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POPE’S MESSAGE | Don’t compromise on protecting minors from abuse

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said he told the bishops and priests of Chile to be uncompromising when it comes to protecting minors from sexual abuse and to trust that God will purify and renew His Church during this time of trial.

Problems and conflicts must never be swept under the rug, he also said, because they can be resolved only through openness and dialogue.

At his weekly general audience Jan. 24 in St. Peter's Square, the pope told an estimated 15,000 pilgrims and visitors about his Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru.

Thanking leaders, organizers and volunteers for all their hard work and generosity in contributing to a trip where "everything went well," the pope also recognized the presence of protesters.

The protests made the theme of his visit to Chile, "I Give You My Peace," even more relevant and timely, he said, as these words that Jesus spoke to His disciples explain how He is the one and only source of peace for those who trust in Him.

Some of the more "intense" moments of the trip, he said, were meetings with Chile's priests, religious and bishops.

Those encounters were made "even more fruitful by the shared suffering over some of the wounds that afflict the Church" there, he said. The pope had earlier asked forgiveness from those who were sexually abused by priests, but stood firm with his decision in 2015 to give a diocese to Bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse perpetrated by Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor.

During his general audience at the Vatican, the pope said he emphasized to his brother bishops and priests that they must "reject every compromise with the sexual abuse of minors and, at the same time, trust in God, who through this difficult trial, purifies and renews His ministers."

After detailing other highlights of the trip, he emphasized the importance of never ignoring or hiding problems or conflicts because handling them that way only makes things worse.

"Conflicts that come to light are talked about, are resolved through dialogue. Think about the small conflicts that you certainly have at home. Don't hide them," he said, instead, find the right moment to talk things through.

When he talked about visiting a women's prison in Santiago, he urged all nations to make sure their incarceration practices always included programs for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners. Without that glimmer of hope of someday being welcomed back into society, "prison is a torture without end."

He also mentioned how he told leaders in Peru to do all they could to address the social and environmental challenges there as well as the problem of corruption.

Corruption, he said, "is more dangerous than the flu." It lodges itself in the heart, destroying it, he said, as he urged everyone to fight this problem. 

Pope: Laughter defeats temptation of self-importance

TRUJILLO, Peru — Laughter is the best medicine for religious men and women to overcome the temptation of feeling too important or being too busy to serve others, Pope Francis said.

A joyful self-awareness can help those in religious life to not "slack in the work of evangelization" and keep clear from a Messiah complex, the pope told priests, seminarians and men and women in consecrated life from various parts of Peru.

"Yes, learning to laugh at ourselves gives us the spiritual ability to stand before the Lord with our limitations, our mistakes and our sins, but also our successes, and the joy of knowing that he is at our side," the pope said Jan. 20.

However, he also told them "to laugh in community and not at the community or at others."

Pope Francis offered two prescriptions for laughing at oneself. First, "talk to Jesus and Mary" and ask for "the grace of joy," he said, and second, "look at yourself in the mirror."

His remark was followed by laughter and applause, then someone in the audience shouted, "Narcissism." Not missing a beat, the pope added: "And this is not narcissism. On the contrary, it's the opposite. Here the mirror serves as a cure."

In his speech, the pope said religious men and women must be marked by joy and gratitude, "which enlarges the heart and inspires us to service."

The faithful, he added, "have a sense of smell" that allows "them to distinguish a functionary of the sacred from a grateful servant."

"The people of God are patient, but they also know who serves and heals their wounds with the balm of joy and gratitude," the pope said.

Priests, seminarians and consecrated men and women are also called be signs of communion and unity, which means to discern what everyone has to offer while respecting each other's differences.

In doing so, they can distribute the gifts they have received "while being enriched by that of others."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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