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Mercy and Service.

Catechesis by Pope Francis
Jubilee Audience, Satruday 12 March 2016, St Peter's Sqaure - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
We are approaching the celebration of Easter, the central mystery of our faith. The Gospel of John — which we just heard — recounts that, before dying and rising for us, Jesus made a gesture that was carved into the memory of his disciples: the washing of feet. That gesture was so unexpected and unsettling that Peter didn’t want to accept it. I would like to reflect on Christ’s concluding words: “Do you know what I have done to you? [...] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:12, 14). In this way Jesus indicates to his disciples that service is the way to live out their faith in him and to bear witness to his love. Jesus applied to himself the “Servant of God” image used by the Prophet Isaiah. He, who is Lord, makes himself servant!

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wished to reveal God’s mode of action in regard to us, and to give an example of his “new commandment” (Jn 13:34) to love one another as He has loved us, that is, laying down his life for us. John repeats this in his First Letter: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. [...] Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” (3:16, 18).

Love, therefore, is the practical service that we offer to others. Love is not a word, it is a deed, a service; humble service, hidden and silent, like Jesus said himself: “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Mt 6:3). It entails putting at others’ disposal the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, so that the community might thrive (cf. 1 Cor 12:4-11). Furthermore, it is expressed in the sharing of material goods, so that no one be left in need. This sharing with and dedication to those in need is the lifestyle that God suggests, even to non-Christians, as the authentic path of humanity.

Finally, let us not forget that by washing the feet of his disciples and asking them to do the same, Jesus invites that we too confess our failings and pray for one another in order to learn how to forgive with the heart. In this sense, let us remember the words of Bishop St Augustine, when he wrote: “Nor should the Christian think it beneath him to do what was done by Christ. For when the body is bent at a brother’s feet, the feeling of such humility is either awakened in the heart itself, or is strengthened if already present. [...] Let us therefore forgive one another his faults, and pray for one another’s faults, and thus in a manner wash one another’s feet (In Joh 58:4-5). Love, charity is service, helping others, serving others. There are many people who go through life like this, in service to others. Last week I received a letter from a person who thanked me for the Year of Mercy; she asked me to pray for her, that she might be able to grow closer to the Lord. The life of this person is caring for her mother and her brother: her mother is bedridden, elderly, lucid but unable to move; and her brother is disabled, in a wheelchair. This person, her life, is serving, supporting. And this is love! When you can forget yourself and think of others, this is love! And with the washing of feet the Lord teaches us to be servants, and more: to serve as he has served us, each and every one of us.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, being merciful like the Father means following Jesus on the path of service. Thank you."


"J’accueille avec plaisir les personnes de langue française, en particulier les pèlerins venus de France, de Suisse et de Côte d’Ivoire. Je vous invite à vous souvenir qu’être miséricordieux comme le Père, signifie suivre Jésus sur le chemin du service. A tous je souhaite une bonne montée vers Pâques !

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from Ireland, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you all!

Von Herzen heiße ich die Pilger deutscher Sprache aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz willkommen. Besonders grüße ich die Mitglieder der Katholischen Arbeitnehmer-Bewegung aus Mannheim. Schauen wir auf Christus und folgen wir seinem Beispiel, indem wir einander im täglichen Leben konkret dienen. Der Heilige Geist führe euch auf euren Wegen.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España, Latinoamérica y Guinea Ecuatorial. Que en la fiesta ya cercana de la Pascua, aprendamos que ser misericordiosos como el Padre significa seguir a Jesús por el camino del servicio. Que Dios los bendiga.

Uma saudação cordial a todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa. Queridos amigos, nessa última etapa da quaresma, desejo-vos um serviço generoso aos irmãos que ajude a abrir-vos à luz pascal. E vos peço para rezardes a fim que as portas da misericórdia se abram em todos os corações. Abençoo-vos a vós e as vossas comunidades.

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربيّة، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ من الشّرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، الخدمة هي الدّرب التي ينبغي إتّباعها لعيش الإيمان بيسوع وتقديم شهادة لمحبّته. ليبارككُم الربّ!

Witam serdecznie przybyłych na tę jubileuszową audiencję Polaków. Wpatrujemy się dzisiaj w Chrystusa, który objawia się nam w postaci pokornego sługi: «Otóż Ja jestem pośród was jak ten, kto służy» (Łk 22, 27). Naśladujmy Go, pamiętając, że tylko ten jest prawdziwym Jego uczniem, kto gotów jest służyć braciom podobnie jak On. Niech nasze życie będzie dla innych świadectwem Jego miłości. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

Srdečne pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne spoločenstvo Kňazského seminára svätého Gorazda z Nitry, ktorý slávi tristoročnicu jeho založenia a dvadsiatepiate výročia obnovenia po páde komunistického režimu. Milí seminaristi, prajem vám, aby púť k hrobom svätých Apoštolov počas Jubilejného Roka Milosrdenstva posilnila vašu vernosť Kristovi a veľkodušnú odpoveď na jeho volanie. Rád žehnám vás i vašich drahých.

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Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Sono lieto di accogliere con affetto e una certa nostalgia i fedeli dell’Arcidiocesi di Napoli - che la Madonna vi accompagni! - con il Cardinale Crescenzio Sepe; quelli di Lecce, Piacenza-Bobbio e delle Diocesi della Romagna, accompagnati dai rispettivi Pastori. Saluto le Suore Salesiane dei Sacri Cuori, che ricordano il decimo anniversario della canonizzazione del fondatore San Filippo Smaldone, apostolo dei sordomuti; e il gruppo Amici del Cardinale Pironio. Saluto i giovani partecipanti all’Incontro dei volontari del Servizio Civile; i ragazzi dell’esperienza Cavalieri e l’Associazione dei Maestri Cattolici, in occasione del settantesimo anno di fondazione, come pure l’Adiconsum e l’OFTAL di Vercelli. Invito a vivere quest’Anno Santo come esperienza forte di riscoperta delle opere di misericordia verso i fratelli, sull’esempio del gesuita San Bernardino Realino, apostolo della carità, di cui quest’anno ricordiamo il IV centenario della morte.

Saluto i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Oggi ricorre la memoria liturgica di San Massimiliano di Tebessa, martire per obiezione di coscienza durante l’impero romano. Cari giovani, imparate da lui a difendere i valori in cui credete; cari ammalati, offrite le vostre sofferenze per quanti ancora oggi subiscono persecuzioni a causa della fede; e voi, cari sposi novelli, siate collaboratori di Dio nell’impegno di educatori dei vostri figli."