Various sources including Vatican Radio carry reports that Pope Francis received the participants in a conference on his post-Synodal Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium on Friday last. Some 2,000 people gathered in the Paul VI audience hall to meet Pope Francis on the afternoon of the second day of a three-day conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation in order to explore strategies and avenues for the pastoral renewal of the Church in the missionary key of the Joy of the Gospel.
In his words to the group, the Pope reflected on the words of St Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus felt compassion for the crowds who were “tired and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd”. So many people today, he said, are on the margins of our society, feeling tired and dejected, awaiting an answer from the Church.
How can we share our experience of faith, the Pope asked? He said he is not offering any detailed analysis of the complex realities of today’s world, but rather urging the Church to read the signs of the times which can offer us hope and courage. Bishops, priests, deacons, catechists and all those working to pass on the faith have a particular responsibility to read these signs of the times, the Pope said, and to respond with wisdom and generosity.
The pope said the enormous amount of work and demands being made on pastoral workers “make us run the risk of becoming frightened and withdrawing in on ourselves out of fear and self-defense.”
“And out of that springs the temptation of self-sufficiency and clericalism, that codifying the faith into rules and instructions, which the scribes, Pharisees and doctors of the law did during the time of Jesus. We will have everything exact and everything just-so, but the faithful and those who are seeking will continue to be hungry and thirsty for God,” he explained.
If pastoral ministry uses the same approach the scribes and Pharisees took, “never, never will we be witnesses of being close” to people like Jesus was, he said.
The pope encouraged church members to go out into the larger community at all times of day and night to see who may be looking to be fellow “workers in the vineyard.” Do not overlook “the weakest and the most disadvantaged,” he said, but be generous with them, letting them be useful contributors to the church’s ministry.
Instead of being afraid and defensive, like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Pope said those involved in pastoral work must go out constantly in search of those on the margins who are looking for the comfort that Christ can bring. Rather than merely increasing pastoral initiatives, the Pope said it’s important to focus on the needs of these people, with patience and perseverance. We don’t have a magic wand to solve all the problems, the Pope concluded, but we do have faith in the Lord who accompanies all our efforts and who will never abandon us.
Those taking part in the conference came from all around the world, and represent every state of life in the Church: lay people with families and in the single life; bishops; priests; deacons; men and women religious – all involved in missionary work, and especially in service to the poor and marginalised.
The President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, told Vatican Radio that the participants bring a wealth of diversity in experience, all of which is focused on a single purpose: spreading the Good News of salvation as effectively as possible. “[In the conference] we have the possibility to share a common understanding,” he said, “and then to translate [that understanding] into the different cultural and ecclesial traditions of our Churches.”
The conference promoted by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation on The Pastoral Project of Evangelii gaudium opened Thursday, September 18th, and concluded on Saturday, September 20th.