On Pentecost

“A Church that does not hesitate to go out to meet people to proclaim the message that she has been given, even if that message disturbs or upsets consciences, even if this message leads, perhaps, to problems and at times also to martyrdom”

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Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

The feast of Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered in the cenacle. Like Easter, it is an event that occurred on a Jewish feast, and leads to a surprising end. The book of the Acts of the Apostles describes the signs and fruits of that extraordinary occasion: the forceful wind, the tongues of fire; fear vanishes and courage takes its place; their tongues are loosened and everyone understands the proclamation. Where God’s Spirit is, everything is reborn and transfigured. The event of Pentecost marks the birth of the Church and its public manifestation. Two things strike us and one of them is that the Church surprises and upsets.

A basic element in Pentecost is surprise. Our God is a God who surprises. We know this. No one expected anything more from Jesus’ disciples. After Jesus’ death they were a small, insignificant group of defeated orphans of their Master. But an unexpected event occurs that causes wonder. The people are disconcerted because each one heard the disciples speak in his own language, telling of the great works of God (cf. Acts 2:6-7, 11). The Church that is born at Pentecost is a community that awakens wonder because, with the power that comes from God, she announces a new message – Christ’s resurrection – with a new language, the universal language of love. A new announcement: Chris is alive, he is risen; a new language: the language of love. The disciples are invested with power from above and speak with courage – a few minutes before they were all cowards, but now they speak with courage and boldness, with the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is called always to be like this: to be able to surprise by proclaiming to everyone that Jesus the Christ has defeated death, that God’s arms are always open, that his patience is always there to care for us to heal us, to forgive us. It is precisely because of this mission that the risen Jesus sent his Spirit to the Church. Attention: if the Church is alive, she must always surprise. It is proper to the living Church to surprise. A Church that does not have the capacity to surprise is a weak, sick, dying Church that must be revived.

Some in Jerusalem would have preferred that Jesus’ disciples, hindered by their fear, stay shut up at home so as not to upset things. Today, too, many want Christians to be like this. But the risen Lord pushes them out into the world: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). The Church of Pentecost is a Church that does not resign herself to being innocuous. No, she does not resign herself to this! She does not want to be just a decoration. She is a Church that does not hesitate to go out to meet people to proclaim the message that she has been given, even if that message disturbs or upsets consciences, even if this message leads, perhaps, to problems and at times also to martyrdom. She is born one and universal, with a precise identity, but open, a Church that embraces the world but does not capture it; she leaves it free. Her embrace is like the colonnade of this piazza: the two arms open to welcome, but they do not close to detain. We Christians are free, and the Church wants us to be free!

We turn now to the Virgin Mary, who, on that morning of Pentecost was in the cenacle, and the Mother was with her children. In her the power of the Holy Spirit truly accomplished “great things” (Luke 1:49). She herself said so. May she, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Church, obtain by her intercession a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God upon the Church and the world.

[Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father again addressed those gathered in the piazza of St. Peter’s:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet everyone, Romans and pilgrims: families, parish groups, associations and individual faithful. In particular I greet the students of the Dioceses of Valencia, Spain, the pilgrimage promoted by the Congregation of the Most Holy Crucified of Vittoria (Sicily), the children from Borgo and Buggino (Pistoia), the Apostles of Mercy group from Bitonto, the your people of Latina Scalo and the participants in the Ferrari meeting.

As you know, this evening in the Vatican, the presidents of Israel and Palestine will join me and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, my brother Bartholomew, to ask God for the gift of peace in the Holy Land, the Middle East and in the whole world. I would like to thank all of those who, personally and in community, have prayed and are praying for this meeting, and will spiritually join in our supplications. Thank you! Thank you so much!

I wish everyone a good Sunday. Pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

[Translation by Joseph G Trabbic]
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