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The church ‘is the house of Jesus’ and must always be open, says Pope

Pope Francis

Opening doors: Pope Francis gestures as he preaches during a Lenten penance service in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on March 13.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

THE church “is the house of Jesus”, and Christians must welcome everyone, even bringing those who were unable to make their way on their own, Pope Francis said at morning Mass on March 17.

People who were sad or “sick in their soul” or who had “made many mistakes in their lives” may, at a certain point, feel the Holy Spirit inspire them to go to church, the Pope said. But, after mustering up the courage to go, they would often find unwelcoming and judgmental Christian communities with their “doors closed” to them.

Mimicking unwelcoming parishioners, Pope Francis said they told people, “You made a mistake here and you cannot (enter). If you would like to come, come to Sunday Mass, but stay there, don’t do more.”

In this way, “that which the Holy Spirit does in people’s hearts, Christians – with a psychology of doctors of the law – then destroy”, the Pope said at the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“Who are you to close the door of your heart to a man, to a woman who has the will to improve, to re-enter the people of God because the Holy Spirit stirred their heart?” he said.

Pope Francis went on to say that such incidents were disappointing for him and he insisted that the Church must have its doors always open.

“It is the house of Jesus and Jesus welcomes. Not only does he welcome, he goes out to find people, just as he went to find (the paralytic),” said the Pope, referring to the day’s Gospel reading (John 5:1-16). “If people are wounded, what does Jesus do? Does he reprimand them because they are wounded? No, he carries them on his shoulder. And this is called mercy.”

And when God reproached His people, calling for mercy and not sacrifice, the Pope continued, this was what he meant.

The Pope said Lent was the time to avoid making the same mistake as those who bore contempt against Jesus’ love for the paralytic because, having healed him on the Sabbath, it may seem contrary to the law.

He concluded with a prayer for the conversion of the whole Church to the mercy of Jesus.

“And this way the law will be fully accomplished because the law is to love God and neighbour as ourselves,” he said.

CNS

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