We imagine it’s fairly rare for Pope Francis to address the parish council of a single parish, but he did so on Sunday evening, National Catholic Reporter reports. In his remarks, he told the group that “the key role of a Catholic parish is practicing closeness to its people by working to provide for their needs and to always show God’s love for all.” Such closeness is the “first commandment” of parish ministry, Francis continued.
Speaking to the parish council of a church on the eastern outskirts of Rome Sunday evening, Francis emphasized the difficult situations many people are living when offering advice to the council about how to go about their work.
“You have only one defect, but it’s the same one that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had,” Francis told the council. “Being poor.”
“Joseph had work; Jesus had work,” said the pope. “Many people here don’t have it. And they have to feed their children!”
Telling the parish council they should work “so that these situations do not repeat,” the pope said, “You work to continue to go ahead with the people and to tell them: ‘No, come here, what do you need? I will help you.'”
“For this, I recommend one thing, to you, to help people,” he continued. “The first pastoral commandment is closeness: being close to the people. Closeness.”
“We cannot go to a family with sick or hungry children — or those that have fallen to vice — we cannot go with ‘You must, you must, you must,'” said the pope. “No. We must go with closeness, with the caress that Jesus has taught us.”
The full story from reporter Joshua J. McElwee can be found here.