The Church of the Apron, the Church of Tenderness

Superior-General of Marist Brothers on Real Power as Service

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Here is a reflection on Pope Francis’ early exhortations, written by Brother Emili Turú, superior-general of the Marist Brothers.

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How come the Pope speaks about tenderness at the beginning of his pontificate? Are there not any more important and urgent issues to mention? The truth is that he reminded me of another Pope, John XXIII, who – on the evening of the very day when the Second Vatican Council opened, as if there were no other things to talk about – addressed the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square from his window with these words: “It could be said that even the moon hastens close tonight, that from above it might watch this spectacle not even St. Peter’s Basilica, over its four centuries of history, has ever been able to witness (…). My own person counts for nothing – it is a brother who speaks to you (…). When you head home, find your children. Hug and kiss your children and tell them: ‘This is the hug and kiss of the Pope.’ And when you find them with tears to dry (…), tell them ‘The Pope is with us especially in our times of sadness and bitterness.’”

Both Pope John and Pope Francis remind us there is nothing more urgent and essential for men and women today than tenderness, this sensitivity allowing us to “safeguard the beauty of creation” and “protect people, taking care of everyone, of each one, with love, especially the children, the elderly, those who are more fragile and often stay on the outskirts of our hearts.»

Moreover, while listening to the Pope, I often remembered Bishop Tonino Bello (1935-1993), who dreamed of a Church that could be called “the Church of the apron” because, he said, that is the only liturgical vestment we can attribute to Jesus: “Jesus got up from table, removed his outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist: this is the Church of the apron.» I imagined Tonino Bello smiling happily because his dream was proclaimed in St. Peter’s Square by none other than the Pope: “The real power is service … humble service, concrete, rich in faith.»

The Church of the apron, the Church of tenderness. Thousands of people around the world have intuitively felt this is the way. Although they are probably unable to explain it well, their heart can tell.

I hope we can live up to these beautiful ideals our brother Francis has been able to reawaken within us.

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