Pope Francis opened this Wednesday's general audience by apologizing for unspecified scandals that have recently arisen in the Vatican. Speaking off-the-cuff, the Pope opened the gathering by saying: “Before beginning the catechesis, I would like, in the name of the Church, to ask your forgiveness for the scandals that, in these times, have fallen on Rome and the Vatican. I ask your forgiveness!” Pope Francis did not specify the nature of the scandals in his catechesis. When asked by journalists which scandals were being implied, Holy See press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi said he would not speculate if the Pope himself did not. The central theme of Pope Francis' Oct. 14 address pertained to “promises we make to children,” namely: those promises which affect children's expectations about life, their faith in human beings, and “their ability to understand God's name as a blessing.” The basic promises of “welcome and care, closeness and attention, faith and hope,” can be summarized by a single promise, he said, which is love. Explaining that this is a promise made by every man and woman to every child, he said “children come into the world and expect to have this promise confirmed; they expect it in a total, trusting, vulnerable way.” He added that this is true regardless of ethnicity, culture, and conditions of life. When this promise is violated, “children are wounded by an unbearable scandal, which is much more serious because they do not have the means of interpreting it.” The Pope cited Jesus' words accounted in Matthew in response to this sort of scandal: “Woe to those who betray their trust, woe!” Pope Francis went on to stress how crucial it is to protect a child's natural inclination to trust in God's love, which he says is present at birth. He warned against wounding a child's “spontaneous trust in God.” “The tender and mysterious relationship between God and the soul of a child must never be violated,” he said, adding that children are sensible to God's love from birth. When a child feels love, he “also senses that there is a God who loves children.” Along with receiving nourishment and care, a newborn child receives the “confirmation of the spiritual quality of love,” Pope Francis said: being given a name, smiles, etc. The Pope also referred to the promise given by parents who give of themselves, explaining that this love brings with it a “glimmer” of the love of God. “Only by looking at children with the eyes of Jesus can we truly understand in a sense that, in defending the family, we protect humanity!” Pope Francis went on to reflect on this relationship between children and God in the context of the Holy Family and the Church. “The point of view of children is the point of view of the Son of God,” he said. “The church itself, in baptism, makes great promises to children,” through the commitment of their parents and the Christian community. The Pope reflected on how Mary, through whom Jesus came among us, “makes the Church able to follow the path of her maternity and faith.” For his part, the Pope added, St. Joseph makes us worthy to “welcome Jesus in every child which God gives to the earth.”
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