WITH THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE CONFERENCE OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME
Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
Thursday, 9 May 2019
Thank you for your intervention and your listening.
The first temptation that can come after having listened to so many difficulties, so many problems, so many things that are missing is: "No, no, we must rearrange the city, rearrange the diocese, put everything in order, put order". This would be looking at us, looking back at ourselves. Yes, things will be rearranged and we will have put in place the "museum", the ecclesiastical museum of the city, all in order ... This means taming things, taming young people, taming people's hearts, taming families; do calligraphy, everything perfect. But this would be the greatest sin of worldliness and of the anti-evangelical worldly spirit. It is not about "rearranging". We have heard [in previous interventions] the imbalances of the city, the imbalance of young people, the elderly, families ... The imbalance of relations with children ... Today we have been called to stand the imbalance. We cannot do something good, evangelical if we are afraid of imbalance. We must take the imbalance in our hands: this is what the Lord tells us, because the Gospel - I believe you will understand me - is an "unbalanced" doctrine. Take the Beatitudes: they deserve the Nobel Prize for imbalance! The Gospel is like this.
The Apostles became nervous when the sunset came and that crowd - only five thousand men - continued to listen to Jesus; and they looked at the clock and said: "This is too much, we must pray Vespers, Compline ... and then eat ...". And they sought the way to "rearrange" things: they approached the Lord and said: "Lord, dismiss them, for the place is deserted: let them go and buy themselves food", in the deserted plain. This is the illusion of the balance of "Church" people in quotation marks; and I believe - I said I don't remember where - that clericalism began there: "Let the people go, let them go, and we will eat what we have". Perhaps there is the beginning of clericalism, which is a beautiful "balance", to fix things.
I took note of the things I listened to and touched my heart ... And then, on this path of "fixing things" we will have a beautiful functionalized diocese. Clericalism and functionalism. I'm thinking - and I say this with charity, but I have to say it - to a diocese - there are several, but I think of one - which has everything functionalized: the department of this, the department of the other, and in each of the departments has four, five, six specialists who study things ... That diocese has more employees than the Vatican! And that diocese, today - I do not want to name it for charity - that diocese moves more and more away from Jesus Christ because it worships "harmony", harmony not of beauty, but of functionalist worldliness. And in these cases we have fallen into the dictatorship of functionalism. It is a new ideological colonization that tries to convince us that the Gospel is a wisdom, it is a doctrine, but it is not an announcement, it is not a kerygma. And many leave the kerygma, invent synods and counter-synods ... which in reality are not synods, are "rearrangements". Why? Because to be a synod - and this also applies to you [as a diocesan assembly] - we need the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit gives the table a kick, throws it and starts again. We ask the Lord for the grace not to fall into a functionalist diocese. But I believe that, according to what I've heard, things are well oriented. And let's move on.
Then, tonight, I would like to better understand the cry of the people of the diocese: it will help us to better understand what people are asking the Lord for. That cry is a cry that we often don't even hear or easily forget. And this happens because we stopped living with the heart. We live with ideas, with pastoral plans, with curiosity, with pre-established solutions; but it is necessary to live with the heart. I was struck by what Don Ben [director of Caritas] tried for that boy [who had seen him take a piece of bread from a dumpster]: he was ashamed of himself, he wasn't able to go and ask him: "What do you think what is your heart like, what are you looking for? If the Church does not take these steps, it will remain firm, because it does not know how to listen with the heart. The deaf Church to the cry of the people, deaf to listening to the city.
I would like to share some thoughts that I have here - that they prepared me and that I "re-stitched" a little -, reflections that illuminate the path for the coming year. We can start with a Gospel passage; then I will recall some passages from the speech I gave to the Italian Church in Florence [10 November 2015], which is precisely the style of our Church. "How nice that speech! Ah, the Pope spoke well, pointed out the way ", and by incense ... But today, if I asked," Tell me something about the speech in Florence "-" Eh, yes, I don't remember ... ". Disappeared. He entered the still of intellectual distillation and ended up without strength, as a memory. Let's go back to the speech in Florence which, with the Evangelii gaudium, is the plan for the Church in Italy and is the plan for this Church of Rome.
We can begin with a passage from the Gospel.
[Reading of Matthew 18,1-14]
Keep well in mind and heart that, when the Lord wants to convert his Church, that is, to make him closer to himself, more Christian, he always does so: he takes the smallest and puts him at the center, inviting everyone to become small and "humble himself "- literally says the Gospel text - to become little, as He, Jesus did. The reform of the Church begins with humility, and humility is born and grows with humiliations. In this way it neutralizes our claims to greatness. The Lord does not take a child because he is more innocent or because it is simpler, but because under the age of 12 children had no social relevance at that time. Only those who follow Jesus for this path of humility and become small can really contribute to the mission that the Lord entrusts to us. Whoever seeks his own glory will not know how to listen to others or listen to God, how can he collaborate in the mission? Perhaps one of you, I don't remember who, told me he didn't want to incense: but among us there are so many wrong "liturgists" who have not learned to incense well: instead of incensing the Lord, they incense themselves and live like this. Who looks for his own glory, how can he recognize and welcome Jesus in the little ones who cry to God? All his inner space is occupied by himself or by the group to which he belongs - people like us, so many times - for which he has neither eyes nor ears for others. So the first feeling to have in the heart, to know how to listen, is humility and good guarding from despising little ones, whoever they are, young people suffering from orphanhood or ended up in the drug tunnel, families tried by everyday life or broken up in relationships, sinners, poor, foreigners, people who have lost their faith, people who have never had faith, elderly, disabled, young people who seek bread in the garbage, as we have heard ... Woe to those who look down upon and despise the little ones. Only in one case can we look at a person from the top down: to help her stand up. The only case. In other cases it is not permissible. Woe to those who look down to despise the little ones, even when their lifestyles, ways of reasoning were very far from the Gospel; nothing justifies our contempt. Whoever is without humility and despises will never be a good evangelizer, because he will never see beyond appearances. He will think that the others are only enemies, of the "without God", and will lose the opportunity to listen to the cry they have inside, that cry that is often pain and dream of an "Elsewhere", in which the need for salvation is manifested. If pride and the presumed moral superiority do not dull our hearing, we will realize that under the cry of so many people there is nothing but a genuine groan of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that pushes once again not to be satisfied, to try to get back on the road; it is the Spirit that will save us from this diocesan "reorganization". Which among other things is a Leopardian style: wanting to change everything because nothing changes.
The second trait needed - the first is humility: to listen, you must lower yourself - the second trait needed to hear the cry is disinterest. It is expressed in the Gospel passage of the parable of the shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep. He has no personal interest to defend, this good shepherd: the only concern is that nobody gets lost. We have personal interests, who are we this evening? Everyone can think of us: what is my hidden, personal interest that I have in my ecclesial activity? Vanity? I don't know ... everyone has their own. Are we concerned about our parish structures ?, about the future of our institute ?, about the social consensus ?, about what people will say if we take care of the poor, migrants, Roma? Or are we attached to that little bit of power that we still exercise over the people of our community or our neighborhood? We have all seen parishes that have made serious choices, under the inspiration of the Spirit, and many faithful who went there have moved away because "ah, this parish priest is too demanding, even a little communist", and people it goes. And when there are no complaints to the bishop ... And if the bishop is not brave, if he is not a man who has humility, a disinterested man, he calls the priest and says: "Don't overdo it, you know, a little balance ..." . But the Holy Spirit does not understand the balance, he does not understand it. He understands [...]. Selflessness is the necessary condition for being able to be full of interest for God and for others, to be able to really listen to them. There is the "mirror sin". And we, priests, nuns, lay people with the vocation of working, fall many times into this mirror sin: it is called narcissism and self-referentiality, the sins of the mirror that suffocate us. The Lord listened to the cry of the men he met and was close to them, because he had nothing to defend and nothing to lose, he did not have "the mirror": he had a conscience in prayer, in contemplation with the Father and anointed by Holy Spirit. This is his secret, and for this he went on. Leave the ninety-nine safe and start looking for those who are lost. We, on the other hand, as I have said before, are often obsessed with the few sheep that have remained in the enclosure. And many stop being sheep shepherds to become "combers" of exquisite sheep. And they spend all their time combing them. So many? No. Ten ..., little thing ... It's bad. We never find the courage to look for the others, those that are lost, that go along paths that we have never beaten. Please convince us that everything deserves to be left and sacrificed for the sake of the mission. Leave pride, be humble, leave this well-being, this self-interest. Moses, faced with the mission, was afraid, made a thousand resistance and objections; he tried to convince God to turn to someone else; but in the end, he came down with God among his people and began to listen. May the Lord fill us with the heart of the boldness and freedom of those who are not bound by interests and want to put themselves with empathy and sympathy in the lives of others.
The last part of the heart, necessary to hear the cry and to evangelize, is to have experienced the Beatitudes. Today I was talking to a very friendly rabbi who had come from Buenos Aires and he said to me: "In the Law I find that our starting point for Judeo-Christian dialogue is the law of love: You will love your God with all strength and neighbor as yourself. And in the Gospel, in Christian books, what do you think is a text that can help us so much? " I immediately told him: "The Beatitudes". The Beatitudes are a Christian message, but also a human one. It is the message that makes you live, the message of novelty ... It has always helped me to think that even to the pagan or agnostic people, the Beatitudes arrive. Gandhi himself confessed at the time that it was his favorite text. The Beatitudes: means to have learned from the Lord and from life where there is true joy, that which the Lord gives us, and to know how to discern where to find it and make others find it, without making a mistake. Whoever misses the road or who stumbles, perhaps with the presumption of walking on the path of God, risks making others err and stumble. We see it in some Pelagian movements or in some esoteric, or Gnostic, movements that are among us today: everyone stumbles, everyone, is incapable of going towards a horizon, they go a little forward to get back on themselves; are the self-centered proposals. Instead, the Beatitudes are theocentric, they look at life, they carry you forward, they strip you but make you lighter to follow Jesus. And Jesus speaks of not scandalizing the little ones. Why? Because the scandal is a stumbling block. You did not understand the spirit of the Beatitudes. Let us think of the world of the doctors of the Law: it was a continuous stumbling block for the people. The people knew they had no authority: they were scandalized. And in this way we end up becoming blind guides: we stumble and we stumble who we expect to help. To frail people, wounded by life or sin, to the little ones who cry to God we can and must offer the life of the Beatitudes which we too have experienced, that is, the joy of the encounter with God's mercy, the beauty of a community life of family where you are welcomed for what you are, really human relationships full of meekness. I stop for a while on this. These days I'm a bit obsessed with meekness. It is a word that risks falling out of the dictionary, as the verb "to caress" has almost fallen ... The meekness, tenderness, tenderness of Jesus ... Meekness welcomes everyone as it is. The richness of the very poor means, without special effects ... Today, in the meeting with the Roma, I found Sister Geneviève, who has lived among them for 50 years, even with the circus riders, in a trailer. Simple: pray, smile, caress, do good with the Beatitudes. The very poor means of listening, of face-to-face dialogue, the enthusiasm of working together with courage for justice and peace, mutual help in the moment of hard work or persecution, the daily splendor of contemplating the face with a pure heart of God in the liturgy, in listening to the Word, in prayer, in the poor ... Does all this seem little to you? This is the road.
It is true that the Beatitudes given by God are not our "main course": we must still learn; we must try to offer our fellow citizens the main dish that will make them grow. And when they find it, behold, faith flourishes, takes root, is grafted onto the vineyard which is the Church from which it receives the sap of the life of the Spirit. Do we think we must offer something else to the world, if not the Gospel believed and lived? Please do not shock the little ones by offering the spectacle of a presumptuous community ... I invite you to visit the Apostolic Alms: there, Cardinal Krajewski, who is a little "devil", put a photograph that made a young man photographer of Rome, artist: there is the exit of a restaurant, in winter, a woman of a certain age comes out, almost old, with fur, hat, gloves, very elegant lady, just looking you feel the the smell of the French perfume, all perfect ..., and at the foot of the door, on the floor, another woman, dressed in rags, who holds out her hand; and that elegant lady looks the other way. That photograph is called indifference. Go see it. We do not offend the little ones. We do not fall into indifference. If we offer the spectacle of a presumptuous community - like this photograph -, interested, sad, that lives competition, conflict, exclusion, we deserve the words of Jesus: “I don't need you, you don't use me for anything. Indeed, since you risk doing a lot of damage - Jesus would say - it would be better if you disappeared, throwing yourself into the bottom of the sea ”. Not to be scandalized. Rome is a bit far from the sea, but we can say: "Vatte a butta 'ner Tevere".
In Florence I then asked all the participants of the Conference to take up the Evangelii gaudium again. This is the second starting point of post-conciliar evangelization. Why do I say "second starting point"? Because the first starting point is the largest document released after the Council: the Evangelii nuntiandi [of Paul VI, 8 December 1975]. The Evangelii gaudium is an update, an imitation of the Evangelii nuntiandi for today, but the strength is the first. Take the Evangelii gaudium in hand, return to the path of missionary transformation of the Christian communities that is proposed in the pages of the Exhortation. I ask you the same tonight, addressing in particular a part of the second chapter of the Evangelii gaudium, that of the challenges to evangelization, the challenges of urban culture: the numbers ranging from 61 to 75. I make two underscores, which, in view of the journey of next year, they also represent the two tasks I entrust you with.
1) Exercise a contemplative look at the lives of the people who live in the city. To watch. And to do this, in every parish we try to understand how people live, how they think, what the inhabitants of our neighborhood feel, adults and young people; let's try to collect life stories. Exemplary lives stories, meaningful of what most people experience. We can collect these life stories by friendly questioning the parents of children and young people, or by visiting the elderly, or by interviewing young people in school, in agreement with their teachers. I mentioned the elderly: please don't forget them. Now they are better cared for because, since there is no work and the elderly have a pension, the elderly are better cared for ... But let the old people talk: not to become old-fashioned, no, to have the smell of the roots and to be able to go on rooted. We, with this virtual technology, risk losing our roots, our roots, becoming uprooted, liquid - as a philosopher used to say - or, rather like saying to me, gaseous, without consistency, because we are not rooted and we have lost the root juice to grow, to flower, to bear fruit. Let's talk about the elderly: don't forget about this. A listening to people who are increasingly the cry of children. But above all have a contemplative look, to get closer with this look ... And get closer by touching reality. The touch of the five senses is the fullest, the most complete.
2) Second task: to exercise a contemplative gaze on the new cultures that are generated in the city. We know, the city of Rome is a throbbing organism: we become aware that there, where people live and meet, something new is always produced that goes beyond the individual stories of its inhabitants. In Evangelii gaudium I stressed that urban contexts are precisely the places where a new culture is produced: new stories, new symbols, new paradigms, new languages, new messages (see n. 73). We need to understand them; find them and understand them. And all this produces good and evil. Evil is often under the eyes of all: "half citizens, not citizens, urban leftovers" (ibid., 74), because there are people who do not have access to the same life chances as others and who are rejected; segregation, violence, corruption, crime, drug and human trafficking, child abuse and abandonment of the elderly. In this way unbearable tensions are generated. As you mentioned, there are wars between poor, discrimination, xenophobia and even racism in many neighborhoods of Rome. Today I met five hundred Roma at the Vatican and I heard painful things. Xenophobia. Be careful, because the world cultural phenomenon, let's say at least European, of populism grows sowing fear. But in the city there is also so much good, because there are positive places, fruitful places: there where the citizens meet and dialogue in a solidarity and constructive way, here we create «a connective tissue where people and groups share different ways of dreaming life, similar imaginaries, and new human sectors are formed, invisible cultural territories "(ibid.).
The Lord bless our listening to the city. And then, we meet at Pentecost. It will be for us the encounter with the face of the Lord in the burning bush. We will take off our sandals, veil our faces and tell God our "yes": We follow you as you descend among the people, to hear the cry of the poor.