SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE PLENARY of
the Dicastery for the LAITY, THE FAMILY AND LIFE
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you, who are taking part in this first Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. I thank Cardinal Farrell for his kind words to me.
In this meeting of ours I would like to reflect on a few points, without going into the specific problems you are dealing with, trying rather to indicate some basic attitudes that inspire your work for the coming years. I will use an image for each of these points that I hope will help you.
As a first point, your role as Members and Consultors. The image I propose to you is to feel with the heart of the Church. Here is the future of the laity: to feel with the heart of the Church.
All of you have been called to collaborate with the Holy See to help this new Dicastery, which began its activity a little over two years ago, on its way, collecting the legacy of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and of the Pontifical Council for the Family , both. All together, priests, consecrated persons and lay people, you are side by side to carry out a service to the universal Church, committing yourselves to promoting and supporting the laity, families and life; and therefore it is essential that each of you make the heart of the Church your own. Make the heart of the Church your own. This involves an effort to get out of yourself and enter a new perspective, perhaps unusual for some of you.
In the first place it is a matter of moving from a local perspective to a universal one: the Church does not identify with my diocese of origin, or with the ecclesial movement to which I belong, or with the theological school or spiritual tradition to which I formed myself . These small closures, we are sometimes used to this. The Church is Catholic, it is universal and it is much broader, it is of a greater soul, that is it is "magnanimous", compared to my individual point of view. "Feeling with the heart of the Church" therefore means feeling catholic, universal, looking at the whole of the Church and the world and not just a part.
Moreover, there is the effort to go beyond one's own personal competences, as a theologian, professor, doctor, lecturer, pastoral trainer and so on, to take on the perspective of the Church-mother. The Church is a mother. So, you too, as Members and Consultors, while using all the knowledge and experience you have accumulated over the years, are called to take one more step and ask yourself, before a pastoral project, a challenge, a problem: how does the mother church "see" this reality? How do you "feel" it? In doing so you will be of assistance to the Dicastery, because you will know how to give voice to the Church, having already purified and elevated in you the personal thinking and feeling until it becomes fully ecclesial.
I try to list some characteristics of this ecclesial feeling. The Church, as a true mother, wants above all the harmony between all her children and does not favoritism and preferences. Therefore, also for you, it is important to always propose positive models of collaboration between lay people, priests and consecrated persons, between pastors and the faithful, between diocesan and parish bodies, movements and lay associations, between young and old, avoiding sterile and encouraging oppositions and antagonisms always a fraternal collaboration in view of the common good of the one family which is the Church. The Church, like every mother, also wants her children to grow up becoming autonomous, creative and enterprising, and not that they remain childish. In the same way, all the lay faithful, children of the Church, should be helped to grow and become "adults", overcoming resistance and fear and coming out into the open, in a bold and courageous way, putting their talents at the service of new missions in society, in culture, in politics, facing the challenges that the contemporary world poses without fear and without complexes. The Church, then, as a true mother, knows how to preserve the family's history and living tradition; this means for you to know how to hold the past together - all the good that has been done by the two Pontifical Councils, Lay and Family - with the present, that is, the current challenges, and with the future. The Church lives today with memory and hope - past and future: memory and hope, the Church lives in this tension - always throwing the seeds of the Kingdom and without being beset by immediate successes.
A second point. The theme of your Assembly concerns the formation of the lay faithful aimed at strengthening their identity and their mission in the world. The image I would like to use here is to have a look like brothers.
You are not "social engineers" or "ecclesial", who plan strategies to be applied throughout the world to spread a certain religious ideology among the laity. You are called to think and act as "brothers in the faith", remembering that faith always comes from a personal encounter with the living God and draws nourishment from the sacraments of the Church. Any Christian formation must always rest on this fundamental experience of the encounter with God and on the sacramental life.
You also know, from "brothers in the faith", that formation cannot concentrate exclusively on doing: it is more necessary than ever in our days to teach children, young people, married couples to have a life of prayer, a daily newspaper and familiar conversation with God. In this regard, we should not be afraid to entrust the accompaniment of other lay people in the spiritual life to the laity themselves. Then I'll come back to this point.
Looking "as brothers" at the multitude of lay faithful throughout the world, you will understand better that your task is not primarily to create initiatives that aim to insert the laity into ecclesial structures and programs, but it is to make them aware of to be witnesses of Christ in private life and in society; I would almost say "visible signs" of the presence of Christ in every environment. At the base is Baptism. Therefore the Dicastery of which you are a part should, above all else, help the many disciples of Christ to live in daily life in conformity with the baptismal grace they have received. There are so many lay faithful in the world who, living their faith with humility and sincerity, become great lights for those who live next to them.
In this sense, to avoid the risk of having a too detached and disincarnate gaze on reality, I invite you to always think about the challenges and difficulties that you encounter when you try to live as Christians in your families, in your work, in the neighborhood in where you live. Starting from your experience and your difficulties, you will better understand the daily effort of the lay faithful throughout the world, whose difficulties are often increased by conditions of poverty and social instability, by religious persecution, by anti-Christian ideological propaganda.
Try also to identify yourself with those Christians who live different experiences from yours: those who do not belong to any particular ecclesial reality; those who live in the most remote regions of the earth and who have few opportunities for formation and human and spiritual growth; those who represent a small minority in their country and live in multi-religious contexts; those who nourish their faith exclusively through popular religiosity; those who are evangelized by the single life of prayer lived in the family. Widening our gaze to all the brothers in the faith, of every social category and every region of the world, will help you a great deal to think creatively and realistically of how the Dicastery can be of support to the Churches to accompany the baptized to live with joy, conviction and fidelity belonging to Christ, becoming missionary disciples, protagonists in the promotion of life, in the defense of right reason, justice, peace, freedom, in fostering healthy coexistence between peoples and cultures.
Feel with the heart of the mother Church and have a look of brothers. These are the two images that I leave you and that I hope will help you reflect on the path ahead. These are two images that make us turn our gaze to Mary, the one who perfectly embodies the Church-mother and who teaches all the disciples of her Son to live as brothers. That icon of the Madonna in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit: it is the Mother who makes us live as brothers.
And, before finishing, I would like to return to two points that were implicit here. First of all, the danger of clericalizing the laity. You are secular, you must work with the laity, not clericalize the laity. So many times it happened in the other diocese [Buenos Aires], a parish priest came and told me: “I have a wonderful lay person, he knows how to do everything, everything. Do we make him a deacon? ... ". I also see this phenomenon in deacons: they become permanent deacons and instead of being the custodians of the service in the diocese, they immediately look at the altar and end up being "lost priests", halfway priests. I advise bishops: "Remove the deacons from the altar", who go to the service. They are the custodians of the service, not first-class altar boys or second-class priests. This of clericalization is an important point.
Then, the second thing that came to mind when reading is this: your Dicastery, after a difficult struggle - the Prefect knows it - has the grace of having two Undersecretaries, of having included women right in the structure. And two are few! We need to move forward to include women in council positions, including government ones, without fear. Always keeping in mind a reality: the place of women in the Church is not only for functionality. Yes, of course, he can also be head of a department. In the appointment of the head of the Economy Department, the other day, there were two women on the final list; they could be head of the department. This is the functionality. But women's advice is very important. One of your Undersecretaries, in the meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences in February on the abuse, made another music heard, another way of seeing and thinking. And this has enriched. Places of governance, of advice, but that does not end only in functionality. And we haven't worked on this yet. The role of women in ecclesial organization, in the Church goes further, and we must work on this as well, because the woman is the image of the mother Church, because the Church is a woman; it is not "the" Church, it is "the" Church. The Church is a mother. The Church is able to carry on this reality and the woman has another function. He doesn't have to have functional work, but the work goes further. It is that Marian principle proper to women; a woman in the Church is the image of the Church as bride and as Our Lady.
I recommend these two things: do not clericalize the laity and open this new horizon to understand well what the woman in the Church is.
I ask Mary for help and protection. I thank you for the service you have accepted to carry out and I hope that your collaboration with the Holy See, in aid of the Pope's ministry, will be a source of personal growth for you and of great fruitfulness for the universal Church. I cordially bless you, trusting even in your prayers for me. Don't forget to do it. Thanks.