For those gathered at an extraordinary Jubilee General Audience at St Peter’s Square Saturday, Pope Francis said piety is not necessarily about devotion but more like “pity.” The pope’s catechesis for the occasion developed piety as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“When we hear this word,” he said, “we think of a certain religiosity or devotion, but its meaning is much richer; like our word ‘pity’, it has to do with compassion, with mercy.”
As a concept, piety has its roots in the Greco-Roman world, where piety meant an act of submission to superior authority. This submission was first to the gods, then of children to parents and the elderly. Today, the Pope said, we must be careful not to identify piety with a pietism which is just a superficial emotion. Also, piety should not be confused with the feelings some have for pets while remaining indifferent to the suffering of others.
In the Gospels, the pope continued, Jesus is attentive to pleas for mercy. He is sensitive to human needs and he responds with sympathy and love. He encourages us to trust in him and his word, and he works his miracles of healing.
We are called to imitate the Lord’s piety towards those who cry out to him by rising above our indifference and isolation, and becoming more concerned for the needs of all our brothers and sisters.
Pope Francis asked that Mary, as the Mother of Mercy, obtain for us the grace to live this Year of Mercy by growing in compassion and by imitating the infinite piety of Jesus her Son.
Pope Francis concluded his address by saluting pilgrims from England and the Philippines. “In the joy of the risen Lord,” he said, “I invoke upon you and your families the merciful love of God our Father. The Lord bless you!”