Pope Francis received the participants in the General Chapters of the Consolata men and women missionaries in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace at noon today. Here is a Zenit translation of the Holy Father’s address in the course of the meeting:
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Dear Consolata Men and Women Missionaries,
I am happy to receive together the masculine branch and feminine branch of the Religious Family founded by Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, on the occasion of their respective General Chapters. I greet you all affectionately and hope that your Chapter works will unfold with serenity and docility to the Spirit. I extend my affectionate greeting to your fellow men and women missionaries that work, often in difficult conditions, in the different Continents, and I encourage them to continue with generous fidelity in their commitment to the mission ad Gentes. I now wish to offer you some suggestions so that these days will produce abundant fruits of goodness in your Communities and in the missionary activity of the Church.
You are called to deepen your charism, to project yourselves with renewed impetus in the work of evangelization, in the perspective of the pastoral urgencies and the new poverties. While I thank the Lord for the good you are accomplishing in the world, I would like to exhort you to act with careful discernment regarding the situation of peoples in the midst of whom you carry out your evangelizing action. Do not tire of bringing comfort to populations that are often marked by great poverty and acute suffering, as, for instance, in so many parts of Africa and Latin America. Let yourselves be continually aroused by the concrete realities with which you come into contact and seek to offer in appropriate ways the witness of charity that the Spirit infuses in your hearts (Cf. Romans 5:5).
The history of your institutes, made up – as in every family – of joys and sorrows, lights and shadows, has also been marked and rendered fruitful in these last years by the Cross of Christ. How can we not remember here your fellow men and women <missionaries> who loved the Gospel of charity more than themselves and crowned their missionary service with the sacrifice of their life? May their evangelical choice without reservations enlighten your missionary commitment and be an encouragement for all to continue with renewed generosity in your peculiar mission in the Church.
To carry this anything but easy mission forward, communion with God must be lived in the ever more conscious perception of the mercy of which we are object on the part of the Lord. It is much more important to realize how much we are loved by God, and not how much we ourselves love Him! I does us good to consider, first of all, this priority of the gratuitous and merciful love of God, and to regard our commitment and our effort as a response. In the measure in which we are persuaded of the Lord’s love, our adherence to Him grows. We have so much need to rediscover always the love and mercy of the Lord, to develop familiarity with God. Consecrated persons, in as much as they make an effort to be more perfectly conformed to Christ, are, more than all, God’s family, the intimate ones, those who relate to the Lord in full freedom and spontaneously, but with wonder in face of the marvels He accomplishes.
In this perspective, religious life can become an itinerary of progressive rediscovery of divine mercy, facilitating the imitation of Christ’s virtues and of His attitudes rich in humanity, to then witness them to all those you approach in the pastoral service. Be able to receive joyfully the continuous stimulations to renewal and to the commitment that comes from real contact with the Lord Jesus, present and operating in the mission through the Holy Spirit. This will enable you to be actively present in the new areopagi of evangelization, privileging , even if this should entail sacrifices, openness to situations that, with their reality of particular need, are revealed as emblematic for our time.
On the example of your Blessed Founder, do not tire of giving new impulse to missionary animation. Above all, it will be your apostolic fervour that sustains the Christian Communities entrusted to you, in particular those of recent foundation. In the effort to re-qualify the style of the missionary service, it will be necessary to privilege some significant elements, such as sensitivity to the inculturation of the Gospel, the area given to co-responsibility of pastoral agents, the choice of simple and poor forms of presence among the people. Dialogue with Islam, commitment to the promotion of the dignity of woman and of family values, sensitivity to the topics of justice and peace merit special attention.
Dear brothers and sisters, continue on your way with hope. May your missionary consecration be increasingly source of vivifying and sanctifying encounter with Jesus and with His love, source of consolation, peace and salvation for all men.
I hope that the guidelines elaborated by the respective General Chapters can guide your Institutes to continue with generosity on the way traced by your Founder and followed with heroic courage by so many fellow men and fellow women missionaries. I invoke the celestial protection of Mary, Queen of the Missions, and of Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, and I impart to you all my heartfelt Blessing, extending it to the entire Consolata Family.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]