Pilgrims that attended the Pope's first general audience of 2016 were able to get very close to him: That's because it was held in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall, and the Pope walked instead of riding the Popemobile.
Pope Francis began a new cycle of catechesis to explain the meaning of mercy. He focused on a reading from the Book of Exodus, in which God speaks with Moses and tells him that he is compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, and rich in clemency and loyalty.
"God is faithful. The words loyalty and faithfulness are not in style, but God is loyal and faithful.”
The Pope explained that the Hebrew term "mercy” in the Bible refers to the womb. Therefore, he suggested, God is moved by children in the same way a mother is. But there is nothing childish about his love for people.
"It's not love from a soap opera. It is love that gives first and doesn't depend on human merit. It is immensely free.”
Above all, the Pope added, if something characterizes God, it's his patience. He is patient with humanity's errors and persistence in evil.
"He is slow to anger, he counts to ten, like when we were young, breathing deeply, to remain calm, supportive, and patient.”
At the end of the audience, the Pope recalled the victims of the most recent terrorist attack in Istanbul, which the Turkish government has attributed to ISIS.
"May the merciful Lord give eternal peace to the departed.”
Just days before the audience, Pope Francis had spoken to the Vatican's diplomatic corps and spoke about modern terrorism. He highlighted that from the Holy See's diplomatic point of view, it's important to never stop working for peace.