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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pope pays pastoral visit to a Roman parish

This afternoon, the Holy Father, Pope Francis paid a pastoral visit to the Parish of Santa Maria Josefa del Cuore di Gesù (Saint Mary Josefa of the Heart of Jesus) in Caltelverde di Lunghezza (Rome).

Upon his arrival, at approximately 3:30pm, in the parish theatre, the Pope met with children and young people who have recently celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation, along with a larger group of young people.  Then, the Holy Father greeted the sick and the elderly, married couples who have recently had their children baptized and families who are being assisted by the parish's Caritas group, together with those from the parish who are working with Caritas.  Finally, he heard the confessions of four penitents.

At 5:15pm, the Pope presided at the celebration of the Mass in the parish church.  After the proclamation of the gospel, the Holy Father shared an impromptu homily.  At approximately 7:00pm, the Pope returned to the Vatican.
Impromptu homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the Mass celebrated at the parish of
Saint Mary Josefa of the Heart of Jesus

Today, there is a message that I would say is unique in the Readings.  In the first Reading, the Word of the Lord says: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy (Lev 19:2).  God our Father says this.  And the Gospel finishes with this Word from Jesus: You should be perfect, like your heavenly Father (Mt 5:48).  The same thing.  This is our plan for life.  Be holy, because He is holy; be perfect, because He is perfect.  And you can ask me: But, Father, what is the path to holiness, which path should we take to become saints?  Jesus explains it well in the gospel: he explains it with concrete examples.

First of all: It has been said: 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'.  But I say to you do not resist evil (Mt 5:38-39), that is to say, don't take revenge.  If I have resentment in my heart for something that someone has done to me and I want to take revenge, this will take me away from the path to holiness.  Do not take revenge.  You have done something to me, now you will pay!  Is this the Christian way?  You will pay is not part of Christian language.  Do not take revenge.  Do not harbour hard feelings.  But he makes my life impossible! ... He's always attacking me!  I will attack him too ... No.  What does the Lord say?  Pray for him - But what should we pray for? -Yes, pray for him.  And the path of forgiveness, of forgetting the offence.  If they slap you on the right cheek? Offer them the other one too.  Evil is overcome by good, sin is overcome by generosity, with this strength.  Resentment is terrible.  Everyone knows that this is not something small.  The great wars - we see in the news, in the newspapers, people are being massacred, children ... so much hatred!, but hatred is the same - the same thing! - what you have in your heart concerning one person, a second person, or for your parent, or for your mother-in-law, or for that other one, the same thing.  It is larger, but it is the same thing.  Bitterness, the desire for revenge: You will pay! ... this is not the Christian way.

Be holy as your Father is holy; be perfect as your Father is perfect, he who makes his sun to raise on the evil and the good; he sends his rain on the just and the unjust (Mt 5:45).  It is good.  God gives his good things to everyone.  But if someone slanders me, if someone has done something evil to me, if someone has ... Excuse me.  In my heart.  This is the path to holiness; and this is far from wars.  If all the men and women in the world were to learn this, there would be no wars, they would not exist.  War starts here, in bitterness, resentment, the desire for vengeance, to make someone else pay.  But this destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighbourhoods, destroys many things, many things ... And what should we do Father, when we feel these things?  Jesus tells us, these are not my words: Love your enemies (Mt 5:44).  I have to love that one? -Yes - I can't - Pray for the strength to love - Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:45).  Pray for those who have done me evil? - Yes, because life changes, because the Lord forgives us.  This is God's greatness, our great God, the great heart of God, that forgives everything, that is merciful.  It is true Father, God is merciful.  And you?  Are you merciful, are you merciful toward the person who has been bad to you?  Or to those who don't love you?  If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, should we not also be merciful, holy and perfect like He is?

This is holiness.  A man and a woman who do this, are worthy of being canonized: becoming saints.  That's how easy Christian life is.  I suggest that you start slowly.  We all have enemies; we all know that this one or that one irritates me, we all know these things.  And we all know that this one or that one hates me.  We all know.  And beginning little by little.  But I know that that one has accused me falsely, has said terrible things about me.  I suggest: take a moment, speak to God our Father about it: This one or that one is Your brother, Your sister: change his/her heart.  Bless him, bless her.  This is called praying for those who do not love us, for our enemies.  We can do it simply.  Perhaps there will still be bitterness; maybe there will still be hatred within us, but we have made an effort to travel along God's path, and God is so good, merciful, holy and perfect that he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good: and for everyone, he is good to everyone.  We should be good to everyone.  And pray for those who are not good, for everyone.

Must we pray for those who kill children in war?  This is difficult, we are far away from them, but we must learn how to pray for them.  That they will change.  Should we pray for those persons who are closer to us and who hate us or don't love us?  Eh, Father, it's difficult!  I want to strangle him! - Pray.  Pray that the Lord will change his life.  Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against war, the wars that begin at home, that begin in our neighbourhoods, that begin in our families ... You only need to think about the wars in families over inheritances: how many families destroy themselves, hate one another because of inheritances?  Pray for the gift of peace.  And if I know that someone hates me, doesn't love me, I should pray especially for him.  Prayer is powerful, prayer triumphs over evil, prayer leads to peace.

The Gospel, the Word of God today is simple.  This advice: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.  And then: You should be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect.  For this reason, we ask for the grace to not remain bitter, the grace to pray for our enemies, to pray for people who do not love others, the grace of peace.

I ask you, please, to try this: every day, offer a prayer.  Ah, that one doesn't love me, but Lord, I pray ... One person a day.  This is how we win, this is how we progress along the road toward holiness and perfection.  Amen.

Words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis 
offered during various meetings during his parish visit

During the meeting with children
Pastor: Alessandro is an intelligent boy.  A few Sundays ago, concerning the call of the Apostles, I said: If Jesus were to dome today and call you, who is prepared to follow him?, and some of the children raised their hands.  He was among them.  Alessandro, this is His Holiness, Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, and you can ask him anything you want to.

Alessandro: Why did you become the Pope?

Pope Francis:  Because there were some culprits.  One of the culprits was this one (he points to Cardinal Vallini).  (The children burst out laughing).  Do you know how a Pope is chosen?  Here, I will tell you.  Do you know how a Pope is chosen?  (No!).  Do you pay someone to become Pope?  (No!).  But if someone pays a lot, a lot of money, will they make him Pope?  (No!).  No.  Do we hold a lottery, to find the Pope?  (No!).  No.  No we don't hold a lottery.  So how is it done?  Who are the ones who elect the Pope?  Think about it: who are they?  (The Cardinals).  The Cardinals.  And Father Agostino (Vallini) is one of the Cardinals, he is the Vicar of Rome, and he was one of 115 who were gathered to elect the Pope.  Do you understand?  And they met together, they talked among themselves, they thought ... Ah, but let us think about this, let us think about this, and this one has this advantage, and this other one has this advantage ... and reason ... But above all - and this is the most important thing, they pray.  Do you understand?  These people who are isolated, that is to say that they cannot speak with people outside, they are isolated; from the Casa Santa Marta, they go to the Sistine Chapel and they elect the Pope.  They speak among themselves about the one that the Church needs today, and the reasons why it is better to choose one personality or one profile or another ...; every kind of human reasoning.  And the Lord sends the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit helps the Cardinals to conduct the election.  Then, everyone gives his vote and they count the votes, and that's how the decision is made: the one who has two thirds of the votes is elected Pope.  As you can see, it is a process that involves much prayer.  You can't pay for this position, there are no powerful friends who can push, no, no.  So, who makes the Pope? ... No, the question should be asked like this: who is the most important person in this group who chooses the Pope?  Think about it!  Who is it?  (One of the children says: The Pope).  No, the Pope hasn't been chosen yet.  (A few of them: God!)  God, the Holy Spirit, makes the Pope through the votes.  Then, the one who is elected, maybe he's not the most intelligent one, maybe he's not the smartest, maybe he's not the most efficient at doing things, but he's the one that God wants for that moment in the Church.  Do you understand?  (Yes!).  And I want to ask you a question, but think about it, think.  In the election, you asked the first question, Alessandro, when they made me Pope, there were 115 of them.  I ask you a question: who was the most intelligent of the 115?  (You?).  No!  (Some others: All of them!).  No.  The most, the most ... (God!).  God.  God is the 116th ... Well, no one knows, the one who is elected is not necessarily the most intelligent.  Do you understand?  There are others who are more intelligent than he is, but god has chosen this one.  And as it is with all things in life, time passes, the Pope must die just like everyone else, or he can retire, like the great Pope Benedict did, because his health was not good, and another one will come, who will be different, he will not be the same, maybe he will be more intelligent or less intelligent, we don't know.  But this next one will arrive in the same way: elected by a group of Cardinals in the light of the Holy Spirit.  Do you understand?  Tell me, Alessandro, are you satisfied with my answer?  Is it true?  Was I mistaken?  Have I told an untruth?  Thank you.

Pastor:  Flavio, from the group of recently Confirmed young people.  Where are you?  Come and ask your question.

Falvio:  When you were young, what great things did you want to do?

Pope Francis:  I will tell you; what is your name?

Flavio:  Flavio.

Pope Francis:  I will tell you, but don't laugh!  Don't joke about it, I will tell you the truth.  I wanted to be a butcher.  Really!  Because when I went to the market with my grandmother, I wanted to do like the butcher, cut meat into small pieces: That's a good man!, and I liked him, and I would say: When I grow up, I will be a butcher.

Flavio:  Can we take a photograph?

Pope Francis:  Yes!  And you, tell me, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Flavio:  I want to play football (soccer).

Pope Francis:  A football player!  Has anyone seen this guy play football?  (Yes!)  Does he play well?  (He is good).  And what position do you play ...

Flavio: Centre fielder.

Pope Francis:  Centre fielder.  Very good ...

Pastor:  May I introduce ... tell him your name.

Cristian:  My name is Cristian.  What did you do to become Pope?

Pastor:  Again?

Cristian:  Hey, this is my question!

Pastor:  This was your question?  He's already answered that question ... ask another one ...

Pope Francis:  Ask me another question.  Think about it.  Think.  Think quietly, if you can you think of another question, you can ask it ...

Pastor:  Ask another question.  Whatever you want?

Pope Francis:  What is your name?

Agostino:  Agostino.

Pope Francis:  Agostino, like the Vicar of Rome.

Agostino:  If I want to be Pope, do I have to do well at school?

Pope Francis:  If you want to become Pope, first, you have to be a good Christian.  Normally, you become a priest first, then a bishop.  But in the early years of the Church, not all the Popes were priests: some of them were deacons.  But you have to be a good Christian.  And the community chose, that's the way it was then.  There were many Christian people who knew this one, or that one; some of them were priests, some were deacons.  But then, with time, the process of election was more and more defined and now the Pope is elected only by the Cardinals.  Cardinals who are younger than 80 years old.

Child:  What was the most difficult moment of your life?

Pope Francis:  What was ...?

Child:  ... the most difficult moment of your life?

Pope Francis:  Yes, there were a few difficult ones.  From a health point of view, I had a few difficult times.  When I was 20 years old, I almost died of an infection, they removed part of one of my lungs ... but the Lord helped me to get better.  And then, there were difficult moments that we all have, all of us, in life.  Pay attention to this!  Life is a gift from God, but in life there are some terrible moments, there are some difficult moments that we need to overcome in order to go on.  I had many of those moments, like all people do.  But I remember the moment when I was twenty years old, when I was sick, and there were other difficulties.  But I would say this:  life was not difficult for me.  I want to ask you: for all of you, for people, is life easy in general?  (No).  Are there difficulties in life?  (Yes).  Always!  There are difficulties and there will always be difficulties.  But that doesn't mean that we should give up.  Difficulties can be overcome, we can go on, with faith, with strength, with courage!  What about you, are you brave ... yes or no? ...

Child:  At certain moments ...

Pope Francis:  Are you courageous or not?  (Yes).  Are you brave?  (Yes and no).  Or are you all afraid?  (No).  Are you courageous?  (Yes).  Good, carry on!  Thank you!

Child:  Can I take a photo with you?

Pope Francis:  Yes.  Now, let us go on the second moment: the time for the little ones.  Let's see who wins, eh?

Giulia:  How do you feel about being the representative of the Catholic Church?

Pope Francis:  I feel that I have a lot of responsibility.  You used the word representative, and someone who represents the Church cannot give a bad impression.  Can the Pope give a bad impression?  (No).  No, he cannot.  He has to be attentive and not give a bad impression.  But there is something else too.  The Pope is the Bishop ... Is the Pope a bishop or not?

Giulia:  Yes.

Pope Francis:  But he's the bishop of which city?

Giulia:  Of Rome.

Pope Francis:  Of Rome.  the Pope is the Bishop of rome but he has the pastoral care of the whole Church all over the world, along with the other bishops.  But the Pope's diocese is which one?  (someone says: Saint John).  The Cathedral of Saint John.  And the diocese of ...

Giulia:  Saint Peter.

Pope Francis:  Rome.  Yes.  And the Pope is also a bishop and a father, and the Pope should hear that he is a father, if the Pope or the Bishop does not hear that he is a father, something is missing.  That's it.

Pastor:  Good, children, that's it for the questions.

Children:  No!

Pope Francis:  Now I will ask you some questions ...

Pastor:  Now, children, silence, quiet because the Pope wants to ask you a question.  Now, we should pay attention.

Pope Francis:  I will ask a few questions and you can answer.  How many God's are there?  (One).  But ... I know three of them!  (The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).  Father, Son and Holy Spirit: one, two and three.  There are three.  What do you say to that?  Who can answer?  (One of the children says: There are three).  Are there three Gods?  Or one?  (One of the children says: There is only one God, divided in three parts).  In three pieces?  No, God is one (There is only one God but he represents more things).  No ... how many God's are there?  (Three).  Three God's?  Or one?  (One).  But if there is only one ... I want to ask you this question:  is the Father God?  (Yes).  Is the Son God?  (Yes ... No ...).  Ah, is he not God?  (Yes, he is God).  Is the Holy Spirit God?  (Yes).  There are three, but this is one thing that is not easy to understand: there are three Persons, do you understand this?  There are three Persons, but the three Persons make up only one God.  Do you agree?  (Yes).  You're not convinced?  So there are three, what's?  Three ... (Persons) and one (God).  Three (Persons) and one (God).  And is Our Lady a God?  (No).  What is she?  (The Mother ...).  The Mother of God.  Why is she the Mother of God?  Because she was the one who brought Jesus into the world.  Do you agree?  (Yes).  Yes.  And Joseph helped Mary, right.  The Father is God?  Yes.  The Son is God?  Yes.  The Holy Spirit is God?  Yes.  Three Persons, right?  How many Persons?  (Three).  How many Gods?  (One).  Is Our Lady a God?  (No).  Our Lady is ...?  The Mother of God.  Is it clear?  Don't ever forget this.  Very good.

Pastor:  Your Holiness, thank you very much.  Children, please stand up, and now the Holy Father will pray with us, first let's be silent, like we do in church.

Pope Francis:  Silence.  Close your eyes.  Think about Our Lady and let us pray to Our Lady, who is the Mother of God and our Mother.  Everyone together.  Hail Mary ...

And may almighty God bless you ...

Please pray for me, ok?  (Yes!).  Are you sure?  (Yes!).  Thank you!

Meeting of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
with families being helped by the parish Caritas efforts
and those who work with Caritas within the parish

Pope Francis:  Thank you for all that you are doing.  Your work draws you close to people who are in need, and not just give them something, but listen: the apostleship of the ear.  Sometimes, we might think: But this one is a bit boring, how boring it is ... to listen to so much suffering, when there is no need to buy drugs, when they have nothing to eat ...

A man: Holy Father, your charities send lots of help.

A woman: ... this is a parish that needs lots of help, lots!

Pope Francis: ... so much tenderness ...

A woman:  We do everything we can, we don't lose heart.

Pope Francis:  Keep going! ... But don't quarrel among yourselves!  Think about this: when a person comes to ask for help, a woman or a man or whoever, that person is Jesus.  Because even Jesus had to ask for help when he was a refugee in Egypt.  It is Jesus who needs your help in this person.  But this is a person who speaks badly, who doesn't go to church, who doesn't believe in God ... But he is Jesus.  He is Jesus.  Your prayers help to enlarge your heart and to fill it with faith: it is Jesus, he is with me, Jesus is with me, today.  And all this I give to Jesus.  This smile, I give to Jesus.  This is your path to holiness.  If you do this, you will become saints.  All of you!  It is simple.  Don't forget: it is Jesus who is knocking at your door.  I will give you my blessing, but first of all, let us pray with Mary; let us ask her to intercede for all of us.  Hail Mary ...


And remember: every person who comes to you is Jesus.  Is that good person Jesus?  Yes.  Is that person who is not so good Jesus too?  Yes.  For me, he is Jesus.  I must receive him as I would receive Jesus.  That woman who has a serpent's tongue, is she Jesus?  Yes.  And I must, with my tenderness and my love, help her to tame her tongue so she won't bite any more.  It's simple: tenderness, love, because every person in need is Jesus knocking at the door of my heart.  And pray for me: I too am knocking at the door of your heart and asking for prayer.  I'm not asking for a package, but for prayer, a few rosaries ... Thank you!

Final greetings
Thank you for coming here so that we can pray together, to pray for this entire neighbourhood, for this parish.  I greet you all, Catholic faithful, and also the Muslims, and for all of you, I ask the Lord to bless you.  I also greet all who wanted to come but for whom it was not possible: my blessing and my greetings go out to all of you too.  And now, let us pray for a moment and I will give you my blessing.  Let us pray together, asking Our Lady to pray with us: Hail Mary ...


And please, pray for me.  Good bye!
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