Reconciliation with God, others is key to peace, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For peace in the family, community and
nation, people need to recognize their faults and ask forgiveness, Pope Francis
told thousands of pilgrims, including hundreds of soldiers, sailors and police
officers from around the world.

“In your families, in the various areas where you work,
be instruments of reconciliation, builders of bridges and sowers of
peace,” the pope told the police and military attending his Year of Mercy
audience April 30 in St. Peter’s Square.

Most of the military and police participating in the special
Holy Year pilgrimage were from Italy, but in his remarks to English-speakers,
the pope also greeted uniformed representatives from the United States, Canada,
Kenya, South Korea and the Philippines as well.

Pope Francis urged members of police forces and military not
to give into discouragement even when war and violence seem to “harden
hearts” and increase hatred. “Continue your faith journey and open
your hearts to God, the merciful father, who never tires of forgiving us. In
the face of the challenges each day brings, let shine your Christian hope,
which is the certainty of the victory of love over hatred and peace over

In his main audience talk, the pope told pilgrims that
people often act as if God moves away from them when they sin, but in fact it
is the sinner who is moving away from God. “He, seeing us in danger, comes
looking for us even more,” the pope said.

The Year of Mercy, Pope Francis explained, is a time for
people to turn back to God, knowing that he is always ready to forgive.

As he does frequently, the pope pleaded with priests to be
welcoming and patient in confession, recognizing just how hard it is for many
people to face their sins and acknowledge their need for forgiveness.

“May no one stay far from God because of obstacles
placed in their path by men,” the pope said. “I’m underlining this —
it goes for confessors, too. Please, do not place obstacles before those who
want to reconcile with God. The confessor must be a father!”

Pope Francis told the crowd at the audience that once they
experience reconciliation with God, they should look around them and see where
else they need reconciliation, particularly if there are tensions within their

“This year is the year of reconciliation with God and
among us,” he said.

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