VATICAN CITY — Envy and jealousy create division and destroy fellowship and brotherhood among people, especially within families and among members of the clergy, Pope Francis said.
The biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel is a cautionary tale on the consequences of allowing bitterness to persist in one's life, the pope said Feb. 13 during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.
"That is how people destroy themselves; that is how enmity destroys families, peoples, everyone! That gnawing (feeling) in your gut, always obsessed with that. This happened to Cain and in the end, he got rid of his brother," he said.
Looking at the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, the pope said Cain allowed his jealousy to "simmer" and grow, thus destroying "the bonds of fellowship and brotherhood."
"That is how enmity between us grows: It starts with one small thing, a jealousy, envy. Then this grows and we see life only from that point of view and that thin straw becomes a beam," he said.
People, especially families, destroy themselves and others if they choose to become obsessed with their envy and anger, and allow it to persist and fester, the pope said.
"This happened in the beginning, it happens to all of us," he said. "But this process must be stopped immediately, at the beginning, at the first sign of bitterness. Stop. Bitterness isn't Christian. Pain, yes; bitterness, no. Resentment isn't Christian. Pain, yes; resentment, no."
With new pastors and members of the Council of Cardinals present at the Mass, the pope said clergy are not immune to the feelings of bitterness and resentment that threaten fellowship and brotherhood.
"Even among our priests, in our episcopal colleges: how many divisions begin this way! 'Why did they give him that post and not me? And why this?' (They are) little things, divisions, that destroy brotherhood," he said.
The divisions, he continued, also lead to selfishness and indifference to the sufferings of others.
"How many powerful people in the world say this: 'I want this territory. I want this land, that thing. If the bomb falls and kills 200 children it isn't my fault, it's the bomb's fault. I want the territory,'" the pope said.
Just like Abel, "the blood of so many people in the world today cries out to God from the ground," the pope said.
"May the Lord help us to repeat his question — 'Where is your brother?' — to help us think about those we destroy with our tongue and all those in the world who are treated like things and not as brothers and sisters; because a piece of land is more important than the bond of fellowship," he said.
The pope offered the Mass for Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, the former superior general of the Society of Jesus, who was about to leave for the Philippines.
He also visited the Jesuit headquarters in Rome Feb. 12 to bid farewell to Father Nicolas, who resigned in October after more than eight years in office.
"May the Lord repay him for all the good he has done and accompany him in his new mission. Thank you, Father Nicolas," Pope Francis said.