will be attained for each one of us,” that is, knowing Christ died and is truly risen so that all of humanity may gain salvation and live together with God, the pope said Feb. 1 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-11) and what it teaches about the Christian belief in life after death.

The early Christian community at Thessaloniki was firm in its belief in Christ’s resurrection, but trusting in one’s own resurrection and the resurrection of loved ones was a bit harder to grasp, the pope said.

Such doubts and uncertainty still exist today as “we all are a little afraid of dying,” he told those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall.

St. Paul, he said, writes words of encouragement, telling Christians to arm themselves against the onslaught of doubt and difficulties by “putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation.”

This kind of hope, the pope said, has nothing to do with wishing for “something nice,” something “that may or may not happen.”

“For example, people say, ‘I hope it will be nice weather tomorrow,’ but we know that it might be terrible weather instead.”

Christian hope isn’t like that, he said. It is belief in “a sure reality” because it is rooted in the real event of Christ’s resurrection and his promise of eternal life with him.

It’s knowing and seeing that “there is a door over there,” he said, pointing to the entryway into the Paul VI audience hall.

“There is a door. I hope to get to the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door. I am sure I will make it to the door. That is what Christian hope is like. Being certain that I am walking” with that destination, he said.

Christian hope is living like an expectant mother, the pope said.

“When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live each day in expectation of seeing her child’s gaze,” he said.

Everyone needs to learn to live each day with this same joyful anticipation – “to live in expectation of gazing at the Lord, of finding the Lord,” he said.

Learning to live in “sure expectation” isn’t easy, but it can be learned, he said.

“A humble, poor heart” knows how to wait, but it is difficult for someone who is “full of himself and his possessions.”

The pope asked everyone to repeat aloud with him St. Paul’s words (1 Thes 4:17) as a way to find peace and consolation, knowing that one day the faithful will be united with God and their loved ones: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

At the end of his main audience talk, the pope greeted members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which seeks to act upon the pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si’” and address climate change.

He thanked them for their dedication to “taking care of our common home during this time of serious social-environmental crisis.”

He encouraged them to continue to expand and strengthen their networks “so that local churches may respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Women are braver than men, take their advice, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The humble counsel of courageous women should never be disregarded but rather embraced as advice full of God’s divine wisdom, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses with members of a musical group during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses with members of a musical group during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Women like the biblical heroine Judith are an example of trusting God amid sufferings and difficulties when it is easy to give up hope and fall into despair, the pope said Jan. 25 during his weekly general audience.

“This is my opinion, but women are more courageous than men,” the pope said to applause.

As the pope arrived for the audience, the sounds of classical music echoed throughout the Paul VI audience hall as a youth orchestra from Bolivia played for the pope.

The Anglican choir of London’s Westminster Abbey and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also were present and greeted the pope at the end of the audience.

Pope Francis focused his audience talk on Judith, “a woman of great beauty and wisdom,” who reproached the people of Israel for their lack of trust in God to deliver them from foreign invaders.

“They were at the point of saying, ‘God has sold us,’” the pope said. “How many times have we come to situations that test our limits where we are not even able to trust in the Lord? It is an ugly temptation.”

Facing a situation full of despair, the pope continued, the people gave God five days to intervene. However, even in prayer they doubted that the Lord would help them.

“Five days are given to God to intervene; this is the sin! Five days of waiting but already expecting the end. In reality, no one among the people is capable of hoping,” he said.

Pope Francis said that in the moment of despair, Judith confronts the people’s doubts with the “courageous language” of faith and hope.

Her courage, he explained, is a reminder for Christians “to knock on the door of God’s heart; he is a father, he can save us. This widow risks (everything), even of making herself look like a fool in front of the others. But she is courageous, she goes forward.”

Christians must “never put conditions on God,” the pope said. Instead, they should allow “hope to conquer our fears.”

“To trust God means entering into his plans without assuming anything” and to believe that “he knows better than us,” the pope said.

The story of Judith exemplifies the importance of the “courageous counsel” of humble women, Pope Francis said. Their words, he added, contain “the wisdom of God” and should never be “dismissed as ignorant.”

“The words of grandmothers, how many times do grandmothers know the right word to say,” the pope said. “They give words of hope because they have the experience of life, they have suffered so much, they trusted in God and the Lord gave them this gift of giving us hopeful advice.”

 

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Prayer brings light of hope in dark times, pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Prayer has the power to awaken hope in men and women, even in the face of death and destruction, Pope Francis said.

People often feel unworthy to turn to God when they are in need “as if it were a self-interested prayer and, thus, imperfect,” the pope said Jan. 18 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis walks near violinists during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis walks near violinists during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“But God knows our weakness; he knows that we remember him to ask for help and, with the indulgent smile of a father, he responds graciously,” he said.

Greeting thousands of people in the Paul VI audience hall, the pope seemed to lose his balance several times as pilgrims clasped his hand and tried pulling him toward them, hoping for a hug or a blessing.

Still, the pope took time to greet people, stopping to bless a pregnant woman’s belly and embracing a young boy in tears, who was overcome with emotion at meeting him.

The audience took place at the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which for 2017 had the theme: “Reconciliation: The love of Christ compels us.”

Addressing the different language groups, the pope prayed that all Christian communities would “be open more to reconciliation” and communion.

“In this same spirit of hope and with gratitude for the progress already made in the ecumenical movement, I ask your prayers for this important intention,” the pope told the English-speaking pilgrims.

During the audience, the pope reflected on the prophet Jonah, a man who first tried to run away from God’s call and initially refused “to place himself at the service of the divine plan of salvation.”

Nevertheless, the story of Jonah is a “great lesson about the mercy of God who forgives,” the pope said.

Jonah fled from his task of preaching salvation to the people of Ninevah who, in the eyes of the Israelites, “deserved to be destroyed, not to be saved,” the pope said. But when a dangerous storm hit, the pagans aboard his ship immediately prayed to their gods; a just reaction in the face of death because only then “man experiences his own frailty and his own need of salvation,” he said.

“The instinctive horror of death awakens the need to hope in the God of life,” the pope said. People think, “‘Perhaps God will think of us and we will not perish.’ These are the words of hope that become a prayer, that plea full of anguish raised by the lips of man in front of an imminent danger of death.”

The storm passed once Jonah accepted his responsibility and asked to be thrown into the sea, the pope continued, which moved the pagans to a sincere fear of God and “to recognize the one true Lord of heaven and earth.”

The people of Ninevah, he added, also had the experience of facing death yet being saved in the end, which led them to know and experience the truth of God’s love.

This experience of God’s divine mercy is a reminder for all men and women to recognize the “surprising occasions of knowing hope and encountering God,” Pope Francis said.

“Prayer brings you to hope,” the pope said. “And when things become dark, with more prayer there will be more hope.”

 

 

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Even complaining to God is a prayer, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To complain to God in moments of doubt and fear like Abraham did is not something bad but rather is a form of prayer that requires the courage to hope beyond all hope, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

While in life there may be times of frustration and darkness, “hope is still there and it moves us forward,” the pope said Dec. 28 during his weekly general audience.

“I won’t say that Abraham loses patience, but he complains to the Lord. This is what we learn from our father Abraham: complaining to the Lord is a form of prayer. Sometimes I hear confessions where people say, ‘I complained to the Lord.’ But no. (Continue) to complain; he is a father and this is a form of prayer. Complain to the Lord, this is good,” he said.

Entering the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. Among those present was a group of performers from Italy’s Golden Circus, who performed several acrobatic feats and entertaining performances at the end of the general audience.

The pope even participated in one of the performances. As he and an illusionist grabbed the ends of a tablecloth, they seemingly made a small nightstand levitate to the amazement and applause of the pilgrims.

During the audience, the pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope and reflected on the life of Abraham who, along with his wife, Sarah, left his homeland with hope in God’s promise of a son.

This hope, he said, gave Abraham the ability to “go beyond human reason, and worldly wisdom and prudence” to believe in the impossible.

“Hope opens new horizons; it makes us able to dream that which isn’t imaginable. Hope makes us enter into the darkness of an uncertain future to walk in the light,” the pope said.

However, this path is not without its difficulties, even for Abraham, who, after months of travel, began to doubt God’s promise of a son borne by his wife, Sarah.

It is in this moment, the pope said, that Abraham prays to God in the dark of night, a darkness that mirrored his “disappointment, discouragement and the difficulty of continuing to hope in something impossible.”

Faith is not just silent acceptance or a “certainty that secures us from doubt and perplexity,” but it also means “to argue with God and show him our bitterness without pious pretenses.”

“‘I became angry with God, I told him this, this, and that.’ But he is a father and he understands you; go in peace. You must have this courage. This is hope,” the pope said.

It is in the darkness of night and in the darkness of his own doubts that Abraham once again receives, believes and hopes in God’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars, Pope Francis said.

“To believe, it is necessary to know how to see with the eyes of faith; we all may (look up and) only see stars, but for Abraham, they become a sign of God’s faithfulness,” the pope said. “Hope never disappoints.”

 

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Christmas reminds us of hope for the future, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The birth of Christ is a reminder for Christians to take a moment and reflect on the hope of salvation given by God to the world, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with an Argentine police officer from the province of Entre Rios during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses for a selfie with an Argentine police officer from the province of Entre Rios during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Those who are humble and poor like the shepherds come to realize the promise of hope that comes from trusting God and not from “their own securities, especially material goods,” the pope said Dec. 21 during his weekly general audience.

“Remember this: Our own securities will not save us. The only security that saves us is the hope in God which saves us, which is strong. It makes us walk through life with joy, with a desire to do good, with a desire to become happy for all eternity,” the pope said.

Upon entering the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted people and received gifts and letters from well-wishers.

Approaching a crying child, the pope wiped her tears and did his best to calm her. After succeeding in consoling her, he then pointed to his cheek, which the toddler leaned toward and kissed.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on the birth of Jesus as the “source of hope” for the world.

God, he said, “does not abandon his people, he is near to them to the point of stripping himself of his divinity.”

God “entered into the world and gives us the strength to walk with him. God walks with us through Jesus and walking with him toward the fullness of life gives us the strength to be in the present in a new way,” the pope said.

Hope, the pope continued, is never stagnant and the simplicity of the Nativity creche found in Christian households “transmits hope. Each character is immersed in this atmosphere of hope.”

The pope explained that each image found in the Nativity scene represents an aspect of this hope, such as the city of Bethlehem which, despite it not being a capital city, was the place chosen by divine providence, which “loves to act through the small and the humble.”

The figures of Joseph and Mary, who both believed in the words of the angel, can be seen gazing at the child they were told by God to name Jesus, the pope said.

“In that name there is hope for every man and woman because through that son of a woman, God will save humanity from sin and death,” he said.

The image of the shepherds, he continued, represents the humble and the poor who witness the long-awaited promise of hope and salvation while the angels singing at the birth of Christ represent the “praise and thanksgiving to God” expressed in Christian life.

“In these days, by contemplating the creche, we prepare ourselves for the Nativity of the Lord. It will truly be a feast if we receive Jesus, the seed of hope that God sows within the furrows of our personal history,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Open your heart to that baby born in Bethlehem, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christmas is a time to open your heart to the little and wondrous things found in baby Jesus, born poor and defenseless so he could be near and bring hope to everyone, Pope Francis said.

“The most beautiful joy of Christmas is that inner joy of peace: the Lord wiped away my sins, the Lord has forgiven me, the Lord had mercy on me, he came to save me. That is the joy of Christmas,” the pope said Dec. 14 at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis blesses a medal presented by a woman during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 14. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses a medal presented by a woman during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 14. (CNS/Paul Haring)

With a Nativity scene decorating the stage in the Vatican audience hall, the pope’s weekly meeting with visitors and pilgrims was festive with a group of “zampognari,” Italian bagpipe players, who played traditional songs and carols.

People also sang and wished the pope a happy birthday, in anticipation of him turning 80 on Dec. 17. Before the audience, two women presented him with a small chocolate cake with two candles lit on top, which he eventually blew out with some prompting.

“I thank all of you for these good wishes for my birthday,” he later told those gathered in the hall.

However, he said with a smile and a warning that he was just poking fun, in his native Argentina wishing people happy birthday before the actual day brings bad luck and anyone offering greetings prematurely “is a jinx.”

Preparing for Christmas with Advent is a time to be open to “the surprise of a God-child, a poor God, a weak God, a God who abandoned his greatness in order to be close to each one of us,” he said in his main audience talk.

God “knelt” and lowered himself before humanity to offer his mercy “and free man from that which disfigures the beautiful image of God in him. Because when we are in (a state of) sin, God’s image is disfigured” within us.

God never abandons his people, the pope said. God is always faithful and “his grace is greater than sin.”

“We need to learn this because we’re a bit pig-headed and we don’t get this,” he said.

Looking at his audience, the pope asked people to answer the question, “Who is greater: God or sin?”

“Hmm, you don’t sound convinced,” he said in reaction to the hushed and scattered replies.

“Who is victorious in the end, God or sin?” and “Is God able to conquer the biggest,” most shameful, most terrible sin in the world? he asked, followed by people shouting aloud their answers.

“This question isn’t easy,” he said, suggesting any theologians in the audience might want to speak up and answer it.

“With what weapon does God conquer sin?” he asked as people responded: “Love!”

“Oh, very good. Lots of theologians here, good!”

Knowing God is victorious over all evil, that he can break down all obstacles with his grace and forgiveness and that he has come to save everyone is the reason for Christian hope, he said. In fact, “it’s awful when we find a Christian who has lost hope,” thinking “it’s over,” and there is nothing on the horizon.

“Evil will not triumph forever, there is always an end to suffering. Desperation is conquered because God is among us” born in a manger in Bethlehem, he said.

“Christmas is a day for opening the heart, it’s necessary to open the heart to the many small things in that baby and the many splendors that are there,” he said.

“In the defenseless strength of that baby,” people can see “the final victory over the arrogant and noisy powers of the earth,” he said in one of his summarized greetings to various language groups.

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Pope: Year of Mercy may be over, but compassion must live on

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Year of Mercy and its series of papal reflections may be over, but compassion and acts of mercy must continue and become a part of everyone’s daily lives, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a boy while meeting the disabled during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a boy while meeting the disabled during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Let us commit ourselves to praying for each other so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy increasingly become our way of life,” he said Nov. 30 during his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

Because the day also marked the feast of St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter and founder of the church in Constantinople, Pope Francis gave special greetings to his “dear brother,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, said he was sending “a big embrace” to the patriarch and “this cousin church.”

The Vatican released a letter from the pope to the patriarch, which praised the way Catholics and Orthodox have begun “to recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to value each other’s gifts, and together have proclaimed the Gospel, served humanity and the cause of peace, promoted the dignity of the human being and the inestimable value of the family, and cared for those most in need, as well as creation, our common home.”

In his main audience talk, the pope ended his yearlong series of talks on mercy with a reflection on the corporal work of burying the dead and the spiritual works of praying for the living and dead.

Catholics particularly remember the faithful departed during the month of November, he said. Praying for those who have died “is a sign of recognition for the witness they have left us and the good they have done. It is a giving thanks to the Lord for having given them to us and for their love and friendship.”

By entrusting their souls to God’s mercy, “we pray with Christian hope that they are with him in heaven,” he said.

While for many burying the dead is an expected, straightforward ritual, there are some parts of the world where this may not be a given, such as places experiencing “the scourge of war, with bombings day and night that sow fear and innocent victims,” he said.

“Even today, there are those who risk their life to bury poor victims of war,” he added, thanking those particularly in Syria and the Middle East for their courage in recovering the dead and going to rescue the injured.

Praying for the living, he said, can be done in many ways, such as: blessing one’s children every morning and evening; visiting and praying for the sick; praying silently, “sometimes in tears,” for help during difficult times; even thanking God for the blessings bestowed upon one’s family, friends and co-workers.

The important thing, he said, is to always have one’s heart open to the Holy Spirit, “who knows our deepest desires and hopes,” and can “purify and bring them to fulfillment.”

“We always ask that God’s will be done for ourselves and for others, like in the Lord’s Prayer, because his will is definitely the greatest good, the goodness of a father who never abandons us,” he said.

After his main talk, the pope also made an appeal for World AIDS Day Dec. 1, urging “everyone to adopt responsible behavior to prevent the further spread of this disease.”

The Catholic Church promotes sexual abstinence before marriage and monogamy within marriage as the best ways to limit HIV transmission, and holds that condom-distribution campaigns aggravate the problem.

In his appeal, Pope Francis called for prayers for those affected by HIV/AIDS and for renewed efforts in getting adequate testing and therapy to the poorest in the world. He said the United Nations estimates only half of those living with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving treatment.

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