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 Baptism: 6. Put on Christ (Biblical passage: Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians 3:26-27).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made an Appeal for the worrying situation in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we conclude the series of catecheses on Baptism. The spiritual effects of this Sacrament, invisible to the eyes but operative in the heart of one who has become a new creature, are made explicit by the consignment of the white robe and of the lighted candle. After the cleansing of regeneration, capable of recreating man according to God, in true holiness (Cf. Ephesians 4:24), it seemed natural, since the first centuries, to put on the newly baptized a new white robe similar to the splendour of the life obtained in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. While the white robe expresses symbolically what has happened in the Sacrament, it proclaims the condition of those transfigured in divine glory.
Saint Paul recalls what it means to put on Christ, explaining what are the virtues that the baptized must cultivate: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).
The ritual handing over of the flame drawn from the Easter candle also recalls the effect of Baptism: “Receive the light of Christ,” says the priest. These words remind us that we are not the light but that Jesus Christ is the light (John 1:9; 12:46), who, risen from the dead, has overcome the darkness of evil. We are called to receive His splendour! As the flame of the Easter candle gives light to individual candles, so the charity of the Risen Lord inflames the hearts of the baptized, filling them with light and warmth. And because of this, from the first centuries Baptism was also called “illumination,” and one who was baptized was called ”illuminated.”
This is in fact the Christian vocation: “to walk always as children of light, persevering in the faith” (Cf. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, n. 226; John 12:36).
When it comes to children, it’s the task of parents, together with the godfathers and godmothers, to take care to nourish the flame of the baptismal grace of their little ones, helping them to persevere in the faith (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 73). “A Christian education is a right of children; it tends to guide them gradually to know God’s plan in Christ: thus they will be able to ratify personally the faith in which they were baptized “ (Ibid., Introduction, 3).The living presence of Christ, to guard, defend and expand in us, is the lamp that lights our steps, light that orients our choices, flame that warms hearts in going to encounter the Lord, making us capable of helping one who journeys with us up to inseparable communion with Him. That day, says again Revelation, “night shall be no more, and we won’t need the light of a lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign for ever and ever” (Cf. 22:5)
The celebration of Baptism concludes with the Our Father prayer, proper to the community of the children of God. In fact, the children reborn in Baptism will receive the fullness of the gift of the Spirit in Confirmation and they will take part in the Eucharist, learning what it means to turn to God calling Him “Father.”
At the end of these catecheses on Baptism, I repeat to each one of you the invitation, which in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate I expressed thus: “Let the grace of your Baptism fructify in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God and, to this end, choose Him, choose God always anew. Do not be discouraged, because you have the strength of the Holy Spirit so that it’s possible and, at bottom, holiness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)” (n. 15).
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful.
In particular, I’m happy to receive the Priests of the Dioceses of Milan and of Brescia, the Pallotine Fathers, and the parishes, in particular, those of Stabia and of Oria. May the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles enhance in each one of you the desire to adhere to Jesus and His Gospel with renewed enthusiasm.
I greet the AVIS Group of Viterbo, accompanied by the Bishop, Monsignor Lino Fumaggalli; the Saint Charles College of Milan; the University Higher Institute of Psycho-Pedagogical Sciences of Viterbo; the Delegation of the Soccer Championship for people with mental disorders, and the Group from the District Prison of Catania.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Marian prayer that shapes the time of this month of May, support and motivate each one to live well his/her presence in the family and in work environments, bringing the joy of life in Christ with the enthusiasm of disciples.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
I’m very worried about the worsening of tensions in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and by the spiral of violence that alienates ever more from the path of peace, of dialogue and of negotiations.
I express my great grief for the dead and wounded and I am close to all those that suffer with prayer and affection. I confirm that the use of violence never leads to peace. War calls to war, violence calls to violence.
I invite all the parties concerned and the international community to renew their commitment, so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail.
Let us invoke Mary, Queen of Peace. “Hail Mary . . . “
May God have mercy on us!
I express my warm best wishes for the month of Ramadan, which begins tomorrow. May this privileged time of prayer and fasting help to walk on the way of God, which is the way of peace.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]