Pope's Homily at Roman Parish of San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo in Casal Bernocchi, Acilia

‘Excuse me if I always return to this, but I think that this is the enemy that destroys our communities: gossip’

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Pope Francis went on a pastoral visit to the Roman parish of San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo in Casal Bernocchi, Acilia (on the southern periphery of Rome) on the afternoon of Sunday, May 21, 2017.
Upon his arrival, at 3:40 p.m., the Pope met in the Sports Center of Casal Bernocchi with the catechism children and young people and with all who frequent the center. During the meeting, the Holy Father answered some of the children’s questions.
Then, after going by car to the parish buildings, at 4:15 p.m., the Pontiff greeted the sick, the Neocatechumenal Community and the poor helped by Caritas. Finally, he heard the Confession of four penitents.
At 5:55 p.m. the Holy Father presided over the celebration of Holy Mass in the parish church. After the proclamation of the Gospel, the Pope gave an off-the-cuff homily.
Here is a translation of the Pontiff’s homily in the course of the Holy Mass. Zenit will bring you the Pope’s words to the various groups as soon as possible.
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We have heard how Jesus bids farewell to his followers at the Last Supper, and asks them to observe the commandments, and promises that He will send them the Holy Spirit: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (John 14: 16-17). And the Holy Spirit is in us – in each one of us – and we have received Him in Baptism: we have received Him from Jesus and from the Father. In another part [of the New Testament], the Apostle tells us to safeguard the Holy Spirit, and adds: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30), as if to say: “Be conscious that you have God Himself inside, the God Who accompanies you, Who tells you what you are to do and how you must do it; He Who helps you not to make mistakes, Who helps you not to slip into temptation; the Advocate: He who defends you against the evil one”. And this Spirit is what Peter, in the second Letter, says will help us “revere Christ” in our hearts (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). And how? With prayer of adoration and by letting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit emerge. It is He Who says to us, “This is good, this is not good, this is the wrong road, this is the right road…”: He leads us ahead. And when people ask for explanations, on why we Christians are as we are, Peter says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). And how must you do this? Peter continues: “But do this with gentleness and respect” (v. 15). And here I would like to pause.
The language of Christians who safeguard the Holy Spirit, Who is given as a gift, of those who know they have the Spirit Who explains to them [the truth], this language is a special language. They do not have to speak in Latin: no, no. It is another language. It is the language of gentleness and respect. And this can help us to think about our attitude as Christians. Is it an attitude of respect, or of anger? Or is it bitter? It is so ugly to see people who say they are Christians but who are full of bitterness. … With gentleness. The language of the Holy Spirit is gentle, and the Church calls Him the “gentle guest of the soul”, because He is gentle and gives us gentleness. And respect. Always respect others. He teaches us to respect others. And the devil, who knows how to weaken us in our service to God, and also how to weaken us in our safeguarding of the Holy Spirit Who is within us, does everything possible to make our language neither gentle nor respectful. Even within Christian communities.
Today I said, during the Regina Coeli, and I would like to repeat: how many people are drawn to a parish, for example, in search of peace, this respect, this gentleness, and instead find internal battles between the faithful. Instead of gentleness and respect, they encounter gossip, slander, competition, rivalry, one against the other… They encounter that atmosphere not of incense, but of gossip. And then what do they say? “If these are Christians, I prefer to remain a pagan”. And they go away, disappointed. Because these people do not know how to conserve the Holy Spirit, and with this “language” they show ambition, envy, jealousy, many things that divide us and distance people. It is we who distance them. And we do not allow the job of the Spirit, that of attracting people, to continue. I always like to return to this topic, because I tell you, I tell you clearly, that this is the most common sin in our Christian communities.
When I offered incense to Our Lady, I lowered my gaze and saw the snake., the snake that Our Lady crushes, the snake with its mouth open and tongue out. It will be good for you, as a Christian community, to see in this a Christian community that does not conserve the Holy Spirit with gentleness and respect: it is like that snake, with its long tongue… A parish priest once said to me, speaking on this topic, “In my parish there are some who could take communion from the door: with the tongue they have, they arrive at the altar!” Some of you might say, “But Father, always the same topic!” But it is true. This destroys us. And we must conserve the Holy Spirit, and not the things that the snake, the devil, teaches us.
Excuse me if I always return to this, but I think that this is the enemy that destroys our communities: gossip. Perhaps it will be good for you, some today, some on another day, when you go to greet Our Lady, to look downwards and see that tongue [of the snake] and say to Our Lady, “Our Lady, save me: I do not want to be like this. I want to conserve the Holy Spirit as you conserved Him”. She conserved the Spirit, Who then came and made her Mother of the Son of God.
Sisters and brothers, truly: this hurts my heart, it is as if we threw stones at each other. And the devil enjoys this: it is a carnival for the devil, this! Let us ask for this grace: to conserve the Holy Spirit that is in us. Do not grieve Him, as the Apostle tells us. Do not grieve Him. And may our attitude to all – Christians and non Christians – be an attitude of gentleness and respect, so that the Holy Spirit may act in this way with us: with gentleness and respect.
[Courtesy of the Vatican Press Office]  

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