“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 is what bishops are to do.”
Pope Francis said these words in his address to the 68th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I.) on Monday afternoon. The assembly, which is being held in the Synod Hall at the Vatican from May 18-21, will reflect on the theme: “Verification of the Reception of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.”
Thanking them for reflecting on the joy of the Gospel, he called on them–even at the most difficult of times– to be joyful themselves.
“Our vocation is to listen to what the Lord is asking us: ‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1),'” the Pope said.
“We are asked to console, to help, to encourage, without any distinction, all our brothers oppressed under the weight of their crosses, accompanying them,” he said, “without ever tiring of working to raise them up again with the strength that comes only from God.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, he recalled, Jesus’ words: ‘You are the salt of the earth,’ but if salt loses its taste, it’s useless.
“It is quite awful to meet a consecrated person who is dejected, unmotivated and spent,” he said. “He is as a dry well, where people do not find water to quench their thirst,”
Francis said that over his two years as Pope, he has 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, he said, requires not being afraid of renouncing wrongs. Doing so, he stressed, is needed “to overcome a widespread mentality of public and private corruption” that has prevailed in many walks of life, especially among the poor, discarded young people, and the marginalized. It also must be exercised in preparing documents where “the abstract theoretical-doctrinal aspect should not prevail,”. Instead, he said, we should make the effort of translating them into concrete and comprehensible proposals.
He also called on the bishops to reinforce “the indispensable role of the laity” and the collegiality and communion between the clergy, at all levels of the Church, and their people.
The Pontiff warned against a widespread weakening of collegiality, he observed, in some parts of the world, and called on them let themselves “to be transported to those horizons where the Holy Spirit asks us to go.” Pope Francis concluded his address by praying for the Lord’s joy and Mary’s protection upon the Italian Episcopal Conference.