Pope Francis on October 22, 2018, received in audience — in the Hall of the Consistory of the Apostolic Palace — the participants in the 47th General Chapter of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists), underway in Rome from October 6-27, 2018.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the meeting.
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The Holy Father’s Address
I’m happy to meet with you on the occasion of your General Chapter, and I thank the Superior for his words. During these days, your reflections were guided by the theme: “Renewing Our Mission: Gratitude, Prophecy, and Hope.” These three words, gratitude, prophecy and hope express the spirit in which you wish to stimulate your Congregation to a renewal in the mission. In fact, in addition to electing the Institute’s government, you propose to implement a new way of continuous formation for your Community, rooted in the experience of daily life. Moreover, you intend to bring about discernment on pastoral methodology in the approach to the young generations. Your founder, Saint Paul of the Cross gave himself and his companions this motto: “May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.” His first biographer, Saint Vincent Maria Strambi, said of him: “It seemed that Almighty God chose Father Paul especially, to teach people how to seek Him within their heart.” Saint Paul of the Cross wanted your Communities to be schools of prayer, where one could have an experience of God. His holiness was lived between darkness and desolations, but also with a joy and peace that touched the heart of anyone who met him.
The Passion of Jesus is at the center of your life and your mission, which the Founder described as “the greatest and most stupendous work of the love of God” (Letter II, 499). The vow that distinguishes you, with which you commit yourselves to keep alive the memory of the Passion, puts you at the foot of the Cross, from which flows the healing and reconciling love of God. I encourage you to be ministers of spiritual healing and reconciliation, so necessary in today’s world, marked by old and new wounds. Your Constitutions call you to dedicate your whole selves to the “evangelization and re-evangelization of peoples, preferring the poorest in the most abandoned places” (Constitution 70). Your closeness to the people, expressed traditionally through the popular missions, spiritual direction and the Sacrament of Penance, is a precious witness. The Church needs ministers that speak with tenderness, listen without condemning and receive with mercy. The Church today hears strongly the appeal to go out of herself and to go to the peripheries, be they geographic be they existential. Your commitment to embrace the new frontiers of the mission implies not only to go to new territories to take the Gospel but also to address the new challenges of our time, such as migrations, secularism, and the digital world. This means being present in those situations where the people perceive the absence of God, and seek to be close to those that, are suffering in whatever way or form.
In this time of changes, which is rather a change of age, you are called to be attentive to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, reading the signs of the times. New situations call for new answers. Saint Paul of the Cross was very creative in responding to the needs of his time, acknowledging — as the Rule states — that “the love of God is very ingenious and is not shown so much with words as with works and with the example of one who loves” (XVI). A creative fidelity to your charism will enable you to respond to the need of people today, staying close to the suffering Christ so as to bring His presence to a suffering world.
Your Congregation has given the people of god many examples of holiness. We think of Saint Gabriel of the Addolorata, a youth whose joyful following of Christ still speaks to young people today. The witness of Saints and Blesseds of your Religious Family manifests the fruitfulness of your charism and represents a model to inspire your apostolic choices. The strength and simplicity of your message, which is the love of God revealed on the Cross, can still speak to today’s society, which has learned no longer to rely on words alone and to allow itself be convinced only by facts. For many youths that are seeking God, the Passion of Jesus can be the source of hope and of courage, teaching them that each one is loved personally and to the end. May your witness and your apostolate continue to enrich the Church, and may you remain always close to Christ crucified and to His suffering people.
May the Apostolic Blessing, which I impart from my heart to you, Chapter Members and to the whole Passionist Family, accompany you on your journey. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]