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Pope’s Address to General Chapter of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Dehonians)

“To the extent that we become aware of the free love of the Lord and welcome it, we also will grow in tenderness, understanding and kindness toward the people around us.”

Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to the General Chapter of the priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Dehonians) in the Vatican on Friday morning:

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Dear priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,

I welcome you with pleasure on the occasion of the General Chapter, which constitutes a privileged moment for the deepening and growth of your religious family, and I gladly take this opportunity to express to the new Superior General, Father Heiner Wilmer, good wishes for the task to which he was called by the confidence of his brethen. Through you, I greet all the Dehonians, who work, often in difficult conditions, in different parts of the world, and encourage them to continue with generous fidelity their apostolic commitment. In your chapter’s work, you have focused your reflection on the community called to live reconciled, to be able to share the Gospel with everyone, especially the marginalized. From here comes the theme of your Chapter: “Merciful, in community with the poor.” I would then offer some suggestions for implementing your pastoral action.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5: 7). Religious life is indicated as a fully evangelical life, as it put into practice the Beatitudes. Therefore, as religious, you are called to be merciful. It is above all a matter of living in profound communion with God in prayer, in meditating on Sacred Scripture, in celebrating the Eucharist, so that our whole life is a journey of growth in the mercy of God. To the extent that we become aware of the free love of the Lord and welcome it, we also will grow in tenderness, understanding and kindness toward the people around us. The effort of renewing your Institute and your mission in the world embraces necessarily the loving solicitude for the situation of every individual religious, so that his consecration will be more and more the source of life-giving and sanctifying encounter with Jesus, whose pierced heart is a source of consolation, peace and salvation for all men.

Religious life is a coexistence of believers who feel loved by God and who seek to love Him. Precisely in this common effort, you can find the deeper reason for your spiritual harmony. In the experience of God’s mercy and love, you are also the point of harmonization for your communities. This involves a commitment to savor always more the mercy that the brethen will use and to give them the richness of your mercy. In all this, the witness of your founder, the great apostle of the Sacred Heart, is an example and a help.

Mercy is the word that synthesizes the Gospel, we can say that it is the “face” of Christ, the face that He showed when He went out to everyone, when He healed the sick, when He sat at table with sinners, and especially when, nailed to the cross, He forgave: there we have the face of divine mercy. And the Lord calls you to be “channels” of this love in the first place, to the last, to the very poor, who–in His eyes–are the privileged. Let yourselves continually question situations of fragility and poverty with which you meet, and try to offer in suitable ways the witness of charity that the Spirit pours into your hearts (cf. Rom 5: 5). The style of mercy will allow you to open yourselves with readiness to current needs and be diligently present in the new areopagus for evangelization, giving priority, even if this entails sacrifices, to openness to the realities of extreme need that prove to be a disease symptomatic of today’s society.

The history of your congregation is marked and made fruitful by so many of your brothers who have spent their lives generously in the service of the Gospel, by living in docile communion with the Pastors, with undivided heart to Christ and with the spirit of poverty. Through these testimonies, their evangelical choice illumine your missionary commitment and is to be an encouragement to continue with renewed apostolic zeal your particular mission in the Church. In the wake of these reports, you can give new impetus to missionary spirit in the different contexts in which you are placed.

I hope that the guidelines drawn up by the General Chapter guide the institute to continue with generosity its path, the path traced by the founder. With these sentiments, I invoke the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary and cordially impart to all of you and the entire Dihonian family a special Apostolic Blessing.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

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