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‘The Decalogue’ for Nuncios (Pope Francis’ Full Address to Meeting of Papal Representatives)

‘Without a life of prayer, the Nuncio — and all of us – risks failing in all the requirements mentioned above’

The following is a ZENIT working full English translation of the discourse Pope Francis prepared and delivered today, June 13, 2019, to all the Papal Representatives, meeting in the Vatican from June 12 – 15,  2019:

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Dear Brethren,

I’m happy to meet with you again to see with you and examine with Pastors’ eyes the life of the Church, and to reflect on your delicate and important mission. I thank each one of you for your presence and for your service. This is our third meeting of this type, in which I treasure the reflections raised from meetings with you all, here in the Vatican, as well as in some Nunciatures, on the occasion of <my> recent trips. I think that in the future we will seek to invite also, with some regularity, the collaborators, so that these meetings also have a formative character.

I thought of sharing with you today some simple and elementary precepts, which you certainly know well, but to recall them will do good to all and will help you to live your mission better, with the same enthusiasm of the first mandate and with the same fervent disposition with which you began your service. It is a sort of “Decalogue” that, in reality is addressed, through you, also to your collaborators and, so, to all Bishops, priests and consecrated that you meet in every part of the world.

  • The Nuncio is a man of God.

To be a “man of God” means to follow God in all and for all; to obey His Commandments with joy; to live for the things of God and not for those of the world; to dedicate freely to Him all one’s own resources, accepting with a generous spirit the sufferings that arise as consequence of faith in Him. The man of God does not cheat or defraud his neighbour; he doesn’t let himself go to gossip and slander; he keeps his mind and heart pure, keeping his eyes and ears from the filth of the world. He doesn’t let himself be deceived by worldly values, but looks to the Word of God to judge what is wise and good. The man of God seeks seriously “to be holy and blameless before Him” (Cf. Ephesians 1:4). The man of God is able to walk humbly with his Lord, knowing that he must entrust himself to Him alone to be able to live in fullness and to persevere to the end, keeping his heart open to the disadvantaged and the outcasts of society and listening to persons’ problems without judging them. The man of God is he who practices justice, love, clemency, piety and mercy. The Nuncio who forgets he is a man of God ruins himself and others; goes off the track and also damages the Church, to which he has dedicated his life.

  • The nuncio is a man of the Church

The Nuncio, being a Pontifical Representative, doesn’t represent himself but the Church and, in particular, the Successor of Peter. Christ warns us about the temptation of the wicked servant: “If that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites” (Matthew 24:48-51).

The Nuncio ceases to be a “man of the Church” when he begins to treat badly his collaborators, the staff, the Sisters and the Nunciature’s community as a bad master and not as a Father and Pastor. It’s sad to see such Nuncios who afflict their collaborators with the same displeasure that they themselves received from other Nuncios when they were collaborators. Instead, Secretaries and Counsellors have been entrusted to the Nuncio’s experience, so that they can be formed and flower as diplomats and, if God wills, in future as Nuncios.

It’s awful to see a Nuncio who seeks luxury, “signed” clothes and objects amid people deprived of the necessary. It’s a counter-witness. The greatest honour for a man of the Church is that of being “servant of all.” To be a man of the Church also requires the humility to represent the face, the teachings and the positions of the Church, namely, to set aside his personal convictions. To be a man of the Church means to defend the Church courageously in face of forces of evil, which always seek to discredit her, defame her and slander her. To be a man of the Church requires being a friend of Bishops, of priests, of Religious and of the faithful, with human confidence and warmth, carrying out their own mission by their side and always having an ecclesial look, namely, that of a man who feels himself responsible for the salvation of others.

Let us always remember that the salus animarum is the supreme law of the Church and is the basis of all ecclesial action.[1] This identity of the Nuncio leads him also to distinguish himself from the other Ambassadors in the great feasts, Christmas and Easter: when those absent themselves to join their families, the Nuncio remains in the See to celebrate the feast with the People of God of the country because, being a man of the Church, this is his Family.

  • The Nuncio is a man of apostolic zeal

The Nuncio is herald of the Good News and, being an apostle of the Gospel, has the task to illuminate the world with the light of the Risen One, to take Christ to the ends of the earth.  He is a man on the way who sows the good seed of faith in the hearts of those he meets. And one who meets a Nuncio should feel in some way questioned. We recall the great figure of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe that, consumed by ardent zeal for the glory of God, wrote in one of his letters: “In our times we witness, not without sadness, the spread of “indifference,” an almost epidemic sickness that is spreading in various forms not only in the generality of the faithful, but also among the members of Religious Institutes. God is worthy of infinite glory. Our first and main concern must be that of giving Him praise in the measure of our weak strength, aware of being unable to glorify Him as He merits. The glory of God shines above all in the salvation of souls that Christ has redeemed with His Blood. From this derives <the fact> that the primary commitment of our apostolic mission will be that of procuring the salvation and the sanctification of the greatest number of souls.”[2]

We recall also the words of Saint Paul: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).” It’s dangerous to fall into timidity or the lukewarmness of political and diplomatic calculations or downright “political correctness,” renouncing the proclamation. Apostolic zeal is that strength that keeps us standing and protects us from the cancer of disillusion.

  • The Nuncio is a man of reconciliation

An important part of the work of every Nuncio is to be a man of mediation, of communion, of dialogue and of reconciliation. The Nuncio must seek to be always impartial and objective, so that all parties find in him a just arbiter who seeks sincerely to defend and protect only justice and peace, without ever letting himself be involved negatively.[3] Being a man of communication, “the activity of the Pontifical Representative brings first of all a precious service to the Bishops, to the Priests, to the Religious and to all Catholics of the place, who find in him support and protection, in as much as he represents a Superior Authority, which is to the advantage of all. His mission does not superimpose itself on the exercise of the Bishops’ powers, nor does he substitute or hinder him, but respects him and, rather, favours and sustains him with fraternal and discreet advice.”[4] If a Nuncio shut himself in the Nunciature and avoided meeting the people, he would betray his mission and instead of being a factor of communion and reconciliation he would be an obstacle and an impediment. You must never forget that you represent the face of the catholicity and universality of the Church to the local Churches spread throughout the world and to the Governments.

  • The Nuncio is a man of the Pope

In as much as Pontifical Representative, the Nuncio doesn’t represent himself but the Successor of Peter and acts in his account with the Church and Governments, namely, he concretizes, acts and symbolizes the Pope’s presence among the faithful and the populations. It’s good that in several countries the Nunciature is called the “Pope’s House.” Every person could certainly have reservations, likes and dislikes, but a good Nuncio can’t be a hypocrite because the Representative is an intermediary, or better, a bridge of connection between the Vicar of Christ and the people to whom he has been sent, in a specific zone, for which he has been appointed and sent by the Roman Pontiff himself. Therefore, your mission is very demanding because it requires availability and flexibility, humility, impeccable professionalism, capacity for communication and negotiation; it requires frequent movements in automobiles and long trips, that is, to live with tone’s bag always ready (in our first meeting I said to you: yours is a nomad’s life). Being an envoy of the Pope and of the Church, the Nuncio must be predisposed for human relationships, to have a natural inclination for inter-personal relationships, namely to be close to the faithful, to the priests, to the local Bishops, and also to the other diplomats and to the governments. The Representative’s service is also one of visiting the communities where the Pope hasn’t gone, assuring them of the closeness of Christ and of the Church. Saint Paul VI writes thus: ‘It is, in fact, evident that to the movement towards the center and the heart of the Church corresponds another motion, which from the center spreads to the peripheries and takes in a certain way to all and individual local Churches, to all and individual Pastors and the faithful the presence and witness of that treasure of truth and grace, of which Christ Lord and Redeemer has made us participants, recipients and dispensers. Through Our Representatives, who reside in the various Nations, we make ourselves participants in the life itself of our children and, almost by inserting ourselves in it, we come to know, in a faster and surer way, their needs and at the same time their aspirations.”[5]

Being a “Representative,” the Nuncio must continually update himself and study, in order to know well the thought and the instructions of the one he represents. He also has the duty to continually update and inform the Pope on the different situations and on the ecclesiastical and socio-political changes of the country to which he is sent. Therefore, it’s indispensable that he has a thorough knowledge of its customs and possibly of the language, keeping the door of the Nunciature and of his heart always open to all. It’s irreconcilable, therefore, to be a Pontifical Representative criticizing the Pope behind his back, to have blogs or to downright join groups hostile to him, to the Curia and to the Church of Rome.

  • The Nuncio is a man if initiative

It’s necessary to have and to develop the capacity and the agility to promote or adopt a conduct appropriate to the exigencies of the moment without ever falling into mental, spiritual and human rigidity, or in hypocritical and chameleonic flexibility. It’s not about being opportunists, but about being able to pass from the ideation to the actuation having the common good in mind and fidelity to the mandate. Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini says “without spiritual motivations and without an evangelical foundation, all initiatives collapse little by little, also on the cooperative, economic and organizational plane.”[6]

The man of initiative is a positively curious person, full of dynamism and enterprise; a creative person and gifted with courage, who doesn’t let himself be overcome by panic in unforeseeable situations but knows, and with serenity, intuition and imagination tries to overturn them and manage them positively.

The man of initiative is a teacher that knows how to teach others how to approach the reality, to try not to get carried away by the little and great surprises it has in store for him. He is a person that reassures, with his positivity, those going through life’s storms. Being first of all a Bishop. A Pastor that, although living among the events of the world, is called daily to give proof of being able and of wanting to “be in the world but not of the world” (Cf. John 17:14), the Nuncio must know intuitively how to reorganize complex information and find the right words to help persons who turn to him seeking advice, with the simplicity of doves and astuteness of serpents (Cf. Matthew 16:16). It must be specified that such capacities are acquired by following Jesus, on the model of the Apostles and of the first disciples, who received the call with particular attention and adherence to the conduct of Jesus Christ.

7-The Nuncio is a man of obedience

The virtue of obedience is indispensable for freedom, because we can only really obey in freedom and, only by obeying the Gospel does one enter the fullness of freedom.[7] The call of the Christian and, in this context, of the Nuncio to obedience remains the call to follow the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ life, marked by openness and obedience to God, whom He calls Father.[8] Here we can understand and live the great commandment of liberating obedience: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Obedience to God is not separated from obedience to the Church and to Superiors. Here Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe helps again, who in that same letter writes: “Obedience, and it alone, is that which manifests to us with certainty the Divine Will. It’s true that the Superior can be mistaken, but one who obeys doesn’t make a mistake. [. . .] Through the way of obedience, we surmount the limits of our littleness and conform ourselves to the Divine Will which guides us to act correctly with His infinite wisdom and prudence. Adhering to this Divine Will, which no creature can resist, we become stronger than all. This is the path of wisdom and of prudence, the only way in which we can render the greatest glory to God. [. . .] Therefore, brothers, let us love with all our strength the heavenly Father full of love for us; and may the proof of our perfect charity be obedience, to exercise especially when we are asked to sacrifice our will. In fact, we don’t know another more sublime book than Jesus Christ crucified, to progress in the love of God.”[9]

Saint Augustine gives obedience so much importance, not less than that of love, of humility, of wisdom, which are fundamental, to the point that there cannot be true love, sincere humility, genuine wisdom if not in the ambit of obedience.[10] A Nuncio who doesn’t live the virtue of obedience — even when it is difficult and contrary to his own personal view — is like a traveller who loses the compass, thus risking to fail in his objective.  Let us always remember the saying” Medice, cura te ipsum.” It’s counter-witness to call others to obedience and to disobey.

  • The nuncio is a man of prayer

It seems important to me here to remind you once again of the unsurpassable words with which Saint Giovanni Battista Montini, as Substitute of the Secretariat of State, described the figure of the Pontifical Representative: “It is that of one who truly has the awareness of bringing Christ with him” (April 25, 1951), as the precious good to communicate, to proclaim, to represent. The goods, the prospects of this world end by disappointing, drive one to never be content; the Lord is the good that doesn’t disappoint, the only one who doesn’t disappoint. And this calls for detachment from oneself, which can only be reached with a constant relationship with the Lord and the unification of life around Christ. And this is called familiarity with Jesus. Familiarity with Jesus Christ must be the daily food of the Pontifical Representative, because it is food that is born of the memory of the first encounter with Him and because it is also the daily expression of fidelity to his call; familiarity with Jesus Christ in prayer, in the Eucharistic Celebration — never giving up the service of charity.[11] We remember the Apostles and Peter who says: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-6). The first task of every Bishop is, therefore, that of dedicating himself to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Without a life of prayer, the Nuncio — and all of us – risks failing in all the requirements mentioned above. Without prayer we become simple functionaries, always discontented and frustrated. The life of prayer is that light which illumines the rest and all the work of the Nuncio and his mission.

  • The Nuncio is a man of industrious charity

It’s necessary to confirm here that “prayer, the path of discipleship and conversion, find in charity that makes itself sharing the verification of their evangelical authenticity. And from this way of living joy and serenity of spirit derive, as one touches with one’s hand the flesh of Christ. If we really want to encounter Christ, it’s necessary that we touch Him in the wounded body of the poor, as confirmation of that sacramental communion received in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the Sacred Liturgy, lets itself be found again by shared charity in the faces and persons of the weakest brothers and sisters,”[12] because “faith is rendered industrious through charity” (Galatians 5:6).

The Nuncio, having the task of interpreting “the solicitude of the Roman Pontiff for the good of the country in which he exercises his mission, in particular must interest himself with zeal in the problems of peace, of progress and of collaboration of peoples, in view of the spiritual, moral and material good of the whole human family.”[13] The Nuncio’s work must never be limited to carrying out practices that, although being important, will never be able to  render his mission fecund and fruitful; therefore, the Nuncio must spend himself in charitable works, especially towards to the poor and the marginalized. Only thus will he be able to realize fully his mission and his being Father and Pastor.

Charity is also gratuitousness, and see why I would like to talk to you here of a permanent danger, namely, the danger of gratuities. The Bible describes as iniquitous the man who “accepts a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice” (Proverbs 17:23-24) and the Psalm also asks: “Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent?” And answers: he who, “does not take a bribe against the innocent” (15:1.5). Industrious charity should lead us to be prudent in accepting gifts that are offered to obfuscate our objectivity and, in some cases, unfortunately, to buy our freedom. No gift of whatever value must ever render us slaves! Refuse very costly and often useless gifts or give them to charity, and remember that to receive a costly gift never justifies its use.

  • The Nuncio is a man of humility

I would like to end this Decalogue with the virtue of humility, quoting the “Litany of Humility” of the Servant of God, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State and collaborator of Saint Pius X, an ex colleague of yours:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me!

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honoured, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it! [14]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “In relation to Bishops, to whom is entrusted, by divine mandate, the care of souls in the individual dioceses, the Pontifical Representative has the duty to help, counsel and give his prompt and generous work, with a spirit of fraternal collaboration, always respecting the exercise of jurisdiction proper of Pastors” (Saint Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum: AAS 61 [1969], 476).

[2] Cf. Writings of Maximilian M. Kolbe, Vol. I, Florence, 1975, 44-46; 113-114.

[3] The Nuncio also has “the duty to protect in agreed action with the Bishops, with the Civil Authorities of the territory in which he exercises his office, the mission of the Church and of the Holy See. [. . .] In his quality of envoy of the Supreme Shepherd of souls, the Pontifical Representative will promote [. . .] opportune contacts between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities, and will foster cordial relations with non-Christian religions” (Saint Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclessiarum: AAS 61 [1969], 476).

[4] Ibiden.

[5] Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum: AAS 61 (1969), 476.

[6] We Cannot Keep Silent. Words and Beauty to Overcome the Mafia, Piemme, 2011, 136.

[7] Cf. Enzo Bianchi, The Words of Spirituality, Rizzoli, 1999, 149-152.

[8] Cf. F.J. Moloney, Disciples and Prophets, 186.

[9] Writings of Maximilian M. Kolbe, Vol. I, Florence, 1975, 44-46; 113-114.

[10] Cf. Patrology, III, Marietti, 2000, 432-434; B. Borghini, Obedience According to Saint Augustine, in: Vita crist..” 23 (1954(, 460-478.

[11] Cf. Address to the Pontifical Representatives, June 21, 2013.

 

[12] Message for the World Day of the Poor, November 19, 2017.

[13] Saint Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesirum: AAS 61 (1969), 476.

[14] https://www.corrispondenzaromana.it/lynulta-insegnata-dal-cardinal-merry-del-val/

 

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s working translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

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