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Criticisms hurt Francis, says aide

Pope Francis (CNS)

A senior Vatican official has said that while Pope Francis is generally serene in the face of criticism, some attacks have caused him suffering.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute for general affairs at the Secretariat of State and the papal delegate to the Order of Malta, told reporters that the Pope was “calm” but that “he is a human being, so he also suffers”.

Some criticism, he said, reached “the core of one’s being – like him betraying Church doctrine”.

He said the charge was “not true”, adding: “He does not accept this and it is the most serious accusation that one can receive.”

The archbishop’s remarks are the first indication that Pope Francis has been upset by criticism.

Francis has often said he “felt a great peace” the moment he realised he would be elected Pope, and that “That peace has not left me.”

But he told Jesuits in Chile that he tried to avoid reading websites “of the so-called ‘resistance’ ” for the sake of his wellbeing.

He said: “Some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and accuse you of being heretical. When I find no spiritual goodness in these people, for what they say or write, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I will not dwell on this feeling for my mental health.”

Pope Francis surprised some observers last week by telling Polish pilgrims: “We know that one who has committed a serious sin should not approach Holy Communion without having first obtained absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation.”

The remark, which did not appear in the main text of his general audience but was part of a special greeting to the Polish group, appears to be in conflict with some interpretations of Amoris Laetitia.

For instance, the bishops of Malta have said that Catholics who have committed adultery should not necessarily obtain absolution, but should receive Communion if they feel “at peace with God”. The bishops’ guidelines were published in the official Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Other bishops have restated the Church’s traditional teaching that it is necessary for the remarried to receive absolution before receiving Communion, which means one must resolve to live “as brother and sister”.

Four cardinals have asked Pope Francis to clarify his teaching in response to these divergent interpretations, but he has not yet responded or given them an audience.

Bishop accuses UN troops of abusing hungry children

A bishop in the Central African Republic has accused UN peacekeeping troops of sexual abuse in his diocese.

Bishop Juan-José Muñoz of Bangassou said: “Women are selling their bodies to the Blue Helmets out of desperation. Many are doing this to avoid dying of hunger, and some of the abused are minors. When I asked their mothers what happened, they sank their heads.”

The bishop made the comments while in his native Spain on UN advice after his vicar general narrowly survived a machete attack. Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been wracked by militia violence since 2013.

“That some women, even girls, have been made pregnant by the UN soldiers is a crime against humanity,” he told Madrid’s Alfa y Omega.

Minusca, as the peacekeeping mission is known, said it was taking the allegations seriously but that an investigation found “no tangible element” to support the claims. However, 630 Congolese troops and 450 Gabon peacekeepers have been withdrawn from the country after abuse allegations.

Last year the UN received 138 abuse allegations.