People take photos on tablets and phones as Pope Francis arrives to opens the annual convention of the Diocese of Rome in Paul VI hall at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Vatican City, 17 June
2014 (VIS) At 7 p.m. yesterday in the Paul VI Hall the Holy Father met
with the representatives of the diocese of Rome, gathered to
participate in the Diocesan Pastoral Congress on the theme “A people who
raise children. Community and family in the major stages of Christian
initiation”. During his address, Pope Francis spoke on the issue of the
“society of orphans”: of parents who do not spend enough time playing
with their children because of their long working hours, and because of
their fatigue when they arrive home that leads the young to be deprived
of time spent freely with their parents. He emphasised that nowadays we
need this sense of gratuity within the family, in parishes, in society
as a whole, and that the Lord is revealed to us in gratuity, or rather
as Grace: “But if we do not have a sense of gratuity within the family,
at school, in the parish, it will be very difficult to understand what
the grace of God is: that grace that cannot be bought or sold, that is a
gift from God, and is indeed God Himself”.
He also commented on other
social aspects that contribute to the “orphanhood” of the young: “a
technological society that multiplies to infinity the opportunities for
pleasure, distraction and curiosity, but is not able to lead man to true
joy”, and added that only by encountering Jesus can be encounter true
joy and understand that we do not lead our lives in vain, as a task has
been conferred to each one of us”.
The Holy Father went on to
describe the Church as a mother who knows how to raise her children.
“The great challenge faced by the Church is that of being a mother”, he
said, “not a well-organised NGO full of pastoral plans. … The Church
needs to rediscover her maternity. She must be a mother; maternity is
the grace that we must now ask of the Holy Spirit in order to go ahead
in our pastoral and missionary conversion. However, the Church grows not
by proselytism but by maternal attraction, through tenderness, through
the testimony of her many children”. The Pope remarked that the Mother
Church has aged somewhat, to the risk of becoming “Grandmother Church”,
and that she must therefore be rejuvenated, “but not by taking her to a
cosmetic surgeon, no! The Church becomes younger when she is able to
generate more sons; the more children she has, the younger she becomes”.
Pontiff added that this means recovering the memory of the Church. In a
world in which there exists little sense of history and fear of time, a
world in which the present reigns supreme, in which language is
increasingly abbreviated and everything becomes rapid, making us slaves
to our situation, we must recover the memory of God's patience. “God is
not hasty during our history of salvation, and has accompanied us
throughout history”. The Pope therefore urged the priests and clergy
present not to close the doors of their churches, but rather to welcome
all with an open heart, as a family, asking the Lord to make them able
to participate in their difficulties and in the problems that children
and the young frequently encounter in their lives.
to find Jesus' gaze in us, often without realising it; they seek a
serene and joyful gaze that enters the heart. But the whole parish must
transform into a welcoming place, not only the priests and catechists”.
The Pope encouraged those present to ask themselves whether their
parishes were truly welcoming, whether their celebrations were scheduled
to favour the participation of the young, if they spoke the language of
youth and if their communities kept their doors open.
concluding, the Pope acknowledged that the work carried out by priests
is not easy. “It is easier to be a bishop”, he affirmed, “because we can
always maintain a distance and hide ourselves behind the title of 'Your
excellency', and defend ourselves in this way. But being a priest, when
the parishioners knock on the door, when they talk to you about their
problems … it is not easy”. He commented that the Church in Italy is
strong because of her priests, and urged them not to forget the memory
of evangelisation and always to stay close to the faithful. “We want a
Church of faith, who believes that the Lord is able to make her a
mother, to give her many children; our Holy Mother Church”.