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Catholic News Service is a leading agency for religious news. It was founded by U.S. bishops in 1920, and is an office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
VATICAN CITY — Parents who prefer not to baptize their children in the hopes that they will “understand and ask for baptism” as adults lack faith that the Holy Spirit will act in their child’s life, Pope Francis said.
While some believe that there is no need to “baptize a child that does not understand” the meaning of the sacrament, the pope said doing so would deny the chance for “Christian virtues to grow within that child and blossom.”
“Always give this opportunity to all children: to have within themselves the Holy Spirit that will guide them in life. Do not forget to baptize your children,” the pope said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 11.
Arriving in the square under cloudy skies, Pope Francis once again picked up several children who rode around in his popemobile while he circled around to greet thousands of pilgrims.
In his main talk, Pope Francis reflected on the sacrament of baptism as “the foundation of Christian life.”
As the first of seven sacraments, he said, baptism “is the door that permits Christ the Lord to make His dwelling in us and allows us to immerse ourselves in His mystery.”
While being immersed in water is a common ritual “in various beliefs” that signifies the passing from one condition to another, Pope Francis said Christians must never forget that just as the body is immersed in water at baptism, so is the soul “immersed in Christ to receive forgiveness from sin and shine with divine light.”
“By virtue of the Holy Spirit, baptism immerses us in the death and resurrection of the Lord, drowning the old man — dominated by the sin that divides us from God — in the baptismal font and giving birth to the new man, recreated in Jesus. In Him, all the sons of Adam are called to new life,” the pope said.
The pope, who often tells people to look up the date of their baptism, called on those who don’t remember the date to ask their family and to celebrate it like a birthday and “give thanks to the Lord because it was on that day when Jesus entered” in their lives.
“We should all know the date of our baptism. It is another birthday, it is the day of our rebirth,” he said.
Although baptism occurs only once in a Christian’s life, Pope Francis said, “it illuminates our entire life, guiding our steps until (we reach) the heavenly Jerusalem.”
“No one deserves baptism, which is always a gift for everyone, adults and newborns. But like what happens to a seed full of life, this gift takes root and brings forth fruit in a land nourished by faith,” the pope said.
VATICAN CITY — Priests must give hope to men and women seeking forgiveness, encouraging them in their struggle away from the slippery slope of sin, Pope Francis said.
Being merciful in the confessional helps penitents return to God without fear, even if they repeatedly stumble or slip on a path that “is filled with stones and banana peels,” the pope told 550 priests he designated as “missionaries of mercy.”
“In short, mercy restores dignity,” the pope said April 10. “The penitent does not indulge in self-pity for the sin committed, and the priest does not blame him for the evil from which he repented. Rather, he encourages him to look to the future with new eyes, leading him to ‘springs of water.’”
The missionaries of mercy, religious-order and diocesan priests from around the world, were among more than 1,000 who received a special papal mandate to preach and teach about God’s mercy during the 2015-16 Holy Year of Mercy.
After listening to “many testimonies of conversion,” Pope Francis said he felt the need to prolong their mission.
“We must truly recognize that God’s mercy has no limits,” the pope said, “and with your ministry, you are a concrete sign that the Church cannot, should not and does not want to create any barrier or difficulty that impedes access to the Father’s forgiveness.”
To be effective heralds of mercy, the pope continued, priests must recognize the merciful love they first received from God in their own lives.
— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
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