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Corporal and spiritual works of mercy

Catechesis by Pope Francis in the Jubilee of Mercy
General Audience, Wednesday 12 October 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the preceding catechesis, we delved a little deeper into the great mystery of God’s mercy. We reflected on the Father’s action in the Old Testament and then, in the Gospel account, we saw how Jesus, in his words and actions, is the Incarnation of Mercy. He, in return, taught his disciples: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). It is a responsibility that challenges the conscience and actions of every Christian. In fact, it is not enough to experience God’s mercy in one’s life; whoever receives it must also become a sign and instrument for others. Mercy, therefore, is not only reserved for particular moments, but it embraces our entire daily existence.

How can we, therefore, be witnesses of mercy? We do not think that it is done with great efforts or superhuman actions. No, it is not so. The Lord shows us a very simple path, made by small actions which, nonetheless, have great value in his eyes, to the extent to which he has told us that it is by these actions we will be judged. In fact, one of the most beautiful pages from Matthew’s Gospel brings us the lesson which we can, in every way, hold to be true as the “testament of Jesus” by the Evangelist, who had experienced the action of Mercy directly on himself. Jesus says that every time we give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked and welcome the foreigner, visit the sick or imprisoned, we do the same to him (cf. Mt 25:31-46). The Church calls these actions “corporal works of mercy”, because they assist people with their material necessities.

There are also, however, seven other works of mercy called “spiritual”, which pertain to other equally important needs, especially today, because they touch the person’s soul, and often create the greatest suffering. We certainly remember a phrase which has entered into the common language: “Bear wrongs patiently”. And there are; there are troublesome people! It might seem like a minor thing which makes us smile, but instead contains a feeling of profound charity; it is the same for the other six [spiritual works of mercy], which are good to remember: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, console the afflicted, pardon offences, pray to God for the living and the dead. These are daily things! “But I am afflicted...” — “But God will help you, I don’t have time...”. No! I stop myself, I listen, I give my time and console him; that is an act of mercy, and it is done not only to him, it is done to Jesus!

In the following Catecheses, we will reflect on these works which the Church presents to us as the concrete way of living out mercy. Over the course of centuries, many simple people have put this into practice, giving their sincere witness of faith. The Church, after all, faithful to her Lord, nourishes a preferential love for the weakest. Often it is the people closest to us who need our help. We should not go out in search of some unknown business to accomplish. It is better to begin with the simplest, which the Lord tells us is the most urgent. In a world which, unfortunately, has been damaged by the virus of indifference, the works of mercy are the best antidote. In fact, they educate us to be attentive to the most basic needs of “the least of these my brethren” (Mt 25:40), in whom Jesus is present. Jesus is always present there. Where there is need, there is someone who has need, be it material or spiritual. Jesus is there. Recognizing his face in those who are in need is one way to really confront indifference. He allows us to be always vigilant, and avoid having Christ pass by without us recognizing him. It recalls to mind the words of St Augustine: “Timeo Iesum ranseuntem” (Serm., 88, 14, 13): “I fear the Lord passing by”, and I do not notice him; I fear that the Lord may pass before me in one of these little people in need, and I do not realize that it is Jesus. I fear that the Lord may pass by without my recognizing him! I wondered why St Augustine said he feared the passing by of Jesus. The answer, unfortunately, is in our behaviour: because we are often distracted, indifferent, and when the Lord closely passes us by, we lose the opportunity to encounter him.

The works of mercy reawaken in us the need, and the ability, to make the faith alive and active with charity. I am convinced that, through these simple, daily actions, we can achieve a true cultural revolution, like there was in the past. If every one of us, every day, does one of these, this will be a revolution in the world! Everyone, each and every one of us. How many Saints are remembered even today, not for the great works which they accomplished, but for the charity which they knew how to impart! We think of the recently canonized Mother Teresa: we do not remember her because of the many houses she opened in the world, but because she stooped down to every person she found in the middle of the street in order to restore their dignity. How many abandoned children did she embrace in her arms; how many moribund people has she accompanied to eternity, holding their hands! These works of mercy are the features of the face of Jesus Christ, who takes care of his littlest brethren in order to bring the tenderness and closeness of God to each of them. May the Holy Spirit help us; may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the desire to live this way of life: at least once a day, at least! Let us again learn the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by heart, and ask the Lord to help us put them into practice every day, and in those moments where we see Jesus in a person who is in need."


"Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française, en particulier les pèlerinages des diocèses de Quimper, du Havre et de Cahors accompagnés de leurs évêques, le Studium de Notre Dame de Vie, le Lycée Saint Jean Hulst de Versailles, ainsi que les pèlerins venus de Haïti, de la République Démocratique du Congo et de Suisse. Chers pèlerins, par la charité qu’ils expriment, de simples gestes de miséricorde peuvent accomplir une véritable révolution culturelle dont notre monde indifférent a besoin. Laissons le Saint Esprit allumer en nous le désir de porter aux autres la tendresse et la proximité de Dieu. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Jersey, Ireland, Denmark, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States of America. 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.

Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache, besonders an die Gruppen der Diözesen Köln, Essen, Münster und Speyer in Begleitung ihrer Bischöfe, sowie an die Seminaristen aus Mainz und die Jugendlichen aus Trier wie auch an die Familien und Freunde der Neupriester des Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum. Immer begleite euch die Jungfrau Maria, deren Fürsprache bei Gott wir uns besonders im Rosenkranzgebet anvertrauen.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los provenientes de España y Latinoamérica. Que el Espíritu Santo encienda en nosotros el deseo de practicar las obras de misericordia, para que nuestros hermanos sientan presente a Jesús, que no los abandona en sus necesidades sino que se hace cercano y los abraza con ternura. Muchas gracias.

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, saúdo-vos cordialmente a todos, com menção especial para o grupo de Cabanelas e Cervães, de São Paulo e para os membros da Comunidade Shalom. Voltemos a aprender de cor as obras de misericórdia e peçamos ao Senhor que nos ajude a pô-las em prática. Sobre vós e vossas famílias, desça, misericordiosa, a Bênção de Deus.

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، النائب العام لحراسة الأرض المقدّسة، الأخ دوبرومير يَشتَل برفقة العمال الذين يقومون بأعمال الترميم في كنيسة المهد في بيت لحم. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، إن أعمال الرحمة هي من صُلب إيماننا بالله، لنكتشفها مجدّدًا ولنجسّدها في حياتنا. ليبارككُم الرب!

Pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów. Bracia i siostry, przeżywając Jubileuszowy Rok Miłosierdzia i korzystając z darów Bożej miłości, prośmy Ducha Świętego, aby rozpalał w nas pragnienie spełniania każdego dnia uczynków miłosierdzia co do ciała i co do duszy, abyśmy odpowiadali na tę miłość, niosąc ją najbardziej potrzebującym. Pamiętajmy, że wszystko, co czynimy braciom, czynimy samem Chrystusowi, który w nich jest. Niech Jego błogosławieństwo stale wam towarzyszy!

S láskou vítam slovenských pútnikov, osobitne farské skupiny. Bratia a sestry, posvätný ruženec je modlitbou spoločenstva. Pozývam vás posilňovať túto jednotu s Kristom, s jeho Matkou Máriou i medzi sebou navzájom. Všetkých vás zverujem materinskému príhovoru Panny Márie Ružencovej. S týmto želaním žehnám vás i vašich drahých. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar zarándokat, akik Budapestről, Lövétéről és Brassóból érkeztek a Pápai Germanico-Hungaricum Kollégium növendékeinek diakónus szentelésére. Isten éltessen!
Ma az irgalmasság cselekedeteiről beszéltem. Kérve Magyarok Nagyasszonya közbenjárását az Irgalmasság Szent Éve speciális kegyelmeiben való részesedésre, szívből adom Kedves Mindannyiotokra és családtagjaitokra apostoli áldásomat.


I want to stress and reaffirm my closeness to the victims of the inhuman conflict in Syria. It is with a sense of urgency that I renew my appeal to those responsible, imploring with all my strength, for the instatement of an immediate ceasefire, which is imposed and respected for at least as long as necessary to allow for the evacuation of civilians, especially children, who are still trapped under the ferocious bombardments.


Domani, 13 ottobre, ricorre la Giornata internazionale per la riduzione dei disastri naturali, che quest’anno propone il tema: “Ridurre la mortalità”. Infatti i disastri naturali potrebbero essere evitati o quanto meno limitati, poiché i loro effetti sono spesso dovuti a mancanze di cura dell’ambiente da parte dell’uomo. Incoraggio pertanto a unire gli sforzi in modo lungimirante nella tutela della nostra casa comune, promuovendo una cultura di prevenzione, con l’aiuto anche delle nuove conoscenze, riducendo i rischi per le popolazioni più vulnerabili.

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Cari pellegrini di lingua italiana: benvenuti! Sono lieto di accogliere i fedeli delle Diocesi di Cremona, Pescia, Anagni-Alatri e Conversano-Monopoli, accompagnati dai rispettivi Pastori, e li esorto a trarre frutto dal Giubileo che stiamo celebrando, per essere annunziatori del Vangelo con una coerente testimonianza di vita. Saluto le Suore di Santa Elisabetta, qui convenute in occasione del Capitolo Generale, ed auspico che il carisma di fondazione venga riscoperto nella prospettiva della Divina Misericordia. Saluto i giovani del Festival del Folklore di Cori; i partecipanti alla Conferenza Europea delle Radio Cristiane e la Fondazione Opera Santa Rita di Prato con il Vescovo Mons. Franco Agostinelli. Il passaggio della Porta Santa sia un atto di fede personale e comunitario, e stimoli tutti all’esercizio delle opere di misericordia nei propri ambienti.

Rivolgo un saluto speciale agli organizzatori e ai partecipanti alla “Partita per la pace e la solidarietà” che si terrà questa sera allo Stadio Olimpico.

Porgo un saluto infine ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Ieri abbiamo celebrato la memoria di San Giovanni XXIII. Invocate la sua celeste intercessione, cari giovani, per imitare la dolcezza del suo amore paterno; pregatelo nei momenti della croce e della sofferenza, cari ammalati, per affrontare le difficoltà con la stessa sua mansuetudine; imparate da Lui, cari sposi novelli, l’arte dell’educare i figli con la tenerezza e con l’esempio."