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Sin is scary, but God is always ready to forgive, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Witches don’t really exist, so they can do no harm, Pope Francis told a young girl, but gossip, sin and evil exist and they hurt people every day.

Pope Francis greets people March 12 during a visit at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets people March 12 during a visit at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“What frightens me?” the pope asked, repeating the question posed by Sara, one of the children at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. “I’m frightened when a person is bad; the wickedness of people” is scary.

Spending close to four hours at the parish March 12, Pope Francis answered questions from the children, met with the older and sick members of the parish, spent time with parents whose babies have been baptized in the past year and with the Canossian Sisters, whose founder is honored as the parish’s patron saint.

Before celebrating an evening Mass, the pope also heard confessions.

He had told the children that the “seeds of wickedness” lie within each human being, but that God is always willing to forgive those who are sincerely sorry for their sins.

Sara had told him she’s afraid of witches, but Pope Francis told her that witches don’t really exist and those who claim to be able to cast spells are lying.

What is really frightening, the pope said, is the harm caused when people choose to sin, a choice that often begins small. “And it frightens me when in a family, neighborhood, workplace, parish, or even the Vatican, there is gossip. That’s scary.”

“You have heard or seen on TV what terrorists do? They throw a bomb and run,” he said. “Gossip is like that. It’s throwing a bomb and running away. Gossip destroys” people and reputations.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis described sin as being ugly, an offense against God and “a slap” to God’s face.

“We are used to talking about other people’s sins. It’s an ugly thing to do,” the pope said. Instead, people need to look at their own sins and at Jesus, who took upon himself the sins of all humanity.

“This is the path toward Easter, toward the resurrection” where Jesus’ face will shine like it did at the transfiguration.

But Christians also need to gaze at the crucifix and at the face of Jesus “disfigured, tortured, despised, bloodied by the crown of thorns” because he loved humanity so much that he took on the sins of the world and “paid so much for all of us.”

The face of Jesus, he said, “encourages us to ask forgiveness for our sins and not to sin so much. It encourages us most of all to trust because if he has made himself sin and has taken on our sins, he is always ready to forgive us. We just need to ask him.”

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Bite your tongue: Fight temptation to gossip, sow division, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Fomenting division, fueling hatred and not planting peace “is a disease in our church,” Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

‘In fact, those who spend their lives bringing reconciliation and peace are saints, and those who gossip are just “like a terrorist who throws a bomb and walks away,” destroying others while making sure they stay safe and sound, he said.

Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 2. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

During Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis asked people to think about whether they were sowers of peace or destroyed harmony with gossip.

“This is an evil, this is a disease in our church: to sow division, sow hatred, plant (what is) not peace,” he said.

Christians are called to be like Jesus, who came to bring peace and reconciliation, and this requires constant conversion, he said.

People should never speak “a word that can divide, never ever a word that brings war, little wars, never gossip,” he said.

People might think gossiping is really nothing serious, but it is, he said.

“Gossiping is terrorism because the person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and walks away, destroying; they destroy with their tongue, they don’t make peace,” the pope said.

“But they’re cunning, you know. They aren’t suicide bombers, no, no, they take care of themselves,” he added.

The pope had a bit of advice, saying that whenever he felt the urge to say something bad about someone or gossip, the best thing to do is literally bite one’s tongue.

However, “at first your tongue will get all swollen and hurt,” he said, because the devil is always tempting people to open their mouths and say something wrong. “It’s his job to divide” people.

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Pope’s Christmas greeting warns Vatican officials of being prone to spiritual ills, dysfunction, gossip

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ Christmas greeting to the Vatican bureaucracy this year was an extended warning against a host of spiritual ills to which he said Vatican officials are prone, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” “existential schizophrenia,” publicity-seeking, the “terrorism of gossip” and even a poor sense of humor.

Pope Francis exchanges Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia during an audience in Clementine Hall at the Vatican Dec. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis exchanges Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia during an audience in Clementine Hall at the Vatican Dec. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope made his remarks Dec. 22, in a biting half-hour speech to heads of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administration, and to cardinals resident in Rome.

Popes have often used their annual Christmas speech to review events of the previous year and lay out priorities for the next. Pope Francis’ nine-member Council of Cardinals is currently working on an overhaul of the Curia, but the pope’s speech did not address specific reforms. Instead, he spoke in general terms of virtues and values, saying he hoped his words might serve officials as a “support and stimulus to a true examination of conscience” in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation.

The pope, who has made criticism of the church’s leaders a common theme of his preaching, called the Curia a “dynamic body” naturally vulnerable to “maladies, to dysfunction, to infirmities.”

He offered what he called a catalog of 15 such diseases. Most corresponded to vices for which he has frequently rebuked the hierarchy, including self-promotion, greed and a focus on bureaucratic efficiency over pastoral solicitude. But the pope’s rhetoric this time was especially impassioned and forceful.

Following a year in which Vatican officials and other bishops aired differences to a remarkable degree in the press, especially during the October Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis warned against “exhibitionism,” the “malady of persons who seek insatiably to increase their power and to that end are capable of calumniating, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines.”

The pope denounced the “hypocrisy typical of the mediocre” and said an apostle who puts excessive faith in planning becomes a mere “bookkeeper or accountant” who would “confine and control the liberty of the Holy Spirit.” He said an official who forgets his personal relationship with Jesus becomes completely dependent on his “passions, whims and manias,” “incapable of carrying out any autonomous activity, living in a state of absolute dependence on his often imaginary views.”

Officials who idolize their bosses are “victims of careerism and opportunism,” “mean persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own fatal egoism,” the pope said, acknowledging that bosses often encourage such attitudes to obtain “submission, loyalty and psychological dependence” from their staff.

Deriding a “gruff and grim” manner he described as characteristic of the insecure, Pope Francis called for a “joyous spirit, full of humor and even self-mockery, that makes us amiable persons, even in difficult situations.” The pope said that every day he recites a prayer, which he attributed to St. Thomas More, asking God for a sense of humor.

The pope wound up his remarks on a note of encouragement, saying that the failings of a few have discredited the virtuous majority of the church’s ministers. He quoted an adage that “priests are like airplanes, they make news only when they fall, but there are so many that fly.”

After the speech in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the pope spent about half an hour exchanging Christmas greetings with individual cardinals and curial members.

 

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Did you hear? Pope sees saintly virtue in refusal to gossip

August 28th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

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The refusal to gossip is the quickest way to sainthood, Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience Aug. 27.

“How much gossip (happens) in parishes,” the pope lamented. “We mustn’t do it. I won’t tell you to cut off your tongue. No. Not that. But do ask the Lord for the grace to not do it, all right?”

The refusal to gossip, in fact, is such an outstanding Christian virtue, it should make a person a saint overnight, the pope said. Read more »

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It’s only human to be envious or mean, but it’s not Christian, pope says

August 27th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Envy, jealousy and meanness are human instincts, but they are not Christian, since the division they cause among believers is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said.

“Instead, God wants us to grow in the ability to come together, forgive each other and love each other in order to be ever more like him,” he said at his weekly general audience Aug. 27.

Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 27. The tea was presented by someone in the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 27. The tea was presented by someone in the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A strong breeze and temperatures around 80 degrees made it possible to move the weekly event from the indoor air-conditioned Vatican audience hall to St. Peter’s Square, where more than 12,000 people gathered for the pope’s catechesis and blessing.

The Creed describes the Catholic Church as being “one and holy,” the pope said, yet its members are sinners, who “experience, every day, their own fragility and wretchedness.”

“That’s why this faith we profess impels us toward conversion, to have the courage to live in unity and holiness every day,” he said.

“If we are not united, if we are not holy, it’s because we are not being faithful to Jesus,” who is the source of all unity and holiness, the pope said.

Divisions are manifested not only in schisms or major rifts among Christians; they also frequently occur on the local level, as “parochial sins,” in Catholic parishes, schools, communities and organizations, Pope Francis said.

“Sometimes, in fact, our parishes, which are called to be places of sharing and communion, are sadly marked by envy, jealousy, resentment.”

“This is human, but it is not Christian,” the pope said.

“How much gossip (goes on) in parishes,” the pope lamented. “We mustn’t do it. I won’t tell you to cut off your tongue. No. Not that. But do ask the Lord for the grace to not do it, all right?”

The refusal to gossip, in fact, is such an outstanding Christian virtue, it should make a person a saint overnight, the pope said.

He recalled the sterling reputation of an elderly woman who used to work in a parish in his former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

People remembered her as someone who “never talked badly of others, never gossiped, was always with a smile. A woman like that can be canonized tomorrow. This is beautiful, this is a great example,” he said to applause.

Conflict arises when people judge others; look only at others’ defects, not their gifts; give more weight to differences than common ground; make themselves the top priority; and follow their own ambitions and points of view, he added.

“In a Christian community, division is one of the gravest of sins because it turns it into a sign not of God’s work, but of the devil, who, by definition, separates, ruins relationships and instills prejudice.”

The pope asked people to examine their consciences and sincerely repent “for all the times in which we caused division or misunderstanding in our communities.”

He asked people pray for the grace to better reflect the “beautiful and joyful” unity of Jesus and the Father, and the grace “to not talk badly about others, not criticize, not gossip, and to love each other.”

“This is the holiness of the church: in recognizing in each other the image of God,” who calls for continual conversion in everyone.

Despite the faults of his followers, “Jesus never leaves us by ourselves, he doesn’t abandon his church. He walks with us, understands us, our weaknesses, our sins and forgives us,” inspiring people to forgive each other, too.

 

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