The truth frees us, pope tells Irish bishops

Pope Francis meets with the bishops of Ireland during the 2018 World Meeting of Families Credit   Vatican Media CNA Pope Francis meets with the bishops of Ireland during the 2018 World Meeting of Families. | Vatican Media.

During his last stop in Dublin Sunday, Pope Francis met with the bishops of Ireland, telling them to take encouragement for their daily ministry in the truth found in Christ.

"In your daily efforts to be fathers and shepherds to God's family in this country, may you always be sustained by the hope that trusts in the truth of Christ's words and the certainty of his promises," he said in the private encounter Aug. 26.

"In every time and place, that truth 'sets free' (Jn 8:32); it has a power all its own to convince minds and draw hearts to itself."

Encouraging them to continue their work as messengers of the Gospel, even in difficult times, he said his word to them "is one of encouragement for your efforts."

Francis praised in particular the bishops' show of concern for the homeless and people with drug addictions, as demonstrated by recent pastoral letters.

Using words of St. John of the Cross, he said, "it is in the dark night that the light of faith shines purest in our hearts. And that light will show the way to the renewal of the Christian life in Ireland in the years ahead."

The pope also commented again on the abuse crisis and told the bishops the Church needs to acknowledge and remedy, with "honesty and courage," past failures to safeguard the welfare of children.

He repeated his thought that in recent years people's eyes have been opened to "the gravity and extent of sexual abuse in various settings."

"In Ireland, as elsewhere, the honesty and integrity with which the Church chooses to confront this painful chapter of her history can offer an example and a warning to society as a whole," he said.

Before meeting the bishops, Francis celebrated Mass for around 300,000 people in Dublin's Phoenix Park. In his homily, he pointed to the day's Gospel, where many of Christ's followers abandoned him because they could not accept his hard teachings.

"Let us also humbly acknowledge that, if we are honest with ourselves, we too can find the teachings of Jesus hard," he said.

"How difficult it is always to forgive those who hurt us; how challenging always to welcome the migrant and the stranger; how painful joyfully to bear disappointment, rejection or betrayal; how inconvenient to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, the unborn or the elderly, who seem to impinge upon our own sense of freedom."

But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can live out our baptismal calling to become missionary disciples and accept the life-giving words of Christ, even when they are difficult, the pope said.

Marriage and family life can be a difficult calling, Francis reflected, demanding "self-sacrifice, dying to ourselves in order to be reborn to a greater and more enduring love. The love that alone can save our world from its bondage to sin, selfishness, greed and indifference to the needs of the less fortunate. That is the love we have come to know in Christ Jesus."

This love, he continued, "became incarnate in our world through a family, and through the witness of Christian families in every age it has the power to break down every barrier in order to reconcile the world to God and to make us what we were always meant to be: a single human family dwelling together in justice, holiness and peace."

He urged those present to "go back to your homes and become a source of encouragement to others," never growing "discouraged by the icy stare of indifference or the stormy winds of hostility."

"Share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!" he exhorted.

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