MESSAGE FROM HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE NATIONAL CONGRESS OF LAITY
[MADRID, FEBRUARY 14-16, 2020]
To his Emminence
Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez Pérez
President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference
I am addressing you, as well as my dear Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid, and all the bishops, priests, religious and, in particular, the lay faithful, on the occasion of the National Congress they celebrate with the theme: « People of God on the way out ».
To reach this celebration they have come a long way of preparation, and this is beautiful, walk together, make a “synod”, sharing ideas and experiences from the different realities in which they are present, to enrich themselves and grow the community in which one lives
It is significant that they begin this Congress on the day that the Church remembers the saints Cyril and Methodius, patrons of Europe. They promoted a great evangelization in this continent, carrying the message of the Gospel to those who did not know it, making it understandable and close to the people of their time, with new language and forms. With their ingenuity and testimony, they were able to bring the light and joy of the Gospel to a complex and hostile world. The fruit was to see how many believed and adhered to faith, forming a community; a portion of the People of God began to walk in that wide region of the continent, and continues to do so today under the protection of these two evangelizing brothers.
This teaches us - as the motto of the Congress affirms - that we are People of God, invited to live the faith, not individually or in isolation, but in the community, as people loved and loved by God. We belong to him, and this implies not only having been incorporated into Him through baptism, but living in coherence with that gift received. For this, it is essential to be aware that we are part of a Christian community. We are not one more group, nor an NGO, but the family of God summoned around the same Lord. Remembering this leads us to deepen our faith every day: a gift that is lived in the liturgical action, in the common prayer of the whole Church and that must be announced. It is the people called by God, who walks feeling the impulse of the Spirit, who renews him and makes him return to Him, again and again, to feel his own.
And this People of God on the way out lives in a concrete story, which nobody has chosen, but is given as a blank page to write. He is called to leave behind his comforts and take the step towards the other, trying to give a reason for hope (cf. 1 P 3,15), not with prefabricated answers, but embodied and contextualized to make the Truth understandable and affordable as Christians. It moves us and makes us happy.
For this, you need that inner freedom capable of letting yourself be touched by the reality of our time and having the courage to meet you. The missionary mandate is always current and returns to us with the force of always, to resonate the ever new voice of the Gospel in this world in which we live, particularly in this old Europe, in which the Good News is suffocated by so many voices of death and despair.
The living Word of God needs to be preached with passion and joy through Christian witness to be able to tear down even the highest walls that isolate and exclude. It is your time, of men and women engaged in the world of culture, politics, industry ... that with their way of life are able to bring the novelty and joy of the Gospel wherever they are. I encourage you to live your own vocation immersed in the world, listening, with God and with the Church, the beats of your contemporaries, of the people. And I ask you, please, to avoid at all costs the "temptations" of the laity within the Church, which may be: clericalism, which is a plague and encloses them in the sacristy, as well as competitiveness and ecclesial racing, the rigidity and negativity ..., which suffocate the specificity of their call to holiness in today's world.
Therefore, do not be afraid to walk the streets, to enter every corner of society, to reach the limits of the city, to touch the wounds of our people ... this is the Church of God, which is rolled up to leave to meet the other, without judging him, without condemning him, but holding out his hand, to hold him, to encourage him or, simply, to accompany him in his life. May the Lord's command always resonate with you: "Go and preach the Gospel" (cf. Mt 28,19).
I encourage you in your task and commitment, and I pray to the Lord that this Congress can bear abundant fruits.
And please, I ask you to pray for me.
May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin take care of you.
Rome, next to St. John Lateran, February 14, 2020.
Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Europe.
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va