(Photo: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)
Pope Francis told believers in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday that Jesus does not want selfish, "remote-controlled" Christians, but instead wants them to experience the freedom that comes from God.
"Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will: 'remote-controlled' Christians, incapable of creativity, who seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free," the leader of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world, said, according to Vatican Radio.
The pope added that Jesus wants people to be free, a freedom which is found "in the inner dialogue with God in conscience."
"If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free," Francis continued.
The Vatican leader praised his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, for using his God-given conscience throughout his ministry. "When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take, he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow."
Francis has often called on Christians not to be selfish and to reach out to the poor. In May, he reminded financial experts and political leaders of the words of Saint John Chrysostom: "Not to share one's goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs."
Of his own duties, Francis said: "The pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but the pope has the duty, in Christ's name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. The pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centered ethics in the world of finance and economics."
Catholic News Service reported on Monday that Pope Francis' first encyclical, or circular letter, is set to be published on July 5. It is believed to be largely based on the thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI, who published previous encyclicals "Deus Caritas Est" (2005) on charity, and "Spe Salvi" (2007) on hope, but retired before he could finish his "Lumen fidei" (The Light of Faith).
"It's an encyclical written with four hands, so to speak, because Pope Benedict began writing it and he gave it to me," Francis explained. "It's a strong document. I will say in it that I received it and most of the work was done by him and I completed it."