Pope Francis’ catechesis today at the general audience was quite fascinating, and a certain portion of it was off-the-cuff, as is his wont to do with great frequency.

At the end of the audience the Holy Father met with Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore who is in Rome with several faith leaders from Baltimore in support of their work together to improve relations and conditions in this city that is trying to recover from the great unrest of a year ago. If you remember, last April in Baltimore, Freddie Gray died due to injuries allegedly sustained while in police custody and that brought the city from peaceful protests to an outbreak of riots, the first since 1968, on the afternoon of Gray’s funeral.

I spoke to the archbishop this afternoon and you will hear that interview on “Vatican Insider.” We will learn why the faith leaders are in Rome and how their visit went with Pope Francis.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says the Church has no need for “blood” money that derives from exploitation of people; what it needs is that the hearts of faithful be open to God’s mercy.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience, the Pope’s catechesis was inspired by the Holy Year of Mercy and he reflected on God’s fatherly love and forgiveness.

When God’s children err in their ways, the Pope said, God calls out to them lovingly and never disowns them.   “The most evil of men, the most evil of women, and the most evil of peoples are His children” he said.

The Lord never disowns us; he always calls us to be close to Him. This – the Pope said – is the love of our Father, the mercy of God. “To have a Father like this gives us hope and trust” he said.

And commenting on the fact that “when a person is sick he turns to the doctor; when he feels he has sinned” Francis said: “he must turn to God – because if he turns to the witch doctor he will not be healed”.

Pointing out that “we often choose to tread the wrong paths in search of a justification, justice, and peace” Pope Francis said that these are gifts that are bestowed upon us by the Lord if we choose the right path and turn to Him.

“I think of some benefactors of the Church, who come with an offering for the Church and their offering is the fruit of the blood of people who have been exploited, enslaved with work which was under-paid.” “I will tell these people to please take back their checks. The People of God don’t need their dirty money but hearts that are open to the mercy of God” he said

Reflecting on how the prophet Isaiah presents God in the Scriptures, he said that this fatherly love of the Lord also involves correction, a summons to conversion and the renewal of the Covenant.   If he chastises his people, said Francis, it is to move them to repentance and conversion, and in his mercy, he asks them to turn back to him with all their hearts and to receive a righteousness that is itself his gift.

“Though our sins be like scarlet, he will make them white as snow” he said.

And with a special thought and mention for the many refugees who are attempting to enter Europe and do not know where to go, Pope Francis invited the faithful to be open, during this year of grace, to our heavenly Father’s merciful invitation to come back to him and to experience this miracle of his love and forgiveness.


The Catholic Education, an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society, posted a story yesterday about a new research center named in honor of Pope Benedict XVI and dedicated to the study of religion and the social sciences that was recently given approval by the Vatican to be called the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. The Centre was founded last fall at St Mary’s University,Twickenham in London on the five-year anniversary of the pope’s visit to England. (photo from website)

BXVI Center

“If we’re sure of the Truth, as it is revealed to us through Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, then it’s imperative upon us to bring these riches to the surrounding culture. I think this is the clear, personal witness of Pope Benedict XVI,” Dr. Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics and director of Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, told The Cardinal Newman Society.

On February 1, the University received confirmation from Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to Great Britain, that the Holy See Secretariat of State approved the naming of the Centre in honor of the emeritus pope. The Centre serves as “an international hub for research and engagement activities in the area of religion and the social sciences,” especially in areas of economics, sociology and political science, according to its website.

The Centre seems a welcome response to the call Pope Benedict issued to Catholic educators during his papal visit in 2010. A Catholic education “is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian,” Pope Benedict said in his address to teachers and religious when he visited St. Mary’s. “It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom,” he reminded those gathered.

(JFL: I recently wrote on these pages about Twickenham and St. Mary’s in reference to my covering Pope Benedict’s visit to this College in September 2010 when he addressed a student group. I can’t wait to return, also because my friend Francis Campbell, former ambassador from Great Britain to the Holy See, has been, since 2014 the vice-chancellor of St. Mary’s University at Twickenham)

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