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Pope Francis: Serve and Live in the Freedom of God

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Even non-Christians can benefit from not working on Sundays, Pontiff says in visit to southern Italy.

Pope Francis emphasized the dignity of the human person in the realm of work and the call of all members of the Church to service, both to God and to others, in his homily during Mass in Campobasso on Saturday morning.

Thousands of people gathered for the outdoor papal Mass, one of the highlights of the Pope’s daylong trip to the city, located in the southern Italian region of Molise.

“The Church is a people who serves God; the Church is a people who lives in the freedom that he gives,” he told the assembly. And this service, he continued, is realized through prayer, adoration, the proclamation of the Gospel and charity in the ordinary [things] of everyday life.

There is much need for commitment in the service of others “in the face of situations of material and spiritual precariousness, especially in the face of unemployment, a plague that requires every effort and much courage on everyone’s part,” he said.

The challenges of work, he said, calls upon the particular responsibility of institutions and of the business and financial world.

“It is necessary to place the dignity of the human person at the center of every prospect and every action. Other interests, even if legitimate, are secondary,” he said to applause. “At the center is the dignity of the human person. Why? Because the human person is in the image of God, he was created in the image of God and we are all in the image of God!”

According to AP, Francis lamented the abandoning of the traditionally Christian practice of not working on Sundays, saying it has a negative impact on families and friendships.

Molise is an agricultural region in the heart of southern Italy where unemployment is chronically high. While the Pope said poor people need jobs to have dignity, he indicated that opening stores and other businesses on Sundays as a way to create jobs wasn’t beneficial for society.

He added: "Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if working on Sundays is true freedom." He said that spending Sundays with family and friends is an "ethical choice" for faithful and non-faithful alike.

Francis, 77, appeared to have bounced back from a spate of illnesses which have caused him to cancel several appointments recently. He flew by helicopter to Molise for a full day of activity, including a lunch appointment with poor people and a visit to a prison.

The Pontiff moved energetically and smiled often as he greeted crowds. The Vatican had described the health problems as "mild" but did not elaborate.

At one point, the pope, speaking off the cuff, encouraged parents to spend more time with children. He quipped: "Waste time with your children!" He said he liked to ask parents, "do you play with your children?"
 Here is Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ homily:

The first reading reminded us of the characteristics of divine wisdom, which liberates from evil and oppression those who place themselves at the service of the Lord.  In fact, he is not neutral, but in his wisdom he is close to people who are fragile, discriminated against and oppressed, who abandon themselves in trust to him. This experience of Jacob and Joseph, recounted in the Old Testament, reveals two essential aspects of the life of the Church. The Church is a people who serves God; the Church is a people who lives in the freedom that he gives.

First of all, we are a people who serves God. Service to God is realized in different ways, in particular in prayer, in adoration, in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the witness of charity. And always, the icon of the Church is the Virgin Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1,38; cfr 1,48). Immediately after having received the message from the Angel and having conceived Jesus, Mary leaves in a hurry to go to help her elderly relative Elizabeth. And, in this way, she showed that the preferred way to serve God is to serve our brothers and sisters who are in need.

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