Pope’s Address to Dominican General Chapter

“It is the living and suffering body of Christ that cries to the preacher and does not leave him in peace”

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Today, Pope Francis received in audience participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans). Here is a ZENIT translation of his address.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we could describe this day as “a Jesuit among friars” in the morning with you and, in the afternoon, in Assisi with the Franciscans: <a day> among friars. I welcome you and thank Friar Bruno Cadore, Master General of the Order, for his greeting in his name and that of all those present, with the General Chapter now culminating in Bologna, where you wish to revive your roots at the sepulcher of the holy Founder.

This year has a special meaning for your Religious Family, upon the completion of eight centuries since Pope Honorius III confirmed the Order of Preachers. On the occasion of the Jubilee, which you celebrate for this reason, I join you in thanksgiving for the abundant fruits received during this time. Moreover, I wish to express my gratitude to the Order for its significant contribution to the Church and for the collaboration it has maintained with the Apostolic See, in a spirit of faithful service, from its origins to today.

And this eighth centenary leads us to remember the men and women of Faith and Letters, of contemplatives and missionaries, martyrs and apostles of charity, who took God’s caress and tenderness everywhere, enriching the Church and showing new possibilities to incarnate the Gospel, through preaching, witness and charity: three pillars that guarantee the Order’s future, keeping the freshness of the foundational charism.

God stimulated Saint Dominic to found an “Order of Preachers,” preaching being the mission that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles. It is the Word of God, which burns within and spurs to go out to proclaim Jesus Christ to all peoples (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). The Founding Father said: “First contemplate and then teach.” Evangelized by God, to evangelize. Without strong personal union with Him, the preaching might be very perfect, very reasoned, even admirable, but it will not touch the heart, which is what must change. So essential is the serious and assiduous study of theological subjects, as is all that enables us to come close to the reality and put our ear in the people of God. The preacher is a contemplative of the Word and also of the people, who hopes to be understood (cf. Evangelii Gaudium,, 154).

To transmit the Word of God more effectively requires witness: teachers faithful to the truth and courageous witnesses of the Gospel. A witness incarnates the teaching, makes it tangible, convoking, and leaves no one indifferent; he adds to the truth the joy of the Gospel, of knowing we are loved by God and object of His infinite mercy (cf. Ibid., 142).

Saint Dominic said to his followers: “Let us go out with bare feet to preach.” It reminds us of the passage of the burning bush, when God said to Moses: “put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). The good preacher is conscious that he moves on holy ground, because the Word he takes with him is sacred, and so are its recipients. Not only do the faithful need to receive the Word in its integrity, but also see the witness of life of one who preaches (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 171). The Saints obtained abundant fruits because, with their life and mission, they spoke with the language of the heart, which knows not barriers and is comprehensible to all.

Finally, the preacher and the witness must be so in charity. Without it, they will be controversial and suspicious. Saint Dominic had a dilemma at the beginning of his life, which marked his whole existence: “How can I study with dead skin, when Christ’s flesh suffers.” It is the living and suffering body of Christ that cries to the preacher and does not leave him in peace. The cry of the poor and the discarded awakens, and makes one understand the compassion Jesus had for peoples (Matthew 15:32).

Looking around us, we see that today’s men and women are thirsty for God. They are the living flesh of Christ, who cries “I thirst” for a genuine and liberating word, for a fraternal and tender gesture. This cry challenges us and it must be the one that supports the mission and gives life to pastoral structures and programs. Think of this when you reflect on the need to adjust the Order’s organization chart, to discern the answer to be given to this cry of God. The more we go out to slake the thirst of our neighbor, the more we will be preachers of that truth proclaimed out of love and mercy, of which Saint Catherine of Siena speaks (cf. Book of Divine Doctrine, 35). In the encounter with the living flesh of Christ we are evangelized and recover the passion to be preachers and witnesses of His love; and we free ourselves of the dangerous temptation, so present today, of Gnosticism.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with a grateful heart for the goods received from the Lord for your Order and for the Church, I encourage you to follow joyfully the charism inspired in Saint Dominic and which has been lived with different hews by many men and women Saints of the Dominican Family. Their example is a stimulus to face the future with hope, knowing that God always renews all … and does not let us down. May Our Mother, the Virgin of the Rosary, intercede for you and protect you, so that you are courageous preachers and witnesses of the love of God. Thank you!

[Original text: Spanish]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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