Pope Francis warned against people who claim to believe in God but act as if there is no God, or those who “do not recognize the human person as the image of God.”
The pontiff said the Creator does not condone “atheism,” which he said “repudiate(s) the divine image that is imprinted in every human being.”
“I believe in God but I keep my distance from others and I allow myself to hate others. This is practical atheism,” said Pope Francis during his General Audience this week.
He stressed that it is “an abomination” and “the worst offense that can be directed toward the temple and the altar,” if a person would not recognize the image of the Creator in His creations.
“Scripture acknowledges the case of the person who, even though he or she sincerely searches for God, never succeeds to encounter Him,” said the pope.
“But it also affirms that the tears of the poor can never be repudiated on pain of not encountering God,” he added.
Pope Francis underscored the importance of praying from the heart and not “like parrots,” adding that “prayer is the salvation of the human being”.
He criticized those who pray just “for the admiration of others” or those who hear the Mass “only to make it seen that they are Catholics or to show off the latest fashion that they acquired.”
“They are moving toward false prayer. Jesus strongly admonished against such prayer,” he said.
The pope stressed that “to pray like parrots” is the “worst service someone can give God” and to his or her fellow human beings.
“One prays with the heart,” he said. “Prayer is the center of life. If there is prayer, even a brother, a sister, even an enemy becomes important,” he said.
He encouraged the faithful to learn to pray from the Psalter, which he described as “a tremendous school.”
“We saw how the Psalms do not always use refined and gentle language, and how they often bring out the scars of existence,” he said.
“Even the Psalms in the first person singular, which confide the most intimate thoughts and problems of an individual, are a collective patrimony, to the point of being prayed by everyone and for everyone,” said Pope Francis.
At the beginning of his address, the pontiff apologized for keeping his distance from the people at the Paul VI Audience Hall, saying, “it is for your safety.”
Instead of coming near you and shaking your hands and greeting you, we have to greet each other from a distance, but know that I am near you with my heart. I hope that you understand why I am doing this,” he said.
After noticing a mother who was trying to comfort her crying baby, the pontiff said, “This is what God does with us, like that mamma.”
“Never silence a crying baby in Church, never, because it is the voice that attracts God’s tenderness,” said the pontiff.