Francis: Humanity continues to wreak havoc on creation

General Audience

This morning’s general audience took place at 9:00 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and around the world.

In his speech in Italian, the Pope began a new cycle of catechesis “The Spirit and the Bride. The Holy Spirit guides the people of God to meet Jesus, our hope”, he focused his reflection on the theme The spirit of God moved over the waters (Reading: Gen 1,1-2).

After summarizing his catechesis in the different languages, the Holy Father addressed a particular greeting to the faithful present. He then invited prayers for the victims of the landslide in Papua New Guinea.

The General Audience concluded with the recitation of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

The following text includes parts that were not read out loud, but should be considered as such.


Cycle of Catechesis. The Spirit and the Bride. The Holy Spirit guides. the people of God towards Jesus our hope. 1. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, with this catechesis we begin a cycle of reflections with the theme ‘The Holy Spirit and the Bride” – the bride is the Church – “The Holy Spirit guides God’s people towards Jesus our hope’. We will make this journey through the three great stages of salvation history: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the time of the Church. Always keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus, Who is our hope.

In these first catecheses on the Spirit in the Old Testament, we will not do ‘biblical archaeology’. Instead, we will discover that what is given as a promise in the Old Testament has been fully realised in Christ. It will be like following the path of the sun from dawn to noon.

Let us begin with the first two verses of the entire Bible. The first two verses of the Bible read: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters’ (Gen 1:1-2). The Spirit of God appears to us here as the mysterious power that moves the world from its initial formless, deserted, and gloomy state to its ordered and harmonious state. Because the Spirit makes harmony, harmony in life, harmony in the world. In other words, it is He who makes the world pass from chaos to the cosmos, that is, from confusion to something beautiful and ordered. This, in fact, is the meaning of the Greek word kosmos, as well as the Latin word mundus, that is, something beautiful, something ordered, clean, harmonious, because the Spirit is harmony.

This still vague hint of the Holy Spirit’s action in creation becomes more precise in the following revelation. In a psalm we read: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host’ (Ps 33:6); and again: ‘You send forth Your spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth’ (Ps 104:30).

This line of development becomes very clear in the New Testament, which describes the intervention of the Holy Spirit in the new creation, using precisely the images that one reads about in connection with the origin of the world: the dove that hovers over the waters of the Jordan at Jesus’ baptism (cf. Mt 3:16); Jesus who, in the Upper Room, breathes on the disciples and says: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (Jn 20:22), just as in the beginning God breathed His breath on Adam (cf. Gen 2:7).

The Apostle Paul introduces a new element into this relationship between the Holy Spirit and creation. He speaks of a universe that ‘groans and suffers as in labour pains’ (cf. Rom 8:22). It suffers because of man who has subjected it to the ‘bondage of corruption’ (cf. vv. 20-21). It is a reality that concerns us closely and concerns us dramatically. The Apostle sees the cause of the suffering of creation in the corruption and sin of humanity that has dragged it into its alienation from God. This remains as true today as it was then. We see the havoc that has been done, and that continues to be wrought upon creation by humanity, especially that part of it that has greater capacity to exploit its resources.

St Francis of Assisi shows us a way out, a beautiful way, a way out to return to the harmony of the Spirit: the way of contemplation and praise. He wanted a canticle of praise to the Creator to be raised from the creatures. We recall, ‘Laudato sí, mi Signore…’ the canticle of Francis of Assisi.

One of the psalms (18:2 [19:1]) says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’, but men and women are needed to give voice to this mute cry of theirs. And in the ‘Sanctus’ of the Mass we repeat each time: ‘Heaven and earth are full of your glory’. They are, so to speak, ‘pregnant’ with it, but they need the hands of a good midwife to give birth to this praise of theirs. Our vocation in the world, Paul again reminds us, is to be ‘praise of His glory’ (Eph 1:12). It is to put the joy of contemplating ahead of the joy of possessing. And no one has rejoiced in creatures more than Francis of Assisi, who did not want to possess any of them.

Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit, Who in the beginning transformed chaos into cosmos, is at work to bring about this transformation in every person. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises: ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you… I will put my Spirit within you’ (Ez 36:26-27). For our heart resembles that deserted, dark abyss of the first verses of Genesis. Opposed feelings and desires stir within it: those of the flesh and those of the spirit. We are all, in a sense, that ‘kingdom divided against itself’ that Jesus talks about in the Gospel (cf. Mk 3:24). Within ourselves we can say that there is an external chaos – social choas, political chaos. We think about wars, we think about so many boys and girls who don’t have enough to heat, about so many social injustices. This is the external chaos. But there is also an internal chaos: internal to each of us. The former cannot be healed unless we begin to heal the latter! Brothers and sisters, let us do a good job of making our internal confusion a clarity of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of God that does this, and we open our hearts so that He can do it.

May this reflection arouse in us the desire to experience the Creator Spirit. For more than a millennium, the Church has put on our lips the cry to ask: ‘Veni creator Spiritus! ‘Come, O Creator Spirit! Visit our minds. Fill with heavenly grace the hearts you have created.’ Let us ask the Holy Spirit to come to us and make us new persons, with the newness of the Spirit. Thank you.


Special Greetings

I want to offer assurance of my prayers for the victims of the great landslide that swept through some villages in Papua New Guinea. May the Lord comfort the family members, those who have lost their homes, and the Papuan people, whom God willing I will meet next September.

Last Sunday in Novara, Father Joseph Rossi, priest and martyr, zealous parish priest of charity, was beatified. He did not abandon the flock during the tragic period of World War II but defended it even to the shedding of his blood. May his heroic witness help us to face the trials of life with fortitude. Let us applaud the new blessed.

I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the priests of Bergamo who are commemorating the 25th anniversary of their ordination, and I encourage them to persevere in fidelity to the Lord’s call and joyful service of the Gospel. These “Bergamaschi” [people from Bergamo] have a reputation as good priests, eh? Onward, with courage! I also greet the Daughters of the Cross, from Liege, who are celebrating their General Chapter, and I urge them to strengthen their religious ideals in order to express their dedication to God and their brothers and sisters ever more generously.

I warmly welcome the faithful of Solopaca, the “Grosseto 1912” Sports Union, the soldiers of the Army Signal Command of Cecchignola and those of Nettuno.

Finally, my thoughts go to the young, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds. Today we celebrate the liturgical memorial of St Paul VI, a pastor burning with love for Christ, for the Church and for humanity. May this anniversary help everyone to rediscover the joy of being Christian, inspiring a renewed commitment to building the civilisation of love. And please, if you have some time, read Paul VI’s letter Evangelii nuntiandi,’ which is still relevant today.

My thoughts go to tormented Ukraine. The other day I received little boys and girls who suffered burns, they lost their legs in the war: war is always cruel. These little boys and girls have to start walking, to move with artificial arms … they have lost their smiles. It is very bad, very sad when a child loses their smile. Let us pray for the Ukrainian children.

And let us not forget Palestine and Israel who suffer so much: let the war end.

And let us not forget Myanmar, and so many countries that are at war.

Children suffer, children in war suffer. Let us pray to the Lord to be close to all and give us the grace of peace. Amen.

My blessing to all!


Summary of the Holy Father’s words

Dear brothers and sisters: Today we begin a new series of catecheses on “The Spirit and the Bride,” focusing on how the Holy Spirit guides God’s people throughout salvation history. From the very beginning, the Spirit of God is at work, bringing order and beauty out of chaos. This ongoing transformation is fully realized in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells us that “creation has been groaning in travail,” (Rom 8:22) a reality that remains true, and emphasizes our need to address both our internal and external chaos. In light of this, Saint Francis of Assisi offers contemplation and praise as a remedy and demonstrates how to embrace creation freely. Let us then invite the Spirit of God into our lives, to transform our hearts and heal our world: “Come Holy Spirit, Creator come, enlighten our minds and fill with heavenly grace the hearts you have created.”