Pope Francis meets at the members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in the Apostolic Palace


Pope’s Address to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy

“The Charity of Christ is the True Authority of the Church of Rome”

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Pope Francis received in audience — in the Hall of the Consistory of the Apostolic Palace –, the Community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.

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Dear Brothers,

I receive you at the end of the year of study and community life. We thank the Lord for this time he has given you to be formed and grow together in the service of the Church. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the President, Archbishop Giampiero Gloder, as well as to all those that, in different offices and various ways, collaborate in your cultural and spiritual formation, and in the ordered and serene development of your life at the Academy. I gladly take this occasion to thank you for having put your life at the disposition of the Church and of the Holy See, and I encourage you to continue on the path undertaken with joy and serenity. I would like to underscore some points of your path.

First of all, your mission: you are preparing yourselves to represent the Holy See to the Community of Nations and in the local Churches to which you will be destined. The Holy See is the seat of the Bishop of Rome, the Church that presides in charity, which is not seated in the vain pride of herself, but in the daily courage of condescension — namely of the abasement — of her Teacher. The charity of Christ is the true authority of the Church of Rome. This is the only strength that renders her universal and credible to men and the world; this is the heart of her truth, which does not erect walls of division and exclusion, but makes herself a bridge that builds communion and calls the human race to unity; this is her secret power, which nourishes her tenacious hope, invincible despite momentary defeats.

One cannot represent someone without reflecting his features, without evoking his face. Jesus says: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). You are not called to be high officials of a State, a superior, self-preserving caste and pleasing to worldly drawing-rooms, but to be custodians of a truth that sustains in depth those that propose it, and not the contrary. It is important that you not allow yourselves become withered by continuous transfers, rather, you must cultivate deep roots, guard the living memory of the reason you have undertaken your path, not allow yourselves to be emptied by cynicism, or consent that the face fade of Him who is at the root of your course, or that the voice be confused that gave origin to your path. The specific preparation that the Academy offers you is geared to have the realities grow that you will encounter, loving them even in the insufficiency that perhaps they demonstrate. You are preparing yourselves, in fact, to become “bridges,” pacifying and integrating in prayer and in spiritual combat, the tendencies to affirm oneself above others, the presumed superiority of the look that impedes access to the essence of the reality, the presumption of already knowing enough. To do this it is necessary not to transport, in the realm in which one works, one’s schemes of understanding, one’s cultural parameters, one’s ecclesial background.

The service to which you will be called, calls for watching over the freedom of the Apostolic See that, not to betray its mission before God and for the true good of men, cannot let itself be imprisoned by the logic of groups , become a hostage of the calculating division of factions, be content by the division between consuls, submit oneself to political powers and allow oneself to be colonized by strong thoughts in vogue or the illusory hegemony of the mainstream. You are called to seek, in the Churches and in the peoples in the midst of which they live and serve, the good that is encouraged. To carry out this mission to the best, it is necessary to put down the attitude of judge and to put on the clothing of the pedagogue, of him who is capable to have come out from the Churches and their ministers the potentialities of goodness that God does not fail to sow.

I exhort you not to expect a ready terrain, but to have the courage to plough it with your hands – without tractors or other more efficient means which we can never have available – to prepare it for the sowing, awaiting, with God’s patience, the harvest, of which perhaps you will not be the ones to benefit; to not fish in aquariums or farms, but to have the courage to move away from the margins of security of what one already knows and to throw the nets and the fishing rods in areas that are less taken for granted, without adapting oneself to eat fish that is prepackaged by others.

The mission of the Papal Representatives calls for the search of authentic pastors, with the anxiety of God and the mendicant perseverance of the Church, which without tiring knows that exist, because God does not let them be lacking. To seek, guided not by external prescriptions but by the interior compass with which one orients one’s vocation of pastor, with the exacting measure that one must apply to oneself so as not to get lost in decline. To seek men of God, fatherly with those that are entrusted to him; dissatisfied with the world because they are aware of its “penultimacy” and with the profound certainty that in any case it will always remain needy of what it seems to scorn.

Dear Brothers, the mission that you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world. In Europe, needy of awakening; in Africa, thirsty for reconciliation; in Latin America, hungry for nourishment and interiority; in North America, intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that is not defined from exclusion; in Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity to ferment in diaspora and to dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures.

In leaving you these reflections, I thank you for your very agreeable visit  and I exhort you not to allow yourselves to be discouraged by the difficulties that you will inevitably encounter. Be certain of the help and support of the Lord, who is always faithful to us! I promise to accompany you with my prayer, but I ask you also, please, to pray for me. May Our Lady follow you in your path and in your preparation, teach you that profound love for the Church that will be so necessary and profitable for you in the mission that awaits you. Your whole life is at the service of the Gospel and the Church. Never forget it!

With these wishes and exhortations, I invoke upon you, upon your formators and teachers, upon the Sisters and upon all the staff, the abundance of gifts of the Spirit while I truly bless you from my heart.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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