At 4:30 Monday afternoon, Pope Francis opened, in the Synod’s New Hall, the works of the 70th General Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I.), which will end on May 25.
After the initial prayer, the Pope had a long conversation with the Italian Bishops.
At 6:45 pm, at the end of the meeting, the Holy Father gave those present the text we translate below:
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Dear Brothers, over these days, while I was preparing the meeting with you, I found myself invoking many times the “visit” of the Holy Spirit, of Him who is “the gentle persuader of the interior man.” Truly, without his strength, “there is nothing in man, nothing without fault” and our every effort is vain, if His “most blessed light” does not invade us in our depth, we remain prisoners of our fears, incapable of recognizing that we are saved only by love: what is not love in us, distances us from the living God and from His Holy People.
“Come, Holy Spirit, send us a ray of your light from Heaven. Give your faithful, who trust only in You, your holy gifts.”
The first of these gifts is already in the convenire in unum, willing to share time, listening, creativity and consolation. I hope these days will be crossed by open, humble and frank confrontation. Do not fear the moments of opposition: entrust yourselves to the Spirit, who opens to diversity and reconciles what is different in fraternal charity.
Live episcopal collegiality, enriched by the experience of which each is bearer and which draws the tears and joys of your particular Churches. To walk together is the constitutive way of the Church; the figure that enables us to interpret the reality with the eyes and heart of God; the condition to follow the Lord Jesus and to be servants of life in this wounded time.
The Synodal breath and step reveal what we are and the dynamism of communion that animates our decisions. Only in this horizon can we truly renew our pastoral program and adapt it to the mission of the Church in today’s world; only thus can we address the complexity of this time, thankful for the course accomplished and determined to continue it with parrhesia.
In reality, this path is marked also by closures and resistances: our infidelities are a heavy mortgage put on the credibility of the testimony of the depositum fidei, a much worse threat than that which comes from the world with its persecutions. This awareness helps us to recognize ourselves recipients of the Letter of the Churches with which Revelation opens (1:4-3:22), the great book of Christian hope. Let us ask for the grace to be able to listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches today; let us receive the prophetic message to understand what He wants to cure in us: “Come, Father of the poor; come, Giver of gifts,; come Light of hearts.”
As the Church of Ephesus, perhaps sometimes we have abandoned the love, the freshness and the enthusiasm of a time . . . Let us return to the origins, to the founding grace of the beginnings; let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Jesus Christ, the “Yes” of the faithful God, the unum necessarium: “May this Assembly of ours gathered here not shine with any other light than that of Christ, who is the Light of the world; may our minds not seek another truth but the word of the Lord, who is our only Teacher’ let us not be concerned with anything other than to obey His precepts with faithful submission in everything; may no other trust sustain us than that which corroborates our feeble weakness, so that it is founded on His words: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20)” (Paul VI, Address for the Opening of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, September 29, 1963).
As the Church of Smyrna, in moments of trial perhaps we are also victims of exhaustion, of solitude, of worry for the future; we remain shaken on realizing how much the God of Jesus Christ might not correspond to the image and the expectations of the “religious” man: He disappoints, overwhelms, scandalizes. If we keep our trust in God’s surprising initiative, the strength of patience and the fidelity of Confessors: we do not have to fear the second death.
As the Church of Pergamum, perhaps we also seek sometimes to make the faith coexist with spiritual worldliness, the life of the Gospel with logics of power and success, forcibly present as functionaries of the social image of the Church. The attempt to serve two bosses is, rather, an index of the lack of interior convictions. Let us learn to give up useless ambitions and our obsession in order to live constantly under the gaze of the Lord, present in so many humiliated brothers: <in so doing> we will find the Truth that truly renders us free.
As the Church of Thyatira perhaps we are exposed to the temptation to reduce Christianity to a series of principles deprived of concreteness. Then one falls into a disincarnate spiritualism, which neglects the reality and has one lose the tenderness of a brother’s flesh. Let us turn to the things that really count: faith, love of the Lord, service rendered with joy and gratuitousness. Let us make our own Jesus’ sentiments and gestures, and we will truly enter into communion with Him, Morning Star that knows no setting.
As the Church of Sardis, we are called to perseverance, to throw ourselves into the reality without timidity: the Kingdom is the precious stone for which we sell all the rest without hesitation and open ourselves fully to the gift and the mission. Let us cross every door that the Lord reveals before us. Let us take advantage of every occasion to make ourselves close. Even the best leaven is inedible on its own, whereas in its humility it makes a great quantity of flour ferment; let us mix ourselves in the city of men, let us collaborate actively for the encounter with the different cultural riches, let us commit ourselves together for the common good of each and all. We will meet again as citizens of the New Jerusalem.
As the Church of Laodicea, perhaps we have known the tepidity of our commitment, the calculated indecision, the snare of ambiguity. We know that in fact on these attitudes the most severe condemnation falls. On the other hand, a witness of the 20th century reminds us that cheap grace is the mortal enemy of the Church: it ignores the living word of God and precludes for us the way to Christ. True grace – that cost the life of the Son – cannot but be but at an expensive price: because it calls to the following of Jesus Christ, because it costs man the price of life, because it condemns sin and justifies the sinner, because it does not dispense from work . . . It is a dear price, but it is grace that gives life and leads to live in the world without being lost in it (cf. D. Bonhoeffer, Sequela). Let us open the heart to the knocking of the eternal Pilgrim: let us have Him enter, let us dine with Him. We will start again to arrive <everywhere> with a proclamation of justice, fraternity and peace.
Dear Brothers, the Lord never aims at depressing us, so that we do not stay with reproaches, which in any case are born of love (cf. Revelation 3:19) and lead to love. Let us allow ourselves to be shaken, purified and consoled: “Wash what is sordid, bathed what is arid, heal what bleeds. Bend what is rigid, warm what is chill, straighten what is astray.”
Audacity is requested to avoid being accustomed to situations that are so rooted that they seem normal or insurmountable. Prophecy does not exact tears but courageous choices, which are proper of a true ecclesial community: they lead us to allow ourselves to the “disturbed” by events and persons and to dive into human situations, animated by the healing spirit of the Beatitudes. On this path we will be able to remold the forms of our proclamation, which is radiated first of all with charity. Let us move with the trust of one who also knows that this time is a kairos, a time of grace inhabited by the Spirit of the Risen One: to us corresponds the responsibility to recognize it, to receive it and to second it with docility.
“Come, Holy Spirit. Perfect Consoler, sweet Guest of the soul, most gentle relief.”
Dear Brothers, “placed to feed the Church of God” (Acts 20:28), as participants in the mission of the Good Shepherd may no one be invisible or marginal to your eyes. Go to encounter every person with the solicitude and compassion of the merciful Father, with a strong and generous spirit. Be careful to perceive as yours the good and the evil of the other, capable of offering life itself with gratuitousness and tenderness. May this be your vocation because, as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus wrote, “love alone makes the members of the Church act: if love was extinguished, the apostles would no longer proclaim the Gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood . . .
In this light, I also thank on your behalf Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco for his ten years of presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference. Thank you for his humble and shared service, not devoid of personal sacrifice, in a moment of anything but easy transition of the Church and of the country. May the election also, and hence the appointment of his successor, be none other than a sign of love of Holy Mother Church, a love lived with spiritual and pastoral discernment, according to a synthesis that itself is also a gift of the Spirit.
And pray for me, called to be custodian, witness and guarantor of the faith and of the unity of the whole Church: with you and by you may this mission be accomplished with gladness to the end.
“Come, Holy Spirit. Give virtue and reward, give a holy death, give eternal joy.” Amen.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]