03/17/2013, 00.00
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Pope Francis as parish priest at Sant'Anna: the Lord never gets tired of forgiving

The pontiff holds his first public Mass in the church of Vatican City, delivering a brief and simple homily without a prepared text. At the end, he personally said goodbye to parishioners. The auxiliary bishop and some priests from the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires were present at the Mass, including a clergyman working with street kids and drug addicts. Today's homily was centred on mercy, the Lord's and the Church's "strongest message".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The Lord never gets tired of forgiving. Never! It is we who get tired to ask for his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace of never getting tired to ask for forgiveness because He never gets tired of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace," said Pope Francis at the end of his homily during the Mass he celebrated this morning in the Church of Sant'Anna, the parish church of the Vatican City,

Like a parish priest, the pontiff celebrated the Mass in a simple and sober manner, without incense and solemn processions, backed by a choir not always in tune, delivering his homily from the ambo. Like a parish priest, he went to the church door to say goodbye to each parishioner, hugging babies, talking to the faithful, moving some to tears.

The pope's homily was brief, delivered without a prepared text, and was centred on the Gospel of the Fifth Sunday of Lent (John, 8:1-11), i.e. the story of the woman caught in adultery.

After a moment of silence before the lectionary, the pontiff said, "This is beautiful. Before, Jesus alone on the mountain, praying. He was praying alone. Then, he went again to the Temple, and all the people came to him. Jesus was in the middle of the people who, eventually, left him alone with the woman."

"Jesus' solitude is fruitful, that of praying with the Father; that, so beautiful, in today's Church message, that of mercy towards this woman."

"There was a difference among the people," he noted. "All the people came to him. He sat down and began teaching them. Some people wanted to hear Jesus' words. They were the people with an open heart, in need of the Word of God. But there were others who felt nothing; they could not feel. They were the ones who went with the woman and who wanted to condemn her."

"We too, I think, are [like] this people who, on the one hand want to hear Jesus, and on the other like to beat others, right? Condemn others, don't we? Condemn others. But Jesus' message is one of mercy. For me-I say this with humility-the Lord's strongest message is mercy. He said himself, 'Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."

"He comes to us when we acknowledge that we are sinners," the pope added. "But if we are like the Pharisee before the altar, [who said], 'Thank you, Lord, for not making me like all the other men, and especially not like that fellow at the door, like that publican . . .'. ' well, then we do not know the heart of the Lord, and we shall not ever have the joy of feeling this mercy. It is not easy to trust oneself to the mercy of God, because [His mercy] is an unfathomable abyss, but we must do it."

"Father, if you just knew my life, you would not talk to me like that! Why? What have you done? I did bad things. It is better you go to Jesus. He likes it when you tell him these stories. He forgets. He has the ability of forgetting, [which is] special. He forgets [your sins], he kisses you, he hugs you, and he says to you, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, sin no more!' Only that advice he gives you."

"If, after a month, we are in the same conditions, we go back to the Lord. The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. Never! It is we who get tired of asking for forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace of never tiring to ask for forgiveness because He never gets tired of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace!"

Before the Mass ended, the pope was greeted by the priest of the church and by Card Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Vatican basilica. Both welcomed his election, describing it as a "new springtime for the Church".

At the ambo, the pope introduced to the congregation some young priests from Argentina, currently in Rome, and the auxiliary bishop of his former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires.

Before the entire assembly, he singled one priest, Fr Gonzalo, who works with street kids and drug addicts in Argentina where he has set up a school to give young people a job. As the pope warmly hugged him, he said, "Pray for him!"

After that, the Holy Father went outside the church to say goodbye to the faithful. Outside of the church, near the Porta sant'Anna, a crowd was waiting and gave him a round of applause, shouting "Francis, Francis!"

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