A practical first step towards holiness is to pray for your enemies, Pope Francis has said.

During a parish visit on Saturday evening, the Pope was asked: “What is the journey needed to become holy?” Francis replied: “Are you merciful towards the people who have harmed you or don’t like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonised.” The Pope made the remarks during a parish visit on Saturday evening.

“I suggest you start small,” Pope Francis told parishioners at St Mary Josefa, Rome. “We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. And we all know that this person or that person hates us.”

When that happens, the Pope said, “I suggest you take a minute, look at God [and say]: ‘This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.’ This is praying for those who don’t like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancour will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”

The Pope said that if everyone learned forgiveness, there would be no wars.

“These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It’s the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It’s bigger, but it’s the same hatred.”

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