Pope Francis Asks "What would the world be if it were not for religious?" and says not to be Discouraged by Lack of Vocations and Aging - FULL TEXT to Religious

Clementina room
Monday, November 7, 2022
Dear brothers!
Dear Cardinal Aquilino Bocos Merino,
Dear Bishops and priests, good morning and welcome!
I thank the Father Principal for his kind words, thank you!
You are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Claretianum Institute of Theology of Religious Life. In this half century, the services you have rendered according to the spirit and mission of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, who worked so hard to support and promote consecrated life in its various forms, are many and precious. Your publications, your works have helped me a lot in my life as a formator of young seminarians.
You have carried forward in the Church the desire to be close to the communities of consecrated life and to help them. The contribution of the Claretian Missionaries to religious families, through spiritual accompaniment, doctrinal enlightenment and above all legal advice is known throughout the world. Proof of this are your publications and magazines, some of which are more than a hundred years old. In what is now called the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Cardinals Arcadio María Larraona and Arturo Tabera, as well as Father Jesús Torres - I remember him so much, he was good, always hidden ... - left their mark , while other missionaries have been and are valid collaborators in this and other Dicasteries.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the founding of the Claretianum Institute and that of Madrid and, following in their footsteps, the Higher Centers of Manila, Bangalore, Bogotá and Abuja had a very positive outcome. In these decades all have rendered, and continue to render, a fruitful service to the understanding and development of the theology of consecrated life. Their programs articulate the origins and the charismatic, Christological, historical and canonical dynamics. Their attention to the contributions of the human sciences has helped to offer a more human face to consecrated life. I am not exaggerating but you, with your work, have humanized consecrated life so much. We thank God for the many expressions of the activity of your Institutes, which have helped so many people and communities: study days, weeks and congresses, the accompaniment provided to the chapters and governments of all kinds of institutes, societies of apostolic life. and new forms of consecrated life. Thank you for the life and service of the six Institutes, but also for the initiatives that you have promoted and continue to promote in many other places: Mexico, Poland, United Kingdom, Indonesia ... Your presence is very visible in the local Churches and in the conferences of the Major Superiors of the whole world. And I also remember my first experience as a bishop in the 1994 Synod: how much you helped in that Synod on consecrated life! Your influence was positive, always open, always removing fears that had no basis.
I thank you in a special way for the care given to spreading the Magisterium of the Church, both of the Popes and of the Dicasteries most closely linked to consecrated life.
In this time when the Church wants to live her synodal vocation more intensely, I like to note that your service to consecrated life has been marked by the desire to implement what Saint Anthony Mary Claret valued so much. In fact, not only have you maintained communion with the Apostolic See, with the Pastors of the particular Churches and with the Federations of Major Superiors, but you have also worked to share your service of animation and renewal with other vocations and ecclesial ministries: religious with other charisms, secular priests and lay people.
 I encourage you to continue to serve consecrated life with a Claretian spirit, that is, with your being missionaries. Consecrated life cannot be lacking in the Church and in the world. Father Claret also repeated those words of Saint Teresa that Saint John Paul II recalls in the Exhortation Vita consecrata: "What would the world be if it were not for religious?" (No. 105). Your help to consecrated men and women, before being intellectual, is a testimony, a confession that Jesus is Lord. The first service of your Theological Institutes must be that of offering themselves as houses of welcome, praise and thanksgiving; as places where charisms are shared and the desire to live the spirit of the Beatitudes and the eschatological discourse grows. In them, communion must be manifested and an option for the poor and solidarity, fraternity without borders and mission in constant outing must be encouraged. With this disposition, the gift of consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world will be more appreciated. 
Today consecrated life cannot allow itself to be discouraged by the lack of vocations or by aging. This would be a temptation, a discouragement: "But what should we do?". This is the challenge. Those who let themselves be carried away by pessimism put faith aside. It is the Lord of history who sustains us and invites us to fidelity and fruitfulness. He takes care of the "rest", looks with mercy and kindness at his work and continues to send his Holy Spirit. The more we approach religious life through the Word of God and the history and creativity of the Founders, the more we are capable of living the future with hope. Religious life is understood only by what the Spirit does in each of the called persons. There are those who focus too much on the outside (structures, activities ...) and lose sight of the superabundance of grace that exists in people and communities. For this, please, remove the spirit of defeat, the spirit of pessimism: this is not Christian. The Lord will not fail his closeness to the people, he will do it in one way or another, but it is He who is important. 
While knowing that you are already facing many challenges of our time, I would like to invite you to underline the value of fidelity in following Jesus according to the spirit of the Founders, to take care of community life carefully. In an era in which individualism is so widespread, pay attention to community life! I urge you to live interculturality as a journey of fraternity and mission, and to promote the encounter between different generations in consecrated life, in the Church and in society. I want to emphasize this: the meeting between the different generations. Young people need to hang out with the old, they have to talk, and the old need to hang out with the young. Looking ahead, according to Joel's prophecy (cf 3.1-2), so beautiful! With this dialogue, with the spirit, the old will dream and the young will make prophecies. They will be able to go on, but with the dream of the old. Please don't let the old ones die without dreaming: it is part of a mission. The meeting will be held by young people. May your young people associate with the old and that the old associate with the young. At one time, after the Council, there was the mentality of restructuring things: some congregations have sent the old away to a home for the old. Please, this is criminal! It is curious: some religious - I am thinking of a concrete case - elderly religious, who worked well, after two months in the home of the elderly went to the other world. For nostalgia, for sadness! The old must die dreaming, and the ones who make the old dream are the young, who must take the place of the old. Don't forget this: let them talk ...
Five years ago, with the Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium, I specified the contribution of ecclesiastical studies and theological centers to the new phase of the Church's mission in which we find ourselves. I thank you very much for the commitment with which you have accepted my appeal, and I urge you to always seek new ways to serve the Lord and the holy faithful people of God. As I have told you on other occasions, do not be afraid, cultivate more and more God's style. And what is God's style? It's simple: closeness, compassion and tenderness. He himself says it, in Deuteronomy: "Think, which people has his gods as close as you have me?". Closeness, which is compassionate and tender. Closeness, compassion and tenderness: this is God's style. Continue to help many consecrated men and women to be "a kind of Gospel unfolded over the centuries" (CIVCSVA, Instruction Starting afresh from Christ, 2). Do not tire of going to the frontiers, even to the frontiers of thought; to open roads, to accompany, rooted in the Lord to be bold in the mission.
St. John Paul II already warned of the danger that the diminution of consideration for study entails for consecrated life. Neglecting theology, reflection, study, sciences impoverishes the apostolate and favors superficiality and lightness in the mission (cf. Vita consecrata, 98). I thank you for continuing to help so many to remain attentive; because you continue to take care of the quality of study and research. The problems of the present time require new analyzes and new syntheses (cf. ibid.). Your Institutes, you professors, you students, have a great task ahead of you.
The Gospel teaches that there is a poverty that humiliates and kills and another poverty, that of Jesus, that frees and makes us happy. As consecrated persons, you have received the immense gift of sharing in the poverty of Jesus. Do not forget, neither in your life nor in your work at the university, those who live other poverties. May you make life win over death and dignity over injustice (cf. Message for the Sixth World Day of the Poor [2022]). To truly encounter Christ, one must touch, touch his body in the wounded body of the poor, not just look at them, touch; confirming the sacramental communion received in the Eucharist (see Message for the First World Day of the Poor [2017]). How many founders, foundresses and consecrated persons have lived and live like this!
Paraphrasing the prayer that concluded the homily for the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, I invite you to pray with me: "We thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Council and for the blessing that these theological institutes of consecrated life have been and are for the Church. You who love us, free us from the presumption of self-sufficiency and from the spirit of worldly criticism. You who feed us with tenderness, free us from self-referentiality, from the diabolical deception of polarizations, free us from "isms". And we, your Church, with Peter and like Peter, we say to you: «Lord, you know everything; you know that we love you "(cf. Jn 21:17)" (cf. Homily, 11 October 2022).
Dear brothers, dear sisters, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, may the Holy Spirit always assist you in the service you carry out in the Claretianum. I cordially bless you. And please don't forget to pray for me. Thank you!
Source: Vatican.va