ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN
THE MEETING PROMOTED BY THE NATIONAL CATECHISTIC OFFICE OF THE ITALIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you and thank Cardinal Bassetti for his kind words. He regained his strength, thank you! I greet the Secretary General, Mons. Russo, and all of you who support the commitment of the Italian Church in the area of catechesis. I am happy to share with you the memory of the 60th anniversary of the birth of the National Catechetical Office. Established even before the configuration of the Bishops' Conference, it was an indispensable instrument for catechetical renewal after the Second Vatican Council. This anniversary is a precious occasion to remember, give thanks for the gifts received and renew the spirit of the announcement. To this end, I would like to share three points which I hope will help you in the work of the coming years.
The first: catechesis and kerygma . Catechesis is the echo of the Word of God. In the transmission of faith, Scripture - as the Basic Document recalls - is « the Book; not an aid, even if it were the first "(CEI, The renewal of catechesis, no. 107). Catechesis is therefore the long wave of the Word of God to transmit the joy of the Gospel in life. Thanks to the narration of the catechesis, Sacred Scripture becomes the "environment" in which to feel part of the same history of salvation, meeting the first witnesses of the faith. Catechesis is to take by the hand and accompany in this story. It gives rise to a journey, in which each one finds his own rhythm, because the Christian life does not flatten or homologate, but values the uniqueness of every child of God. Catechesis is also a mystagogical path, which advances in constant dialogue with the liturgy, in which symbols shine which, without imposing themselves, speak to life and mark it with the imprint of grace.
The heart of the mystery is the kerygma , and the kerygma is a person: Jesus Christ. Catechesis is a privileged space for fostering a personal encounter with him. Therefore it must be interwoven with personal relationships. There is no true catechesis without the testimony of men and women in flesh and blood. Who among us does not remember at least one of his catechists? I remember it: I remember the nun who prepared me for my first communion and did me so much good. The first protagonists of catechesis are they, messengers of the Gospel, often lay people, who generously put themselves on the line to share the beauty of having encountered Jesus. «Who is the catechist? He is the one who guards and nourishes the memory of God; he guards it in himself - he is a "mindful" of the history of salvation - and knows how to awaken it in others. It is a Christian who puts this memory at the service of the announcement; not to be seen, not to talk about himself, but to talk about God, his love, his fidelity "( Homily for the day of catechists in the Year of Faith, 29 September 2013).
To do this, it is good to remember "some characteristics of the proclamation that today are necessary in every place: that it expresses God's saving love prior to moral and religious obligation - you are loved, you are loved, this is the first, this is the door - which does not impose the truth and which appeals to freedom - as Jesus did - which possesses some note of joy, stimulus, vitality, and a harmonious completeness which does not reduce preaching to a few doctrines at times more philosophical and evangelical. This demands from the evangelizer some dispositions that help to better welcome the announcement - and what are these dispositions that every catechist must have? -: closeness, openness to dialogue, patience, cordial welcome that does not condemn "(Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium , 165 ). Jesus had this. It is the entire geography of humanity that the kerygma , the infallible compass of faith, helps to explore.
And on this point - the catechist - I take up something that must also be said to parents, to grandparents: the faith must be transmitted "in dialect". A catechist who does not know how to explain in the "dialect" of young people, children, those who ... But with the dialect I am not referring to the linguistic one, of which Italy is so rich, no, to the dialect of proximity, to the dialect that can understand, in the dialect of intimacy. To me it touches so much that passage of the Maccabees, of the seven brothers ( 2 Mac7). Two or three times it is said that their mother supported them by speaking to them in dialect ["in the language of the fathers"]. It is important: true faith must be transmitted in dialect. Catechists must learn to transmit it in dialect, that is, the language that comes from the heart, which is born, which is precisely the most familiar, the closest to everyone. If there is no dialect, the faith is not transmitted totally and well.
The second point: catechesis and the future . Last year was the 50th anniversary of the document The renewal of catechesis , with which the Italian Episcopal Conference received the indications of the Council. In this regard, I make my own the words of Saint Paul VI , addressed to the first General Assembly of the CEI after Vatican II: “We must look to the Council with gratitude to God and with confidence for the future of the Church; it will be the great catechism of the new times "( June 23, 1966 ). And returning to the theme, on the occasion of the first International Catechetical Congress, he added: "It is a task that is incessantly reborn and incessantly renewed for catechesis to understand these problems that rise from the human heart, to lead them back to their hidden source: the gift of love that creates and saves" ( September 25, 1971 ). Therefore, the catechesis inspired by the Council is continually listening to the heart of man, always with an open ear, always attentive to renew itself.
This is the magisterium: the Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you stay with the Church and therefore follow the Council, and if you don't follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you want, you are not with the Church. At this point we must be demanding, strict. The Council must not be negotiated, to have more of these ... No, the Council is like that. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity with respect to the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils. It makes me think so much about a group of bishops who, after Vatican I, left, a group of lay people, groups, to continue the "true doctrine" that was not that of Vatican I: "We are the true Catholics" . Today they ordain women. The most severe attitude, to keep the faith without the magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin. Please,
Just as in the post-Council period the Italian Church was ready and capable in welcoming the signs and sensitivity of the times, so too today she is called to offer a renewed catechesis, which inspires every area of pastoral care: charity, liturgy, family, culture, social life, economy ... From the root of the Word of God, through the trunk of pastoral wisdom, fruitful approaches to the various aspects of life flourish. Catechesis is thus an extraordinary adventure: as the "vanguard of the Church" it has the task of reading the signs of the times and of accepting present and future challenges. We must not be afraid to speak the language of today's women and men. Of speaking the language outside the Church, yes, we must be afraid of this. We must not be afraid to speak the language of the people. We must not be afraid to listen to their questions, whatever they may be, the unresolved questions, to listen to the frailties, the uncertainties: we are not afraid of this. We must not be afraid of developing new tools: in the seventies theCatechism of the Italian Church was original and appreciated; even the present times require intelligence and courage to develop up-to-date tools, which transmit to the man of today the richness and joy of the kerygma , and the richness and joy of belonging to the Church.
Third point: catechesis and community. In this year marked by the isolation and the sense of loneliness caused by the pandemic, we have repeatedly reflected on the sense of belonging that is the basis of a community. The virus has dug into the living fabric of our territories, especially existential ones, fueling fears, suspicions, mistrust and uncertainty. It has put in check established practices and habits and thus provokes us to rethink our being a community. We have understood, in fact, that we cannot do it alone and that the only way to get out of crises better is to get out of them together - nobody saves himself alone, to get out of them together -, embracing the community in which we live with more conviction. Because the community is not an agglomeration of individuals, but the family in which to integrate, the place to take care of each other, the young of the elderly and the elderly of the young, we of today who will come tomorrow. Only by rediscovering the sense of community can each one find his own dignity in fullness.
Catechesis and proclamation can only place this community dimension at the center. This is no time for elite strategies. The big community: what is the big community? The holy faithful people of God. One cannot go on outside the holy faithful people of God, which - as the Council says - is infallible in credendo . Always with the holy people of God. Instead, seeking elitist affiliations distances you from the people of God, perhaps with sophisticated formulas, but you lose that belonging to the Church which is the holy faithful people of God.
This is the time to be artisans of open communities who know how to value everyone's talents. It is the time of missionary communities, free and disinterested, which do not seek relevance and profit, but walk the paths of the people of our time, bending over those on the sidelines. It is the time of community that the disappointed young people look in the eyes, that they welcome strangers and give hope to the disheartened. It is the time for communities to dialogue without fear with those who have different ideas. It is the time of community which, like the Good Samaritan, know how to come close to those who are wounded by life, to bind their wounds with compassion. Don't forget this word: compassion. How often, in the Gospel, it is said of Jesus: "And he had compassion", "he had compassion". As I said at the Ecclesial Conference in Florence, I want a Church "ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect. […] A happy Church with the face of a mother, which understands, accompanies, caresses ». What I then referred to Christian humanism is also valid for catechesis: it "radically affirms the dignity of every person as the Son of God, establishes a fundamental fraternity between every human being, teaches us to understand work, to inhabit creation as a common home, provides reasons for cheerfulness, humor, even in the midst of a life that is often very hard "(Speech at the V National Convention of the Italian Church , Florence, 10 November 2015).
I mentioned the Florence Convention. After five years, the Italian Church must return to the Florence Convention, and a process of national Synod, community by community, diocese by diocese, must begin: this process will also be a catechesis. In the Florence Convention there is precisely the intuition of the way to go in this Synod. Now, take it back: it's time. And start walking.
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for what you do. I invite you to continue to pray and to think creatively about a catechesis centered on the kerygma , which looks to the future of our communities, so that they may be more and more rooted in the Gospel, fraternal and inclusive communities. I bless you, I accompany you. And you, please, pray for me, I need it. Thank you!
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation