Returning to the Vatican after a week of Lenten spiritual exercises, Pope Francis emphasized that we should not be discouraged by sin, but rather renew our commitment to following Christ.

"We are all sinners but we want to follow Jesus," the Holy Father said upon departing from the annual retreat for the Pope and members of the Curia.

The retreat took place outside the Vatican for the first time this year; it was held in the nearby town of Ariccia.

Pope Francis thanked Father Angelo de Donatis, who preached the Lenten retreat on the subject of "purification of the heart."

"I would like offer you thanks on my behalf and on behalf of all those present for your help during these days, for accompanying us and listening to us," the Pope said. "We now return home with a good seed: the seed of the Word of God."

Now, he continued, "the Lord sends us the rain that will make the seed grow."

"Let us thank the Lord for the seed and for the rain that he sends us, and let us also thank the sower. Because he has done the sowing and knows how to do so, yes he knows."

"And I ask you to keep praying for this 'syndicate of believers'," the Holy Father said with a smile.

"We are all sinners but we all have the desire to follow Jesus more closely, without losing hope in the promise and also without losing a sense of humor."