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POPE’S MESSAGE | Make room for kindness, not hopeless ‘mafia’ mentality

VATICAN CITY — Hope can't remain hidden within, but must break free to overcome vengeful, mafia-like mentalities with mercy and humility, Pope Francis said.

Christians must give witness to hope through their lives as Jesus did and make room for Him in their hearts to fight evil by doing good to others, even their enemies, the pope said at his weekly general audience April 5.

"The mafiosi think that evil can be overcome by evil. They take revenge; they do so many things that we all know. But they do not know what humility, mercy and meekness are. And why? Because the mafiosi have no hope," he said.

Arriving in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis made his way through the crowd of 15,000 people, greeting individuals and even making a quick stop to sip some yerba mate tea offered by a group of pilgrims from his native Argentina.

Arriving at the stage, the pope spotted a familiar face among the Argentine pilgrims, and warmly embraced an elderly woman and spoke to her while other people in the group reached out to touch him.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a verse from the First Letter of St. Peter, in which the apostle calls on Christians to "always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope."

The "secret" to understanding this hope, the pope said, is that it is rooted in the paschal mystery of Christ's victory over death.

"Our hope is not a concept nor a sentiment; it is not phone call or a pile of riches," he said. "No, our hope is a person, it is the Lord Jesus who we recognize alive and present in us and in our brothers and sisters."

A person who lacks hope, the pope added, is incapable of giving or receiving the "consolation of forgiveness" and unable to make room for Christ in their hearts.

St. Peter's assertion that "it is better to suffer for doing good" than doing evil, he continued, doesn't mean that it is good to suffer, but that suffering for the sake of good means "that we are in communion with the Lord."

Christians who wish to follow Jesus' example are called to love and do good, even to "those who do not wish us well or even harm us," Pope Francis said.

"It is the proclamation of God's love, an immeasurable love that is unending, that is never lacking and constitutes the very foundation of our hope," he said. 

Pope: Cross is sign of God's love, not just a shiny trinket

VATICAN CITY — The cross is a sign of God's love for humankind and not just an emblem of Christianity or a piece of jewelry to display, Pope Francis said.

The cross is a symbol of "the power of God who made Himself sin to heal us," and its significance can be lost due to a lack of faith in its saving power or the desire to show off, the pope said April 4 at morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"For some people it is a membership badge: 'Yes, I carry the cross to show that I am a Christian.' That is good, but it isn't just a badge as if you were part of a team — a team logo — but a reminder of the one who made Himself sin," the pope said.

Reflecting on the day's reading from the Book of Numbers (21: 4-9), which recounted the healing of the people of Israel who were poisoned by serpents, the pope said the bronze serpent was not only a reminder of how sin entered the world but also a "prophecy" of Christ's death on the cross.

"Salvation comes only from the cross, from this cross where God was made flesh. There is no salvation in ideas; there is no salvation in good will, in wanting to be good. No! The only salvation is in Christ crucified because only He — like the bronze serpent — was able to take upon Himself the poison of our sin and heal us," the pope said.

Christians, Pope Francis said, must ask themselves if they are aware of the importance of the cross or if they carry it like "a trinket adorned with many precious stones and gold."

"Each one of us today should look at the cross," he said. "Look at this God who has made Himself sin for us so that we will not die in our sins."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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