Pope Francis: A person who can’t forgive is not a Christian

September 10, 2015

Santa Marta

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Pope Francis warned against conflicts within the Christian community and said priests who struggle to be merciful should not be hearing confessions. He also reiterated his condemnation of those who produce lethal arms to be used in wars and said Christians must forgive and show mercy in all that they do. The pope’s remarks came during his homily at Mass on Thursday (September 10) celebrated at the Santa Marta residence.

Mercy, peace and reconciliation as opposed to war and hatred were the key themes focused on by Pope Francis during his homily. He asked whether we are always able to accept the gift of peace that we receive via Jesus and lamented the many wars, destruction, hatred and enmity that we see and read about every day on TV and in the newspapers.

“There are also many men and women who work hard—really hard—in order to manufacture lethal weapons, arms that eventually become bathed in the blood of so many innocent people, so many of them. There are wars (being waged)! There are these wars and there is also that wickedness of preparing for war, of making weapons (to be used) against other people in order to kill! Peace saves us, peace makes you live, it makes you grow: war annihilates you, it drags you down.”  

A person who can’t forgive is not a Christian

Pope Francis went on to warn that wars can take other forms, saying they exist “within our Christian communities, between us.” He said the key word in today’s liturgy talks about forgiveness and we need to make peace among ourselves. 

“If you can’t forgive, you are not a Christian. You may be a good man, a good woman…. but you are not doing what our Lord did. What’s more, if you can’t forgive, you cannot receive the peace of the Lord. And every day when we pray the ‘Our Father:’ Forgive us as we have forgiven those…...It’s a condition. We are trying to ‘convince’ God that we’re good, that we’re good by forgiving: in reverse. (It’s just) words, right? As that beautiful song went: ‘Words, words, words,’ wasn’t it? I think it was (the Italian singer) Mina who sung it. Words! Forgive one another! Just as the Lord has forgiven us, do likewise.”

The pope paid tribute to the many heroic men and women who patiently put up with so much hardship and injustice in order to support their families, describing them as the good people. But at the same time, he warned, there are also people who speak badly about others and make war that way. He said it was important to “understand other people, not condemn them.”

Saying God is always merciful, Pope Francis stressed the need for priests to show mercy and forgiveness in the confessional box. 

“If you are a priest and you can’t manage to be merciful, tell your bishop who will give you a job in administration but please don’t go into the confessional box!  A priest who is not merciful does a lot of harm in the confessional box! He beats people. ‘No, Father, I am merciful but I’m a bit stressed….? It’s true…. Before going to hear confessions, go to your doctor who will give you some pills to make you less stressed! But show mercy!  And also show mercy among ourselves. ‘But this person did that….  What have I done?’ ‘That person is more of a sinner than me!’ Which of us can say this, that the other person is more of a sinner than me? None of us can say this! Only our Lord knows this.”

The pope urged all of us to show feelings of kindness, goodness and humility, saying this is the Christian style, rather than being arrogant or condemning or speaking badly about others. May the Lord, he concluded, give all of us the grace to provide support to others, to forgive and be merciful, just as our Lord is merciful towards us. 

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