Paul reminded the Galatians that he was a true Apostle, the pope said, by telling the story of how he was called by God on the road to Damascus.
“On the one hand, he insists in underlining that he had fiercely persecuted the Church and that he had been a ‘blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence’ (1 Timothy 1: 13); on the other, he highlights God’s mercy towards him, which led him to experience a radical transformation, well known to all,” he observed.
Commenting on Paul’s journey from “a blameless observer of the Mosaic Law” to “a herald among the pagans,” the pope said: “We must never forget the time and the way in which God entered our lives: keep fixed in your heart and mind that encounter with grace, when God changed our existence.”
Concluding his catechesis, the pope said that when we are called by God, we also receive a mission that He wishes us to undertake.
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“That is why we are asked to prepare ourselves seriously, knowing that it is God Himself who sends us, God himself who supports us with His grace,” he said.
“Let us allow ourselves to be led by this awareness: the primacy of grace transforms existence and makes it worthy of being placed at the service of the Gospel.”
A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.
One of the greetings was to pilgrims from Slovakia, a country that the Vatican is considering for a possible papal visit in September.
Pope Francis said: “I greet with affection the Slovakian faithful, especially the participants in the Pilgrimage of Thanksgiving of the Eparchy of Košice, which celebrates the 350th anniversary of the miraculous weeping of the icon of Our Lady of Klokočov, led by their Ordinary Archbishop Cyril Vasiľ.”
“Brothers and sisters, may this celebration of the Mother of God renew in your people the faith and the lively sense of her intercession on your journey.”
Addressing Italian speakers, the pope thanked his senior driver Renzo Cestiè, who he noted was retiring that day.
“He started working when he was 14, he came by bicycle,” the pope said. “Today he is the pope’s driver: he did all of this. An applause for Renzo and his faithfulness.”
“He is one of those people who carries the Church forward with his work, with his benevolence and with his prayer. I thank him and also take the opportunity to thank the many lay people who work with us in the Vatican,” he said.
The general audience ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.