Below is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ address to nuncios on Saturday in the Vatican. The Meeting of Papal Representatives, was held in the Vatican from September 15-17, on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy:
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Dear Fellow Brothers, I am happy for this moment of Jubilee prayer which, in addition to calling us as Pastors to rediscover the roots of Mercy, is the occasion to renew, through you, the bond between the Successor of Peter and the various local Churches of which you are the bearers and craftsmen of that communion, which is the lymph for the life of the Church and for the proclamation of her message. I thank Cardinal Parolin for his words and the State Secretariat for the generosity with which it prepared these days of meetings.
Welcome to Rome! To re-embrace <Rome> in this Jubilee hour has a special meaning for you. Dwelling here are many of your sources and your memories. You arrived here when you were still young for the purpose of serving Peter; you have returned here often to meet him; and from here you continue to go out again as his envoys taking his message, his closeness and his testimony. In fact, Peter has been here from the dawn of the Church; Peter is here today in the Pope, which Providence wanted him to be; Peter will be here tomorrow; he will always be here! So the Lord desired: that impotent humanity, which on its own would only be a stumbling block, should become an unwavering rock by Divine disposition.
I thank each one of you for the service you give to my ministry. Thank you for the care with which you receive, from the Pope’s lips, the confession on which the Church of Christ rests. Thank you for the fidelity with which you interpret with an undivided heart, an honest mind, with an unambiguous word all that the Holy Spirit asks Peter to say to the Church at this moment. Thank you for the delicacy with which you “auscultate” my heart of universal Pastor and try to have this breath reach the Churches that I am called to preside over in charity.
I thank you for the dedication and the prompt and generous disposition of your life, dense in commitments and marked often by difficult rhythms. You touch with the hand the flesh of the Church, the splendour of the love that renders her glorious, but also the sores and wounds that make her beggar of forgiveness.
With a genuine ecclesial sense and humble seeking of knowledge of the various problems and subjects, you render the Church and the world present to the Pope’s heart. I read daily, in the main in the early morning and in the evening., your “communications” with news of the realities of the local Churches, of the events of countries to which you are accredited and of the debates that are incumbent on the life of the International Community. I am grateful for all of this! Know that I accompany you every day – often with name and face – with friendly remembrance and confident prayer. I remember you in the Eucharist. As you are not diocesan Pastors and your name is not pronounced in a particular Church, know that the Pope remembers you in every amphora as extension of his person, as his envoys to serve with sacrifice and competence, accompanying the Bride of Christ and the Peoples in which she lives.
I would like to say some things to you
- Serve with sacrifice as humble envoys
On reforming the diplomatic service of the Holy See, Blessed Paul VI wrote thus:
Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum:
AAS 61 , 476. In your work, therefore, you are called to take to everyone the solicitous charity of the one you represent, thus becoming one that sustains and protects, who is ready to support and not only to correct, who is willing to listen before deciding, to take the first step to do away with tension and foster understanding and reconciliation.
No service is possible and fruitful without humility. A Nuncio’s humility passes through love for the country and for the Church in which he is called to serve. It passes through the serene attitude of being where the Pope wished him to be and not with the heart distracted by waiting for the next destination. He must be there wholly, with undivided mind and heart; unpack his bags to share the riches that he brings with him, but also to receive what he does not yet possess.
Yes, it is necessary to assess, compare, notice those that can be the limits of an ecclesial course, of a culture, of a religiosity, of social and political life to form oneself and be able to report an exact idea of a situation. To look, analyze and report are essential but not sufficient verbs in the life of a Nuncio. It is also necessary to encounter, listen, dialogue, share, propose and work together so that sincere love, sympathy and empathy transpires with the population and the local Church. What Catholics, but also the civil society want in a broad sense and must perceive, is that the Nuncio is at ease in their country, as if he were at home; he feels free and happy to establish constructive relations, to share the daily life of the post (kitchen, language, customs), to express his opinions and impressions with great respect and a sense of closeness, and to accompany with his look, which helps to grow.
It is not enough to point the finger or attack one who does not think like us. That is a miserable tactic of today’s political and cultural wars, but it cannot be the method of the Church. Our look must be broad and profound. Our primordial duty of charity is the formation of consciences and that requires delicacy and perseverance in our action.
Present certainly again is the threat of the wolf that from outside seizes and attacks the flock, confuses it, creates disarray, disperses and destroys it. The wolf has the same semblances: incomprehension, hostility, evil, persecution, removal of truth, resistance to goodness, closure to love, unexplainable cultural hostility, diffidence and so on. You know well of what stuff the snare of all sorts of wolves is made of. I think of the Christians in the East, to whom the violent siege seems geared, with the complicit silence of many, to their eradication.
The activity of the Papal Representative renders first of all a precious service to the Bishops, to the Priests, to the Religious and to all the Catholics of the place, who find in him support and protection, in as much as he represents a Higher Authority, which is to the advantage of all. His mission is not superimposed on the exercise of the Bishop’s powers, nor does he substitute or hamper him, but respects him and, instead, favors and supports him with fraternal and discreet counsel” (Not requested is the candor of sheep, but rather the magnanimity of doves and the astuteness and prudence of the wise and faithful servant.) It is good to have one’s eyes open to recognize from whence hostility comes and to discern the possible ways to oppose its causes and address its snares. However, I encourage you to not dwell on an atmosphere of siege, to not yield to the temptation to feel sorry for yourselves, to be victims of those who criticize you, goad you, and sometimes even denigrate you. Spend your best energies to have resound again, from the spirit of the Churches you serve,the joy and power of the beatitude proclaimed by Jesus (cf. Matthew 5:11).
Be ready and happy to spend (sometimes even lose time) with Bishops, priests, Religious, parishes, cultural and social institutions; in short, it is what “makes the work” of the Nuncio. Created on these occasions are the conditions to learn, to listen, to send messages, to understand personal problems and situations or those of ecclesial governments that are to be addressed and resolved. And there is nothing that facilitates discernment and eventual correction more than closeness, availability and fraternity. Therefore, very important for me are: closeness, availability and fraternity with the local Churches. It is not about a servile strategy, to gather information and manipulate realities or persons, but about an attitude that is suitable to one who is not just a career diplomat, or just an instrument of Peter’s solicitude, but also a Pastor gifted with the interior capacity to witness Jesus Christ. Surmount the logic of bureaucracy, which often can take hold of your work – I understand it; it is natural – rendering it closed, indifferent and impermeable.
May the headquarters of the Apostolic Nunciature be truly the “House of the Pope,” not only for its traditional annual celebration, but as a permanent place, where all the ecclesial team can find support and advice, and the public authorities a point of reference, not only for the diplomatic function, but for the proper and unique character of papal diplomacy. Watch so that your Nunciatures never become a refuge of the “friends and friends of friends.” Flee from gossips and social climbers.
May your relation with the civil community be inspired by the evangelical image of the Good Shepherd, capable of knowing and representing the exigencies, the needs and the condition of the flock, especially when the only criteria that determines them is contempt, precariousness and rejection. Do not be afraid to push yourselves to complex and difficult frontiers, because you are Pastors who are truly concerned with the good of individuals.
In the enormous task to guarantee the freedom of the Church in face of every form of power that wants to silence the Truth, do not deceive yourselves that this freedom is only the fruit of understandings, agreements and diplomatic negotiations, no matter how perfect and successful. The Church will be free only if her institutions can operate to “proclaim” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 23), but also if she manifests herself as true sign of contradiction in regard to recurrent fashions, to the negation of the evangelical Truth and to easy comforts that often also infect Pastors and their flocks. Remember that you represent Peter, rock that survives the overflow of ideologies, the reduction of the Word only for convenience, the submission to powers of this passing world. Therefore, do not espouse political lines or ideological battles, because the permanence of the Church does not rest on the consensus of salons and squares, but on fidelity to her Lord that, as opposed to foxes and birds, does not have dens or nests to rest her head (Matthew 8:18-22).
The Church-Bride cannot rest her head except on the pierced breast of her Spouse. Her true power gushes from there, the power of Mercy. We do not have the right to deprive the world, including in the forums of bilateral and multilateral diplomatic action and in the great realms of the international debate, of this richness that no other can give. May this awareness push you to dialogue with all, and in many cases to be the prophetic voice of the marginalized because of their faith or their ethnic, economic, social or cultural condition: “<repulsions> and without fear” <proclaim> the Gospel to all, in all places, on all occasions, without delay, without <…> May their cry become ours <so that> together we can break the barrier of indifference that often reigns sovereign to hide hypocrisy and egoism” (Bull Misericordiae Vultus, 15.
- Accompany the Churches with the heart of Pastors
The multiplicity and complexity of the problems to address daily must not distract you from the heart of your apostolic mission, which consists in accompanying the Churches with the look of the Pope, which is none other than that of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
And to accompany, it is necessary to move. The cold paper of missives and reports is not enough. It is not enough to learn by hearsay. It is necessary to see in loco how the good seed of the Gospel is spread. Do not wait for persons to come to you to expose a problem to you or because they are desirous to have a question resolved. Go to the dioceses, to the Religious Institutes, to the parishes, to the seminaries, to understand what the People of God experience, think and ask. Be, that is, the true expression of an “outgoing” Church, of a “field hospital” Church, capable of living the dimension of the local Church, of the country and of the Institutions to which you have been sent. I know the great volume of work that awaits you, but do not let your spirit of generous and close Pastors be suffocated. In fact this closeness – closeness! — is an essential condition today for the Church’s fruitfulness; people need to be accompanied. They are helped by a hand on their back not to get lost on the way or not to be discouraged.
Accompany the Bishops by supporting their best strengths and initiatives. Help them to address the challenges and to find the solutions that are not in manuals, but are the fruit of patient and suffered discernment. Encourage every effort for the qualification of the clergy. Profundity is a decisive challenge for the Church: profundity of faith, of adherence to Christ, of the Christian life, of the following and of discipleship. Vague priorities and theoretical pastoral programs are not enough. It is necessary to focus on the concreteness of the presence, of the company, of the closeness of accompanying.
An earnest concern of mine regards the selection of future Bishops. I spoke to you about it in 2013. Speaking to the Congregation for Bishops some time ago, I sketched the profile of Pastors that I consider necessary for the Church of today: witnesses of the Risen One and not bearers of a curriculum; praying Bishops, familiarized with the things of “on high” and not crushed by the weight of the “below”; Bishops capable of entering “in patience” in the presence of God, so has to have the freedom not to betray the Kerygma entrusted to them; Pastor Bishops, not princes and functionaries, I beg you!
In the complex task of finding in the midst of the Church those that God has already singled out in His heart to guide His people, an essential part is up to you. You must be the first to scrutinize the fields to ascertain where the little David’s are holed up (cf. 1 Samuel 16:11-13): they exist, God does not make them lack! But if we always go to fish in the aquarium, we will not find them!
It is necessary to move to seek them. To go around the fields with the heart of God and not with some prefixed profile of headhunters. The look with which one searches, the criteria to assess, the features of the sought physiognomy cannot be dictated by the vain attempts with which we think we can program in our offices the Church we dream of. Therefore, it is necessary to let down the nets in the deep. One cannot be content to fish in the aquaria, in the reserve or in the breeding of “friends of friends.” At stake is trust in the Lord of history and of the Church, who never neglects their good; therefore, we must not beat about the bush. The practical question that comes to me now is to ask: but is there not another? That <question> of Samuel to David’s father: “But is there not another?” (cf. 1 Samuel 16:11). And go to find them, and they exist! They exist!
- Accompany the people in whom the Church of Christ is present
Your diplomatic service is the vigilant and lucid eye of the Successor of Peter on the Church and on the world! I beg you to be at the height of such a noble mission, for which you must prepare yourselves continually. It is not only about acquiring contents on subjects, in fact changeable, but of a discipline of work and of a style of life that enables one to also appreciate routine situations, to pick up changes and act, to assess novelties, to be able to interpret them with measure and suggest concrete actions.
It is the speed of the times that calls for a permanent formation, avoiding taking everything for granted. Sometimes the repetition of work, numerous commitments, the lack of new stimulations fuel an intellectual sloth that does not delay in producing its negative fruits. Serious and continuous deeper reflection would succeed in overcoming that fragmentation for which individually one seeks to carry out one’s work to the best of one’s ability, but without any, or with very little, coordination and integration with others. Do not think that the Pope is not aware of the solitude (not always “blessed” as for the hermits and Saints) in which not a few Papal Representatives live. I always think of your state of “exiles,” and I ask continually in my prayer that supporting column may never fail, which makes possible interior unity and the sense of profound peace and fecundity.
The exigency we must increasingly make our own is to work in a unitary and coordinated network, which is necessary to avoid a personal vision, which often does not hold up in face of the reality of the local Church, of the country or of the International Community. One risks proposing an individual vision that can certainly be the fruit of a charism, of a profound ecclesial sense and intellectual capacity, but which is not immune from a certain personalization, from emotiveness, from different sensibilities and not least, from personal situations that inevitably condition the work and the collaboration.
Great in our days are the challenges that await you, and I do not feel like making a list. You know them. Perhaps it is wiser to intervene on their roots. As it is being progressively designed, papal diplomacy cannot be foreign to the urgency of rendering mercy palpable in this wounded and crushed world. Mercy must be the cipher of the diplomatic mission of the Apostolic Nuncio, who, in addition to his personal ethical effort, must have the firm conviction that God’s mercy is inserted in this world’s affairs, in society’s affairs, in human groups of families, of peoples, of nations. In the international ambit also, it implies never considering anything or anyone as lost. The human being is never unrecoverable. No situation is impermeable to the subtle and irresistible power of the goodness of God, who never desists in what concerns man and his destiny.
This radical novelty of perception of the diplomatic mission frees the Papal Representative from immediate geopolitical, economic or military interests, calling him to discern in his first government, political and social interlocutors and in public institutions the longing to serve the common good and to leverage on this trait, even if sometimes it presents itself obfuscated or mortified by personal and corporate interests or by ideological, populist or nationalistic tendencies.
The Church, although without undervaluing the present, is called to work long-term, without the obsession for immediate results. She must endure difficult and adverse situations with patience, or changes of plans that the dynamism of the reality imposes. There will always be the tension between fullness and limits, but it is not for the Church to occupy places of power or self-affirmation, rather she must make the good seed be born and grow; she must accompany its development patiently, rejoice over the provisional harvest that can be obtained, without being discouraged when an unexpected or cold storm ruins what seemed golden and ready to be harvested (cf. John 4:35). She must begin new processes confidently; start again from steps already taken, without going back, fostering all that makes the best of people and institutions emerge, “without anxiety, with clear and tenacious convictions” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 223).
Do not be afraid to converse with confidence with public individuals and institutions. We face a world in which it is not always easy to identify centers of power and many are discouraged, thinking that they are anonymous and unreachable. Instead be convinced that persons are still approachable. An interior space subsists in man where God’s voice can resound. Dialogue with clarity and do not be afraid that mercy might confound or diminish the beauty and strength of the truth. Truth is attained in fullness only in mercy. And be sure that the last word of history and of life is not conflict but unity, for which the heart of every man yearns. Unity conquers, transforming the dramatic conflict of the Cross into the source of our peace, because there the wall of separation was pulled down (cf. Ephesians 2:14).
Dear Fellow Brothers, in sending you again to your mission, after these days of fraternal and happy meetings, my conclusive word is to entrust you to the joy of the Gospel. We are not salesmen of fear and of the night, but custodians of the dawn and of the light of the Risen One.
The world has so much fear — so much fear! — and it spreads it. It often makes it the key to the reading of history and not rarely adopts it as a strategy to build a world resting on walls and ditches. We can even understand the reasons for fear, but we cannot embrace <fear>, because “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of strength, of charity and of prudence” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Draw from this spirit and go: open doors; build bridges; knit bonds; engage in friendships; promote unity. Be men of prayer: never neglect it, especially silent Adoration, true source of all your work.
Fear always dwells in the darkness of the past, but it has a weakness: it is provisional. The future belongs to the light! The future is ours, because it belongs to Christ! Thank you!
I invite you to pray the Angelus together. It is midday.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]