In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis underlined the importance of fraternal correction, stressing that it be done in a spirit of gentleness, prudence and humility rather than judgment.
Referring to today’s Gospel reading from Matthew in which Jesus teaches the disciples the steps needed to correct a brother in sin, the Holy Father stressed the goal is to “help the person realize what he has done, and that with his sin, he has offended not just one, but all.”
Addressing pilgrims under sunny skies in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explained the process of fraternal correction that Jesus taught: “I have to use charity towards him and, first of all, talk to him personally, explaining that what he has said or done is not good,” the Pope said. “And if the brother does not listen to me? Jesus suggests a progressive intervention: first, go back with two or three other people to make him more aware of the mistake he has made.
“If, despite this, he does not accept the exhortation, I need to tell the community," Francis continued. "And if he won’t even listen to the community, I need to make him feel the fracture and detachment that he himself has caused, by failing in communion with our brothers and sisters in the faith.”
“The stages of this route show the effort the Lord asks of his community to accompany those who make mistakes, so they are not lost,” the Pope explained, adding that an attitude is needed “of gentleness, prudence, humility, and attention against those who have committed a crime, avoiding that words can hurt and kill the brother.
“Because, you know, eh? Even words kill!,” the Pope said, departing from his notes. “When I make an unfair criticism, when I “curse” a brother with my tongue, this is killing the reputation of the other! Even words kill! Let’s be serious about this.”
By carrying out fraternal correction as Jesus taught, the Pope continued, our hearts are freed of “anger and resentment.” Insults and personal attacks by Christians are “very bad,” he added. “It’s bad! Got it? No insults! Insulting is not Christian!”
The Pope stressed all are in need of forgiveness, and that rather than say “have mercy on the person next to me,” we need to say “Have mercy on me!”.
“Jesus told us not to judge,” Francis said. “We must remember this before going to the brother to offer fraternal correction.”
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