Pope celebrates mass of ‘mercy’ with prisoners, refugees

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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 center; refugees from Syria, Nigeria and Egypt; and nursing staff from a nearby hospital.

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

“Let us be renewed by the peace, forgiveness, and wounds of the merciful Jesus. Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy. Only in this way will our faith be alive and our lives unified. Only in this way will we proclaim the Gospel of God, which is the Gospel of mercy.”

This is the exhortation that Pope Francis offered in his homily at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter.

“For if love is only about us, faith becomes arid, barren and sentimental. Without others, faith becomes disembodied. Without works of mercy, it dies,” the Pope said

He also recalled how early Christians had no concept of private property and shared everything, noting: “This is not communism, but pure Christianity.”

Read Also: Pope Francis prays for martyred Syrians on 10th anniversary of war

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.