Pope Francis says "...focus on the gift of God, on...his call, on the transforming power of his Word and of his Spirit." FULL TEXT on Consecrated Life



Sala Clementina - Saturday, 11 December 2021


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I welcome you, at the end of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life . I thank the Prefect, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, for his words of introduction. I greet the Secretary, Msgr. José Rodríguez Carballo, and all the members of the Dicastery, present and absent. So many Cardinals in the Dicastery, this almost seems like a conclave!

I thank you for all the work you carry out at the service of consecrated life in the universal Church. I would like to say: at the service of the Gospel, because everything we do is at the service of the Gospel, and you in particular serve that "gospel" which is consecrated life , so that it may be such, it may be the gospel for today's world. I want to thank you and I want to encourage you, because I know your task is not easy. This is why I want to express my closeness to all those who believe in the future of consecrated life . I am close to you.

I think back to the spirit that animated  Saint John Paul II when he convened the Synod of Bishops on this theme: on the one hand there was the awareness of a time of labor, of innovative experiences not always with positive results (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Postsin. Vita consecrata , 13); there was, and is more now, the reality of the decline in numbers in different parts of the world; but above all, hope prevailed and prevails, founded on the beauty of the gift which is consecrated life ( cf.ibid .). Here, this is decisive: to focus on the gift of God, on the gratuitousness of his call, on the transforming power of his Word and of his Spirit. With this attitude, I encourage you and those who, in the various institutes and particular Churches, help consecrated men and women, starting from a "deuteronomic" memory, to look to the future with confidence. Why do I say deuteronomic memory? Because it is very important to remember. That message from Deuteronomy: "Remember Israel, remember". That memory of history, of one's own history, of one's own institute. That memory of the roots. And this makes us grow. When we lose our memory, that memory of the wonders that God has done in the Church, in our institute, in my life - everyone can say -, we lose strength and we will not be able to give life. For this I say deuteronomic memory.

I think that your service, today more than ever, can be summed up in two words: discern and accompany . I know the multiplicity of situations you have to deal with every day. Often complex situations, which require to be studied in depth, in their history, in dialogue with the Superiors of the institutes and with the Pastors. It is the serious and patient work of discernment, which cannot be accomplished except within the horizon of faith and prayer. Discern and accompany. Especially accompany newly founded communities, which are even more exposed to the risk of self-referentiality.

And in this regard there is an essential criterion of discernment: the ability of a community, of an institute to "integrate itself into the life of the Holy People of God for the good of all" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium , 130). Is this institute capable of integrating itself into the life of the faithful Holy People of God or not? This criterion is decisive for discernment. Consecrated life is born in the Church, it grows and can bear evangelical fruits only in the Church, in the living communion of the faithful People of God. For this reason "the faithful have the right to be warned by Pastors on the authenticity of the charisms and on the reliability of those who present themselves as founders "(Mp Authenticum charismatis , 1 November 2020).

In discerning and accompanying there are some attentions to always keep alive. Attention to the founders who at times tend to be self-referential, to feel they are the only custodians or interpreters of the charism, as if they were above the Church. Attention to the pastoral care of vocations and to the formation offered to candidates. Attention to how the service of authority is exercised, with particular regard to the separation between the internal and external forums - an issue that worries me so much -, the length of mandates and the accumulation of powers. And attention to abuses of authority and power. On this last issue I had in hand a recently published book by Salvatore Cernuzio on the problem of abuses, but not of the blatant abuses, on everyday abuses that hurt the strength of the vocation.

Regarding discernment with a view to approving new institutes, new forms of consecrated life or new communities, I invite you to develop collaboration with diocesan bishops. And I urge the Pastors not to be frightened and to fully welcome your accompaniment. It is the responsibility of the Pastor to accompany and, at the same time, to accept this service. This collaboration, this synergy between the Dicastery and the Bishops also makes it possible to avoid - as the Council asks - the creation of institutions without sufficient motivation or adequate vigor (cf. Decr. Perfectae caritatis , 19), perhaps with good will, but something is missing. . Your service is precious in trying to provide Pastors and the People of God with valid criteria for discernment.

Mutual listening between the offices of the Holy See and the Pastors, as well as the Superiors General, is an essential aspect of the synodal process that we have begun. But in a broader and more fundamental sense, I would say that consecrated men and women are called to offer an important contribution in this process: a contribution for which they draw - or should draw - from familiarity with the practice of fraternity and sharing both in community life and in apostolic commitment.

At the beginning I spoke of "deuteronomic" memory, and it comes to mind - on the memory of the roots - what Malachi says: what is God's punishment? When God wants to annihilate a person, to annihilate a people, or - let's say - an institution, he makes it remain - says Malachi - "without roots and without buds". If we do not have this deuteronomic memory and we do not have the courage to take the juice from there to grow, we will not even have sprouts. A strong curse: to be rootless and without buds.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the daily work you carry out for discernment and accompaniment. The Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you. And please - as the Spaniards say - “ paso la gorra” [I ask for alms] and I ask you to pray for me because I need it. Have a good Advent journey and a Merry Christmas!

Source: Vatican.va - Translation from Italian with Screenshot