SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
AT THE DIOCESAN AUXILIARIES OF MILAN AND ALLE
DIOCESAN APOSTOLIC COLLABORATORS OF PADUA AND TREVISO
Saturday, December 14, 2019
I welcome you and thank you for coming, as I am grateful to the Bishops and priests who have accompanied you. I particularly thank the Archbishop of Milan, Mons. Mario Delpini, for the words with which he introduced our meeting.
It is important to emphasize the central aspect of your identity, which is significant as a form of presence of women in the Church. And this reflection must be made starting from your history, which began in Milan during the episcopate of San Giovanni Battista Montini.
Your story says that you were not born "at the table", much less for an ideological need, but you were born from life, from the experience of associated apostolate, especially in Catholic Action. The associated apostolate of which the conciliar decree on the action of the lay faithful speaks (nos. 18-20). You are born from the collaboration with the priests in the parish and diocesan pastoral care. This is very important.
When Jesus welcomed "some women" among his disciples, also in close collaboration with the Twelve, he did not do it for an ante litteram feminism, but because the Father made him meet these sisters, sometimes in need of being healed, just like the men (see Lk 8: 2). Among these, Mary of Magdala had a particular charisma of faith and love for the Lord, and he showed himself to her first on Easter morning and asked her to go and bring the announcement to the brothers: apostle of the apostles. But the other women also have a decisive presence in the stories of the Resurrection. This is why your name of "women of the resurrection", attributed to you by Archbishop Montini, is very fair and beautiful.
But let us return to the Council. Where in particular he speaks of Catholic Action, he says: "These lay people, whether they spontaneously offer themselves, or are invited to action and direct cooperation with the hierarchical apostolate, act under the superior direction of the hierarchy itself, which can sanction this cooperation also by means of an explicit "mandate" (Apostolicam actuositatem, 20). Here we see an originating and qualifying point: the experience of collaborating directly with the pastors in the service to the people, to the people of God, in the parishes, in the oratories, with the poor, in prisons ... In those who live this "work", to sometimes hard and tiring (see Rom 16: 6), the Holy Spirit sows special gifts of dedication, which can also become consecration in the Church.
And here it is important that the Bishop and the priests appointed by him make the discernment. This is what happened to you, in the different diocesan realities: Milan, Treviso, Padua and Vicenza. We note some constants between the different experiences, and the essential one is that the Bishop is attentive to a gift that is found in the community, a gift that corresponds to a pastoral need - but not only to a function, it is not a functionalism - , and then it makes a discernment. Thus the charism is examined, accepted and recognized, and receives its form in that diocesan community. Therefore, the element of close collaboration with the Bishop emerges as qualifying.
Of course there are other forms of cooperation of women in the Church, both secular and secular religious believers, but yours has this specificity.
I appreciated - and I am grateful to you - that in presenting your charism you refer to a passage from Evangelii gaudium, which reads: "Mission is a passion for Jesus but, at the same time, it is a passion for his people. [...] Thus we rediscover that he wants to use us to get ever closer to his beloved people. He takes us among the people and sends us to the people, so that our identity is not understood without this belonging "(n. 268). For you, this people has the concrete face of your diocese. In fact the names of all the Institutes represented here qualify you as "diocesan". It is a delimitation, of course, but one that has the sense of being rooted and not closed, of fidelity and not of particularism, of dedication and not exclusion.
This aspect of fidelity not to a generic people, but to this people, with its history, its riches and its poverty is an essential trait of the mission of Jesus Christ, sent by the Father to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 15.24). And his giving his life for everyone necessarily passes through giving it to those concrete people, to that community, to those friends, and to those enemies. This fidelity costs, has the hardness of the cross, but is fruitful, generative, according to God's designs.
Dear Sisters, I thank you for your testimony. Go ahead, with the joy of the resurrection and the passion for your people. I bless you and pray for you. And you, too, please pray for me. Thanks!