ROME — Jesus set Saint Paul free from his rigidity and intransigence, opening him to the love of God, Pope Francis asserted Tuesday.
The Apostle Paul experienced the freedom brought by Christ and was “set free from the most oppressive form of slavery, which is slavery to self,” the pope told pilgrims gathered for Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
Paul “was also set free from the religious fervor that had made him a zealous defender of his ancestral traditions and a cruel persecutor of Christians,” the pontiff declared. “Set free.”
“Formal religious observance and the intransigent defense of tradition, rather than making him open to the love of God and of his brothers and sisters, had hardened him: he was a fundamentalist,” he insisted, and God “set him free from this.”
The pope went on to urge modern Christians to embrace this same freedom and to throw off the shackles of fear and inflexibility.
We “need to be set free time and time again, for only a free Church is a credible Church,” he stated.
We need to be freed from “the fear that paralyzes us, makes us seek refuge in our own securities, and robs us of the courage of prophecy,” Francis said. We also need freedom from “hypocritical outward show,” from “a religiosity that makes us rigid and inflexible,” and from “dubious associations with power.”
Peter and Paul bequeath to us “a Church set free and capable of offering the world the freedom that the world by itself cannot give: freedom from sin and death, from resignation, and from the sense of injustice and the loss of hope that dehumanizes the lives of the women and men of our time,” he said.
“How many chains must be shattered and how many doors long shut must be opened!” he added. “We can help bring this freedom, but only if we first let ourselves be set free by the newness of Jesus, and walk in the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”
Following tradition, the pope presented recently appointed archbishops from around the world with “the pallium” during Tuesday’s Mass, a symbol of their authority and service called to imitate Jesus, the Good Shepherd.