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Good manners are no joke, says Pope Francis at general audience

Pope Francis points to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during his general audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday (CNS)

The closer two people are to each other, the more care is required in respecting the other’s freedom and feelings, Pope Francis has said.

The Pope was speaking at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square earlier today, starting a series of audience talks he said would look at the “real life” of families today.

Pope Francis’ main talk focused on the three phrases he often recommends families use frequently: May I? Thank you. Forgive me.

The words are simple, he said, and hearing the Pope advise their frequent use could make someone smile at first, but, he added, “when we forget them, it’s no laughing matter, right?”

The three phrases, he said, “open the path to living well in a family, living in peace.” Without them, he continued, the family’s foundation develops “cracks that can even make it collapse.”

“Sometimes it seems that we are becoming a civilisation of bad manners and dirty words as if they were a sign of emancipation. We hear them so often, even publicly,” he said. “Kindness and an ability to say ‘thank you’ are almost seen as a sign of weakness.”

In addition, he said, “for believers, gratitude is at the very heart of faith. A Christian who does not know how to give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language.”

The audience was held on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The Pope began the gathering by praying silently before a statue of Mary and, after a Portuguese aide summarised his talk, the pope asked him to lead the Hail Mary in Portuguese. The aide complied, his voice breaking with emotion at the surprise request.

Pope Francis said a “very wise” woman once told him, “‘gratitude is a plant that grows only in the soil of noble souls.’ The nobility of soul, the grace of God, pushes one to give thanks. Gratitude is the flower of a noble soul.”

Asking permission, even to do something that one thinks one has a right to do as a husband, wife, parent, son or daughter is a sign of respect, the Pope added, and one that builds trust.

“The more intimate and profound love is,” he said, “the more it requires respect for the other’s freedom and an ability to wait for the other to open the door of his or her heart.”

The most difficult and most important phrase of all, he said, is “forgive me.”

“It’s not for nothing that in the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father, which summarizes all the things essential for our life, we find this expression: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,'” Francis said.