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Trials and tribulations teach empathy, pope says

Pope Francis said that Christians endure life’s hardships with the help of their faith and then act charitably by being attune to the suffering of others.

“A ‘tried’ Christian can certainly become closer to those who suffer and make his or her heart open and sensitive in solidarity with others,” the pope said on Jan. 8 during his first weekly general audience of 2020, reported the Catholic News Service.

The pope made reference to the first-century Christian apostle St. Paul’s journey from the Roman settlement of Caeserea to Rome as a prisoner.

In regard to the biblical account of that story, the pope said that when death seemed imminent and despair pervaded everyone, St. Paul encouraged those on board not to lose faith.

“Even in trial, he does not cease to be the guardian of the lives of others and the animator of their hope,” Pope Francis said.

He continued that after shipwrecking on Malta, St. Paul exercised his “ministry of compassion” by healing the sick, demonstrating the belief that “any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others.”

“This is a law of the Gospel: When a believer experiences salvation, he does not keep it for himself but puts it into circulation,” he said.

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The pope said that that story provides an example for how Christians today can show compassion to those who are suffering.

“Let us ask the Lord today to help us to live every trial sustained by the energy of faith and to be sensitive to the many shipwrecked people in history who come to our shores exhausted, so that we too may know how to welcome them with that fraternal love which comes from the encounter with Jesus,” the pope said.

The general audience, also known as the papal audience, is not a Mass, but rather provides an opportunity for the pope to deliver a themed speech, followed by prayer, homily and songs.

Pope Francis often communicates with the crowd in multiple languages during these addresses.

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