This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on Christian hope — “account for the hope that is in you” (cf. 1 Peter 3:8-17).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made two appeals, regarding the attack in St. Petersburg and the latest slaughter in Syria.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
Below is a working translation of the Holy Father’s words:
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The Apostle Peter’s First Letter bears in it an extraordinary charge! It is necessary to read it one, two, three times to understand this extraordinary charge! It is able to infuse great consolation and peace, making one perceive how the Lord is always at our side and never abandons us, especially in the most delicate and difficult situations of our life. But what is the “secret” of this Letter, and, particularly, of the passage we just heard (cf. 1 Peter 3:8-17)? This is a question. I know that you will take the New Testament today, you will look for the First Letter of Peter and you will read it slowly, slowly, to understand the secret and force of this Letter. What is the secret of this Letter?
- The secret is in the fact that this writing sinks its roots directly in Easter, in the heart of the mystery that we are about to celebrate, thus making us perceive all the light and joy that flow from the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Christ is truly Risen, and this is a beautiful greeting to give one another on Easter day: “Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen!,” as so many people do. Remember that Christ is Risen, He is alive among us; He is alive and dwells in each one of us. It is because of this that Saint Peter invites us forcefully to adore Him in our hearts (cf. v. 16). The Lord made His abode there at the moment of our Baptism, and from there He continues to renew us and our life, filling us with His love and the fullness of His Spirit. See then why the Apostle recommends that we account for the hope that is in us (cf. v. 16): our hope is not a concept, it is not a sentiment, it’s not a mobile phone, it’s not a pile of riches! Our hope is a Person; it is the Lord Jesus that we acknowledge alive and present in us and in our brethren, because Christ is Risen. When the Slav people greet one another, instead of saying “good morning.” “good evening,” during the Easter days they greet one another with this “Christ is Risen!,” “Christos voskrese!” they say to each other, and they are happy to say it! This is the “good morning” and the “good evening” they give one another: “Christ is Risen!”
- Then we understand that we must not so much give an account of this hope at the theoretical level, with words, but especially with the testimony of life, and this be it within the Christian community, be it outside of it. If Christ is alive and dwells in us, in our heart, then we must also let Him be visible, not hide Him, and let Him act in us. This means that the Lord Jesus must become increasingly our model: model of life and that we must learn to behave as He behaved. To do what Jesus did. Therefore, the hope that dwells in us, cannot remain hidden within us, in our heart: but, it would be a weak hope, which does not have the courage to go out and have itself seen; but our hope, as it shines through in Psalm 33 quoted by Peter, must necessarily burst outside, taking the exquisite and unmistakeable form of gentleness, respect and benevolence toward our neighbor, being able in fact to forgive one who does evil. A person who does not have hope is unable to forgive, is unable to give the consolation of forgiveness and to have the consolation of forgiving. Yes, because Jesus did this, and He continues to do through those who make room for Him in their heart and in their life, in the awareness that evil is not overcome with evil, but with humility, mercy and meekness. The mafiosi think that evil can be overcome with evil, and so they engage in revenge and do the many things we all know. But they do not know what humility, mercy and meekness are. And why? Because the mafiosi do not have hope. Think of this.
- See what Saint Peter affirms that “it is better to suffer for doing right, than for doing wrong” (v. 17): it does not mean that it is good to suffer but that, when we suffer for the good, we are in communion with the Lord, who accepted to suffer and to be put on the cross for our salvation. Then, when we also accept to suffer for the good, in the smallest or greatest situations of our life, it is as if we scattered around us seeds of resurrection, seeds of life, and made the light of Easter shine in the darkness. It is because of this that the Apostle exhorts us to respond always “with a blessing” (v. 9): a blessing is not a formality, it is not only a sign of courtesy, but it is a great gift which we received first and that we have the possibility to share with brethren. It is the proclamation of the love of God, a limitless love, which is not exhausted, which never fails and which constitutes the true foundation of our hope.
Dear friends, we also understand why the Apostle Peter calls us “blessed,” when we must suffer for justice (cf. V. 13). It is not only for a moral or ascetic reason, but it is because every time we take the side of the last and the marginalized, or that we do not respond to evil with evil, but by forgiving and blessing, every time we do this we shine as living and luminous signs of hope, thus becoming instruments of consolation and peace, according to God’s heart. An so we go forward with gentleness, meekness, being kind and doing good also to those who don’t love us, or who do us evil. Go on![Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the families of the military men fallen in international peace missions, accompanied by the Military Ordinary Monsignor Santo Marciano; the Rwandan community in Italy and the National Order of Doctors, Agronomists and Foresters.
I greet the participants in the congress promoted by the Pontifical Council of Culture, encouraging them to reflect on the future of humanity in the light of medical sciences and perennial moral values. I greet the Pope John XXIII Community and, while I exhort you to continue the work in favor of girls removed from prostitution, I invite Romans to take part in the Way of the Cross for crucified women, which will take place on Friday, April 7 at Garbatella.
Finally, a particular thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we remember Saint Vincent Ferrer, Dominican preacher. Dear young people, at his school learn to talk with God and of God, avoiding useless and harmful talk; dear sick, learn from his spiritual experience to trust in Christ crucified in every circumstance; dear newlyweds, take recourse to his intercession to assume your parental mission with generous commitment.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeals
My thought goes at this moment to the grave attacks in past days in the St. Petersburg metro, which has caused victims and loss in the population. While I entrust to God’s mercy all those who died tragically, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all those who are suffering due to this tragic event.
We witness horrified the latest events in Syria. I express my firm censure for the unacceptable slaughter yesterday in the province of Idlib, where tens of vulnerable people were killed, among them many children. I pray for the victims and their families and I appeal to the conscience of all those who have political responsibility, at the local and international level, so that this tragedy ceases and relief is taken to that dear population for too long exhausted by war. I also encourage the efforts of those who, despite the insecurity and hardship, work to have help reach the inhabitants of that region.