VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II urged those inspired by Charles de Foucauld´s charism to promote a new, “imaginative charity … especially in countries where there are cultural or religious tensions.”
The Holy Father made his point in a message sent to a congress held in the Diocese of Viviers, France, marking the centenary of the priestly ordination of the “missionary of the Sahara.”
“Brother Charles invites all faithful to seek the strength to nourish their spiritual life and to proclaim the Gospel to the men of our time in the contemplation of Christ and in an intimate relation with him,” the Pontiff explained. “In this way, they will become servers of the meeting between God and humanity.”
De Foucauld (1858-1916) left the French army in 1882 to explore Morocco, meriting the gold medal of the Geographical Society.
He found the faith at 28, and began an intense search for God which, following his ordination, took him to the Sahara, where he lived as a hermit and missionary. He stayed with the Tuaregs in Tamanrasset, learned their language, translated the Gospels, and published an illustrated dictionary.
“I desire that his spiritual intuitions continue to irrigate the life of the Church, thus witnessing that love is stronger than any division,” the Pope stated in his message.
De Foucauld´s intense missionary activity ended brutally on Dec. 1, 1916, by a rifle bullet shot during a skirmish between desert nomads.
His missionary work was characterized by one desire: to become the “seed buried in the earth,” offering his life “in the silent following of the One who loved all men to the end,” the Pontiff continued.
After his death, men and women decided to make de Foucauld´s dream come true, by founding a religious family. Today there are 10 religious congregations and nine spiritual associations inspired by de Foucauld´s charism.
The papal message encouraged all who are inspired by de Foucauld´s charism to promote a new “imaginative charity … especially in countries where there are cultural or religious tensions, where people live in difficult conditions, and among the numerous poor of modern society.”
De Foucauld´s cause of beatification advanced in April when the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints published a decree recognizing his “heroic virtues.”