Francis tells faithful that baptism gives them 'unwavering hope and strength'

Pope Francis spent nearly two hours after today’s general audience greeting people, blessing the sick, speaking with newlyweds and receiving notes, letters and late Christmas gifts from the crowd. He also watched a brief performance by acrobats, jugglers and clowns who were part of an international Golden Circus festival.

During the first general audience of 2014, the Pope told the faithful that baptism isn’t just a formal ritual, but profoundly changes people, giving them unwavering hope and the strength to forgive and love others.

“With baptism, we are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life that is Jesus’ death, the greatest act of love in all of history,” he said.

Baptism isn’t merely “a simple rite, a formal act of the Church,” he explained. “It is an act that profoundly touches our existence” and radically changes the person.