Pope Francis says "May everyone discover the freedom of the Gospel, gradually entering into the relationship with God, with the trust..." FULL TEXT to Religious



(12-15 SEPTEMBER 2021)



St. Martin's Cathedral (Bratislava)
Monday, 13 September 2021



Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests, Religious, Religious and Seminarians,
Dear Catechists, Sisters and Brothers, Good morning!

I greet you with joy and thank Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský for the words he addressed to me. Thank you for the invitation to feel at home: I come as your brother and therefore I feel one of you. I am here to share your journey - this is what the bishop, the Pope must do -, your questions, the expectations and the hopes of this Church and this country. 
And speaking of the country, I just told the Madam President that Slovakia is a poem! 
Sharing was the style of the first Christian community: they were assiduous and in agreement, they walked together (cf. 
Acts 1 : 12-14). They argued as well, but they walked together.

It is the first thing we need: a Church that walks together, that walks the roads of life with the torch of the Gospel lit. The Church is not a fortress, it is not a potentate, a castle located high up that looks at the world with distance and sufficiency. Here in Bratislava the castle already exists and it is very beautiful! But the Church is the community that wishes to draw to Christ with the joy of the Gospel - not the castle! -, it is the yeast that ferments the Kingdom of love and peace inside the dough of the world. Please don't give in to the temptation of magnificence, of worldly grandeur! The Church must be humble like Jesus was, who emptied himself of everything, who made himself poor to enrich us (cf. 2 Cor 8 : 9): thus he came to dwell among us and to heal our wounded humanity.

Behold, a humble Church is beautiful which does not separate itself from the world and does not look at life with detachment, but lives within it . Living inside, let's not forget: sharing, walking together, welcoming people's questions and expectations. This helps us to come out of self-referentiality: the center of the Church… Who is the center of the Church? It is not the Church! And when the Church looks at herself, she ends up as the woman of the Gospel: bent over herself, looking at her navel ( cf.Lk13.10-13). The center of the Church is not itself. We get out of the excessive concern for ourselves, for our structures, for how society looks at us. And this will ultimately lead us to a "makeup theology"… How do we put on better makeup… Let's immerse ourselves instead in real life, the real life of people and ask ourselves: what are the spiritual needs and expectations of our people? What do you expect from the Church? It seems important to me to try to answer these questions and three words come to mind.

The first is freedom . Without freedom there is no true humanity, because the human being was created free and to be free. The dramatic periods in your country's history are a great lesson: when freedom was wounded, violated and killed, humanity was degraded and the storms of violence, coercion and deprivation of rights fell.

At the same time, however, freedom is not an automatic conquest, which remains such once and for all. No! Freedom is always a journey, sometimes tiring, to be continually renewed, to fight for it every day. It is not enough to be free on the outside or in the structures of society to really be free. Freedom calls in the first person to be responsible for one's choices, to discern, to carry out the processes of life. And this is tiring, this scares us. Sometimes it is more convenient not to let oneself be provoked by concrete situations and to go on repeating the past, without putting the heart into it, without the risk of choice: it is better to carry on life doing what others - perhaps the mass or public opinion or the things that they sell us the media- they decide for us. This is not good. And today many times we do the things that the media decidefor us. And freedom is lost. Let us recall the history of the people of Israel: he suffered under the tyranny of the pharaoh, he was a slave; then he is freed by the Lord, but to become truly free, not only freed from enemies, he must cross the desert, a tiring journey. And one would think: “It was almost almost better before, at least we had some onions to eat…”. A great temptation: better some onions than fatigue and the risk of freedom. This is one of the temptations. Yesterday, speaking to the ecumenical group, I remembered Dostoevsky with “The great inquisitor”. Christ secretly returns to earth and the inquisitor reproaches him for having given freedom to men. A little bread and a little something is enough; a little bread and something else is enough. Always this temptation, the temptation of onions. Better a little onions and bread than the effort and the risk of freedom. I leave it up to you to think about these things.

Sometimes even in the Church this idea can undermine us: it is better to have all the predefined things, the laws to be observed, security and uniformity, rather than being responsible Christians and adults, who think, question their conscience, allow themselves to be questioned. . It is the beginning of casuistry, all regulated… In the spiritual and ecclesial life there is the temptation to seek a false peace that leaves us calm, instead of the fire of the Gospel that disturbs us, that transforms us. The safe onions of Egypt are more comfortable than the unknowns of the desert. But a Church that leaves no room for the adventure of freedom, even in the spiritual life, risks becoming a rigid and closed place. Perhaps some are used to this;

Dear friends, do not be afraid to form people in a mature and free relationship with God. This relationship is important. Perhaps this will give us the impression of not being able to control everything, of losing strength and authority; but the Church of Christ does not want to dominate consciences and occupy spaces, it wants to be a "fountain" of hope in people's lives. It is a risk. It's a challenge. I say this above all to the Pastors: you exercise your ministry in a country where many things have changed rapidly and many democratic processes have been launched, but freedom is still fragile. It is especially so in the hearts and minds of people. For this I encourage you to make them grow free from a rigid religiosity. Get out of this, and let them grow free! Nobody feels crushed. May everyone discover the freedom of the Gospel, gradually entering into the relationship with God, with the trust of those who know that, before Him, they can carry their own history and their own wounds without fear, without pretense, without worrying about defending their own image. To be able to say: “I am a sinner”, but to say it sincerely, not to beat our breasts and then continue to believe we are righteous. Freedom. May the proclamation of the Gospel be liberating, never overwhelming. And may the Church be a sign of freedom and welcome!

I'm sure this will never be known where it came from. I tell you something that happened a while ago. The letter from a Bishop, speaking of a Nuncio. He said: “Well, we were 400 years under the Turks and we suffered. Then 50 under communism and we suffered. But the seven years with this Nuncio were worse than the other two things! ”. Sometimes I ask myself: how many people can say the same about the bishop he has or about the parish priest? How many people? No, without freedom, without paternity things do not go.

Second word - the first was freedom -: creativityYou are children of a great tradition. Your religious experience finds its source in the preaching and ministry of the luminous figures of Saints Cyril and Methodius. They teach us that evangelization is never a simple repetition of the past. The joy of the Gospel is always Christ, but the ways for this good news to make its way through time and history are different. The ways are all different. Cyril and Methodius traveled this part of the European continent together and, burning with passion for the proclamation of the Gospel, they came to invent a new alphabet for the translation of the Bible, liturgical texts and Christian doctrine. Thus it was that they became apostles of the inculturation of the faith among you. They were inventors of new languages ​​to transmit the Gospel, they were creative in translating the Christian message, they were so close to the history of the peoples they met that they spoke their language and assimilated their culture. Does Slovakia not need this today too? I wonder. Is this not perhaps the most urgent task of the Church among the peoples of Europe: to find new "alphabets" to announce the faith? We have a rich Christian tradition in the background, but for the lives of many people today it remains in the memory of a past that no longer speaks and that no longer guides the choices of existence. Faced with the loss of the sense of God and the joy of faith, it is not useful to complain, to entrench oneself in a defensive Catholicism, to judge and accuse the evil world, no, the creativity of the Gospel is needed. Let's be careful! The Gospel has not yet been closed, it is open! It is in force, it is in force, Go on. Let's remember what those men did who wanted to bring a paralytic before Jesus and could not get through the front door. They opened a passage on the roof and lowered it from above (cf.Mk 2: 1-5). They were creative! In the face of the difficulty - "But how do we do it? ... Ah, we do this" -, perhaps in front of a generation that does not believe in it, that has lost the sense of faith, or that has reduced faith to a habit or a more or less acceptable culture, let's try to open a hole and let's be creative! Freedom, creativity… How beautiful it is when we know how to find new ways, ways and languages ​​to proclaim the Gospel! And we can help with human creativity, each of us also has this possibility, but the great creative is the Holy Spirit! It is He who pushes us to be creative! If with our preaching and pastoral care we are no longer able to enter the ordinary way, we try to open up different spaces, we experience other ways.

And here I make a parenthesis. The preaching. Someone told me that in “ Evangelii gaudium”I have stopped too much on the homily, because it is one of the problems of this time. Yes, the homily is not a sacrament, as some Protestants claimed, but it is a sacramental! It is not a Lenten sermon, no, it is something else. It is in the heart of the Eucharist. And let us think of the faithful, who must hear homilies lasting 40 minutes, 50 minutes, on topics they do not understand, which do not affect them ... Please, priests and bishops, think well how to prepare the homily, how to do it, so that there is a contact with the people and take inspiration from the biblical text. Usually a homily should not go beyond ten minutes, because after eight minutes people lose their attention, as long as it is very interesting. But the time should be 10-15 minutes, no more. A homiletics professor I had said that a homily must have internal coherence: an idea, an image and an affection; that people leave with an idea, an image and something that has moved in their hearts. So simple is the proclamation of the Gospel! And so he preached, Jesus taking the birds, taking the fields, taking this… concrete things, but that people understood. Excuse me if I come back to this, but it worries me ...[applause] I allow myself a malice: the applause started by the nuns, who are victims of our homilies!

Cyril and Methodius opened this new creativity, they did it and they tell us this: the Gospel cannot grow if it is not rooted in the culture of a people, that is, in its symbols, in its questions, in its words, in its way of being. . The two brothers were hindered and persecuted a lot, you know. They were accused of heresy because they dared to translate the language of faith. Here is the ideology that arises from the temptation to standardize. Behind the desire for uniform there is an ideology. But evangelization is a process of inculturation: it is a fruitful seed of newness, it is the newness of the Spirit who renews everything. The farmer sows - says Jesus -, then goes home and sleeps. It does not get up to see if it grows, if it sprouts… It is God who gives growth. Do not control life too much in this sense: let life grow, as did Cyril and Methodius. It is up to us to sow well and to guard as fathers, yes. The farmer guards, but does not go there every day to see how it grows. If it does this, it kills the plant.

Freedom, creativity, and finally, dialogueA Church that forms to interior and responsible freedom, that knows how to be creative by immersing herself in history and culture, is also a Church that knows how to dialogue with the world, with those who confess Christ without being "one of us", with those who live the fatigue of a religious research, even with those who do not believe. It is not selective of a small group, no, it dialogues with everyone: with believers, with those who carry on holiness, with the lukewarm and with non-believers. Talk to everyone. It is a Church which, following the example of Cyril and Methodius, unites and holds together East and West, different traditions and sensibilities. A community which, by announcing the Gospel of love, makes communion, friendship and dialogue sprout among believers, between the different Christian confessions and between peoples.

Unity, communion and dialogue are always fragile, especially when behind a story of pain that has left scars. The memory of wounds can lead to resentment, mistrust, even contempt, encouraging us to build fences in front of those who are different from us. Wounds, however, can be passages, openings that, by imitating the wounds of the Lord, allow God's mercy to pass, his grace that changes life and transforms us into operators of peace and reconciliation. I know you have a proverb: "Whoever throws a stone at you, you give bread." This inspires us. This is very evangelical! It is the invitation of Jesus to break the vicious circle of violence and destructive, turning the other cheek to those who strike us, to overcome evil with good (cf. Rom12.21). I am struck by a detail in the history of Cardinal Korec. He was a Jesuit Cardinal, persecuted by the regime, imprisoned, forced to work hard until he fell ill. When he came to Rome for the Jubilee of 2000, he went to the catacombs and lit a candle for his persecutors, invoking them for mercy. This is the Gospel! This is the Gospel! It grows in life and in history through humble love, through patient love.

Dearest and most beloved, I thank God for being among you, and I sincerely thank you for what you do and for what you are, and for what you will do, inspired by this homily, which is also a seed that I am sowing ... Let's see if the plant! I wish you to continue your journey in the freedom of the Gospel, in the creativity of faith and in the dialogue that flows from the mercy of God, who has made us brothers and sisters, and calls us to be artisans of peace and harmony. I heartily bless you. And please pray for me. Thanks!