Pope Francis has admitted that whenever he visits a prison he thinks: “Why them and not me?”
In a book-long interview with the Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, the pontiff said: “Every time I go through the gates into a prison to celebrate Mass or for a visit, I always think: ‘Why them and not me? I should be here. I deserve to be here. Their fall could have been mine.’ ”
In The Name of God is Mercy he discusses his thinking on the divorced and remarried, gay people and the importance of mercy.
The Pontiff discloses how his own niece married a divorced man who had not received an annulment in a civil ceremony.
The couple now have three children, the Pope says, adding that his niece’s husband was “so religious” that he went to Mass every Sunday and accepted that he could never be absolved of his sins. His niece had to wait for four years for her husband’s annulment to be approved before they could marry in church.
Francis also say that gay people should not be “defined” by their sexuality, Francis says.
“The Church condemns sin because it has to relay the truth: ‘this is a sin’,” he said. “But at the same time, it embraces the sinner who recognises himself as such … it speaks to him of the infinite mercy of God.”
On the theme of mercy, Francis says it is the “most important message” of Christianity and “God’s identity card” – and he urges Christians to “overcome prejudice and rigidity”.
The Pope says the Church “does not exist to condemn people” but rather to share a message of the “infinite mercy of God”. “I often say that in order for this to happen, it is necessary to go out: to go out from the churches and the parishes, to go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope.”
The book comes ahead of the apostolic exhortation on the family synod, which is expected to be published in March and will outline the Pope’s reflections on marriage, divorce and the family. In the book, the Holy Father condemns corruption, pride and hypocrisy in the Church. He even gives examples of clergy asking for bribes or asking intrusive and lurid sexual questions in the
The Pontiff acknowledges in the book that many people are turning away from organised religion towards other forms of spirituality.
Nuns threatened by armed rebels in South Sudan
Religious Sisters at a teacher training college in South Sudan were threatened by armed rebels shortly after Christmas.
Five armed men, believed to be allied to South Sudan’s main rebel group, assaulted and threatened Sisters at the Solidarity Teacher Training College in Yambio, the capital of the country’s Western Equatoria state.
After climbing the fence surrounding the college, the men confronted the nuns, who were locking up the building for the night, and demanded guns, cash, phones and computers. The De La Salle Brother Bill Firman, director of Solidarity with South Sudan, said in a statement: “Of course the Sisters had no guns, but handed over the other items.”