VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis told Rome’s priests that offering God’s mercy during the jubilee year will mean lots of unpaid overtime.
“I think this year there will be lots of overtime that will not be paid,” he said to laughter. “But the Lord will give you joy for working overtime, being merciful like the father,” he said, as he met with them at the Basilica of St. John Lateran Feb. 11.
On the eve of his Feb. 12-17 visit to Mexico, which will include a brief stop in Cuba, the pope as usual traveled to Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. He prayed to Mary for her intercession and placed flowers on the altar in a side chapel before the basilica’s famous Marian icon, “Salus Populi Romani” (health of the Roman people).
He then went to St. John Lateran for his annual Lenten meeting with pastors of Rome parishes and heard confession from a few priests, according to Vatican Radio.
In a short, unscripted address, the pope told the priests to make sure they try to understand their people, “to put themselves in the other’s shoes” and be generous with forgiveness.
Just as doctors and nurses can heal injuries, priests can alleviate suffering, too, he said. A kind word from a priest “is so good — very good. It works miracles.”
Being “rigid” or stingy with forgiveness is the fault of a priest suffering from “the disease of clericalism.” Every priest is susceptible to this disease, he said, “everyone, me too. We all have this.”
But they need to remember, he said, that “we are not princes, we’re not masters. We are servants of the people.”
Priests have to remember that God became incarnate to be able to embrace and understand people.
“If you do not believe that God became flesh, you are the Antichrist,” he said. “And that’s not me saying that. That’s the apostle John who says it.”
Jesus instituted the priesthood precisely so they could “go and help the people with humility and mercy.”