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We all have within a bit of the child who needs a hug, says Pope

Pope Francis audience with the Italian Catholic Action Association (Azione Cattolica) in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 25, 2024

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 04/27/24

"Each one of us has in their heart something of the child who needs a hug. May we let ourselves be embraced by the Lord," the Pope said.

“The more you know how to hold and support every brother in need with merciful and compassionate arms,” the more you will be “a presence of Christ.”

This is what Pope Francis told around 60,000 members of the Italian Catholic Action, who gathered in St. Peter’s Square to meet the Pontiff on April 25, 2024. In his speech, the Pope called his audience to discover God’s embrace in their life so as to then be able tobring that love back into the world through service to others.

“The embrace is one of the most spontaneous expressions of human experiences, […] above all, it is enveloped by the great embrace of God, who loves us, who loves us first and never ceases to hold us close to Him, especially when we return after going astray,” Pope Francis said, highlighting also how life begins and ends with hugs and affection from one’s parents and loved ones. 

“What would our life be, and how could the mission of the Church be realized without these embraces?,” he asked.

Founded in 1867, Catholic Action is a lay association that proposes initiatives and formations for Catholics of all ages.

The members of this organization came from all over Italy to participate in the meeting with the Pope, which served as a precursor to Catholic Action’s national assembly, which started on the afternoon of April 25 and runs through April 28. The theme of the day was “with open arms.”

Several cardinals are speaking during these three days of assembly, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, and Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Welcome the Lord’s merciful hug like a child

The Pope explained that although hugs are a normal and essential part of human life, they become even “more vital” when understood “in the dimension of the faith.” 

“Indeed, at the center of our existence is the merciful embrace of God who saves, the embrace of the good Father revealed in Christ, and whose face is reflected in every one of His gestures – forgiveness, healing, liberation, service,” the Pope said. His “revelation reaches its culmination in the Eucharist and on the Cross, when Christ offers His life for the salvation of the world, for the good of whoever welcomes Him with a sincere heart, forgiving even His crucifiers.”

“Brothers and sisters, may we let ourselves be embraced by Him, like children […]. Each one of us has in their heart something of the child who needs a hug. May we let ourselves be embraced by the Lord. In this way, in the Lord’s embrace we learn how to embrace others,” the Pope insisted, calling them to “never lose sight” of this love. 

Learn to hug others in a world filled with conflict

The Pope then explained that once one has discovered and felt God’s embrace in one’s life it is easier to bear witness to others and serve them, especially in a world permeated by conflict. 

“The zeal you express so festively today is not always well-received in our world,” the Pope explained. “When the embrace transforms into a fist it is very dangerous. At the origin of wars there are often missing embraces or refused embraces, followed by prejudices, misunderstandings, suspicions, to the point of seeing the other as an enemy. And all this, unfortunately, in these days, is before our eyes in too many parts of the world!”

“An embrace can change life, show new paths, paths of hope,” he said, citing how Saint Francis decided to “follow the Lord after embracing a leper.” The Pontiff in fact highlighted how Catholic Action’s “common denominator” is “precisely in the embrace of charity.”

“Friends, you will be all the more a presence of Christ the more you know how to hold and support every brother in need with merciful and compassionate arms, as lay people engaged in the events of the world and history, rich in a great tradition, trained and competent in what concerns your responsibilities, and at the same time humble and fervent in the life of the spirit,” he said. 

Taking concrete actions: the Jubilee and the Synod

“Brothers and sisters, the “culture of the embrace,” through your personal and community journeys, will grow in the Church and in society, renewing family and educational relationships, renewing processes of reconciliation and justice, renewing efforts of communion and co-responsibility, and building bonds for a future of peace,” the Pope encouraged the members of Catholic Action. 

He also called them to not forget to participate and pray for the Synod on the Future of the Church, an ongoing collective reflection and discussion in the Church that began in 2021, and the 2025 Jubilee, which for the Pontiff closely related. 

“I think of the ongoing Synod, which is reaching its third stage, the most demanding and important, the prophetic one,” he said. “Now it is a matter of translating the work of the preceding phases into choices that give zeal and new life to the Church’s mission in our time.”

“There is a need for people forged by the Spirit, for ‘pilgrims of hope,’ as the theme of the Jubilee that is now close at hand says: men and women capable of tracing and treading new and challenging paths. I invite you, therefore, to be ‘athletes and standard-bearers of synodality,’” he urged.

Pope FrancisSpiritual LifeVatican
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