Doors and Borders Are Not to Push People Away, Says Pope at Audience

Church Must Welcome All the Sheep the Good Shepherd Wants to Bring In


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People must never be afraid to knock at the door of the Church or the door of our hearts because of having been made to feel unwelcome, says Pope Francis.

As we approach the Dec. 8 start-date of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience to the meaning of the Holy Door, which he will open Dec. 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Beyond the physical holy doors found on cathedrals and basilicas, this great door is that of God’s mercy, the Pope said, which welcomes our repentance and offers us the grace of forgiveness; a door which is opened generously but whose threshold must be crossed with courage.

“We are all sinners! Let us take advantage of this moment that is coming and cross the threshold of this mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving, never tires of waiting for us! He looks at us, He is always beside us. Courage! Let us go in through this door,” the Pope invited.

He noted that in Revelation, the City of God is described with the door always open: “‘Its gates shall never be shut by day,’ which means forever because ‘there shall be no night there’ (21:25).”

God never forces himself into our hearts, the Holy Father reminded. “He even asks permission to come in.”

The managing of “doors”, the Pope said, “of the thresholds, of the passages, of the borders – has become crucial.”

“A door must protect, certainly, but not push away,” he said. “The door must not be forced, on the contrary, permission must be asked, because hospitality shines in the freedom of a welcome, and it is darkened in the arrogance of invasion.”


Pope Francis noted that people can be afraid to knock: “How many people have lost confidence, do not have the courage to knock on the door of our Christian heart, on the doors of our churches … [W]e have taken away their confidence: please, let this not happen any more.”

The Holy Father thanked those who are the custodians of doorways, be it of residences or offices. “Often the prudence and the kindness of the porter are capable of offering an image of humanity and welcome to the whole house, already from the entrance,” he said.

Always wear a smile, he told them, so that people feel welcome and happy.

Expanding the image, the Pope said that we are the custodians and servants of God’s door, which is Jesus.

In reference to John 10, he spoke of the responsibility of the Church to welcome all: “If the guardian hears the voice of the Shepherd, then he opens and has all the sheep enter that the Shepherd brings, all, including those lost in the woods, which the Good Shepherd went to bring back. The sheep are not chosen by the guardian, they are not chosen by the parish secretary or the parish’s secretariat; the sheep are all invited, they are chosen by the Good Shepherd. The guardian also obeys the voice of the Shepherd. See, we can well say that we must be like that guardian. The Church is the doorkeeper of the Lord’s House; she is not the proprietor of the Lord’s House.”

Finally, the Pope reflected on the scene which we are about to celebrate at Christmas: “The Holy Family of Nazareth knows well what it means to have an open or closed door, for one expecting a child, for one in need of shelter, for one who must escape from danger.”

“May Christian families make the threshold of their home a small great sign of the Word of God’s Mercy and His welcome,” the Pope said. “It is in fact thus that the Church must be recognized, in every corner of the earth: as the custodian of a God that knocks, as the welcome of a God that does not close the door in your face, with the excuse that you are not of the house. We approach the Jubilee with this spirit: There will be the Holy Door, but it will be the door of God’s great mercy! May it also be the door of our heart for us all to receive God’s forgiveness and for us in turn to forgive, welcoming all those that knock on our door.”

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