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Pope celebrates mass of 'mercy' with prisoners, refugees

AFP logo AFP 4/11/2021 AFP
a group of people standing around a table with wine glasses: Pope Francis stressed the importance for Christians of serving others © Handout Pope Francis stressed the importance for Christians of serving others

Pope Francis made a rare Sunday outing from Vatican grounds to celebrate a mass on "divine mercy" with prisoners, refugees and health workers.

The service was held in a church just off St Peter's Square, in front of a reduced congregation of about 80 people, due to coronavirus restrictions. 

Among them, there were inmates of two Roman prisons and one youth detention centre; refugees from Syria, Nigeria and Egypt; and nursing staff from a nearby hospital. 

Pope Francis standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Pope Francis arrives for private mass in Rome © Sam KINGSLEY Pope Francis arrives for private mass in Rome

In his homily, the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics stressed the importance for Christians of serving others.

"Sister, brother, do you want proof that God has touched your life? See if you can stoop to bind the wounds of others," he said. 

"Let us not remain indifferent. Let us not live a one-way faith, a faith that receives but does not give... Having received mercy, let us now become merciful," Francis added.

Pope Francis arrives for private mass in Rome
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He also recalled how early Christians had no concept of private property and shared everything, noting: "This is not communism, but pure Christianity."

The pope, who is 84 and was vaccinated for the coronavirus ahead of his trip to Iraq in early March, did not wear a face mask during the service.

Those who did readings from the bible were also unmasked, while everybody else in the church, including altar boys and other priests, had their masks on.

The mass celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, a Catholic Feast falling on the first Sunday after Easter, established by Pope John Paul II in 2000. 

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