INSIDE LOOK: Pope Francis Elated to Be Back With the People During 1st General Audience With Faithful Since COVID Outbreak (FULL TEXT)

Tickets Were Not Required, Health Protocols Were Implemented

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Pope Francis’ General Audiences resumed today, Sept. 2, with faithful present, and the Argentine Pontiff couldn’t have seemed happier to be back with his people.
ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent was present with media escorted by the Vatican Press Office in order to be there front and center (or at least off to the side, where Vatican-accredited press was stationed).

Last week, the Prefecture of the Papal Household announced: «Following the health indications of the Authorities the General Audiences in September will take place in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, starting at 9:30 a.m.» The Courtyard was able to accommodate roughly 500 people.

Participation was open to all who wish, without the need for tickets.

Individuals were able to enter from the Bronze Doors of the right colonnade of St. Peter’s Square, as early as 7:30 am. Pilgrims had to maintain proper social distancing, sanitize hands, have temperatures taken and pass through security clearance.

To reach the Courtyard of San Damaso, faithful had to go past the masked Swiss Guards, climb about 75 steps, before arriving at the site of the audience. It is rare for faithful and pilgrims to have access to this space.

In the past, General Audiences were held in St. Peter’s Square, or in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

Today, the Holy Father received a warm welcome, and while staying distant, took time to pass and greet various faithful eager to see him.

While continuing his series of catecheses on COVID 19, Francis recognized that living through this current pandemic, we have come to realize how dependent we are on one another, how we are meant to show solidarity with one another, because we were all created by God and all share a common home.

«We can only emerge stronger from the present crisis if we do so together,» he said, reminding the Church’s social doctrine thus speaks of the need for the virtue of solidarity.

Authentic solidarity, he underscored, is not just about offering help to others, but is a matter of justice, and requires a «radical change in our thinking that looks to the good of the community, defends the right to life for all, and promotes a just sharing of the earth’s goods.»

The Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, he recalled, shows what happens when a society seeks to build its own way to heaven, forsaking God, losing sight of solidarity with the most vulnerable, and valuing things over relationships.

«This destructive “Babel syndrome,” he said, «is countered by the event of Pentecost, where the gift of the Holy Spirit creates a harmonious unity in diversity for the true building up of society.

Pope Francis prayed, «May the Spirit grant us the wisdom and creativity to find those forms of solidarity needed in our post-Covid world, for the healing of interpersonal and social ills, and the growth of the human family in fraternity, justice and peace.»

Addressing English-speaking faithful, Francis noted that his thoughts turn especially to young people returning to school in the coming weeks.

«Upon all of you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ,» he said, praying: «God bless you!»

At the end of the audience, the Holy Father made an appeal specifically for Lebanon, calling for a day of fasting and prayer, at the Audience’s conclusion. He also announced that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, would be traveling to the nation’s capital of Beirut.

Below one can read the Vatican’s unofficial working translation of the full text of the General Audience:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

After many months we meet each other again our face to face, rather than screen to screen. Face to face. This is good! The current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all linked to each other, for better or for worse. Therefore, to come out of this crisis better than before, we have to do so together; together, not alone. Together. Alone no, because it cannot be done. Either it is done together, or it is not done. We must do it together, all of us, in solidarity. I would like to underline this word today: solidarity.

As a human family we have our common origin in God; we dwell in a common home, the garden-planet, the earth where God placed us; and we have a common destination in Christ. But when we forget all this, our interdependence becomes dependence of some on others, we lose this harmony of interdependence and solidarity and we become dependent – the dependence of some on a few, on others – increasing inequality and marginalisation; it weakens the social fabric and the environment deteriorates. It is always the same. The same way of acting.

Therefore, the principle of solidarity is now more necessary than ever, as Saint John Paul II taught
(cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis, 38-40). In an interconnected world, we experience what it means to live in the same “global village”; this expression is beautiful, isn’t it? The big wide world is none other than a global village, because everything is interconnected, but we do not always transform this interdependence into solidarity. There is a long journey between interdependence and solidarity. Selfishness – individual, national and power-groups – and ideological rigidities instead sustain «structures of sin” (ibid., 36).

“The word ‘solidarity’ is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts – the odd sporadic act – of generosity». Much more! “It presumes the
creation of a new mindset; a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 188). This is what “solidarity” means. It is not merely a question of helping others – it is good to do so, but it is more than that – it is a matter of justice (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1938-1949). Interdependence, in order to be in solidarity and to bear fruit, needs strong roots in the humanity and nature created by God; it needs respect for faces and for the land.

The Bible, from the very beginning, warns us of this. Think of the account of the Tower of Babel
(see Gen 11: 1-9), which describes what happens when we try to reach heaven – that is, our destination – ignoring our bond with humanity, creation and the Creator. It is a figure of speech. This happens every time that someone wants to climb up and up, without taking others into consideration. Just myself, no?

Think about the tower. We build towers and skyscrapers, but we destroy community. We unify buildings and languages, but we mortify cultural wealth. We want to be masters of the Earth, but we ruin biodiversity and ecological balance. In another audience I spoke about those fishermen from San Benedetto del Tronto, who came this year, and they told me that this year: “We have taken 24 tonnes of waste out of the sea, half of which was plastic”. Just think1 These people have the task of catching fish – yes – but also refuse, and of taking it out of the water to clean up the sea. But this is ruining the earth – not having solidarity with the earth, which is a gift – and the ecological balance.

I remember a medieval account of this “Babel syndrome”, which occurs when there is no
solidarity. This medieval account says that, during the building of the tower, when a man fell – they were slaves, weren’t they? – and died, no-one said anything, or at best, “Poor thing, he made a mistake and he fell”. Instead, if a brick fell, everyone complained. And if someone was to blame, he was punished. Why?

Because a brick was costly to make, to prepare, to fire… All of this. It took time to produce a brick, and work. A brick was worth more than a human life. Every one of us, think about what happens today.

Unfortunately, something of the type can happen nowadays too. When shares fall in the financial markets, all the agencies report the news – we have seen it in the newspapers in these days. Thousands of people fall due to hunger and poverty, and no-one talks about it.

Pentecost is diametrically opposed to Babel (see Acts 2: 1-3), we heard at the beginning of the
audience. The Holy Spirit, descending from above like wind and fire, sweeps over the community closed up in the Cenacle, infuses it with the power of God, and inspires it to go out and announce the Lord Jesus to everyone. The Spirit creates unity in diversity; He creates harmony. In the account of the Tower of Babel, there is no harmony; only pressing forward in order to earn. There, others are simply instruments, mere “manpower”, but here, in Pentecost, each one of us is an instrument, but a community instrument that participates fully in building up the community. Saint Francis of Assisi knew this well, and inspired by the Spirit, he gave all people, indeed creatures, the name of brother or sister (see LS 11; see Saint Bonaventure, Legenda maior, VIII, 6: FF 1145). Even brother wolf, remember.

With Pentecost, God makes Himself present and inspires the faith of the community united in
diversity and in solidarity. Diversity and solidarity united in harmony, this is the way. A diversity in
solidarity possesses “antibodies” that ensure that the singularity of each person – which is a gift, unique and unrepeatable – not sicken with individualism, with selfishness. Diversity in solidarity also possesses antibodies that heal social structures and processes that have degenerated into systems of injustice, systems of oppression (see Compendium of the social doctrine of the Church, 192). Therefore, solidarity today is the road to take towards a post-pandemic world, towards the healing of our interpersonal and social sicknesses. There is no other way. Either we go ahead along the road of solidarity, or things will worsen. I want to repeat this: one does not come out of a crisis the same as before. The pandemic is a crisis. We emerge from a crisis either better or worse than before. It is up to us to choose. And solidarity is, indeed, a way of coming out of the crisis better, not with superficial changes, with a fresh coat of paint so everything looks fine. No. Better!

In the midst of crises, a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our
globalised culture, not by building towers or walls – and how many walls are being built today! – that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid. And to do this, solidity helps. I would like to ask a question: do I think of the needs of others? Everyone, answer in your heart.

In the midst of crises and tempests, the Lord calls to us and invites us to reawaken and activate this solidarity capable of giving solidity, support and meaning to these hours in which everything seems to be wrecked. May the creativity of the Holy Spirit encourage us to generate new forms of familiar hospitality, fruitful fraternity and universal solidarity. Thank you.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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