The Pope from Latin America encourages Europe to change. He proposes a vision of the missionary Church, in faithfulness to the Gospel.
In which ways has the first non-European Pope, from South America, impact Europe and the European Church in the first two years of his pontificate? The Pope has positively stimulated “Old Europe” to wake up from its lethargy. In his speech at the Council of Europe, delivered in Strasbourg past November 25, he almost posed a challenge: “To Europe we can put the question: “Where is your vigour? Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history? Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise? Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world? The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions”.
These are the questions we should all ask ourselves. But for Christians these questions are intertwined with the challenge of being more authentically the disciples of Jesus. In fact, Europe’s renewal requires the Church to return to be the yeast of hope. If the Church in Europe will be more faithful to herself, Europe will certainly wake up. Let us thus delve into the idea of the Church proposed by the Pope.
First of all, he proposes a Church shaped by the encounter with Jesus Christ who discovers her identity from this encounter in order not to become self-referential, that would prevent her from being what corresponds to her deep truth, namely, a community of this world always inspired by Jesus.
Pope Francis proposes a Church that from the encounter with Jesus is filled with a joy she wishes to share. And therefore, this is a Church that goes towards all those who are living inner sadness and emptiness, bringing them the divine embrace.
Thus Pope Bergoglio indicates an orating Church, that recognises the “primerear” of the grace of God, bearing witness to a simple Church, that speaks to everyone with simplicity, whose security resides in her fidelity to the Gospel and not in the structures she manages.
An “outgoing” Church, missionary in her proclamation and in her works, that shows the friendly face of Jesus Christ present today, as always. The Pope proposes a Church that extends to encompass the “existential peripheries”, that listens to the expectations of mankind, sharing the suffering and the great questions of the modern world, and that participates in the encounter with real people.
Pope Francis proposes a Church that sees the family as a place for communion and as an the recipient of urgent pastoral care: families that don’t constitute a problem, but rather a fundamental resource in the rebuilding of society and of every human person; a Church capable to grasping the signs of the Holy Spirit, that is not closed inside formulas or ancient forms, that is capable of highlighting the charismas whose fruits are evident in many new ecclesial movements. A Church that speaks to every person and to all mankind, capable of being with the rich and with the poor, with the stranger and with world leaders, because in everyone she discovers a heart longing for God, and because she follows the will of God that commands us to wander till the borders of the world.
A Church where everyone is invited to act with mercy, where nobody doubts that God wants to forgive every and each one of us, and therefore, a Church that feels called to propose to mankind the step of freedom though which everyone pleads for God’s forgiveness and wants to begin, with the grace of God, a new life.
The Pope outlines a Church committed in the promotion of peace, mindful of all those suffering the consequences of war, and with prayer, with diplomacy, with public or discreet words, calls to reason all those convinced they can solve problems with weapons.
A Church that is not indifferent to all the situations of economic injustice, solitude and corruption. A Church that embraces the cause of the poor, of the old, of refugees, of children killed before being born or whose childhood is marked by abandonment or abuse; the cause of young people who don’t see a future of hope and that of families going through moments of crisis or difficult situations. To all these people the Catholic Church seeks to bring comfort, tenderness and the truth of God.
Pope Francis proposes at the same time a Church that does not depart from the Cross, since she knows that Lent is followed by Easter; a Church that enthusiastically bears witness to resurrected Jesus before mankind. There are many challenges Christians are called to face and in many places they are triggering a movement of hearts and communities.
Fr.Duarte da Cunha
Secretary general-Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE)