Francis: 'If you don't know how to forgive, you're not Christian'

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis has again colorfully stressed the need for mercy and forgiveness inside the Catholic community, saying bluntly during his daily homily Thursday that “if you do not know how to forgive, you are not Christian.”

Reflecting on continuing news of wars around the globe, the pontiff said in his homily that war is not only taking place in the political world but “also in our Christian communities, between us.”

Forgiveness, the pope said, is a “key word” of Jesus. If you do not forgive, said Francis, “you do not do what the Lord did.”

“The Lord, the Father, is so merciful,” said the pontiff. “He always forgives us, always wants to make peace with us.”

“If you are not merciful, you risk that the Lord will not be merciful with you, because we will be judged with the same measure by which we judge others,” he continued.

“If you are a priest and you do not feel the sense of being merciful, tell your bishop to give you administrative work,” Francis advised. “But do not go to the confessional, please! A priest who is not merciful does so much harm in the confessional!”

The pope then emulated people who compare their sins to others by saying things like: “But that person has done this” or “That person is a bigger sinner than me!”

“Who can say this, that the other is a bigger sinner than me?” asked Francis. “Not one of us can say this. Only the Lord knows.”

Quoting from St. Paul, the pontiff said Christians need sentiments of “tenderness, goodness, humility, gentleness, magnanimity.”

This “is the Christian style … the style with which Jesus made peace and reconciliation,” he said. “It is not arrogance, it is not condemnation, it is not speaking ill of others.”

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]​

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