Today, Pope Francis met in the Paul VI Audience Hall with the Neocatechumenal Community, on the occasion of the sending out of missio ad gentes families.
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning to you all! And thank you, thank you so much for coming to this meeting.
The Pope’s task, Peter’s task, is to confirm brothers in the faith. So with this gesture, you also wished to ask the Successor of Peter to confirm your call, to support your mission, to bless your charism. And today I confirm your call, I support your mission and I bless your charism. I do not do so because he [pointing at Kiko] paid me, no! I do so because I want to do it. You will go in Christ’s name to the whole world to bring his Gospel: Christ precedes you, Christ accompanies you, Christ will bring to fulfilment the salvation of which you are bearers!
Together with you I greet all the Cardinals and Bishops accompanying you today, who support your mission in their dioceses. In particular, I greet the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernandez, together with Father Mario Pezzi: I express to them also my appreciation and encouragement for what they are doing, through the Way, for the benefit of the Church. I always say that the Neocatechumenal Way does great good to the Church.
As Kiko said, our meeting today is a missionary sending, in obedience to what Christ requested and what we heard in the Gospel. And I am particularly happy that this mission of yours is unfolding thanks to Christian families that, gathered in a community, have the mission of giving the signs of faith that attract men to the beauty of the Gospel, in keeping with Christ’s words: “Love one another as I have loved you … By this all men will know that you are my disciples (John 13:34), and “be one and the world will believe” (John 17:21). These communities, called by the Bishops, are made up of a priest and four or five families, with even older children, and they constitute a “missio ad gentes,” with a mandate to evangelize non-Christians. Non-Christians who have never heard speak of Jesus Christ, and the many non-Christians who have forgotten who Jesus Christ was, who Jesus Christ is: baptized non-Christians but who secularization, worldliness and many other things have made them forget the faith. Awaken that faith!
Therefore, even before with the word, it is with your witness of life that you manifest the heart of Christ’s revelation: that God loves man to the point of giving himself up to death for him and that he was resurrected by the Father to give us the grace to give our life for others. Today’s world is in great need of this message. How much loneliness, how much suffering, how much estrangement from God there is in so many peripheries of Europe and America and in so many cities of Asia! How much need the man of today has, in every latitude, to hear that God loves him and that love is possible! Thanks to you missionary families, these Christian communities have the essential task of rendering this message visible. And what is the message? “Christ is risen, Christ lives! Christ is alive among us!”
You have received the strength to leave everything and to go to distant lands thanks to a journey of Christian initiation, lived in small communities, where you rediscovered the immense riches of your Baptism. This is the Neocatechumenal Way, a real gift of Providence to the Church of our times, as my Predecessors already affirmed, especially Saint John Paul II when he said to you: “I recognize the Neocatechumenal Way as an itinerary of Catholic formation, valid for society and for today’s times” (Epist. Ogni quavolta, August 30, 1990: AAS 82 , 1515. The Way rests on those three dimensions of the Church that are the Word, the Liturgy and the Community. Therefore, obedient and constant listening to the Word of God; the Eucharistic celebration in small communities after Sunday’s First Vespers, the celebration of Lauds in the family on Sunday with all the children and the sharing of one’s faith with other brothers are at the origin of so many gifts that the Lord has lavished on you, as well as the numerous vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life. It is a consolation to see all this, because it confirms that the Spirit of God is living and working in the Church also today, and it responds to the needs of modern man.
On various occasions, I have insisted on the need that the Church pass from a pastoral of simple conservation to a decisively missionary pastoral (Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 15). How many times, in the Church, we have Jesus inside and do not let him go out. How many times! This is the most important thing to do if we do not want the waters to be stagnant in the Church. For years the Way has carried out these missio ad gentes in the midst of non-Christians, for an implantatio Ecclesiae, a new presence of the Church, where the Church does not exist or is no longer able to gather the people. “How much joy you give with your presence and your activity!” – Blessed Pope Paul VI said to you in his first audience with you (May 8, 1974: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII , 407). I also make these words my own and I encourage you to go forward, entrusting yourselves to the Holy Virgin Mary, who inspired the Neocatechumenal Way. May she intercede for you before her Divine Son.
My dear ones, may the Lord accompany you. Go with my Blessing![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]