Everyone experiences doubts about their faith occasionally – “I have many times,” Pope Francis said – but such doubts can be “a sign that we want to know God better and more deeply”.

“We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts, because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith,” the Pope said at his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis said that although the Year of Mercy has concluded, he still wanted to continue his general audience reflections on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

With fewer than 10,000 pilgrims present and with rain forecast, the Vatican moved the audience indoors to the Vatican audience hall.

The Pope, with a voice that was a bit hoarse, focused on the spiritual works of mercy of “counselling the doubtful” and “instructing the ignorant”, which he said was not meant as an insult, but simply as a description of a person who does not know something.

Calling a lack of access to education a “grave injustice”, Francis asked for a round of applause for teachers and the “long list of saints, who throughout the ages brought education to the most disadvantaged”. Education, he said, was both a work of evangelisation and a work of mercy and justice because it recognises the dignity of the human person, fights discrimination and combats poverty.

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