Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave Monday to the Italian prelates meeting for their 68th general assembly. They are considering the reception of the Pope’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
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Dear Brothers, good afternoon!
I greet all and I greet the new nominees after the last Assembly, and also the two new Cardinals, created after the last Assembly.
When I hear this passage of Mark’s Gospel, I think: but this Mark has it in for Magdalene! Because up to the last moment he reminds us that she had harbored seven demons. But then I think: and how many have I harbored? And I remain silent.
I would like to express first of all my gratitude for this meeting, and for the subject you have chosen: the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.
The joy of the Gospel, in this historic moment where we are often surrounded by disturbing news, of local and international situations that make us experience affliction and tribulation – in this realistically little comforting picture – our Christian and episcopal vocation is to go against the current: that is, to be joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ to transmit joy and hope to others. Our vocation is to listen to what the Lord is asking us: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). In fact, we are asked to console, to help, to encourage, without any distinction, all our brothers oppressed under the weight of their crosses, accompanying them, without ever tiring of working to raise them up again with the strength that comes only from God.
Jesus also says: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot my men” (Matthew 5:13). It is quite awful to meet a consecrated person who is dejected, unmotivated and spent: he is as a dry well where people do not find water to slake their thirst.
Today, therefore, knowing that you have chosen as the discussion of this meeting the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I would like to hear your ideas, your questions and share with you some of my questions and reflections.
My questions and concerns stem from a global vision – not only of Italy, global – and especially from the innumerable meetings I have had in these two years with the Episcopal Conferences, where I have noticed the importance of what can be described as ecclesial sensibility, namely, to appropriate for oneself the same sentiments of Christ, of humility, of compassion, of mercy, of concreteness – Christ’s charity is concrete – and of wisdom.
Ecclesial sensibility entails also not to be timid or irrelevant in renouncing and overcoming a widespread mentality of public and private corruption that has succeeded in impoverishing, without any shame, families, pensioners, honest workers, Christian communities, discarding young people, systematically deprived of any hope for their future, and especially marginalizing the weak and the needy — ecclesial sensibility that, as good pastors, makes us go forth to the People of God to defend it from ideological colonization that takes away human identity and dignity.
Ecclesial sensibility manifests itself also in pastoral choices and in the elaboration of Documents – ours — where the abstract theoretical-doctrinal aspect should not prevail, as if our guidelines were not destined to our People and to our Country – but only to some scholars and specialists – instead, we should pursue the effort of translating them into concrete and comprehensible proposals.
Ecclesial and pastoral sensibility is concretized also in reinforcing the indispensable role of the laity willing to assume the responsibilities that correspond to it. In reality, the laity that has authentic Christian formation should not be in need of a Bishop-pilot, or of the Monsignor–pilot or of clerical input to assume their own responsibilities at all levels, from the political to the social, from the economic to the legislative! Instead, they are all in need of the Bishop Pastor!
Finally, ecclesial sensibility is revealed concretely in the collegiality and communion between the Bishops and their Priests; in the communion between the Bishops themselves, between the rich Dioceses – materially and vocationally – and those in difficulty, between the peripheries and the center, between the Episcopal Conferences and the Bishops with the Successor of Peter.
Noted in some parts of the world is a widespread weakening of collegiality, be it in the determination of pastoral plans, be it in sharing economic-financial programmatic commitments. The custom is lacking of verifying the reception of programs and the carrying out of projects, for instance, a congress or an event is organized that, putting in evidence the usual voices, narcotizes the communities, homologizing choices, opinions and persons, instead of letting ourselves be transported to those horizons where the Holy Spirit asks us to go.
Another example of the lack of ecclesial sensibility: why are Religious Institutes, Monasteries and Congregations allowed to grow so old to the point of no longer being faithful evangelical witnesses of the founding charism? Why is no provision made to consolidate them before it is late under so many points of view? And this is a worldwide problem.
I stop here, after wanting to offer only some examples of weakened ecclesial sensibility because of the continuous confrontation with enormous world problems and the crisis that does not even spare the Christian and ecclesial identity itself.
May the Lord grant us – during the Jubilee of Mercy that will begin next December 8 – “the joy of rediscovering and rendering fecund the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and every woman of our time … Henceforth, we entrust the Holy Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she may turn her gaze to us and watch over our path” (Homily, March 13, 2015).
This was only an introduction. Now I give you the time to propose your reflections, your ideas, your questions on Evangelii Gaudium and on all that you wish to ask and I thank you very much![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]