Pope prays for those caring for disabled patients amid pandemic

180420 21 Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta April 18, 2020. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis prayed for those caring for people with disabilities during the coronavirus crisis at his morning Mass Saturday. 

Speaking from the chapel of his Vatican residence, Casa Santa Marta, April 18, he said he had received a letter from a religious sister working as a sign language interpreter for deaf people. She told him about the difficulties facing healthcare workers, nurses and doctors looking after disabled patients affected by COVID-19. 

"So let us pray for those who are always at the service of these persons with various disabilities," he said.

The pope made the comments at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed due to the pandemic. 

In his homily, he reflected on the day's first reading (Acts 4:13-21), in which the religious authorities ordered Peter and John not to teach in the name of Jesus. 

The apostles refused to obey, the pope said, replying with "courage and frankness" that it was impossible for them to remain silent about what they had seen and heard. 

Ever since then, he explained, courage and frankness have been the hallmarks of Christian preaching. 

The pope recalled a passage in the Letter to the Hebrews (10:32-35), in which lukewarm Christians are urged to remember their early struggles and regain their confidence and candor.

"You cannot be Christian without this frankness: if it does not come, you are not a good Christian," he said. "If you don't have the courage, if to explain your position you slide into ideologies or casuistic explanations, you lack that frankness, you lack that Christian style, the freedom to speak, to say everything."

Peter and John's frankness confounded the leaders, elders and scribes, he said.

"Really, they were cornered by frankness: they didn't know how to get out of it," he observed. "But it didn't occur to them to say, 'Could this be true?' The heart was already closed, it was hard; the heart was corrupt."

The pope noted that Peter was not born brave, but had received the gift of parrhesia -- a Greek word sometimes translated as "boldness" -- from the Holy Spirit. 

"He was a coward, he denied Jesus," he said. "But what happened now? They [Peter and John] answered: 'Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.'" 

"But where does this courage come from, this coward who has denied the Lord? What has happened in this man's heart? The gift of the Holy Spirit: frankness, courage, parrhesia is a gift, a grace that the Holy Spirit gives on the day of Pentecost." 

"Just after receiving the Holy Spirit they went to preach: a little brave, something new for them. This is consistency, the sign of the Christian, of the true Christian: he is courageous, he says the whole truth because he is consistent."

Turning to the day's Gospel reading (Mark 16:9-15), in which the risen Christ reproaches the disciples for not believing reports of his resurrection, the pope noted that Jesus gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit which enables them to carry out their mission to "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."

"The mission comes precisely from here, from this gift which makes us courageous, frank in proclaiming the word," he said.

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After Mass, the pope presided at adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, before leading those watching online in a prayer of spiritual communion.

The Pope recalled that tomorrow he would offer Mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia, a church near St. Peter's Basilica, at 11 a.m local time. 

Finally, those present sang the Easter Marian antiphon "Regina caeli."

In his homily, the pope clarified that Christians should be both courageous and prudent. 

"May the Lord always help us to be like this: courageous. This does not mean imprudent: no, no. Courageous. Christian courage is always prudent, but it is courage," he said.

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