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Pope Francis to bishops: The saints spread the Gospel, not a ‘social program’

September 23, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2021 / 09:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis invited Europe’s bishops Thursday to not just worry about secularization and a growing lack of faith, but to do something about it by introducing people to the joy of an encounter with Jesus.

“So many people are induced to feel only material needs, and not a need for God,” the pope said at a Sept. 23 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Certainly, we are ‘preoccupied’ by this, but are we really ‘occupied’ with responding to it?”

“It is easy, but ultimately pointless, to judge those who do not believe or to list the reasons for secularization,” he underlined. “The word of God challenges us to look to ourselves. Do we feel concern and compassion for those who have not had the joy of encountering Jesus or who have lost that joy? Are we comfortable because deep down our lives go on as usual, or are we troubled by seeing so many of our brothers and sisters far from the joy of Jesus?”

Pope Francis’ addressed 39 bishops from Europe during a Mass for the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE). The Mass marked the opening of the CCEE’s plenary assembly, which is taking place in Rome Sept. 23-26.

In his homily, Francis reflected on a reading from the Book of the Prophet Haggai.

“Those words – ‘Reflect on your ways!’ – are challenging because today, in Europe, we Christians can be tempted to remain comfortably ensconced in our structures, our homes and our churches, in the security provided by our traditions, content with a certain degree of consensus, while all around us churches are emptying and Jesus is increasingly forgotten,” he said.

He urged them to think about how many people have lost their hunger and thirst for God, because “there is no one to awaken in them a hunger for faith and to satisfy that thirst in the human heart, that ‘innate and perpetual thirst’ of which Dante speaks (Par., II, 19) and which the

dictatorship of consumerism gently but insistently tries to suppress.”

Pope Francis also warned about seeing the faith as “a relic of the past,” which he said happens when people have not seen Jesus at work in their own lives.

“Often this is because we, by our lives, have not sufficiently shown him to them,” he told the bishops and others present.

“God makes himself seen in the faces and actions of men and women transformed by his presence,” he said. “If Christians, instead of radiating the contagious joy of the Gospel, keep speaking in an outworn intellectualistic and moralistic religious language, people will not be able to see the Good Shepherd.”

Francis explained that people “will not see the One whose incredible passion we preach: for it is a consuming passion, a passion for mankind. This divine, merciful and overpowering love is itself the perennial newness of the Gospel.”

“It demands of us, dear brothers, wise and bold decisions, made in the name of the mad love with which Christ has saved us.”

According to Pope Francis, “Jesus does not ask us to make arguments for God, but to show him, in the same way the saints did, not by words but by our lives.”

The saints, he said, “were not concerned about dark times, hardships and those divisions that are always present. They did not waste time criticizing or laying blame. They lived the Gospel, without worrying about relevance or politics.”

With the gentle strength of God’s love, the saints “built monasteries, reclaimed land, enlivened the spirit of individuals and countries,” the pope continued. “They did not have a ‘social program,’ in quotes, but the Gospel alone.”

“Let us help today’s Europe, faint with weariness – this is the sickness of Europe today – to rediscover the ever youthful face of Jesus and his Bride. How can we fail to devote ourselves completely to making all people see this unfading beauty?” he concluded.


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News Briefs

Pope Francis to theologians: See ‘contemporary challenges in light of the Wisdom of the Cross’

September 21, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis adores the crucifix during the Good Friday liturgy at St. Peter’s Basilica April 2, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2021 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged theologians gathering in Rome on Tuesday to promote “a renewed understanding of contemporary challenges in light of the Wisdom of the Cross.”

In a message to participants in an international theological congress, the pope said he hoped that the meeting would contribute to the evangelization of the 21st-century world.

He said: “It is my hope that by promoting fruitful theological, cultural, and pastoral interactions, this initiative will contribute to a renewed understanding of contemporary challenges in light of the Wisdom of the Cross, in order to foster evangelization faithful to God’s design and attentive to humanity.”

The pope’s message, dated July 1 but released Sept. 21, was addressed to Fr. Joachim Rego, C.P., superior general of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists).

The congress, dedicated to “The Wisdom of the Cross in a Pluralistic World” and taking place at the Pontifical Lateran University on Sept. 21-24, is part of a Jubilee year marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Passionist order.

“Contemplating the Crucified One, we see every human dimension embraced by God’s mercy. His kenotic [self-emptying] and compassionate love touches, through the Cross, the four cardinal points and reaches the extremes of our human condition, joining in a mysterious way the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with humanity, in a fraternal union that the death of Jesus has definitively made universal,” the pope said.

“The immense saving power unleashed by the weakness of the Cross reveals to theology the importance of an approach that knows how to combine the loftiness of reason with the humility of the heart.”

“Before the Crucified One, theology is also invited to address the most fragile and concrete conditions of men and women and to set aside polemical methods and agendas, joyfully sharing the labor of study, and confidently seeking the precious seeds that the Word scatters amidst the jagged and sometimes contradictory plurality of cultures.”

He continued: “The Cross of the Lord, a source of salvation for people of every place and every time, is therefore vibrant and effective also and above all at a crossroads, such as the contemporary one, characterized by rapid and complex changes.”

The pope sent a message to the Passionists in November 2020 as they prepared to launch the Jubilee year celebrating the foundation of the order by St. Paul of the Cross in Italy in 1720.

The Jubilee year, whose theme is “Renewing our mission: gratitude prophecy, and hope,” began on Nov. 22, 2020, and will end on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Do not tire of accentuating your commitment to the needs of humanity,” the pope said in his message to the order, dated Oct. 15.

“This missionary calling is directed above all towards the crucified of our age — the poor, the weak, the oppressed, and those discarded by many forms of injustice.”

Addressing participants in the four-day theological congress, the pope said that the gathering corresponded to the desire of St. Paul of the Cross “to ensure that the Paschal Mystery, the center of the Christian faith and the charism of the Passionist religious family, is proclaimed and disseminated in response to divine Charity, and that it addresses the expectations and hopes of the world.”


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