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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Christian witness requires action, pope says during parish visit

Being a real Christian does not mean being a saint, but giving witness to Jesus in word and, especially, deed, Pope Francis told members of a parish on the eastern edge of Rome.

Spending more than three hours at the parish of St Mary in the Setteville neighbourhood on 15th January, Pope Francis had the same basic message for the children and youths as he did for the parish as a whole: “Christian witness is done with three things: words, the heart and the hands.”

As is his custom for parish visits in the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis arrived in the late afternoon and held separate meetings with the children and teenagers from the religious education program and Scout groups; with the parents of the 45 babies baptised in the parish over the past year; with a group of parishioners who are sick or have disabilities; and with the parish council and more than 100 parishioners active in parish activities.

Before celebrating Mass, he heard the confessions of four parishioners. The Vatican press office said they were the young couple who care for the 50-year-old assistant priest, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; a young man from the parish post-confirmation program; and the father of a sick child.

In response to the questions of the parish young people, Pope Francis insisted, “If I say I am Catholic and go to Mass every Sunday with my parents, but I don’t speak (about Jesus), I don’t help my grandparents, don’t help the poor, don’t visit the sick, then it is not witness and it is useless.”

Picture: Pope Francis greets the crowd outside the church after celebrating Mass at the parish of St Mary in the Setteville neighbourhood of Rome on 15th January. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).