Addressing thousands of pilgrims gathered on a cloudy day in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father spoke on what is required to authentically and fruitfully minister to the Church and warned against the natural temptation of relying on oneself or trying to place oneself at the center.
Reflecting on the catechesis series on the Church, Francis reminded the faithful how God continues to shepherd his flock with love through the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.
"In a special way," the Pope said, "Saint Paul urges the Church’s ordained ministers to rekindle constantly the gift of God which they have received."
In addition to outlining needed qualities inherent in the faith and spiritual life, Pope Francis said St. Paul listed other human qualities that are needed, including hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart.
"This is the alphabet, the basic grammar of each ministry!” he said.
Without this preparation, he said, ministers cannot properly serve nor offer a joyful and credible witness.
For a pastor to not fall into the "temptation of being at the center of attention" and "relying only on himself," the Pope said he must have the knowledge that everything is a gift and a grace.
“Only by acknowledging that their ministry is an unmerited gift of God’s mercy, bishops, priests and deacons can serve their brothers and sisters with humility, generosity, wisdom and compassion, and thus build up the Church’s communion in faith and love,” he said.
While stressing the need to consider the qualities demanded of these ministers in their service to Christ and the Church, he reflected on the underlying attitude that Paul recommended to his disciples.
“This means you must always be keenly aware that you are not bishops, priests or deacons because you are smarter, more talented and better than others, but only by virtue of a gift, a gift of love bestowed by God in the power of his Spirit, for the good of his people.”
This awareness, he highlighted, is very important and is a grace ministers must ask for every day.
Pope Francis concluded praying that ordained ministers may always be sustained in their efforts to be “living icons of the Father’s loving concern for all his children.”
At the conclusion of today’s General Audience, the Pope reiterated his appeal for all persecuted Christians.
After saying he has been following the dramatic events of Chritians being persecuted or killed for their religious beliefs with great trepidation, he expressed his deep spiritual closeness to the Christian communities “hard hit by an absurd violence that shows no signs of stopping.”
While encouraging pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope, he again extended his appeal to all political leaders at the local and international levels, as well as to all people of good will, to undertake a "vast propelling of consciences in favor of persecuted Christians."
Before asking those gathered to join him in praying an Our Father for those persecuted, he reminded the faithful that these people have the right, within their own countries, to security, peace of mind, and free profession of faith.