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Freedom without limits, focused solely on what an individual wants to do, is selfishness and leads to emptiness, Pope Francis emphasized in his general audience message delivered Oct. 20.

Citing statements made by Paul in letters to the Galatian and the Corinthian Christians, the pope critiqued those who view freedom as libertinism – the unbounded exercise of individual volition.

“Freedom … is not a libertine way of living … no, on the contrary, the freedom of Jesus leads us to be, the Apostle writes, ‘servants of one another,’” he said. “We are freed by serving, not in doing whatever we want.”

Following Jesus’ example, we see how to exercise freedom in a way that expresses and embodies love for our neighbors, he said. This necessitates that we consider how our actions and choices impact those around us.

Citing Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 10, the pope noted that we should use our freedom in ways that support and advance the common good.

“For Paul, freedom is not ‘doing what you want and what you like,’” Pope Francis explained. “This type of freedom, without a goal and without points of reference, would be an empty freedom, a freedom of the circus: it is not good. And indeed, it leaves emptiness within.”

Understanding and exercising freedom properly requires a focus on relationships. The idea that “my freedom ends where yours begins” is an individualistic way of thinking, because “the relationship is missing,” he said. Such thinking sees others as a limitation, as “a nuisance.”

“The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this; we need to choose it in a tangible way, to decide on that path, every day,” Pope Francis concluded. “Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather they are the possibility to fully realize it.”

The full text is available here.

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