Vatican City — The mystery of God's relationship with humankind is revolutionary in that Christians can look to him without fear as children to a loving father, Pope Francis said.
In teaching the Lord's prayer, Jesus invites all Christians "to have the courage of calling God with the name 'father,'" the pope said June 7 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
"This is the great revolution that Christianity ingrains into the religious psychology of man. The mystery of God who always fascinates us and makes us feel small but no longer frightens us, he doesn't crush us, he doesn't distress us," the pope said.
With temperatures in Rome hovering slightly above 80 degrees, the hot and humid weather did little to keep the estimated 15,000 pilgrims from singing and waving as Francis greeted them on his popemobile.
The pope occasionally stopped to kiss several babies whose heads were draped in cloth to protect them from the sun.
In his talk, the pope reflected on the theme of God's fatherhood as a source of hope for Christians as conveyed in the prayer of the "Our Father."
While some may be more inclined to refer to God with a title that is "more respectful of his transcendence," he said, the word "father" implies a trustful relationship "like a child to a father, knowing that we are loved and cared for by him."
Referring to the parable of the prodigal son, the pope said God loves his children "not in a human way because there is no father in this world who would behave like the protagonist in this parable."
"God is a father in his own way: good, defenseless in the face of man's free will, capable only of conjugating the verb, 'love,'" the pope said. "What an unfathomable mystery is a God that nourishes this kind of love towards his children!"
It is for this reason, he added, that St. Paul chose not to translate the word "father" into Greek and instead uses the Aramaic word, "'Abba,' a term that is even more intimate than 'father' and that someone may translate as 'pop, dad.'"
The pope said that although men and women "can be far away, hostile or even profess ourselves as being 'without God,'" God is never far from humankind.
"When we need help, Jesus doesn't tell us to give up and close in on ourselves, but rather to turn to the father and ask him with confidence," he said.
Before concluding, Francis asked pilgrims to contemplate on the difficulties they face in their lives before leading them in praying the "Our Father."
"Let us think about these problems and needs in silence. Let us also think about the father, our father, who cannot be without us and who is watching us at this moment," he said.
Francis also said he would participate in the "One minute for peace" initiative June 8, a moment of prayer starting at 1 p.m. on the third anniversary of the prayer service held at the Vatican with the late Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"In our time, there is a great need to pray — Christians, Jews and Muslims — for peace," the pope said.