Pope Francis celebrated the third anniversary of his election with a simple Tweet — “Pray for me” — and the usual Sunday recitation of the Angelus prayer with tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
In his talk March 13, the Pope did not mention the anniversary, but focused on God’s forgiveness and mercy as he did in his first Angelus address in 2013.
“God does not nail us to our sins; he does not identify us with the evil we have committed,” the Pope told the crowd.
“God wants to free us,” the Pope said. He wants people to use their freedom to do good and not evil. “This is possible — it’s possible — with his grace.”
Pope Francis’s Angelus address focused on the Gospel passage being read at Masses around the world: St John’s account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.
The scribes and Pharisees, planning to stone the woman in accordance with the law, brought her to Jesus in an attempt to trick him. “If Jesus followed the severity of the law, approving the stoning of the woman, he would lose his fame of meekness and goodness, which so fascinated people,” the Pope said. “But if he wanted to be merciful, he would go against the law, which he himself said he had come not to abolish but to fulfil.”
Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
“This response scatters the accusers, disarming all of them in the true sense of the word,” the Pope added. They leave one by one, beginning with the oldest, who is “more aware of not being without sin.”
“How good it would be for us, too, to be aware that we are sinners,” Pope Francis said. “How good it would be if we had the courage to let fall to the ground the stones we have for throwing at others and rather to think about our own sins.”
Every sin is a betrayal of God, making people “adulterers before God,” the Pope said. But Jesus says to all, like he said to the woman in the Gospel, “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
“Her experience represents God’s will for each of us: not our condemnation, but our salvation through Jesus,” Pope Francis said.
At the end of the Angelus, retired workers from an Italian telephone company and members of a national association of retirees handed out a special gift from Pope Francis: The Gospel of Mercy of St Luke, a small paperback edition of St. Luke’s Gospel.
The Pope thanked the volunteers, especially those who are grandparents and share the faith with their grandchildren.
Speaking from the window of the apostolic palace, he noticed that thousands of people were outside St Peter’s Square and he asked the volunteers to “think about the people in Pius XII Square — you see they couldn’t get in — make sure they receive a copy of this Gospel, too.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Pope Francis told participants in a course sponsored by the Roman Rota, a Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases, that the Church must encourage couples who remain faithful to each other.
“Witnesses to marital fidelity must be encouraged and held up as examples to imitate,” Pope Francis said.
The course focused on documents issued by Pope Francis in September to simplify procedures for determining whether or not a marriage was valid, doing away with the automatic appeal of tribunal decisions, establishing an abbreviated process when the nullity is clear and ordering a reduction in the cost to couples.
The Pope told the students and Rota officials that the consultations leading up to the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family made it clear there was strong support “for making the procedures for the declaration of matrimonial nullity more agile and effective.”
“Many faithful, in fact, suffer because their marriages have ended and they often are burdened by doubts about whether or not it was valid,” the pope said. “But in many cases these faithful encountered difficulty in accessing the Church’s juridical structures and felt the need for the procedures to be simplified.”
Charity and mercy, and not just experience, led to the decision to reform the process for determining the validity of a marriage, the Pope said.
Pope Francis urged tribunal staff members around the world to accept and study the new procedures and the motives behind making them “in order to render a service of justice and charity to families.”
“For many people, who have lived through an unhappy marriage experience, the verification of whether or not it was valid represents an important possibility, and these people must be helped to follow this path as easily as possible,” he said.
Repeating what he has said about what will be in his postsynodal apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis told the group that what the Church is most interested in for the divorced and civilly remarried is that they participate in the life of a parish community.