Pope Francis has called for better protection of children from sexual abuse and violence. The occasion was an Italian day for underage victims of violence and sexual abuse.
"We must all strive to ensure that every person, especially children, are always defended and protected," the pope said Sunday at the conclusion of his noon prayer in St. Peter's Square. The day for underage victims of violence and sexual abuse dates back to the child protection organization "Meter" and was established in 1995. Members of the organization founded by Catholic priest Fortunato Di Noto were among the guests in St. Peter's Square.
Italy's President Sergio Mattarella called for commitment against "silence, passive acquiescence and indifference" to pedophilia and violence against children. Like Pope Francis, Mattarella thanked the organization "Meter" for its commitment. The Catholic Church is "particularly sensitive" to these ies, the president said in a message distributed Sunday.
Pope: Christians should be recognized like trees by their fruits
During the midday prayer, Francis had earlier compared faithful Christians to trees: They should be recognized by their fruits. These included love, joy and peace, as well as longsuffering, kindness and goodness. You can also tell that someone is a "true Christian" by fidelity and self-control, Francis continued. These fruits of the Holy Spirit can be received by anyone who is "intimately united" with Jesus. They transform the whole person and benefit the neighbor and society as a whole, the Pope explained from a window of the Apostolic Palace in front of tens of thousands of people.
At the same time, Francis made it clear that a Christian cannot be a lone fighter. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit without the vine, a Christian cannot exist without Christ and the Church, the pope explained. The vines are not self-sufficient, but depend entirely on the vine, "in which is the source of their life". He referred to Jesus' biblical parable of the vine and the branches. In it, Jesus describes himself as a vine and the disciples as branches. "Each one of us is a branch of the one vine," the pope said. "All together we are called to bear the fruits of this common belonging to Christ and to the Church."
Parish visit to Rome's most popular swimming beach
On Sunday afternoon, he visited the parish of "Santa Maria Regina Pacis" in Ostia, not far from the most popular beach near Rome. "Today is a day of temptation, you could go to the beach in this sun, but in life you have to choose," the pope said in welcoming about 50 scouts from the parish, alluding to the summer temperatures around 25 degrees.
After more meetings with the elderly, the sick and young families, Francis celebrated a service in the church of the community. As in previous parish visits, he also heard the confession of a believer.
In his homily, Francis spoke out against hypocrisy among Christians. You cannot go to church on Sundays and otherwise live like a pagan, the Pope said.
Before the visit, Francis met outside the official program with a group of women religious of the "Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld," who live with carnies at a fairground.
It was his third parish visit this year and the eleventh since the pontificate began.
Ostia is the most popular seaside resort for Romans. On summer weekends, thousands flock to the sandy beach of Rome's outskirts. There is a streetcar line from the city center directly to the beach. Some areas of Ostia are considered social hot spots. The percentage of migrants in the borough is high.
The church of Santa Maria Regina Pacis was consecrated in 1928. Today it is the title church of a close advisor of Pope Francis, Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya. The archbishop of Kinshasa, who is a member of the Cardinal Council on Curia Reform, is thus a kind of patron of the Church. The parish of "Santa Maria Regina Pacis" includes about 20.000 Catholics. The community in Ostia is served by Pallottine Fathers.