Pope Francis says "Thank you for your presence...committed to living and bearing witness to the Gospel in the ordinary realities of life, in your work, in many different contexts..." FULL TEXT on Laity



Synod Hall
Thursday, 16 September 2021


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I cordially greet His Eminence Cardinal Kevin Farrell and I thank him for his words to me. And thanks to all of you, for being present despite the inconvenience caused by the pandemic - and sometimes by the "bad mood" that perhaps this decree has sown in someone's heart! But let's move on together. I also greet and thank those who participate in the video link, many of whom have not been able to travel due to the limitations still in place in many countries. I don't know how the Secretary managed to get back from Brazil!  

  Then you'll have to explain it to me.

1. I wanted to be here today first of all to say thank you! Thank you for your presence as lay people, men and women, young and old, committed to living and bearing witness to the Gospel in the ordinary realities of life, in your work, in many different contexts - educational, social commitment, and so on, on the road. , in the railway terminals, all of you were there -: this is the vast field of your apostolate, it is your evangelization.

We must understand that evangelization is a mandate that comes from Baptism; Baptism which makes us priests together, in the priesthood of Christ: the priestly people. And we must not wait for the priest to come, the priest to evangelize, the missionary ... Yes, they do this very well, but whoever has Baptism has the task of evangelizing. You have awakened this with your movements, and this is very good. Thanks!

In recent months, you have seen with your own eyes and touched the suffering and anguish of so many men and women due to the pandemic, especially in the poorest countries, where many of you are present. One of you was telling me about this. So much poverty, misery… I think of us here in the Vatican who complain when the meal is not well cooked, when there are people who do not have to eat. I am grateful to you because you did not stop: you did not stop bringing your solidarity, your help, the evangelical witness even in the hardest months, when the infections were very high. Despite the restrictions due to the necessary preventive measures, you have not given up, on the contrary, I know that many of you have multiplied their commitment, adapting to the concrete situations that you had and are facing, with that creativity that comes from love,

This "without measure" is what comes in these critical moments. And this "without measure" we have also seen in many nuns, in many consecrated women, in many priests and in many bishops. I'm thinking of a bishop who ended up intubated to be with people all the time. Now he is slowly recovering. It is you and all of God's people who have taken sides in this, and you have been there. None of you said: "No, I cannot go, because my founder thinks in another way". So, no founder: here was the Gospel he called and everyone went. Thank you very much! You have witnessed "that (blessed) common belonging from which we cannot escape: belonging as brothers" ( Meditation in a time of pandemic ,March 27, 2020). Either we are brothers or we are enemies! "Ninth. I detach myself: either brothers or enemies ”. There is no middle ground.

2. As members of associations of the faithful, international ecclesial movements and other communities, you have a real ecclesial mission. With dedication, try to live and make fruitful those charisms that the Holy Spirit, through the founders, has given to all the members of your aggregative realities, for the benefit of the Church and of the many men and women to whom you dedicate yourself in the apostolate. I think especially of those who, finding themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies, experience abandonment and solitude in their flesh, and suffer from the many material needs and moral and spiritual poverty. It will do us all good to remember not only the poverties of others every day, but also, and above all, our own.

There is one thing about Mother Teresa that often comes to my mind. Yes, she was religious, but this happens to everyone if we are on the road. When you go to pray and you feel nothing. I call it that “spiritual atheism”, where everything is dark, everything seems to say: “I have failed, this is not the way, this is a beautiful illusion”. The temptation of atheism, when it comes in prayer. Poor Mother Teresa suffered so much because it is the devil's revenge for the fact that we go there, to the peripheries, where Jesus is, right where Jesus was born. We prefer a sophisticated Gospel, a distilled Gospel, but it is not Gospel, the Gospel is this. Thanks. It will do everyone good to think about these poverties.

You are also, despite the limitations and the sins of every day - thank God, that we are sinners and that God gives us the grace to recognize our sins and also the grace to ask or go to the confessor: this is a great grace, don't lose it! - even with these limitations, you are a clear sign of the vitality of the Church: you represent a missionary force and a presence of prophecy that gives us hope for the future. You too, together with the Pastors and all the other lay faithful, have the responsibility of building the future of the holy faithful people of God. But always remember that building the future does not mean leaving the today we live! On the contrary, the future must be prepared here and now, "in the kitchen", learning to listen and discern the present time with honesty and courage and with the availability to a constant encounter with the Lord, to a constant personal conversion. Otherwise you run the risk of living in a “parallel world”, distilled, far from the real challenges of society, culture and all those people who live next to you and who await your Christian witness. In fact, belonging to an association, a movement or a community, especially if they refer to a charism, should not lock us up in an "iron barrel", make us feel safe, as if there was no need for any response to the challenges. and changes. All of us Christians of culture and of all those people who live next to you and who await your Christian witness. In fact, belonging to an association, a movement or a community, especially if they refer to a charism, should not lock us up in an "iron barrel", make us feel safe, as if there was no need for any response to the challenges. and changes. All of us Christians of culture and of all those people who live next to you and who await your Christian witness. In fact, belonging to an association, a movement or a community, especially if they refer to a charism, should not lock us up in an "iron barrel", make us feel safe, as if there was no need for any response to the challenges. and changes. All of us Christians we are always on the way, always in conversion, always in discernment.

Many times we find the so-called "pastoral agents", whether they are bishops, priests, nuns, committed lay people [he says "compromises"]. I don't like that word: the layman is busy or not busy. The laity active in something. But we find some who confuse the path with a tourist trip or confuse the path with always turning on oneself, without being able to go on. The evangelical path is not a tourist trip. It is a challenge: each step is a challenge and each step is a call from God, each step is - as we say in our land - "putting the meat on the grill". Always keep going. We are always on the way, always in conversion, always in discernment to do God's will.

Thinking of being "the novelty" in the Church - it is a temptation that often happens to new congregations or new movements - and therefore not in need of change, can become a false security. Even the novelties are quick to age! For this reason, the charism to which we belong, we must deepen it ever better, always reflect together to embody it in the new situations we live. To do this, great docility, great humility are required of us, to recognize our limitations and accept to change outdated ways of doing and thinking, or methods of apostolate that are no longer effective, or forms of organization of internal life that are they are found to be inadequate or even harmful. For example, this is one of the services that the General Chapters always give us.

But now we land to the point, what you expected.

3. The Decree on  International Associations of the Faithful , promulgated on 11 June this year, is a step in this direction. But does this decree put us in prison? Does freedom close to us? No, this Decree pushes us to accept some changes and to prepare the future starting from the present. At the origin of this decree there is no theory about the Church or about lay associations that one wants to apply or impose. No, there is not. It is the reality of the last few decades that has shown us the need for the changes that the Decree asks of us.

And I tell you something about this experience of the last decades of the post-Council. In the Congregation for Religious are studying the religious congregations, the associations that were born in this period. He is curious, he is very curious. Many, many, with a novelty that is great, have ended up in very hard situations: they have ended up under an apostolic visit, they have ended up with foul sins, in police stations ... And they are doing a study. I don't know if this can be published, but you know better than me for the clerical chatter what these situations are. There are many and not only these great ones that we know and that are scandalous - the things they did to feel like a Church apart, seemed like the redeemers! - a but also small. In my country, for example, three of these have already been dissolved and all have ended up in the dirtiest things. They were the salvation, weren't they? They seemed… Always with that [red] thread of disciplinary rigidity. This is important. And this has brought me ... This reality of the last few decades has shown us a series of changes to help, changes that the Decree asks of us.

Today, therefore, starting precisely from this Decree, you will dwell on an important theme not only for each of you, but for the whole Church: “ The responsibility of governance in lay aggregations. An ecclesial service". To govern is to serve. The exercise of government within associations and movements is a topic that is particularly close to my heart, especially considering - what I said before - the cases of abuse of various kinds that have also occurred in these realities and which their root always in the abuse of power. This is the origin: the abuse of power. Not infrequently the Holy See, in recent years, has had to intervene, starting not easy processes of reorganization. And I think not only of these very bad situations, which make noise; but also to the diseases that come from the weakening of the foundational charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses the capacity of attraction.

4. The tasks of government entrusted to you in the lay aggregations to which you belong are nothing but a call to serve . But what does it mean for a Christian to serve? On some occasions I have been able to point out two obstacles that a Christian may encounter on his journey and which prevent him from becoming a true servant of God and of others (cf. Morning Meditation in Santa Marta , 8 November 2016).

5. The first is the " desire for power ": when this desire for power makes you change the nature of the government's service. How many times have we made others feel our "desire for power"? Jesus taught us that the one who commands must become like the one who serves (cf. Lk 22 : 24-26) and that "if anyone wants to be first, he must be the servant of all" ( Mk 9:35). That is, Jesus overturns the values ​​of worldliness, of the world.

Our desire for power is expressed in many ways in the life of the Church; for example, when we believe, by virtue of our role, that we have to make decisions on all aspects of the life of our association, of the diocese, of the parish, of the congregation. They delegate to other tasks and responsibilities for certain areas, but only theoretically! In practice, delegation to others is emptied of the desire to be everywhere. And this desire for power cancels all forms of subsidiarity. This attitude is ugly and ends up emptying the ecclesial body of strength. It is a bad way of "disciplining". And we have seen it. Many - and I think of the congregations I know best - superiors, superiors general who eternalize themselves in power and do a thousand, thousand things to be re-elected and re-elected, also by changing the constitutions. And behind it there is a desire for power. This doesn't help; this is the beginning of the end of an association, of a congregation.

Maybe someone thinks that this "desire" does not concern him, that this does not happen in his own association. We keep in mind that the Decree International associations of the faithful it is not addressed only to some of the realities present here, but it is for all, without exception. For all. There are no better or less good, perfect or not: all ecclesial realities are called to conversion, to understand and implement the spirit that animates the dispositions they give us in the Decree. I have two pictures on this. Two historical images. That nun who was at the entrance to the Chapter and said: "If you vote for me, I will do this ...". They buy the power. And then, a case that seems strange to me, like "the spirit of the founder descended on me". Sounds like a prophecy from Isaiah! “He gave it to me! I have to go on alone or just because the founder gave me his cloak, like Elijah to Elisha. And you, yes, you vote, but I am in charge ”. And this happens! I'm not talking about fantasies. This happens today in the Church.

The experience of closeness to your realities has taught that it is beneficial and necessary to provide for a rotation in government posts and a representativeness of all the members in your elections. Even in the context of consecrated life there are religious institutes which, by always keeping the same people in government positions, have not prepared the future; they have allowed abuses to infiltrate and are now going through great difficulties. I'm thinking, you won't know him but he has an institution where their leader was called Amabilia. The institute came to be called "odiobilia", because the members realized that the woman was a "Hitler" in the dress.

6. Then there is another obstacle to true Christian service, and this is very subtle: disloyaltyWe meet him when someone wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord (and behind other things, there is always money). It's a bit like double-crossing! In words we say we want to serve God and others, but in fact we serve our ego, and we bow to our desire to appear, to obtain recognition, appreciation ... Let's not forget that true service is free and unconditional, it does not know or calculations or claims. Also, true service routinely forgets about the things it has done to serve others. It happens, you all have the experience, when they thank you [and say], "For what?" - "For what she did ..." - "But what did I do?" ... And then it comes to memory. It's a service, period.

And we fall into the trap of disloyalty when we present ourselves to others as the only interpreters of the charism, the only heirs of our association or movement - that case I mentioned earlier -; or when, deeming ourselves indispensable, we do everything to cover life-long positions; or when we pretend to decide a priori who should be our successor. This happens? Yes, it happens. And more often than we think. No one is master of the gifts received for the good of the Church - we are administrators -, no one must suffocate them, but let them grow, with me or with what comes after me. Each one, wherever he is placed by the Lord, is called to make them grow, to make them bear fruit, confident in the fact that it is God who works everything in all (cf.1 Cor 12,6) and that our true good bears fruit in ecclesial communion.

7. Dear friends, in carrying out the role of government entrusted to us, we learn to be authentic servants of the Lord and of the brothers, we learn to say "we are useless servants" ( Lk 17:10). Let us keep in mind this expression of humility, of docility to the will of God which does so much good to the Church and recalls the right attitude to work in it: humble service, of which Jesus gave us the example, washing the feet of the disciples ( cf Jn 13 : 3-17; Angelus , 6 October 2019).

8. In the document of the Dicastery, reference is made to the founders. It seems very wise to me. Founder must not be changed, he continues, go on. Simplifying a little, I would say that it is necessary to distinguish, in ecclesial movements (and also in religious congregations), between those who are in the process of formation and those who have already acquired a certain organic and juridical stability. They are two different realities. The former, the institutes, also have a living founder or foundress.

Although all institutes - be they religious or lay movements - have the duty to verify, in assemblies or chapters, the state of the foundational charism and make the necessary changes in their own legislation (which will then be approved by the respective Dicastery); instead in the institutes in formation - and I say in formation in a broader sense: the institutes that have the founder alive, and for this reason the founder for life is spoken of in the Decree - which are in the foundational phase, this verification of the charism is more continuous, just saying. Therefore, the document speaks of a certain stability of the superiors during this phase. It is important to make this distinction in order to be able to move more freely in discernment.

We are living members of the Church and for this we need to trust in the Holy Spirit, who acts in the life of every association, of every member, acts in each of us. Hence the trust in the discernment of charisms entrusted to the authority of the Church. Be aware of the apostolic power and the prophetic gift that are given to you today in a renewed way.

Thanks for your listening. And one thing: when I read the draft of the Decree, which I then signed - the first draft -, I thought. “But this is too rigid! Missing life, missing… ". But dear, the language of Canon Law is like this! And here it is a thing of law, it is a thing of language. But we must, as I tried to do, see what this language means, the law. This is why I wanted to explain it well. And also to explain the temptations behind it, which we have seen and which do so much harm to the movements and also to religious and lay institutes.

Thank you for your listening, and thank you to the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life for organizing this meeting. I wish you all good work and a good journey, and a good reunion. Say everything that comes to you from the heart in this. Ask the things you want to ask, clarify the situations. This is a meeting to do this, to make Church, for us. And don't forget to pray for me, because I need it. It is not easy to be Pope, but God helps. God always helps.

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va