Vatican City, 19 May 2015 (VIS) - “Our vocation is to listen when the Lord asks us: 'Console my people'. Indeed, we are asked to console, to help, to encourage, without discrimination, all our brothers who are oppressed by the weight of their crosses, without ever tiring of working to lift them up again with the strength that comes only from God”, said Pope Francis yesterday afternoon to the bishops of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as he inaugurated the 68th assembly, to be held in the Vatican to analyse the reception of the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel).
Proclaiming the Gospel today, a difficult moment in history, requires prelates to “go against the grain: or rather, to be joyful witnesses of the Risen Christ to transmit joy and hope to others”, said the Holy Father, who went on to illustrate the importance of the “ecclesial sensibility”, which means assuming the same sentiments as Christ, “sentiments of humility, compassion, concreteness and wisdom”.
A sensibility that also involves “not being timid … in denouncing and fighting against a widespread mentality of the public and private corruption that shamelessly impoverishes families, pensioners, honest workers and Christian communities, discarding the young, who are systematically deprived of any hope for their future, and above all marginalising the weak and the needy. It is an ecclesial sensibility that, as good pastors, makes us go forth towards the People of God to defend them from ideological colonisations that take away their identity and human dignity”.
This sensibility is also made tangible in pastoral decisions and in the elaboration of documents “where the abstract theoretical-doctrinal aspect must not prevail, as if our directions were intended not for our People or our country, but only for a few scholars or specialists – instead we must make the effort to translate them into concrete and comprehensible proposals”, emphasised Francis.
The strengthening of the essential role of the laity is another of the concrete applications of pastoral sensibility, since “laypeople with an authentic Christian formation should not need a bishop-guide … to assume their own responsibilities at all levels, political to social, economic to legislative. However, they do need a bishop-pastor”.
Finally, the ecclesial sensibility is revealed in a tangible way “in collegiality and in the communion between bishops and their priests; in the communion between bishops themselves; between dioceses which are materially and vocationally rich and those in difficulty; between the periphery and the centre; between episcopal conferences and the bishops, and the Successor of Peter”. He remarked, “in some parts of the world we see a widespread weakening of collegiality, both in pastoral planning and in the shared undertaking of economic and financial commitments. The habit of checking the reception of programmes and the implementation of projects is lacking. For example, conferences or events are organised which promote the usual voices, anaesthetising the Communities, approving choices, opinions and people, instead of allowing us to be transported towards the horizons where the Holy Spirit asks us to go”.
“Why do we let the religious institutes, monasteries and congregations age so much, almost to the point of no longer giving evangelical witness faithful to the founding charism? Why do we not try to regroup them before it is too late?”. This is a global problem that, as the Holy Father stated, indicates a lack of ecclesial sensibility.
“I will end here, after have presented to you a few examples of weakened ecclesial sensibility due to the need to continually face enormous global problems and the crisis that spares not even the Christian and ecclesial identity itself”, he concluded, asking the Lord to grant to all during the Jubilee Year of Mercy “the joy of rediscovering and making fruitful God's mercy, with which we are all called to console every man and every woman of our time”.