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The Quotable Pope Francis


Columbia staff

Pope Francis waves to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square March 17 as he leads his first Angelus. (PHOTOS: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

From the first time he walked out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica March 13, Pope Francis has shown himself to be a gifted speaker who conveys thoughtfulness and joy through simple language, as well as through silence, looks and gestures.

Addressing the College of Cardinals two days after his election, Pope Francis said wisdom is “like a good wine that improves with age.” Later, to youth gathered in St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday, he said, “With Christ, the heart never grows old!” Expressing both the wisdom of experience and a youthful exuberance, the 76-year-old pontiff’s humble proclamation of the Gospel has already inspired many.

In the pages that follow, Columbia presents just a sampling of the pope’s words during the first months of his pontificate.

On Following Christ

“Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person, Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. Do not listen to him! Let us follow Jesus!” – Homily, March 24

“Following and accompanying Christ, staying with him, demands ‘coming out of ourselves’ … out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans which end by shutting out God’s creative action.” – Audience, March 27

“Christ opened the path to us. He is like a roped guide climbing a mountain who, on reaching the summit, pulls us up to him and leads us to God. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior, of our advocate.” – Audience, April 17

On the Christian Life

“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. … In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!” – Inaugural Homily, March 19

“Being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin. … Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom that living in Christ gives us which is true freedom, the freedom that saves us from the slavery of evil, of sin and of death!” – Audience, April 10

“We too should be clear in our Christian life that entering the glory of God demands daily fidelity to his will, even when it demands sacrifice and sometimes requires us to change our plans.” – Audience, April 17

“In this period of crisis, today, it is important not to turn in on ourselves, burying our own talent, our spiritual, intellectual, and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but, rather to open ourselves, to be supportive, to be attentive to others. … Set your stakes on great ideals, the ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. Life is not given to us to be jealously guarded for ourselves, but is given to us so that we may give it in turn.” – Audience, April 24

On Grace and Forgiveness

“The Lord never tires of forgiving — never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.” – Homily, March 17

“Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet God has spoken. He has replied, and his answer is the cross of Christ: a word that is love, mercy, forgiveness.” – Address, Good Friday, March 29

“This is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy; let us be loved by Jesus; let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives, too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” – Urbi et Orbi Message, Easter

On the Truth of Man

“Before all else, we need to keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and to counter the dominance of a one-dimensional vision of the human person, a vision that reduces human beings to what they produce and to what they consume. This is one of the most insidious temptations of our time.” – Address, March 20

“Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.” – Address, March 22

“Man is like a traveller who, crossing the deserts of life, thirsts for the living water: gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: he is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and whom Jesus pours out into our hearts.” – Audience, May 8

On Evangelization

“Inspired also by the celebration of the Year of Faith, all of us together, pastors and members of the faithful, will strive to respond faithfully to the Church’s perennial mission: to bring Jesus Christ to mankind and to lead mankind to an encounter with Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, truly present in the Church and also in every person.” – Audience with the College of Cardinals, March 15

Pope Francis embraces 8-year-old Dominic Gondreau, who has cerebral palsy, following the pope’s first Easter Mass March 31. (Photo: Gregorio Borgia, AP Photo)

“To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms. Just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colors and shades, yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. … Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!” – Homily, April 14

“May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be ‘bridges,’ means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties.” – Homily, May 5

On Ministry and Service

“God thinks like the Samaritan who did not pass by the unfortunate man, pitying him or looking at him from the other side of the road, but helped him without asking for anything in return; without asking whether he was a Jew, a pagan or a Samaritan, whether he was rich or poor. He asked for nothing. He went to help him. God is like this.” – Audience, March 27

“This I ask you: be shepherds, with the ‘odor of the sheep,’ make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men. … Dear priests, may our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the anointed one, came to bring us.” – Homily, Chrism Mass, March 28

“Help one another: This is what Jesus teaches us, and this is what I am doing — and doing with all my heart — because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart. I love it.” – Homily, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, March 28

On Courage

“We must not be afraid of being Christian and living as Christians! We must have this courage to go and proclaim the Risen Christ, for he is our peace; he made peace with his love, with his forgiveness, with his blood and with his mercy.” – Regina Cæli, April 7

“Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. … We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!” – Homily, April 28

“What does freedom mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything that you don’t like out the window. … Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life! In this way our life will be fruitful! And this is freedom: to have the courage to make these decisions with generosity.” – Address, May 4