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Pope to priests of Rome: We are in a missionary land

By Vatican News

A “missionary land”. This was how Pope Francis described the Diocese of Rome on Saturday morning, January 13. He met in the city’s Cathedral Basilica of St. John Lateran for his annual encounter with the clergy of Rome.

The Pope arrived shortly after 9 AM, and was welcomed by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the Diocesan Vicar.

To the over 800 priests, diocesans, religious, and permanent deacons serving the Diocese, the Bishop of Rome launched an appeal for the evangelization of the entire ecclesiastical community.

The Pope also announced that he will resume visiting the parishes of the diocese, after the pause imposed by the pandemic.

Open, friendly dialogue

The meeting, which lasted about three hours, was reported in a statement from the Diocese of Rome to have taken place “with an open and familiar dialogue in cordial atmosphere.” Following Midmorning Prayer, Cardinal De Donatis greeted the Pope, who then opened up the floor for questions. He invited them to ask questions freely and sincerely, fielding about thirty questions.

Pope Francis spoke about the necessity of evangelization in a pagan context, emphasizing the importance of bearing credible witness.

Blessing people, not sin

He then responded to questions about blessing homosexual couples, stating that the doctrine on the Sacrament of Marriage between a man and a woman has not changed, saying that people are blessed, not sin.

To a question from an African-born priest, he said that African culture does not accept these blessings because there are different sensitivities. He added that this has been clarified with Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa and President of SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).

Pope Francis stated that many do not read well the texts of the Church. Good listening is required, he emphasized, noting that conflicts must be managed but not hidden.

The Pope then urged the priests of Rome to always forgive. “I always forgive; one must always have mercy,” he said.

On the topic of permanent deacons, he said they must be among the people, serving those in need.

In conclusion, Pope Francis recalled that homilies should be brief, about 7/8 minutes, direct, and must capture the spirit of the Word of God.


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