VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis acknowledged the publication of the McCarrick Report at the general audience Wednesday.

In brief remarks at the end of the audience Nov. 11, the pope noted that the report on disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was published Tuesday. 

“Yesterday, the report on the sad case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was published. I renew my closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and the church’s commitment to eradicate this evil,” he said.

He then paused for a moment of silent prayer.

The audience was held, for the second week in a row, behind closed doors, in the library of Apostolic Palace, due to rising coronavirus cases in Italy. 

In his audience address, the pope continued his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he began in May. He noted that someone had told him that he was speaking too much about the topic and that it was “not necessary.”

“Yes, it is necessary,” he insisted. “Because if we do not pray, we will not have the strength to move forward in life. Prayer is like the oxygen of life. Prayer draws down on us the Holy Spirit’s presence who always leads us forward. This is why I talk a lot about prayer.”

Pope Francis reflected in his address on Jesus’ example of constant prayer, saying that it offered a model for all believers. 

He highlighted three parables in the Gospel of Luke that underlined the importance of tireless prayer: the Parable of the Importunate Neighbor (Luke 11:5-8), the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), and the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). The pope said that the parables taught, respectively, the importance of tenacity, perseverance, and humility in prayer. 

“The teaching from the Gospel is clear: we need to pray always, even when everything seems in vain, when God appears to be deaf and mute, and it seems we are wasting time,” he said.

“Even if heaven is overshadowed, the Christian does not stop praying. A Christian’s prayer keeps stride with his or her faith. There are many days of our life when faith seems to be an illusion, a sterile exertion. There are moments of darkness in our life, and in those moments, faith may seem to be an illusion. But the practice of prayer means accepting even this exertion.” 

The pope recalled that many saints had experienced “God’s silence” in prayer, but nevertheless persevered. 

He then explained why Jesus was not simply a teacher of prayer. 

“He is more,” he said. “He welcomes us in His prayer so that we might pray in Him and through Him. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the Gospel invites us to pray to the Father in Jesus’s name.”

He continued: “It is in Christ that this stupendous prayer is fulfilled, and in Him that it finds its complete truth. Without Jesus, our prayer risks being reduced to human effort, destined most of the time to failure. But He has taken on Himself every cry, every groan, every jubilation, every supplication … every human prayer.”

“And let us not forget that the Holy Spirit prays in us; it is He who leads us to pray, who leads us to Jesus. He is the gift that the Father and the Son gave us to foster an encounter with God. And when we pray, it is the Holy Spirit who prays in our hearts.” 

The pope highlighted a saying by St. Augustine of Hippo, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that Jesus “prays for us as our priest, prays in us as our Head, and is prayed to by us as our God. Therefore let us acknowledge our voice in him and his in us.” 

The pope concluded: “This is why the Christian who prays fears nothing, he or she trusts in the Holy Spirit who was given to us as a gift and who prays in us, eliciting prayer. May the Holy Spirit, Teacher of prayer, teach us the path of prayer.”

In his greetings to Polish pilgrims, Pope Francis noted that Nov. 11 is Poland’s National Independence Day and recalled St. John Paul II’s 1985 letter to youth, “Dilecti amici.”

He said: “While we give thanks to the Lord of history for the gift of national and personal freedom, what St. John Paul II taught young people comes to mind: ‘To truly be free does not at all mean doing everything that pleases me, or doing what I want to do. ... To be truly free means to use one’s own freedom for what is a true good … to be truly free means to be a person of upright conscience, to be responsible, to be a person ‘for others.’”

“May the Lord bless all Poles, giving peace and prosperity.”