Pope Francis has asked Catholics to turn off their cellphones during mass, and to refrain from taking selfies during divine worship. During his General Audience on 8 Nov 2017, the pontiff offered reflections on the catechesis of the Holy Father and the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of a Christian.
“It is fundamental for us as Christians to understand well the value and meaning of the Holy Mass, to live ever more fully our relationship with God,” he observed, citing the examples of Christians martyred under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. .
He said: “a group of Christians in North Africa were caught celebrating Mass in a house, and were arrested. The Roman proconsul, in his interrogation, asked them why they had done it, knowing that it was entirely forbidden. And they answered, “Without Sunday we cannot live”, which meant, if we cannot celebrate the Eucharist, we cannot live, our Christian life would die.”
“Those Christians of North Africa were killed because they celebrated the Eucharist. They left the witness that earthly life can be renounced for the Eucharist, because it gives us eternal life, making us participants in Christ’s victory over death. A witness that challenges all of us and demands an answer on what it means for each one of us to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass and approach the Lord’s table.”
Francis spoke of the need for rigor in the celebration of the mass, noting that some were lackadaisical in making the sign of the cross. “Have you seen how children make the sign of the cross? You don’t know what they are doing, whether they are making the sign of the cross or a drawing. They go like this,” he said, making an abstract gesture with his right hand.
“We must teach children to make the sign of the cross well. This is how the Mass begins, this is how life begins, this is how the day begins. This means that we are redeemed by the cross of the Lord. Look at children and teach them how to make the sign of the cross.”
Francis urged Catholics study the readings and the words of the rite to enable themselves to understand what was taking place, and to ask questions if confused. “Why at a certain point does the priest who is presiding at the celebration say: ‘Lift up your hearts’?”
He went on to say: “He does not say, ‘Lift up your cellphones to take a photograph!’ No, that is a bad thing! And I say to you, it makes me very sad when I am celebrating here in the square or in the Basilica, and I see lots of cellphones raised up, not only by the faithful, but also by some priests and even bishops. Please! Mass is not a show: it means going to encounter the passion and the resurrection of the Lord. This is why the priest says, “Lift up your hearts”. What does this mean? Remember: no cellphones.”