Friday morning was a busy one for Pope Francis; in addition to his usual weekday Mass in the Santa Marta chapel, he also addressed gatherings of the International Catholic Child Bureau—a children’s rights organization—and of the Italian pro-life organization Movimento por la Vita. All three events included strong statements from the Holy Father, two of which touched on hot-button current issues—clergy sexual abuse of children and abortion—and one that focused on the ever-present threat to the Christian life: the temptations and deceit of Satan.
During his Friday morning homily, Pope Francis described the call of the Christian to struggle against the devil and his temptations: “We too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.” From Vatican Radio:
“We have a temptation that grows: it grows and infects others. For example, let’s look at gossip: I’m a bit envious of this or that person and at first I’m just envious inside and I need to share it and go to another person and say: “But have you seen that person?’… and this gossip tries to grow and infects another and another… This is the way gossip works and all of us have been tempted to gossip! Maybe not one of you, if you’re a saint, but I too have been tempted to gossip! It’s a daily temptation. And it begins in this way, discreetly, like a trickle of water. It grows by infecting others and in the end it justifies itself.” […]
“We are all tempted because the law of our spiritual life, our Christian life is a struggle: a struggle. That’s because the Prince of this world, Satan, doesn’t want our holiness, he doesn’t want us to follow Christ. Maybe some of you might say: ‘But Father, how old fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here…even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”
In his address to the International Catholic Child Bureau, Francis spoke frankly about threats to the rights and well-being of children today, focusing in particular on sexual abuse by Catholic priests.
Catholic News Service has a video of the Holy Father’s remarks:
“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children...”
Francis also spoke against child labor and the recruitment of child soldiers, and emphasized “the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.” He defended the rights of parents to make decisions about their children’s moral and religious education and rejected “any kind of educational experimentation with children” for ideological or political purposes.
Finally, Pope Francis met with Italian pro-life leaders, reiterating the sacredness of human life and emphasizing that all human rights are based on “the first and fundamental right”—the right to life. He called abortion and infanticide “unspeakable crimes,” and also stressed the importance of offering support to women in need, singling out for praise the Italian “Gemma Project,” which provides assistance to women in crisis pregnancies. From Vatican Radio’s report on the Holy Father’s remarks:
“It is must be therefore reiterated the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the most concrete example of innocence,” said Pope Francis. “Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes” (Gaudium et Spes, 51).
Pope Francis said for a Christian, it is a part of the witness of the Gospel to protect life with courage and love in all its stages.
“I encourage you to always act with a style of nearness, of closeness: that every woman feels regarded as a person who is heard, accepted, and accompanied,” he said.