In his first new book since his Pontificate, the Pontiff revealed his thoughts on challenges facing Catholicism in the 21st Century over divorce, homosexuality and Church corruption.
The Book entitled “The Name of God is Mercy" an extended discussion with Andrea Tornielli, an Italian journalist and Vatican watcher, Pope Francis focused on the subject of remarriage and divorce referring to his own niece, talking about how she had married a man whose first marriage had not been dissolved.
The Pope says, the couple now has three children, explaining that his niece’s husband was “so religious" that he went to Mass every Sunday and accepted that he could never be absolved of his sins.
The Pope’s niece had to wait for another 4 years for her husband annulment to be approved before she could receive the sacrament of matrimony in the church.
Speaking of gay people, the Pope says they should not be “judged" by their sexuality.He said:
“To follow the way of the Lord, the Church is called on to dispense its mercy over all those who recognize themselves as sinners, who assume responsibility for the evil they have committed, and who feel in need of forgiveness. The Church does not exist to condemn people, but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy.
I often say that in order for this to happen, it is necessary to go out: to go out from the churches and the parishes, to go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope. I like to use the image of a field hospital to describe this “Church that goes forth". It exists where there is combat. It is not a solid structure with all the equipment where people go to receive treatment for both small and large infirmities. It is a mobile structure that offers first aid and immediate care, so that its soldiers do not die.
It is a place for urgent care, not a place to see a specialist. I hope that the Jubilee [The Holy Year of Mercy] will serve to reveal the Church’s deeply maternal and merciful side, a Church that goes forth toward those who are “wounded," who are in need of an attentive ear, understanding, forgiveness, and love."
He called on Christians to “overcome prejudice and rigidity".
The publication of the book comes ahead of the Apostolic Exhortation on family synod, which is expected to be published in March and will offer the Pope’s reflections on marriage, divorce and family life.
The Pontiff cited instances where a clergy asked for bribes or asked intrusive and shocking sexual questions during confessions.
He talks about his own shortcomings and maintained that had the circumstances of his life been different he might one day,have ended up a prisoner rather than Pope.
He also talked about how he has a “special relationship” with those in jail.
“Every time I go through the gates into a prison to celebrate Mass or for a visit, I always think: Why them and not me? I should be here. I deserve to be here. Their fall could have been mine," he said.