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Pope Francis admitted to not having a perfect answer for a Jesuit priest who asked him about the Gospel’s call to “love your enemies” in the context of sexual abusers.
During his apostolic journey to Hungary last month, the pontiff met with a gathering of 32 Jesuits for a candid interview at the nation’s apostolic nunciature.
“The Gospel asks us to love, but how do we love at the same time people who have experienced abuse and their abusers?” a Jesuit asked the pope. “God loves everyone. He loves them, too. But what about us?”
The question is a reference to the Biblical passage Matthew 5:44 — part of the Sermon on the Mount — in which Jesus says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
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Pope Francis celebrates a Mass at Kossuth Lajos Square on April 30, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. Pope Francis makes a three-day visit to the Central European nation’s capital for his 41st Apostolic Journey abroad. (Photo by Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
The Jesuit continued his question, “Without ever covering anything up, of course, how do we love abusers? I would like to offer the compassion and love that the Gospel asks for everyone, even the enemy. But how is this possible?”
The pontiff admitted that the question was difficult, saying that feelings of “revulsion” can drive a well-meaning person to hate.
The exchange was published Tuesday in the Italian publication La Civiltà Cattolica.
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Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Academic and Cultural World at the Faculty of Information Technology and Bionics of the Catholic University on the last day of his visit to Budapest ( Photo by Balint Szentgallay/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
“It is not easy at all,” the pontiff said. “Today we understand that the reality of abuse is very broad: there is sexual abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse, migrant abuse. You refer to sexual abuse. How do we approach, how do we talk to the abusers for whom we feel revulsion? Yes, they too are children of God.”
He continued, “But how can you love them? It’s a powerful question. The abuser is to be condemned, indeed, but as a brother. Condemning him is to be understood as an act of charity. There is a logic, a form of loving the enemy that is also expressed in this way. And it is not easy to understand and to live out. The abuser is an enemy.”
Pope Francis said the difficulty in living out Jesus’ command from the Sermon on the Mount is because of human empathy and a desire to protect the vulnerable.
Pope Francis flanked by Hungarian President Katalin Novák holds his speech during a meeting with local authorities at Sándor Palace on April 28, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. Pope Francis makes a three-day visit to the Central European nation’s capital for his 41st Apostolic Journey abroad. (Photo by Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
“Each of us feels this because we empathize with the suffering of the abused,” Pope Francis said. “When you hear what abuse leaves in the hearts of abused people, the impression you get is very powerful. Even talking to the abuser involves revulsion; it’s not easy.”
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He concluded, “But they are God’s children, too. They deserve punishment, but they also deserve pastoral care. How do we provide that? No, it is not easy. You are right.”
Timothy Nerozzi is a writer for Fox News Digital. You can follow him on Twitter @timothynerozzi and can email him at [email protected]