Pope Francis kisses the relics of St. Januarius, in his visit to the Duomo Naples - AFP
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke of the ‘terrorism of gossip’ as the biggest sign of the devils work in a meeting with priests, religious and seminarians at Naples Cathedral Saturday.
The Gothic ‘Duomo’ – home to the much revered relic of St. Januarius patron Saint of Naples - was the setting for Pope Francis’ first appointment of the afternoon.
He was welcomed by Cardinal Crescenzio Seppe, the Archbishop of Naples and then surrounded by an enthusiastic group of cloistered nuns who had been given special permission to attend the encounter.
The spontaneity of the cloistered set the tone for a convivial meeting, so much so, that in what has become a classic move, Pope Francis began saying "I prepared a speech, but speeches are boring” before launching into a forty minute off-the-cuff reflection on priestly and religious life.
Pope Francis reminded the priests, religious, seminarians and deacons present to put Jesus at the center of their life and not personal problems with their bishop, other priests or members of their community. He said “If the center of your life is someone you have a problem with, you'll have no joy” and when there's no joy in life of priest or nun, ‘people can smell it’.
To seminarians, he said “If Jesus isn't center of your life, postpone ordination”, while he urged religious men and women to nurture a deep relationship with Mary saying “if you don't know the Mother, you won't know Son”.
Pope Francis also spoke of the danger of attachment to worldly goods. He said when priests or nuns are attached to money, they unconsciously prefer people with money. Here, in a humorous aside, the Pope told the story of one nun so attached to money that when she fainted someone suggested putting 100 pesos under her nose to wake her up. Instead, ordained and consecrated must always have a preferential option for the poor.
Pope Francis also tested those present asking how many could remember the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Too many of us can't, he said. He spoke of a convent that remodeled and put TVs in every room, which hindered community life.
“Community life isn't easy” Pope Francis admitted. Often because “the devil sows jealously” which is revealed in the ‘terrorism of gossip’, that can destroy others. This, he stated “is the greatest sign of the devil's work”.
But all of these dangers can be avoided by three simple things, Pope Francis concluded: Adoration, love of the Church and apostolic zeal. Warning that the Church isn't an NGO, Pope Francis said "I leave you with three things: adore Jesus, love the Church, be a missionary”.
The encounter concluded with the veneration of the relics of St. Januarius, a vile of dried blood which each March 19th on the Feast of the great patron is moved, liquefies and visibly flows again. It has become inseparable in popular imagination with good fortune.
As the Pope kissed the reliquary, cardinal Sepe announced the blood of St Januarius "is already halfway liquefied". To which Pope Francis calmly responded if the blood only half liquefied it means the Saint thinks we're only half converted. "We must keep going."
Following his encounter with the clergy and religious of Naples, Pope Francis held a closed door encounter with the sick and disabled in the Jesuit Church in Naples.