Pope Francis Tells Religious "...offer the Holy People of God the face of the Father and create a family spirit..." but Warns of "Gossip" and "Soft Paganism" in Hungary FULL TEXT

Pope Francis Hungary,
Pope Francis to Church leaders in Hungary: The Risen Christ is the future
Meeting with Hungarian bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians, and pastoral workers.
Pope Francis highlights various trials facing the Church, including the vocations crisis and division within the Church. Of the latter, the Holy Father insisted on the need “to bear witness to communion,” as the "first pastoral priority,” because, he said, “God is communion and He is present wherever there is fraternal charity.”
in Hungary
(28 - 30 April 2023)
;Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests and deacons, consecrated men and women and seminarians, dear pastoral workers, brothers and sisters,
dicsértessék to Jézus Krisztus! [laudetur Jesus Christus!]

I am happy to be here again after sharing the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress with you. It was a moment of great grace and I am sure that his spiritual fruits are accompanying you. I thank Archbishop Veres for the greeting he addressed to me and for having accepted the desire of the Catholics of Hungary with the following words: "In this changing world we want to testify that Christ is our future". Christ. Not "the future is Christ", no: Christ is our future. Don't change things. It is one of the most important needs for us: to interpret the changes and transformations of our age, trying to better face the pastoral challenges. With Christ and in Christ. Nothing outside the Lord, nothing away from the Lord.

But this is possible by looking at Christ as our future: He is "the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8), the beginning and the end, the foundation and ultimate goal of human history. Contemplating his glory in this Easter season, of him who is "the First and the Last" (Rev 1:17), we can look at the storms that sometimes strike our world, at the rapid and continuous changes in society and at the same crisis of faith of the West with a look that does not give in to resignation and that does not lose sight of the centrality of Easter: the risen Christ, center of history, is the future. Our life, however marked by fragility, is firmly placed in his hands. If we forget this, we too, pastors and lay people, will seek human means and instruments to defend ourselves from the world, closing ourselves in our comfortable and peaceful religious oases; or, on the contrary, we will adapt to the changing winds of worldliness and, then, our Christianity will lose vigor and we will cease to be the salt of the earth. Returning to Christ, who is the future, in order not to fall into the changing winds of worldliness, which is the worst that can happen to the Church: a worldly Church.
These are, therefore, the two interpretations - I would like to say the two temptations - from which we must always guard ourselves as a Church: a catastrophic reading of present history, which feeds on the defeatism of those who repeat that all is lost, that there are no more than once, that we don't know where we'll end up. It is good that Rev. Sándor expressed his gratitude to God who "delivered him from defeatism"! And what did he do with his life, a great cathedral? No, a small emergency church, in the countryside. But he did it, he didn't let himself be won. Thanks bro! And then the other risk, that of naively reading one's own times, which instead is based on the convenience of conformism and makes us believe that in the end everything is fine, that the world has changed by now and we need to adapt - without discernment; this is bad. Here, against catastrophic defeatism and worldly conformity, the Gospel gives us new eyes, gives us the grace of discernment to enter our time with a welcoming attitude, but also with a spirit of prophecy. So, with an open welcome to the prophecy. I don't like using the adjective "prophetic", it is used too much. Noun: prophecy. We are experiencing a crisis of nouns and we go very, very often to adjectives. No: prophecy. Spirit, welcoming attitude, open and with prophecy in the heart.
In this regard, I would like to dwell briefly on a beautiful image used by Jesus: that of the fig tree (see Mk 13:28-29). He offers it to us in the context of the Temple of Jerusalem. To those who admired its beautiful stones and thus lived a sort of worldly conformism, placing security in the sacred space and in its solemn grandeur, Jesus says that nothing on this earth must be absolutized, because everything is precarious and no stone will remain on stone – we are reading the Book of Revelation in these days in the Divine Office, where he shows us that no stone will remain upon stone – but, at the same time, the Lord does not want to lead to discouragement or fear. And therefore he adds: when everything passes, when human temples collapse, terrible things happen and there will be violent persecutions, then "they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (v. 26). And it is here that he invites us to look at the fig tree: «Learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch becomes tender and leaves sprout, you know that summer is near. So also you: when you see these things happening, know that he is near, he is at the gates” (vv. 28-29). We are therefore called to welcome the times we live in like a fruitful plant, with its changes and challenges, because precisely through all of this - the Gospel says - the Lord draws near. And in the meantime we are called to cultivate this season of ours, to read it, to sow the Gospel there, to prune the dry branches of evil, to bear fruit. We are called to a welcome with prophecy.

Welcoming with prophecy: it is a question of learning to recognize the signs of God's presence in reality, even where it does not appear explicitly marked by the Christian spirit and comes to meet us with its challenging or questioning character. And, at the same time, it is a question of interpreting everything in the light of the Gospel without being worldly - be careful! – but as heralds and witnesses of the Christian prophecy. Beware of the worldliness process. Falling into worldliness is perhaps the worst that can happen to a Christian community. We see that even in this country, where the tradition of faith remains deeply rooted, we are witnessing the spread of secularism and what accompanies it, which often risks threatening the integrity and beauty of the family, exposing young people to models of marked by materialism and hedonism, to polarize the debate on new issues and challenges. And then the temptation may be to stiffen, to withdraw and to assume a "fighter" attitude. But these realities can represent opportunities for us Christians, because they stimulate faith and the deepening of some themes, they invite us to ask ourselves how these challenges can enter into dialogue with the Gospel, to seek new ways, tools and languages. In this sense, Benedict XVI affirmed that the different eras of secularization come to the aid of the Church because "they have contributed in an essential way to her inner purification and reform. In fact, secularisations [...] each time meant a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness" (Meeting with Catholics engaged in the Church and in society, Freiburg im Breisgau, 25 September 2011). Before any sort of secularization there is a challenge and an invitation to purify the Church of all sorts of worldliness. Let's go back to this word, which is the worst: falling into worldliness is the worst that can happen to us. It's a soft paganism, it's a paganism that doesn't take away your peace, why? why is it good? No, because you are anesthetized.

The commitment to enter into dialogue with today's situations asks the Christian community to be present and witness, to know how to listen to questions and challenges without fear or rigidity. And this is not easy in the current situation, because there is also no shortage of hardships inside. In particular, I would like to highlight the work overload for priests. On the one hand, in fact, the needs of parish and pastoral life are numerous but, on the other, vocations are declining and priests are few, often advanced in years and with some signs of tiredness. This is a condition common to many European realities, in respect of which it is important that everyone - pastors and laity - feel co-responsible: above all in prayer, because the answers come from the Lord and not from the world, from the tabernacle and not from the computer. And then in the passion for vocation ministry, seeking ways to enthusiastically offer young people the fascination of following Jesus even in special consecration.
What Sister Krisztina told us is beautiful… But hers was a difficult vocation! Because to become a Dominican she was helped first by a Franciscan priest, then by the Jesuits with the exercises… and in the end she became a Dominican. Good! You have done a nice journey! What she told us about "arguing with Jesus" about why he called her - she wanted him to call the sisters, not her - is beautiful; there is a need for those who listen and help to discuss well with the Lord! And, more generally, there is a need to start an ecclesial reflection - synodal, to be done all together - to update pastoral life, without being satisfied with repeating the past and without fear of reconfiguring the parish on the territory, but placing as a priority the evangelization and starting an active collaboration between priests, catechists, pastoral workers, teachers. You are already on this road: please do not stop. Look for possible ways to joyfully collaborate in the cause of the Gospel and carry forward together, each with his own charism, pastoral care as proclamation, kerygmatic proclamation, that is, that which moves consciences. In this sense, what Dorina told us about the need to reach out to others through storytelling, communication, touching everyday life is beautiful. And here I stop for a while to underline the beautiful work of catechists, this antiquum ministerium. There are places in the world - think of Africa, for example - where evangelization is carried out by catechists. Catechists are pillars of the Church! Thanks for what you do. And I thank the deacons and catechists, who have a decisive role in transmitting the faith to the younger generations, and all those teachers and trainers who are generously involved in the educational field: thank you, thank you very much!

Then allow me to tell you that good pastoral care is possible if we are capable of living that love which the Lord has commanded us and which is a gift of his Spirit. If we are distant or divided, if we become rigid in positions and in groups, we do not bear fruit; let's think about ourselves, our ideas and our theologies. It is sad when we divide because, instead of playing as a team, we play into the enemy's hands: the devil is the one who divides, and he is an artist in doing this, it is his specialty. And we see the Bishops disconnected from each other, the priests in tension with the Bishop, the elderly ones in conflict with the younger ones, the diocesans with the religious, the priests with the laity, the Latins with the Greeks; there is polarization on questions that concern the life of the Church, but also on political and social aspects, taking refuge in ideological positions. Don't let ideologies in! The life of faith, the act of faith cannot be reduced to ideology: this belongs to the devil. No, please: the first pastoral work is the witness of communion, because God is communion and is present where there is fraternal charity. Let us overcome human divisions to work together in the Lord's vineyard! Let us immerse ourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, let us root ourselves in prayer, especially in adoration and listening to the Word of God, let us cultivate ongoing formation, fraternity, closeness and attention to others. A great treasure has been placed in our hands, let us not waste it pursuing secondary realities with respect to the Gospel!

And here I take the liberty of telling you: beware of the gossip, the gossip among bishops, among priests, nuns, among the laity… Gossip destroys. It seems such a beautiful thing, chatter, a sugar candy, it's nice to chat about others. This is often the case. Be careful, because it is the road of destruction. If a consecrated man or a layman who lives seriously manages to never speak ill of another, this is a saint, a saint. Go down this road: no chatter. "Eh, Father, it's difficult, because sometimes one slips: that comment, that other...". There is a good remedy against chatter: prayer, for example; but there is another good remedy: biting your tongue. You know? You bite your tongue and no chatter. Agree?
And I would like to say something else to priests, to offer the Holy People of God the face of the Father and create a family spirit: let us try not to be rigid, but to have merciful and compassionate looks and approaches. On this I want to emphasize one thing: what is God's style. God's first style is the attitude of closeness. He himself said it in Deuteronomy: "Tell me, which people have their gods as close to them as you have me close to you?". God, God's attitude is closeness, with compassion and tenderness. Closeness, compassion and tenderness - this is God's style. Let's go with this style. Am I, am I close to people, do I help people, am I compassionate or do I condemn everyone? Am I soft, sweet? For this, no rigidity, but closeness, compassion and tenderness. In this regard, I was struck by the words of Fr József, who brought to mind the dedication and ministry of his brother, Blessed János Brenner, brutally killed at the age of only 26. How many witnesses and confessors of the faith did this people have during the totalitarian regimes of the last century! You have suffered so much! Blessed János experienced so much suffering on his skin and it would have been easy for him to hold grudges, withdraw, stiffen. Instead he was a good shepherd. This is required of all of us, especially of priests: a merciful gaze, a compassionate heart, which always forgives, which always forgives, which helps to start over again, which welcomes and does not judge and does not chase away, and which encourages and does not criticize, serves and does not chat.

This attitude trains us to welcome, a welcome that is prophecy: that is, to transmit the Lord's consolation in situations of pain and poverty in the world, being close to persecuted Christians, migrants seeking hospitality, people of other ethnic groups, to anyone in need. In this sense, you have great examples of holiness, like San Martino. His gesture of sharing the mantle with the poor is much more than a work of charity: it is the image of the Church towards which to strive, it is what the Church of Hungary can bring as a prophecy to the heart of Europe: mercy, closeness . But I would also like to remember Saint Stephen, whose relic is here next to me: he, who was the first to entrust the nation to the Mother of God, who was an intrepid evangelizer and founder of monasteries and abbeys, also knew well how to listen and dialogue with everyone and of the poor: he lowered taxes for them and went to give alms by disguising himself so as not to be recognized. This is the Church we must dream of: a Church capable of listening to each other, of dialogue, of attention to the weakest; a Church welcoming to all, a Church courageous in bringing the prophecy of the Gospel to each one.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is our future, because it is he who guides history, he is the Lord of history. Your confessors of the faith were firmly convinced of this: many Bishops, priests, men and women religious martyred during the atheist persecution; they bear witness to the granite faith of the Hungarians. And this is not an exaggeration, I am convinced: you have granite faith, and we thank God for this. I wish to recall Cardinal Mindszenty, who believed in the power of prayer, to the point that even today, almost like a popular saying, it is repeated here: "If there are a million Hungarians in prayer, I will not be afraid of the future". Be welcoming, be welcoming, be witnesses to the prophecy of the Gospel, but above all be women and men of prayer, because history and the future depend on this. I thank you for your faith and for your fidelity, for all the good you are and do. And I cannot forget the courageous and patient testimony of the Hungarian Sisters of the Society of Jesus, whom I met in Argentina after they had left Hungary during religious persecution. They were women of testimony, they were good! With the testimony they have done me so much good. I pray for you, that following the example of your great witnesses of faith, you may never be seized by interior tiredness, which leads us to mediocrity, and you may go forward with joy. And I ask you to continue to pray for me.