Everyone experiences doubts about their faith occasionally – “I have many times,” Pope Francis said – but such doubts can be “a sign that we want to know God better and more deeply”.
“We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts, because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith,” the Pope said at his weekly general audience.
Pope Francis said that although the Year of Mercy has concluded, he still wanted to continue his general audience reflections on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
With fewer than 10,000 pilgrims present and with rain forecast, the Vatican moved the audience indoors to the Vatican audience hall.
The Pope, with a voice that was a bit hoarse, focused on the spiritual works of mercy of “counselling the doubtful” and “instructing the ignorant”, which he said was not meant as an insult, but simply as a description of a person who does not know something.
Calling a lack of access to education a “grave injustice”, Francis asked for a round of applause for teachers and the “long list of saints, who throughout the ages brought education to the most disadvantaged”. Education, he said, was both a work of evangelisation and a work of mercy and justice because it recognises the dignity of the human person, fights discrimination and combats poverty.
The work of mercy of counselling the doubtful involves trying to “soothe that pain and suffering that come from the fear and anguish that are the consequences of doubt” about the goodness of life and God’s love.
“I think someone would ask me, ‘Father, I have many doubts about the faith, what should I do? Don’t you ever have doubts?” the Pope said. “I have many,” he said, “there are times when everyone has doubts.”
The key, he said, is to see those doubts as a call to deepen one’s faith either through study or seeking the guidance of another believer. “To do this, it is necessary to listen to the word of God and understand what it teaches us,” he said. “But, at the same time, an equally important path is that of living the faith as much as possible.”
When faith is seen mainly as “an abstract theory”, he said, “doubts multiply”.
But when faith is lived and shown in service to others, the Pope said, “then many doubts vanish because we feel the presence of God.”
Mary to be focus of next three World Youth Days
Pope Francis has chosen a focus on Mary for the next World Youth Day celebrations, to be held in dioceses in 2017 and 2018 and with an international gathering in Panama in 2019.
The Pope aims to highlight the way the Mother of Jesus was always open to the Lord’s will and has described her as a role model to be imitated, said the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
The themes “are intended to give a clear Marian tone to the spiritual journey” of the three World Youth Days, as well as to “give a picture of young people on a journey between the past (2017), present (2018) and future (2019), inspired by the three theological virtues of faith, charity and hope”.
World Youth Day is celebrated annually on a local level, and every two or three years with an international gathering.
The themes chosen were:
For 2017: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Lk 1:49).
For 2018: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God” (Lk 1:30).
For 2019: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
Pope meets Vietnam’s president
Pope Francis welcomed the president of Vietnam to the Vatican last week.
The 15-minute meeting came as the two states continued talks aimed at establishing full diplomatic relations.
President Tran Dai Quang gave the Pope a small bronze drum while the Pope gave him a medallion.
Talks to establish full relations began in 2009. In 2011 the Vatican named Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli as a non-resident envoy to the country.
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