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 CNS Story:

POPE-DECEASED Nov-4-2013 (360 words) xxxi

Pope says God never tires of offering sinners eternal life

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God never ceases to forgive, offering even the disobedient the chance for eternal life, Pope Francis said.

"Even if our entire existence is surrounded by threats, nothing can ever separate us from the love that Christ himself gained for us," the pope said in a homily in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 4.

"Only the sin of man can break this bond, but even in this case God will always go in search of him, to restore that union that lasts even after death," Pope Francis said during a memorial Mass for the 9 cardinals and 136 bishops who had died over the preceding year (19 of the bishops were from the United States, and 4 from Canada).

"These zealous pastors who dedicated their lives to the service of God and of their brothers are in the hands of God," the pope said. "All they have done is well preserved and will not be corroded by death."

Pope Francis prayed that the "Lord welcome them into his kingdom of light and peace, where the just and those who have been faithful witnesses to the Gospel live eternally.

"And let us also pray for ourselves, that the Lord may prepare us for this encounter," he said. "We do not know the date, but that encounter will take place."

The pope's homily echoed his words to a crowd in St. Peter's Square Nov. 3.

"There is no occupation or social condition, no sin or crime of any kind, that can erase from the memory and the heart of God even one of his children," he said, before praying the noon Angelus.

"And when (God) recognizes that desire, even simply stated, and often almost unconscious, he is immediately close by, and with his forgiveness he makes the path of conversion and return easier," he said.

Referring to the day's Gospel reading (Lk 19:1-10), about a short man who climbed a tree to get a better of Jesus, the pope urged his listeners to "climb up, as did Zacchaeus, climb onto the tree of the desire to be forgiven. I assure you that you will not be disappointed."


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