March 18 (UPI) -- Speaking at his weekly general audience, Pope Francis stressed the theme of giving and receiving mercy Wednesday in an address delivered via the Internet due to coronavirus restrictions in Italy.
Francis conducted the audience from the library of the apostolic palace at the Vatican for the second consecutive week, after Rome police banned public gatherings at St. Peter's Square. The restriction is part of Italy's national lockdown.
"Mercy is not one dimension among others, it is the center of Christian life -- there is no Christianity without mercy," he said in his address.
"If all our Christianity does not lead us to mercy, we have taken the wrong path, because mercy is the only true goal of every spiritual journey. It is one of the most beautiful fruits of charity."
"Mercy" was the first theme Pope Francis addressed after his papal ascension seven years ago.
Francis on Wednesday cited the Fifth Beatitude, one of the blessings delivered by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount, which reads, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
The pope noted that the Fifth Beatitude is the only one "in which the cause and effect of happiness coincide," and he said it demonstrates the concept of reciprocity that features in various biblical passages -- including the "Lord's Prayer," which says, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
"If the Fifth Beatitude promises that we will find mercy, and in the Lord's Prayer we ask for our trespasses to be forgiven, it means that we are in debt, and in need of mercy," Francis said.