April 03, 2017
MESSAGES - ‘One of the gravest dangers, stronger in the Church today, is clericalism. Work with the laity, let them go ahead, that they have the courage to go forward and you, support and help them as priests, as religious’
Around noon today, March 30, 2017, Pope Francis gave this warning in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, when addressing the participants in the 138th General Chapter of the Order of Clerics Regular of Somasca, underway in Albano Laziale, Rome, from March 14 to April 1, 2017, on the theme “Let us go across to the other side, together with our brothers with whom we wish to live and die.”
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address, during the course of the audience, to those present.
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Dear Brothers, I am happy to receive you and I greet you warmly, beginning with the Superior General, whom I thank for his words. The motto you chose for your General Chapter: “Let us go across to the other side, together with our brothers with whom we wish to live and die,” is inspired in Jesus’ words (cf. Luke 8:22), and refers to a crucial passage of the history of your Institute to grasp its prophetic value. In fact, beginning in 1921, a small group of Somaschi left the European shores to land in the distant shores of the American Continent. It was a decisive missionary openness, which gave new impetus and ample apostolic prospects to your Religious Family.
Now you have proposed to yourselves to draw from the ideal motivations of that evangelizing thrust, to implement them in the today of the Church and of societies, faithful to the charism of your Founder and taking into account the changed social and cultural conditions. In this discernment you are sustained by the spiritual fruits of the Somaschi Jubilee 2011-2012, which did so much good and still does to your communities. In that significant circumstance, in which you recalled gratefully the fifth centenary of your Order’s foundation, my Venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI sent you a Message in which he exhorted you to follow the luminous example of Saint Jerome Emilian, taking “to heart every poverty of our youth, moral, physical, existential, and first of all the poverty of love, root of every serious human problem: (June 20, 2011).
The ideal that moved Jerome Emilian was the reform of the Church through works of charity. His plan was to reform himself first in fidelity to the Gospel, then the Christian community and the civil society, which cannot ignore the little ones and the marginalized, but must help them and promote their integral human development. I also encourage you to remain faithful to the original inspiration and to “go out” to wounded and rejected humanity, with evangelically effective choices born of the capacity to look at the world and humanity with the eyes of Christ. The characteristic trait of your vocation is above all the care of the last, in particular, of orphans and abandoned youth, according to the educational method of your Founder, intensely focused on the person, on his dignity, on the development of his intellective and manual capacities. And, speaking of orphans, there are new “half orphans”: those migrants, youngsters, children who come alone to our lands and are in need of finding paternity and maternity. I would like to underscore this: so many come alone on the barges and are in need of this. This is another task of yours.
To make your service to the Gospel more adherent to the concrete situation of people’s life, you are elaborating new ways of carrying out your mission. In particular, beginning with the reality of your Order today, you are addressing the question of its international and intercultural physiognomy in relation to the service of the poor and of the last. I encourage you to be careful of the different forms of marginalization in the geographic and existential peripheries. Do not be afraid to “leave the old wineskins,” addressing the transformation of the structures where that is useful for a more evangelical and coherent service with the original charism. In certain cases, the structures give false protection and restrain the dynamism of charity and of the service to the Kingdom of God. I would like to repeat this: in certain cases, the structures give false protection and restrain the dynamism of charity and of the service to the Kingdom of God. But at the base of these processes is always the joyful experience of the encounter with Christ and of consecration to Him; there is the joyful exigency of the primacy of God and of not putting anything before Him or to the “things” of the Spirit; there is the gift of manifesting His mercy and His tenderness in fraternal life and in the mission.
To render an appropriate service in the field of the hardship of children and youths, you have the opportunity to involve the Somaschi laity, for a more consistent commitment to the charism in the social realm. Human rights, the protection of minors, children’s and adolescents’ rights, the protection of child labor, the prevention of exploitation and trafficking are issues that must be addressed with the liberating strength of the Gospel and, at the same time, with appropriate operative instruments and professional competencies.
Saint Jerome Emilian, contemporary of Luther, lived with suffering the laceration of Catholic unity; he cultivated and promoted in Italy the reform of the Church, “his most ardent thirst,” with the works of charity, obedience to Pastors, contemplation of Christ Crucified and of His mercy, catechetical teaching, fidelity to the Sacraments, worship of the Eucharist<and> love of the Virgin Mary. May his example and his intercession push you to consecrate your strength to the proclamation of salvation in Christ, so that it can reach the people and the communities of nations in which you are present and their traditions; thus inculturation progresses, necessary condition for the Church to be rooted in the world. In particular, I would like to encourage you to continue actively your work of formation of catechists, of lay leaders and of the clergy. One of the gravest dangers, stronger in the Church today, is clericalism. Work with the laity, let them go ahead, that they have the courage to go forward and you, support and help them as priests, as Religious. This is a very precious service to the local Churches, in communion with the Pastors and in union with the whole Church and her living Tradition.
The ecumenical dialogue also merits your contribution. The path toward full unity is long; it requires patient listening of what the Spirit is saying to the Churches and, today in particular, to the ecclesial communities in Africa and in Asia, in which you operate with apostolic ardor. The collaborations possible among all the baptized and the search for greater fidelity to the one Lord are directly part of the mission. May the Lord support your efforts in this sense.
Dear Brothers, before you is the task to continue and to develop the work inspired by God to Saint Jerome Emilian, declared by Pope Pius XI Universal Patron of Orphans and Abandoned Youth. May a renewed missionary ardor push you to dedicate yourselves to the service of the Kingdom of God through the education of young people, so that they grow strong in the faith, free and responsible, courageous in witness and generous in service. I encourage you to go forward in your path of followers and in your apostolic dynamism, rich in many works and always open to new expressions, according to the urgent needs of the Church and of society in the different times and places. Faithful to the charism of the Institute and united to your Pastors, you will continue to make a fruitful contribution to the evangelizing mission of the Church. I ask the Holy Spirit, with the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, to illuminate you in your chapter works and I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]