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In the sign of tenderness

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the start of his service as the Successor of Peter and the Bishop of Rome on the Feast of St Joseph, the Spouse of the Virgin, venerated as Patron of the Universal Church and whose symbol (a nard, according to Hispanic tradition) is set in his papal coat of arms beside the symbol of Jesus and his mother Mary. This is a coincidence that bears great meaning, therefore, and one  reinforced by the fact that this is also  the name day of Benedict xvi. “We are  close to him”, the Successor delicately said, “with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude”.

It is precisely the figure of Joseph that helps the Pope describe his openness to encountering  God. In this way, the just man  — the one who took  care of Mary and the baby Jesus with humility and in silence,   the one who was open to the mystery of divine signs —    became a model for all. “Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation”, said the Bishop of Rome, immediately adding that this call to protect is, prior to even being Christian, simply human. It therefore regards us all and it means “respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live”.

These are simple words and  meant to reach the heart of every person, believer or non-believer; these words spring from  an intention an ever present characteristic of the Roman See and one especially visible since  the Second Vatican Council. “Prayer and love for all. An ever vigilant   initiative for the good of others: this is papal policy” — words written in a note by  Paul VI, whose ring the current Successor wears. His manner of showing respect to everyone explains the kind of  attention and affection that Pope Francis has so quickly excited.

“Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions”, said the Bishop of Rome, going on to exclaim: “We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!”. It is with tenderness that the Pope wishes to protect the People of God and welcome every human being.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 18, 2019

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