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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Church must be a sign of closeness to God's mercy

Vatican City, 20 September 2014 (VIS) – The participants in the international meeting, “The pastoral project of Evangelii gaudium”, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of New Evangelisation” and chaired by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, were received in audience by Pope Francis in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall yesterday.

In his address, the Holy Father spoke of the urgency of the evangelising mission in our times, presenting as an example, first and foremost, the passage from the Gospel according to Matthew in which Jesus feels compassion towards the crowd that follows Him, tired and exhausted like a flock without a shepherd.

“How many people, in so many of the existential peripheries of our time, are tired and exhausted, and await the Church? They await us!” he exclaimed. “How can we reach them? … It is not the task of the Pope to offer a detailed and complete analysis of contemporary reality, but to invite all the Church to grasp the signs of the times that the Lord continually offers us. … These signs … must be reread in the light of the Gospel: this is the moment of solid commitment, the context in which we are called upon to work in order to enable the growth of God's Kingdom. How much poverty and solitude we see in today's world, unfortunately! How many people live in conditions of great suffering and ask the Church to be a sign of the Lord's goodness, solidarity and mercy. This is a task, in particular, for those who have the responsibility of pastoral ministry. … They are required to recognise and interpret these signs of the times in order to offer a wise and generous response”.

“Before so many pastoral needs, before the many demands of men and women, we run the risk of being afraid and of turning inwards in an attitude of fear and defence. Herein there lie the temptations of sufficiency and clericalism, of the codification of faith in rules and instructions, just as the scribes, pharisees and doctors of the law did in Jesus' time. Everything is clear and orderly, but the population of believers and seekers will continue to hunger and thirst for God. I have said many times that the Church seems like a military hospital to me: many injured people who need our closeness, who ask of us what they asked of Jesus: closeness, proximity. And if we assume the attitude of the scribes, the doctors of the law and the pharisees, we will never offer a testimony of closeness”.

In this regard, the Pope cited the parable in which Jesus speaks of the owner of a vineyard who, in need of workers, left his home at different times of the day to look for them. “He did not go out just once”, he emphasised. “All those who are responsible for pastoral care can find a good example in this parable. Go forth at all times of the day to find those who are in search of the Lord. Reach the weakest and the least fortunate to offer them support so they can be useful in the Lord's vineyard, even if it is only for an hour”.

“Another aspect: please, let us not follow the song of the sirens who call us to transform pastoral care into a convulsive series of initiatives, without grasping the essence of commitment to evangelisation. At times it appears as if they are more concerned with multiplying their activities rather than taking care of people and their encounter with God. A pastoral care that lacks this attention will gradually become sterile”.

Finally, the Pope advised those present to consider two important qualities: patience and perseverance. “The Word of God entered with 'patience' in the moment of the Incarnation and thus unto death on the Cross. Patience and perseverance. We do not have a 'magic wand' for everything, but we do have our trust in the Lord Who accompanies us and never abandons us. … Let us do good, but without expected to be recompensed. Let us sow and offer witness. Our witness is the beginning of an evangelisation that touches the heart and transforms is. Words without example are of no use! Our witness is that which brings and gives validity to our words”.

“Thank you for your commitment”, he concluded. “I bless you and, please, do not forget to pray for me, because I have to talk a lot and also give a little Christian witness!”.

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