April 22, 2013

Pope Francis’s Challenge: Go Out, Be Bold

The words Pope Francis addressed in a recent letter to his brother bishops in Argentina could equally be applied to all of us in positions of ministry and leadership in the Church. They are challenging, direct, and hopeful, especially at a time when there seem to be so many reasons to be fearful.

Dear Brothers:

I am sending these lines of greeting and also to excuse myself for being unable to attend due to “commitments assumed recently” (sounds good?).  I am spiritually with you and ask the Lord to accompany you very much during these days.

I express to you a desire. I would like the Assembly’s works to have as a frame of reference the Document of Aparecida and “Go into the Deep.” The guidelines are there that we need for this moment of history. Above all I ask you to have the special concern to grow in the continental mission in all its aspects: programmatic mission and paradigmatic mission.

May the whole of ministry be in a missionary key. We must come out of ourselves to all the existential peripheries and grow in boldness.

A Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick in the vitiated atmosphere of her enclosure. It is true also that to a Church that goes out something can happen, as it can to any person who goes out to the street: to have an accident. Given this alternative, I wish to say to you frankly that I prefer a thousand times an injured Church than a sick Church. The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

I wish all of you this joy, which so many times is united to the Cross, but which saves us from resentment, sadness and clerical [solitude]. This joy helps us to be each day more fruitful, spending ourselves and unraveling ourselves in the service of the holy faithful people of God. This joy will grow increasingly to the degree that we take seriously the pastoral conversion that the Church asks of us. [Emphasis added]

Thank you for all that you do and for all that you are going to do. May the Lord free us from making up our episcopate with the tinsel of worldliness, of money and of “market clericalism.” The Virgin will show us the way of humility and that silent and courageous work that carries apostolic zeal forward.

I ask you, please, to pray for me, [so that I won’t be puffed up] and so that I will be able to hear what God wants and not what I want. I pray for you.

A brother’s embrace and a special greeting to the faithful people of God that you have in your care. I wish you a holy and happy Eastertide.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin look after you.



Vatican, March 25, 2013

[Translation by ZENIT]