Year of Mercy affirmed dignity, sacredness of human life, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Visiting young women rescued from
forced prostitution and meeting with a mother inconsolable over the loss of one
of her newborn triplets are images from the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis
said remain impressed on his heart.

Reviewing the Holy Year in a 40-minute interview aired Nov.
20 on TV2000, a television station owned by the Italian bishops’ conference,
Pope Francis also spoke about handling stress, his upcoming 80th birthday and a
sense of humor, among other topics.

Asked about the Mercy Friday visits he made once
a month during the Holy Year, the pope said the visit with women rescued from
human trafficking and his visit to the neonatal ward of a Rome hospital were
the visits that stand out.

Visiting Rome’s San Giovanni Hospital in September, he said,
“there was a woman who cried and cried and cried standing by her two
infants — tiny, but beautiful. The third had died.”

“She cried for that dead child while she caressed the
other two,” the pope said. “It’s the gift of life.”

“And I thought of the practice of getting rid of babies
before they are born — this horrible crime. They get rid of them because ‘it’s
better that way,’ because it is easier, ‘it is a big responsibility.’ That is a
serious sin,” the pope said. “This woman had three children and wept
for the one who died; she was unable to console herself with the two

The other Mercy Friday event that was powerful, he said, was
visiting a community of 15 young women who had been rescued from the
traffickers who had forced them into prostitution.

One from Africa, “very beautiful, very young,” was
pregnant. And she told the pope that her traffickers had beat and tortured her,
even when she was pregnant. In a previous pregnancy, they made her work the
streets the whole time.

“She told me, ‘Father, I gave birth on the street in
winter. Alone. All alone. My daughter died,'” the pope said, clutching his

Each of the young women told horror stories, he said, and he
kept thinking not only about the traffickers, but about the men who went to the
young women. “Don’t they know that with the money they paid for sexual
satisfaction they were helping the traffickers?”

Pope Francis said he believes God used the Year of Mercy to
plant seeds and “I believe the Lord will make grow good, simple, daily
things in the life of the people — nothing spectacular.”

The pope has told interviewers before that he prays a prayer
of St. Thomas More that includes the request, “Grant me, O Lord, a sense
of good humor. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life
a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others.”

The TV2000 interviewers said that sounded strange coming
from a pope and asked him why.

“A sense of humor gives you relief, it helps you see
what is temporary in life and take things with the spirit of a soul who has
been redeemed,” the pope said. “It’s a human attitude, but it is very
close to the grace of God.”

Having a sense of humor, he said, helps one be like a child
before God and “to praise the Lord with a smile, but also a joke well

The interviewers began a question, “Holy Father, in a
month you will be 80 …” but he cut them off, “Who me?”

Insisting, they asked the pope how he manages to do all he
does. The pope joked that he has “magic tea,” but then said what
helps most is prayer. “That helps me a lot. I pray. Prayer is a help; it
is being with the Lord. I celebrate Mass, pray the breviary, speak to the Lord,
pray the rosary.”

Another thing, he said, is “I sleep well, which is a
gift from the Lord. I sleep like a log” six hours each night.

Is it easier to put up with “detractors” or with
“the false admiration” of sycophants, he was asked. “The
second!” he responded.

“I’m allergic to flatterers,” the pope said.

In Argentina, he said, they would be referred to as
“sock-lickers” — like bootlickers — “which is a really good

As for critics, the pope said that he knows he deserves
criticism because he is a sinner, so even if a specific critique is not fair, he
still deserves it.

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