Here is a translation of the various meetings Pope Francis had with groups in the Roman parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer in Tor Bella Monaca on Sunday.
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MEETING WITH THE SICK IN THE CHURCH OF SAINT GIOVANNA ANTIDA
I thank you for your hospitality and I thank you for your smile. I know that you pray for me, and I thank you so much for this. The Lord loves you so much, The Lord is close to you. The Lord never abandons you, not even in the worst moments. We have confidence in Him: He is close to us, and when an awful moment arrives –because this happens to everyone – when awful moments arrive, a bit of nostalgia, a bit of sadness, the big tears that come, the weeping Let’s do like this with our hand: “Lord, I know You are here.” He never abandons us. Perhaps you say: “Ah, You are here, but I’m having the bad moment!” But He lived an awful moment on the cross and — do you remember? He was the first to come to all of us. And, because of this, He knows what pain is, what sadness is, to be alone and so many things … But He is always there. Never lose confidence. Understood? But you are not very convinced, no? Never lose confidence. And with the Lord there is also our Mother. Mothers never leave their children alone, and Our Lady is our Mother. Now we pray to her all together: “Hail Mary …”
And I give you my blessing: “May God Almighty bless you …”
And please, pray for me: don’t forget! We’ll see one another later on, but I don’t know, the Lord knows … Forward, courage! The Lord is always there. Thank you. Thank you for your hospitality!
MEETING WITH CHILDREN AND YOUNGSTERS IN THE SPORTS FIELD OF THE PARISH[A girl]: Holy Father, we want to know how you felt when you were elected Pope … [Pope Francis]: Thank you … [A girl scout]: This is a question that the two of us want to ask you: we’ve had this question for a long time and finally we can have an answer. If God forgives everyone, why does Hell exist? And then, a little curiosity: in your opinion, what is Paradise like? [A girl]: Dear Holy Father, as Christians we are faced with many difficulties. We are exposed to so much teasing, also because of our moral choices as, for instance, to live our sexuality in a Christian way. Holiness, can you help us to understand and counsel us how to live to the best our faith and to walk beside God, despite the difficulties of life, which often make us feel far from His love. Thank you with our whole heart. [Pope Francis]
Good evening to all!
First a question that is very important, the one you asked, as a good scout you asked a good and difficult question. Now I will also ask: Does God forgive everything … or not? [Answer: Yes! He forgives everything!] Because He is good … or not? [Yes! He is good!] He is good. However, you know that there was a very proud angel, very proud, who was very intelligent. And he was envious of God, do you understand? He was envious of God. He wanted God’s place. And God wanted to forgive him, but he said: I don’t need forgiveness, I am sufficient unto myself!” This is Hell: to say to God: You manage yourself, I‘ll manage myself on my own.” No one sends you to Hell. You go there because you choose to be there. Hell is to want to distance oneself from God because I don’t want God’s love. This is Hell, Do you understand? It is a theology that is somewhat easy to explain and it is this. The devil is in Hell because he wanted it: he never wanted a relation with God. However, if you are … think of a sinner: if you were a tremendous sinner, with all the sins of the world, all of them, and then you were sentenced to death, and when you are there, blasphemies, insults, so many things … And at the moment of going there, to the death penalty, when you are about to die, you look at Heaven and say: “Lord …!” Where do you go, to Heaven or to Hell? Louder … [to Heaven!] You go to Heaven because there was another who was a thief, but one of those thieves …. He was crucified near to Jesus. And one of these two thieves insulted Jesus. He didn’t believe in Jesus; he endured the pains until death. However, at a certain point, something moved within him and he said: “Lord, have mercy on me!” And what did Jesus say? Do you remember what he said? “Today, this evening, you will be with me in Paradise.” Why? Because he said “remember me”, “look at me.” Only he goes to Hell who says to God: I don’t need you, I can manage on my own,” as the devil did, who is the only one that we are certain is in Hell. Is this clear? Thank you for the question. But you seem to be a theologian!
The other question is not easy. Christian morality: how to live this morality; to be holy before God, what must I do? And Christian morality, to live morally is a grace; it is an answer to the love He gives you first. If you are not aware that He loves you, you can’t do anything. Nothing. And the moral way of living is an answer to the encounter with Jesus. If you have not encountered Jesus, you will never be able to live a Christian life. It is Jesus who helps you to go forward and if you fall, it is He who raises you and who makes you continue going. But if you think or we think that the moral life is only “do this,” “Don’t do that” … “do this,” “don’t do that,” “do this,” “don’t do that”…this isn’t Christian. This is a moral philosophy, but it isn’t Christian. Christian is the love of Jesus who first loves us. Understood? When all of us have temptations to envy, jealousies, so many temptations, all, all, so many temptations; at the moment of temptation we must look at Jesus and say: Lord, look at me, don’t leave me alone.” But then, if you fall, get up. The mountain climbers have a very lovely song that says this: “In the art of mountain climbing, what is important is not to fall but to stay fallen.” Christian morality is this: you fall? Get up immediately and go forward. This is thelife, but always with Jesus. Without Jesus you can do nothing. Understood? Eh? You can also go study Moral Theology at the Gregorian: they will teach you these things …
And the third question, which was the first: what did you feel when you were elected Pope? I don’t know …. “They changed my dioceses” … [he laughs, they laugh]. I was happy in a diocese and now I’m happy in another. They changed my place. There.
To the children of Communion, all of whom wrote me a letter, I thank them and carry the letters with me.
Let us pray to Our Lady to bless us all. Never go in life without Jesus. Never look for salvation without God: He is the one who saves, so we won’t go to Hell. And never complain when life changes your place!
“Hail Mary …”
Now we ask God to bless us all: May Almighty God bless you …” Thank you!
MEETING WITH THE PARISH PASTORAL COUNCIL AND THE LEADERS[Priest]
Now, Holy Father, you have before you all those who collaborate here, in the parish. They are those who enable us, priests, to be able to be present in the territory, and above all, thanks to their commitment and constancy, they help us to take Jesus Christ to our neighborhood. We have more than 250 collaborators; many are here, others are working today in other services but they are all truly people of good will and of a great heart. While we were coming, on Via dell’Archeologia, you saw all these persons who were awaiting you: these are the people that make Rome fear. They are the poor people. It is not enough that two families ruin the fabric of a situation. The people of Tor Bella Monaca are good and you, today, have had the possibility to see first hand their goodness and, as they said to you in the car, their closeness to us priests, because they love us – us and the Sisters. And this is a great gift for us, because every morning we get up serene, knowing we have the People of God who walk with us in taking the Word of God to the neighborhood. Therefore, I leave you to them now to say something that might help them[Pope Francis]
Good afternoon and thank you for having come. The people of Tor Bella Monaca are good; they are good people. They have only one defect, but it’s the same defect that Jesus, Mary and Joseph had: of being poor. Poverty …. with the difference that Joseph had a job, Jesus had a job. So many people here don’t. And they must feed their children! And how do they manage? Ah, you know! The temptation … “But I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to, but I must feed my children.” This is your drama, of the people of here – that goodness put to gest by injustice, by the injustice of unemployment or of discrimination. And this is a sin; it is a grave sin. And so many people who are good are constrained to do bad things, perhaps, because they find no other way. But then there are some other problems: we now that the devil and injustice enter through addictions, be it alcohol, be it drugs, and this pushes one to do evil things, bad things. But you have understood this, which under the dust that can be seen there is always a good soul. And a caress, a tenderness, as gesture of satisfying the people’s hunger does so much good.
Once – I did not see it –, in the other dioceses a parish priest told me that he had to go to the prison to visit one of his own who was in jail because he had robbed: he had robbed in a supermarket some meat to feed his children. And this is awful; poor man, what injustice! Because to comply with a commandment, he was put in prison. If your child is hungry and the society does not help you to work, it does not help you to find work, it does not help you to come out of vices … you must feed your children … I say this to understand well the situation of so many people who are good, but life pushes them against the wall. And you work so that these situations won’t be repeated, so that these situations won’t be daily: you work to continue going forward with the people and you say to them: “No, come here, what do you need? I’ll help you …” And so many times, when the people feel supported, loved, they don’t fall into that network of the wicked, who exploit the poor people. Because the Mafiosi also exploit poor people to make them do dirty work and then, if the police finds them, find those poor people but not the Mafiosi who are all safe and also pay for security. Is this not true? And you know it better than me. Therefore, I advise you to do one thing, to help the people. The first pastoral commandment is closeness: to be close to the people. Closeness. We cannot go to families with sick and hungry children or which have fallen into vice, we cannot go with the “you must, you must, you must!” This is the way: closeness. “But must I get close also to one who I know has bumped off two or three persons?” Get close, because he also has a heart, and God loves him. Get close. This is the great pastoral counsel I give you. And I thank you for this collaboration. And if there is so much injustice, to engage in political protests against injustice, shouting and then going to eat a good pizza with beer, is not right; what is right is closeness, caresses, love, sharing life.
Today I received a letter from a Jewish friend of mine, –we are great friends –, at Buenos Aires. He wrote me an electronic letter. And he told me a story – because Jews have old stories of elderly Rabbis that are catecheses, which the old Rabbis gave so that the people would learn how they should behave. And there was a rich man, very intelligent – it’s a story of many centuries ago, which they tell – and with his intelligence he read the Bible and said: “The prophet Elias must return, must come …,” and he didn’t understand why the prophet Elias didn’t come. And he went to his Rabbi. His Rabbi – old, wise – said to him: “Go to another country and you will find a house like this, like this, like this. Take everything, everything to have fir a celebration – because their New Year’s celebration was arriving – everything to eat, and take them there as a present and stay with them for a day of celebration. And you will find Elias there.” And this rich man filled two baskets and went and celebrated with them but he looked, looked around and did not see Elias. Then, after a day, he returned and went to the Rabbi and said: I did what you told me , but I didn’t see Elias. What must I do? You have deceived me!” “Return day after tomorrow with the same things, but don’t knock on the door: listen from the window what they are talking about.” These were the last days of celebration. This man appeared at the window, he listened and this poor Jewish family, poor, poor, poor, which had nothing to eat, was talking to the children who said: Mommy, now how will we celebrate the last day of the feast as we have nothing to eat? Daddy, what shall we do?” And the mother and father said: “We have confidence, like Elias, the prophet, who came the first day and will return also today.” And that man, who was listening from the window, realized that he was the prophet Elias.
We are also prophets, we are also great prophets; but we proclaim Jesus with gestures: also with words, but first with gestures, with closeness. That man went close and discovered that he had the capacity to resolve many problems, to feed so many people. Get close; don’t be afraid of closeness. Don’t be afraid of caresses: caress the people, the sick, those who are alone, also those who merit the appellative “miserable”: caress them, as God has caressed us. Closeness, caresses, love. And go forward on this way. And thank you, thank you for what you do!
And now we pray to Our Lady, who was so close to the people and who during the history of the Church has desired to be close to us, to come to us in so many apparitions, in so many places of the world, to teach us this wisdom of closeness to the people, without repulsion. “Hail Mary …” “May Almighty God bless you …”
And pray for me … What does this mean? Come close to me with your heart, as I also need your caresses and prayers! Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]