Quebec (Agenzia Fides) - In the spiritual deserts of our time, generated by secularism and indifference, it is necessary to "return to Galilee", to meet the Risen Jesus again and "to start again after failure". With this evocative image, Pope Francis once again suggested the only source to draw from to renew the passion for the proclaimation of the Gospel. He did so in his homily during the vespers celebrated in the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec, together with Bishops, dear priests and deacons, consecrated persons and seminarians, pastoral workers, on the afternoon of Thursday, July 28, the penultimate day of his apostolic in Canada.
In his speech, the Bishop of Rome called on Canadian pastors to care for the people of God with "devotion and tenderness, and to do so "willingly", and not as "as a duty, not as “professional” religious personnel, sacred functionaries", looking to Christ, the Good Shepherd" before looking to ourselves". Referring to the wounds and troubles that have marked the journey of the Canadian ecclesial community (including "sexual abuse committed against minors and vulnerable people" and the suffering endured by indigenous peoples in ecclesiastical institutions), the Pontiff recalled that "the pain and the shame we feel" can become "an opportunity for conversion", and help Christian communities to no longer be "contaminated by the idea that there is a superiority of one culture over others and that it is legitimate to use means of coercion towards others". The Pope gave as an example "the missionary ardor" of Saint François de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, "who railed against those who demeaned the indigenous people by inducing them to imbibe strong drink in order then to cheat them". Taking his cue from the history of Canadian Catholicism, the Successor of Peter offered precious indications to guide the missionary work of the Church in all parts of the world. Christian joy – repeated Pope Francis - is "a free gift", which arises "not from the observation of what we are capable of doing", but from the experiencing "that God is near, that he first loved us and that he accompanies us every day". This joy is the only, authentic source of every ministry and every apostolic work. With a realistic diagnosis, the Pope observed that in the reality of our time, the joy of faith risks being obscured by processes that condition "the lifestyle of women and men today, leaving God almost in the background. "He seems to have disappeared from the horizon, his Word no longer seems to be an orientation compass for life, for fundamental choices, for human and social relations", acknowledged the Sovereign Pontiff.
Faced with such scenarios, the Bishop of Rome urged "not to remain prisoners of pessimism and resentment", and not to close oneself up in useless nostalgia fueled by the negative look that pushes one to complain about bad times, or to dress in improbable armor to foment a "crusading spirit" to defend oneself from the world. The Lord - remarked the Successor of Peter - detests worldliness hates worldliness but "has a positive view of the world. He blesses our life, speaks well of us and our situation, and makes himself incarnate in historical situations, not to condemn, but to give growth to the seed of the Kingdom in those places where darkness seems to triumph". We must also distinguish, noted Pope Bergoglio, quoting St. Paul VI, secularization ("the effort, in itself just and legitimate and in no way incompatible with faith or religion", to discover the laws governing reality and human life implanted by the Creator without having to submit to a sacred power in a world governed by religious laws ) of secularism, understood as a "concept of life that totally separates a link with the Creator, so that God becomes “superfluous and an encumbrance”, and "generates subtle and diverse “new forms of atheism”.
The scarcity of Christian memory, recorded in Canada and other countries around the world, the Pope suggested as he continued his speech, represents a "challenge to our pastoral imagination". Faced with the difficulties encountered in the transmission of the faith to new generations, even the ecclesial structure is led to seek "new languages, to change certain pastoral priorities, to go to the essential". In this regard, the Pope suggested three criteria that could guide apostolic and missionary works in all parts of the world. In the spiritual deserts of our time, generated by secularism and indifference, the Pope said that above all it is "necessary to return to the initial proclamation". We cannot presume to communicate the joy of faith by presenting secondary aspects to those who have not yet embraced the Lord in their lives, or by simply repeating certain practices or replicating older forms of pastoral work. We must find new ways to proclaim the heart of the Gospel to those who have not yet encountered Christ", to "reach people where they are living, not waiting for them to come", and always having as aparadigmatic model to follow the testimony recounted in the Acts of the Apostles "we need to return to the simplicity and enthusiasm of the Acts of the Apostles, we need to return to Galilee", underlined the Pope, to relive "encounter with the Risen Jesus: returning to Galilee is – if you permit me to use the expression – beginning anew after failure. To return to Galilee. This is the only way to offer the world an effective witness to the Gospel, one who bears witness to others "when life itself speaks and reveals the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks for nothing in return, the mercy that silently speaks of Christ". And the Church - continued the Bishop of Rome - will be a witness to the Gospel "the more its members embody communion, creating opportunities and situations that enable all those who approach the faith to encounter a welcoming community, one capable of listening, entering into dialogue and promoting quality relationships. Thus – added the Pope, quoting the missionary instructions of Saint François de Laval - your holy Bishop said to the missionaries: "Often a word of bitterness, an impatient gesture, an irksome look will destroy in a moment what had taken a long time to accomplish". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 29/7/2022)