Pope’s Q & A With Religious and Consecrated in Genoa

‘Jesus had a clear awareness that his life was for others: for the Father and for the people, not for Himself’

PHOTO.VA - L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

At 10 a.m. the morning of Saturday, May 27, 2017, during his one day trip to the northern Italian port city of Genoa, Pope Francis met with bishops of Liguria, clergy, seminarians and religious of the region, the collaborators of the Curia and representatives of other confessions in Saint Lawrence Cathedral.

Members of the Cathedral’s Chapter received the Pope at the entrance of the Cathedral.

After the greeting address of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa, before answering questions addressed to him, the Holy Father invited those present to pray for the victims of the terrorist attack in Minya, Egypt.

At the end, he went by car to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard to meet with young people of the Diocesan Mission.

Here is a working translation of the Holy Father’s prayer for the victims of the terrorist attack in Minya, Egypt, and the Holy Father’s answers to questions addressed to him.

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Prayer for the Victims of the Attack in Egypt

Brothers and Sisters, I invite you to pray together for our Egyptian Coptic brothers who were killed because they did not want to deny their faith. Together with them, with their bishops, with my brother Tawadros, I invite you to pray together in silence and then a Hail Mary.

[Silence – “Hail Mary”]

And let us not forget that today there are more martyrs than in ancient times, than in the early times of the Church. There are more.

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The Holy Father’s Answers to Questions

1 ) Father Andrea Carcasole’s Question:

Holy Father, my name is Father Andrea Carcasole. I am Assistant Parish Priest of Saint Bartholomew’s parish of the Carthusian monastery here at Genoa, which is a parish of 12,000 inhabitants. We ask you today the criteria to live an intense spiritual life in our ministry that, in the complexity of modern life and also of the administrative tasks, tends to make us live dispersed and shattered.

Pope Francis: Thank you, Father Andrea for the question. I would say that the more we imitate Jesus’ style, the more we will do our work well as Pastors. This is the fundamental criterion: Jesus’ style. What was Jesus’ style like as Pastor? Jesus was always on the way. With the hues proper to each one, the Gospels always make us see Jesus on the way, in the midst of the people, of the “crowd” says the Gospel. The Gospel distinguished well <between> the disciples, the crowd, the Doctors of the Law, the Sadducees, the Pharisees . . . . It’s interesting; the Gospel makes the distinction. And Jesus was in the midst of the crowd. If we imagine how the schedule of Jesus’ day was, reading the Gospel we can say that He spent the greater part of His time on the road. This means closeness to the people, closeness to the problems. He didn’t hide. Then, in the evening, He always hid Himself to pray, to be with the Father. And these two things, this way of seeing Jesus, on the road and in prayer, helps us a lot in our daily life, which is not on the road<but> is in a hurry. They are different things. It is said of Jesus that perhaps He was somewhat in a hurry when He was going to His Passion: He went “decidedly” to Jerusalem. However, this habit, this mad way of living, always looking at the clock – “I must do this, and this, and this . . .” is not the pastoral way; Jesus didn’t do this. Jesus never stopped. And, as all those that walk, Jesus was exposed to dispersion, to being “crushed.” Therefore, I like the question, because one sees it is born of a person that walks and isn’t static. We should not be afraid of movement and of the dispersion of our time. However, the greatest fear that we should have, which we can imagine, is a static life: the life of a priest who has everything well resolved, everything in order, structured, everything in its place, the hours . . . at what time the secretariat opens, the church closes at such a time . . . I’m afraid of the static priest. I’m afraid, also when he is static in prayer: I pray from this hour to that hour. But don’t you have the desire to go to spend one more hour with the Lord to look at Him and to let Him look at you? This is the question I would ask the static priest, who has everything perfect, organized . . . I would say that such a life, so structured, isn’t a Christian life. Perhaps that parish priest is a good businessman, but I wonder: is he Christian? Or at least, does he live as a Christian? Yes, he celebrates Mass, but is his style a Christian style? Or perhaps he is a believer, a good man, lives in God’s grace, but with the style of an businessman. Jesus was always a man of the road, a man of the way, a man open to God’s surprises. Instead, the priest who has everything planned, everything structured, is generally closed to God’s surprises and loses that joy of the surprise of the encounter. The Lord seizes you when you don’t expect it, but be open. A first criterion is not to be afraid of this tension that you must live: we are on the way, the world is like this. It is a sign of life, of vitality: a father, a mother, an educator is always exposed to this and lives the tension. A heart that loves, that gives itself, will always live like this: exposed to this tension. And someone might also have the imagination to say: “Ah, I will be a cloistered priest, a cloistered Sister, and so I won’t have this tension.” But even the Desert Fathers went to the desert to fight more – that fight, that tension.

And I believe that we must think about some of the aspects of this. If we look at Jesus, the Gospels make us see two moments, which are intense, which are the foundation. I said this at the beginning, and I take it up again now, the encounter with the Father and the encounter with persons. The majority of the persons that Jesus met were people that had needs, needy people – sick, possessed, sinners – also marginalized people, lepers. And the encounter with the Father – in the encounter with the Father and with brothers there is this tension: all must be lived in this key of encounter. You, priest, you encounter God, the Father, Jesus in the Eucharist, the faithful: you encounter <them>. There is no wall that impedes the encounter. For example prayer: you can be one hour before the Tabernacle, but without encountering the Lord, praying like a parrot. But you waste time like this! Prayer: if you pray, pray and encounter the Lord, stay in silence, let the Lord look at you; say a word to the Lord, ask for something. Stay in silence, listen to what He says, what He makes you hear . . . Encounter – and the same with people. We priests know how much people suffer when they come to ask us for advice or anything. “What is it? . . . Yes, but now I don’t have the time, no . . .” In a hurry, not on the way, in a hurry, this is the difference. <Both> he who is still and he who goes in a hurry never encounter one another.  I knew a good priest who had great genius: he was a Professor of Literature of a high, very high level, because he was also a poet and he knew literature well. And when he retired – he is a Religious – he asked his Provincial to send him to a parish of the shantytowns, with the poor poor. To experience this service, for a man of that culture, he went there truly with the desire to encounter – he was a man of prayer – to continue to encounter Jesus and to encounter people he didn’t know: the people of the poor; he went with so much generosity. This man belonged to the Community where I was, the Religious Community. And the Provincial said to him: “One day a week be in the Community.” And he came often, he spoke with all of us, he went to Confession, he benefitted and returned. One day he said to me: “But these theologians . . . they are lacking something.” I asked him: “What are they lacking?” “For example, the professor of Ecclesiology must write two new theses.” Oh really, which ones?” And he said this: “The People of God, the people in the parish, are ontologically “bored,” that is, tired and, metaphysically, essentially olympic.” What does “olympic” mean” That they do what they want; you can give them advice, but then, we’ll see . . . And when you work with the people, people tire you, and sometimes they also bore you a bit. But the People of God! – think of Jesus, who was pulled one way and another. Think of Jesus, of that time that He was on the road and said: “But who touched me?” “But Master, what are you saying? Look how many people are around you.” “Someone touched me.” “But look . . .” People always tire one. One must let oneself be made tired by the people, not defend too much one’s own tranquillity. I go to the Confessional: there is a queue and then I have in mind to go out . . . No the Mass, but something that could be done or not done, see , then I have this in mind, I look at the clock and what do I do? It’s an option: I stay on in the Confessional and continue to hear confessions until it’s finished, or I say to the people: “I have another commitment, I’m sorry, good-bye.” Always encounter the people; however, this encounter with the people is so mortifying, it’s a cross! To encounter people is a cross, because perhaps there will be in the parish one, two, ten persons – little old ladies – who make a sweet for you and bring it to you, good <women> . . . but how many dramas you must see! And this tires the soul and leads you to the prayer of intercession.

In this tension, I would say two things; it’s very important. And one of the signs that one is not going on the right way is when the priest speaks too much about himself, too much: of the things he does, that he likes to do . . . he is self-referential. It is a sign that that man is not a man of encounter, at most he is a man of the mirror, he likes to look at himself in the mirror, to reflect himself; he is in need of filling the void in his heart by speaking of himself. Instead, a priest who leads a life of encounter, with the Lord in prayer and with the people to the end of the day, is “torn,” Saint Luigi Orione said “like a rag.” And one can say: “But, Lord, I need other things . . .” Are you tired? Go on. That tiredness is holiness, so long as there is always prayer, otherwise it could be a tiredness of self-reference. You priests must examine yourselves on this: am I a man of encounter? Am I a man of the Tabernacle? Am I a man of the road? Am I a man “of the ear” who is able to listen? Or when they begin to tell me things, I answer immediately: “Yes, yes things are so and so . . .” Do I let people tire me? That’s how Jesus was. There aren’t any formulas. Jesus had a clear awareness that his life was for others: for the Father and for the people, not for Himself. He gave Himself, He gave Himself: He gave Himself to the people; He gave Himself to the Father in prayer. And He lived His life in the key of mission: “I am sent by the Father to say these things . . .”

Something that doesn’t help us is the weakness in the diocesan<dimension>. However, I’ll speak about this when I answer another question.

It will do us good, it will do good to all of us priests to remember that Jesus alone is the Savior, there are no other saviors. And perhaps to think that Jesus never, never linked Himself to structures, but was always linked to relations. If a priest sees that in his life his conduct is too linked to structures, something isn’t right. And Jesus didn’t do this; Jesus connected himself to relations. Once I heard a man of God – I think they’ll introduce the cause of Beatification of this man – who said: “In the Church one must live that saying: “minimum of structures for the maximum of life, and never the maximum of structures for the minimum of life.” Without relations with God and with one’s neighbor, nothing makes sense in the life of a priest. He might have a career, go to this or that place; to that parish that pleases him or be on the list of candidates for Bishop. He’ll have a career, but his heart? It will remain empty, because his heart is linked to the structures and not to relations, the essential relations: with the Father, with God, with Jesus and with persons. This is somewhat the answer re the criteria I wish to give you. “But Father, you aren’t modern . . . These criteria are ancient . . .” So is life, son! They are the old criteria of the Church that are modern, ultra-modern!

2 ) Father Pasquale Revello’s Question

I am Father Pasquale Revello, parish priest. I work at Recco, a lovely town by the sea, in the parish of Saint John the Baptist: 7,000 inhabitants. Holy Father, we would like to live better the priestly fraternity so recommended by our Cardinal Archbishop and promoted with diocesan <and> vicarial encounters, pilgrimages, spiritual Retreats and Exercisse, community weeks. Can you give us some pointers?

Pope Francis: Thank you, Father Pasquale. How old are you?

Father Pasquale: 81.

Pope Francis: We are contemporaries! But I’ll make a confession to you: hearing you speak like this, I would have given you 20 years less! Fraternity: it’s a good word, but it’s not quoted on the stock exchange. It is a word that is not quoted on the stock exchange. Fraternity among us is so difficult. Presbyterial fraternity is an every day endeavor. Perhaps without realizing it, we run the risk of creating that image of the priest who knows everything, he has no need of being told anything else: “I know everything, I know everything.” Today children would say this is a Google or Wikipedia priest!” He knows everything. And this is a reality that does so much harm to presbyterial life: self-sufficiency. This type of priest says: “Why waste time in meetings? . . . And how often I am in meetings and a brother priest is speaking, and I am in orbit in my thoughts; I am thinking of the things I must do tomorrow . . .” I leave the question: but if the Bishop says: ”Know that from next year the contribution will grow <by 8 per thousand> for priests?” then “the orbit” descends suddenly, because there’s something that has touched the heart! This interests you? And what that young priest, or that old priest or that middle-aged priest is saying doesn’t interest you? It’s a good question to ask oneself: in meetings, when I feel somewhat far from what the other is saying, or I’m not interested. I should ask myself: “Why does this not interest me? What interests me? Where is the door to reach the heart of that brother priest who is talking and saying <things> of his life , which is a richness for me?” Priestly fraternity is a true ascesis! Fraternity – to listen to one another, to pray together . . .; and then a good lunch together, celebrate together . . . a soccer match for the young priests … This does one good! It does one good – brothers, a very human fraternity. To do with the priest of the presbytery what I did with my siblings: this is the secret. But there is egoism. We must recover the sense of fraternity that . . . yes, we speak of it but it has yet to enter the heart of presbyters, it hasn’t entered profoundly. In some a bit, in some less, but it must enter more. What happens to the other touches me; what that fellow priest says can also help me to resolve a problem I have. “But he thinks of it in a different way than I do  . . .” Listen to him! – and take what helps you. Brothers are a richness for one another. And this is what opens the heart: to recover the sense of fraternity; it’s something very serious. We priests, we Bishops, we are not the Lord. No. He is the Lord. We are disciples of the Lord, and we should help one another – and even quarrel, as the disciples quarreled when they were asking who was the greatest of them.  –  quarrel too. It’s good to hear discussions in priestly meetings, because if there is discussion, there is freedom, love, trust, fraternity! Don’t be afraid, rather, be afraid of the contrary: not say things but then, behind <his back>: “Did you hear what that fool said? Did you hear that extravagant idea?” Murmuring, “skinning” one another, rivalry . . . I’ll tell you something . . . I thought three times if I should or should not say it. Yes, I can say it. I don’t know if I should say it, but I can say it. You know that to appoint a Bishop priests and also the faithful are asked for information, the consecrated are asked about this priest and there, in the questionnaire that the Nuncio sends, it says: “this is secret.” It can’t be said to anyone, but this priest is a possible candidate to become Bishop. And information is requested. Sometimes real calumnies are found, or opinions that, without being grave calumnies, devalue the person of the priest; and one understands immediately that behind there is rivalry, jealousy, envy . . . When there isn’t priestly fraternity, there is – its a harsh word – there is betrayal: a brother is betrayed; a brother is sold for the “I” <to advance>, a brothers is “skinned.” Think; make an examination of conscience on this. I ask you: how many times have I spoken well, have listened well in a meeting <with> brother priests who think differently or that I don’t like? How many times no sooner they begin to speak I close my ears? And how many times have I criticized, “plucked,” “skinned” them in a hidden way? The great enemy against priestly fraternity is this: murmuring out of envy, out of jealousy or because I don’t like someone, or because he thinks in a different way?  And, therefore, the ideology of fraternity is more important; the ideology of doctrine is more important . . . But what have we come to? Think about it. To murmur or judge brothers badly is an “illness of closure”: the more closed we are in our interests, the more we criticize others. And never have the desire to have the last word: the last word will be the one that comes out on its own, or the Bishop will say it; but I say mine and listen to that of others.

Then, when there are sick priests, sick physically, we go to see them, to help them . . . But worse, when they are physically sick and when they are morally sick, do I do penance for them? Do I pray for them? Do I get close to give a hand, to have them see the Father’s merciful look? Or do I go immediately to my other friend and say to him: “Do you know? I learnt this, and this, and this about him . . .” And I “soil” him more. But if that poor thing has fallen victim of Satan, are you also going to crush him? These things aren’t fables: this happens, this happens.

And in addition, something else that can help is to know that no one of us is the all. We are all part of a body, of the Body of Christ, of the Church, of this particular Church. And whoever has the pretense of <thinking himself> all, of always being right or of having this place or that other  <place>, is mistaken. But this is learned in the Seminary. I know that there are Superiors of Seminaries here, formators, spiritual Fathers. This is very important. A good Archbishop of yours, Cardinal Canestri, said that the Church is like a river: what is important is to be inside the river. If you are at the center, or more to the right or more to the left, but inside the river, this is a licit variety. What is important is to be inside the river. So often we want the river to be restricted only to our side and we condemn others . . . this isn’t fraternity. All <must be> inside the river – all. This is learnt in the Seminary. And I advise formators: if you see a good, intelligent seminarian, who seems good, he is good but he is a gossiper [gossip] throw him out, because afterwards this will be a mortgage for presbyterial fraternity. If he doesn’t correct himself, cast him out – from the beginning. There is a saying, I don’t know how it’s said in Italian: “Breed crows and they will eat your eyes.” If you raise “crows” in the Seminary that “gossip,” destroying any presbyter, any fraternity in the presbytery, <cast them out>..

And then there are so many trials: the parish priests and the assistant parish priest, for example, sometimes are naturally in agreement; they are of the same temperament, but so often they are different, very different, because in the river one is on this side and the other is on the other: but all are inside the river. Make an effort to understand one another, to love one another, to talk to one another . . .What is important is to be inside the river. It’s what’s important and not gossip about the other, and seek unity. And we must take up the lights, the riches, the gifts, the charisms of each one. This is important. The Desert Fathers teach us so much a bout this: about fraternity, about forgiveness, about help. Once some monks went to Abba <Paphnuzius>: they were worried about a sin that one of their brothers had committed, and they went to <the Abba> to ask for help. However, before going, they had gossiped among themselves quite a lot. And, after listening to them, Abba Paphnuzius said: “Yes, I saw on the bank of the river  a man who was in fact in the mud up to his knees. And some brothers wanted to give him a hand, and they made him go down up to his neck.” There are some “helps” that seek to destroy, not to help: they are only travesties of help. This always happens with murmurs. Something that will help us a lot, when we find ourselves before the sins or awful things of our brothers, things that seek to break fraternity, is to ask oneself the question: “How many times have I been forgiven?” This helps.

Thank you, Father Pasquale, and thank you for your youth.

3 ) Mother Rosangela Sala’s Question, President of USMI Liguria

Thank you, Holy Father. I am Sister Rosangela Sala of the Institute of Sisters of the Immaculate and I represent the feminine part of Ligurian consecrated life. We know that you have lived a long experience of consecration lived in different situations and with different roles. What can you tell us so that we can live our life with increasing intensity in regard to the charism, the apostolate and in our Diocese, which is the Church?

Pope Francis: Thank you, Mother. I’ve known Mother Rosangela for years . . . She is a good woman, but she has a defect. Can I say it? She leads 140 <Sisters>! [He laughs, they laugh]. She likes to go in a hurry, but she is good. You said a word that I like very much, I like very much: the diocesan <dimension>. More than a word, it is a dimension that I would like to link with the previous questions. A dimension of our life as Church, because the diocesan <dimension> is that which saves us from abstraction, from nominalism, from a somewhat Gnostic faith or one that only “flies in the air.” The diocese is that portion of the People of God that has a face. In the diocese there is the face of the People of God. The diocese has made, makes and will make history. We are all inserted in the diocese. And this helps us so that our faith is not theoretical, but practical. And you, consecrated women and men, are a gift for the Church, because every charism, every one of the charisms is a gift for the Church, for the universal Church. However, it is always interesting to see how each one of the charisms, all the charisms are born in a concrete place and very connected to the life of that concrete diocese. Charism aren’t born in the air, but in a concrete place. Then the charism grows, grows, grows and has a very universal character. However, at the origins there is always a concreteness. It is good to remember how there is no charism without a concrete founding experience. And that usually it’s not linked to  a universal mission but to a diocese, to a concrete place. Then it becomes universal, but at the beginning, at the roots . . . We think of the Franciscans. If one says: “I am a Franciscan,” what is the place that comes to mind? Assisi! Immediately! “But we are universal!” Yes, you are everywhere, it’s true, but there is the concrete origin. And to live the charism intensely is to want to incarnate it in a concrete place.

The charism is incarnated: it is born in a concrete place and then grows and continues to be incarnated in concrete places. However, it is always necessary to see where it was born, how the charism was born, in what city, in what district, with what founder, with what Foundress, how it was formed . . . And this teaches us to love the people of concrete places. To love concrete people, to have concrete ideals: concreteness gives it the diocesan <dimension>. The diocesan <dimension> gives concreteness to the Church. And this doesn’t mean to kill the charism, no. This helps the charism to become more real, more visible, closer. And then, every now and then – every six years, normally – the consecrated meet in Chapter, from which several ”concretenesses” issue, and this makes the Institute grow, but always with the roots in the diocesan <dimension>: in the different dioceses, where this charism was born and where it has gone. This is concreteness. When the universality of a Religious Institute, which grows and goes on and on, forgets to insert itself in concrete places, in concrete dioceses, in the end this Religious Order forgets from where it was born, <forgets> the founding charism. It is universalized in the manner of the United Nations, for instance. “If we hold a universal meeting, all together . . . But it’s not that concreteness of the diocesan <dimension>, where the charism was born and where it then went or was inserted in those particular Churches. Flying Religious Institutes don’t exist! And if someone has this pretense, he will end  up badly. The roots must always be in the diocese. And here is the uneasy relation  between consecrated Religious and the Bishops.  Now work is being done on a new project to redo the Mutuae Relationes document, which is 40 years old, and it is time to look at it again. Because there are always conflicts, also conflicts of growth, good conflicts, and also some that aren’t so good. But this is important: a charism that has the pretension of not taking the diocesan <dimension> seriously and takes refuge only in ad intra aspects, leads it to a self-referential spirituality and not universal as the Church of Jesus Christ.

This word has really pleased me, Mother: the diocesan <dimension>, where the charism was born and where it is inserted in its growth. A second aspect that I would like to underscore is availability. Availability to go where there is more risk, where there is more need, where there is more necessity. Not to take care of themselves <but> to go to give the charism and to be inserted where there is more necessity. The word I often use is peripheries, but I say all peripheries, not only those of poverty – all. Also all those of thought, to be inserted in them, and these peripheries are the reflection of places where the primordial charism <exists>. And when I say availability, I also say revision of the works. It’s true, sometimes revisions are made because there isn’t personnel and it must be done. But even when there is personnel, when there are people, to ask oneself: is our charism necessary in this diocese, or in this place of the diocese? Or is it more necessary  elsewhere and will another charism be able to come in this place to help? To be available and to go beyond, always beyond: the “Deus semper maior.” Always go beyond, beyond . . . To be available and not to have fear of risks, with the prudence of government, but . . . This is important, these two things, I would say: the diocesan <dimension> and availability; the diocesan <dimension> as reference to the birth, and also availability to grow and to be inserted in the diocese. I’ll say this, taking up your word again, the diocesan <dimension>. Thank you.

4) Father Andrea Caruso’s Question, O.F.M. Cap.

Holiness, my name is Friar Andrea Caruso, priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins of Liguria. This is the question: how to live and address the general fall in vocations to the priestly life and to consecrated life?

Pope Francis: Thank you. It’s said of Franciscans who always meet : “When I’m not in Chapter, I’m in verse.” They are always in some meeting; they are gathered. So the fall [in vocations]. There’s a demographic problem: the demographic fall in Italy. We are under zero, and if there are no boys and girls, there won’t be vocations. It was easier at the time of numerous families to have vocations. There is a fall, which is also a consequence of the demographic fall. It’s not the only reason, but we must have this one present. It’s easier to live with a cat or a dog than with children. Because I am assured of programmed love, because they are not free, I raise them up to a certain point; there is a relationship; I feel accompanied with the cat, with the dog, and not with children. One of my assistants who has three [children] tells me so [he laughs]. Yes, it’s true, in every age we must see the things that happen as a passage of the Lord: today the Lord passes among us and asks us this question: “What is happening?” What is happening? The drop is true, but I ask myself another question: what is the Lord saying or asking us now? The vocational crisis is a crisis that touches the whole Church, all vocations: priestly, religious, lay, matrimonial . . .  Think of the vocation to marriage, which is so good. Young people don’t get married; they live together, they prefer that. It’s a transversal crisis, and we must think of things this way. It’s a crisis that touches all, also the matrimonial vocation. <It’s> a transversal crisis and, as such. It’s the time to ask oneself, to ask the Lord and to ask ourselves: what must we do? What must we change? It’s necessary to address problems, and to learn from problems is something obligatory. And we must learn also from problems. <We must> look for an answer that is not a reductive answer, which is not an answer “of conquest.” An awful thing that has happened in the Church here in Italy – I am speaking of the 90s more or less –: some Congregations, which did not have Houses in the Philippines, went <there> and brought girls here, they “spoiled” them, and the girls came. Good, good girls . . . Then the majority left. I remember a pastoral letter, in the 1994 Synod, of the Bishops of the Philippines who prohibited doing this, and Congregations that don’t have Houses in the Philippines can’t do this. First. Second: the initial formation must be done in the country [of origin], then one can go to another country, but the initial formation  <must be done> in one’s own country. And I remember, as if it were today – I believe it was the “Corriere della Sera,” the headline in large letters: “The Trafficking of Novices.” It was a scandal, also in some Latin American countries. I’m thinking of a Congregation . . . They took the bus and went to certain poor places and convinced the girls to come to Buenos Aires and become novices, and they came. And then things didn’t go well. And here, in Italy – at Rome – this is a fact of 15 years ago, I learnt it from some Congregations that went to former Communist countries of Central Europe in search of vocations, of girls, in poor countries … They came, but they didn’t have a vocation, however, they didn’t want to return. Some found work and others, poor things, ended up on the sidewalks.

The vocational endeavor is difficult, but it must be done. It’s a challenge. We must be creative in the vocational work. The other day I was in a meeting  — before your Chapter in the province of the Marches, they all came to me, almost all, to have a sort of pre-Chapter with the Pope. So many young people! “How is it that you have so many vocations?” “I don’t know, we try to live life as Saint Francis wished.” – fidelity to the foundational charism, And when there are Congregations that are faithful to the foundational charism, but with that love that makes the timeliness of that charism seen, its beauty, this attracts. And then witness. If we want consecrated men, consecrated women, priests  we must give witness that we are happy, that we are happy, and that we end our life happy with Jesus’ choice of us –<we must> witness of joy also in our way of living. There are consecrated men, consecrated women, priests, Christian Bishops, but they live like pagans. A young man or a young woman of today looks at them and says: “No, I don’t want that!”  And this pushes people away. Then pastoral and missionary conversion is important. One of the things that today’s young people seek a lot is ‘missionization’ – apostolic zeal; to see in our witness also great apostolic zeal, that one doesn’t live for oneself but for others, which gives life, it gives life. Once – I learnt it when I had just become Bishop, in ’92 – I learned that a Congregation  of Sisters of the place where I was , in the neighborhood, in the area of Buenos Aires where I was Auxiliary Bishop, the House of the Sisters was been redecorated. They had a very rich, vey rich College. They had money. And they were right: the Sisters’ House was in need of being redone a bit. They did it well, including with a private bathroom. It’s all right, I thought, if it’s an austere thing. Today modern comfort is important, there is no problem … However, in the end they had made a luxury palace for the Sisters. And also – I’m speaking of <the year> 1992, today it would be more understandable, I don’t know; it wouldn’t be good, but it wouldn’t scandalize so much – in every room of the Sisters there was a TV. What was the result? From two to four in the afternoon, no Sister could be found in the College: each one was in her room watching a soap opera — worldliness, spiritual worldliness. And people, young people ask for the witness of authenticity, of apostolic zeal, of harmony with the charism. And we must also realize that with this behavior we ourselves are the cause of certain vocational crises. We ourselves have been the cause.  A pastoral conversion, a missionary conversion is necessary. I invite you to take those steps of Evangelii Gaudium that speaks of this, on the necessary missionary conversion and this is witness that attracts vocations.

Then, the vocations that exist are given by God. however, if you – priest or consecrated or Sister – are always occupied, have no time to listen to young people who come, who don’t come . . . “Yes, yes, tomorrow . . .” Why? Young people are “annoying,” they always come with the same questions . . . If you don’t have time, go find another person who can listen. Listen to them. And then young people are always in movement: they must be put on a missionary path. Four days of vacation: I invite you, let’s go to carry out a small mission in that place, in that area, or let’s go whitewash that school of that area which is all dirty . . . And young people go immediately. And, while doing these things, the Lord speaks to them. Witness, this is the key; this is the key. What does a youth think when he sees a priest, a consecrated man or consecrated woman? The first thing he thinks, , if the Spirit: moves him is “I would like to be like her, like him.” The seed is there; it’s born of witness. “I would never want to be like him!” It’s counter-witness. Witness is given without words.

And I finish with an anecdote. In the Buenos Aires area, where I was Auxiliary Bishop, there are many hospitals, and in all of them there are Sisters. And in one, which was close to he Vicariate, there were three very elderly, sick German Sisters of a Congregation that didn’t have people to send. And, with good sense, the Mother General recalled them: it was a prudent decision, taken with prayer, speaking with the Bishop — something well done. And a priest said: “I know the Mother General of a Korean Institute of Seoul, of the Holy Family of Seoul. I can write.” He wrote.  “All right, all right.” In the end, after four months, three Korean Sisters arrived. They arrived on a Monday – let’s say – Tuesday, a they had to arrange their things a bit, and on Wednesday they went down to the Departments – Koreans, without a word of Spanish. After a few days, the sick were all happy: “But what good Sisters! But how good is what they say!” “But how good – I said – is what they say, if they don’t speak a word of Spanish?” “No, no, but their smile, they take your hand, they caress you . . .” The language of gestures! – but especially the language of the witness of love! See, even without words, you can attract people. Witness is decisive in vocations; it’s decisive.

Thank you for what you do! Thank you so much. I ask you to pray for me. I thank you for your consecrated life, for your presbyterial life. And go on, go on, the Lord is great and He will gives us children and grandchildren in our Congregations and in our Dioceses! Thank you.

And now I give you my blessing and go on with courage! And I would like to greet the four <persons> who had the courage to ask the questions.

[Blessing] [Original text: Italian]  [Working Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

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