It was an usual, but festive way, to kick off the weekly General Audiences in the new year. Several circus performers took the stage before Pope Francis, complete with juggling, acrobats, unicycles and even ferrets!
At one point, even Pope Francis clapped along, visibly happy with their performance. Soon after, he congratulated them and gave them a special message.
"When you travel from city to city, I ask you to become messengers of joy, messengers of brotherhood, in a society that greatly needs it.”
Also in attendance were over 9,000 pilgrims from all over the world. They came to St. Peter's Square to listen to the Pope talk about the Sacraments. Specifically, he spoke about the importance of Baptism, where people are immersed into the "salvation of Jesus.”
"It is not a mere formality. It's an act that touches our very existence deeply. It is not the same having a child baptized, than not having the child baptized. It is not the same. It is not the same having a person baptized, than not having a person baptized.”
He added that through their Baptism, Christians become a part of the Church, whom he described as a mother giving birth to her children. Their Baptism allows them to become children of God.
Repeatedly throughout the General Audience, the Pope said knowing the date when they were baptized is as important as knowing their birthday. He also gave all the pilgrims homework for the day.
"I allow myself to give you advice, more than advice, homework for today. When you get home, search and ask for the date of your Baptism. That way, you will be aware of that beautiful day when you were baptized. Will you do it? I don't sense any enthusiasm. Will you do it? Yes! Because you learn about a joyous occasion.”
As children of God, the Pope said that Baptism gives Christians hope in God and salvation. He said that hope never lets down, and allows people to forgive "those who trespass against us.”
The Vatican once again chose to hold this week's General Audience at the Square, instead of Paul VI Hall. The number of people attending was much higher than the hall's capacity. And as he has done in previous times, the Pope set aside nearly half an hour before the start of the audience to greet people at the Square.