Pope Francis, 10 years of Pontificate with "missionary restlessness"

Saturday, 11 March 2023 pope francis   mission   evangelization   gospel  

by Gianni Valente
Rome (Agenzia Fides) - There is a revealing detail that marks the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, elected Bishop of Rome on March 13, ten years ago. Last January 11, as the threshold of his first ten years as the Successor of Peter was in sight, at the Wednesday General Audiences Pope Francis launched a new cycle of catechesis, dedicated to the "passion for evangelization, that is, apostolic zeal", which he himself defined as "an urgent and decisive theme for Christian life" (see Fides, 11/1/2023).
Paradoxically, the abundant (and sometimes overflowing) media coverage fueled around the current Successor of Peter ends up (and sometimes serves) to conceal the gist of what he is suggesting to everyone every day. Starting from the apostolic and missionary restlessness that runs through his preaching and his ordinary magisterium like a powerful and living red thread. What continues to also be highly expressed in his homilies, Wednesday catechesis and Sunday Angelus.
From the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, a "programmatic" text published in November 2013 and dedicated to the "proclamation of the Gospel in today's world", to the current cycle of catecheses dedicated to "apostolic zeal", the Pope has repeated thousand and thousand times that the apostolic mission is not a human strategy, but the work of God. That it is not an effort, it is not an obligation, but a gratuitous and free effect of a gift of grace, of the attraction that arises from the encounter with Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. He reiterated with pounding insistence that proclaiming the Gospel is not "proselytism", because one does not start walking on the path of Jesus by pounding propaganda or by one's own application. In the Christian life, the first step and also every real subsequent step is taken through "attraction". Because Christ himself attracts hearts of all times, He consoles them and transforms them with His mercy, He heals them and embraces them with His forgiveness.
In the ten years of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has given those who listen to him a 'constellation' of words all aimed at indicating what is the dynamism proper to every apostolic work, and what can be its source: not the burden of a further effort, to be added to the labours of life, but a reverberation of gratitude.
For the joy of having encountered Christ and having foretasted His salvation as the days go by.

For this reason - Pope Francis has repeated on countless occasions - doing mission with authentically apostolic zeal means not imposing burdens, but "facilitating, making it easy, not putting ourselves in the way of Jesus' desire to embrace all, to heal all, to save all". For this reason, when he was Archbishop in Buenos Aires, Archbishop Bergoglio supported the parish priests and communities that in that metropolis had put in place so many initiatives to make the celebration of baptisms "easier", after realizing that the number of those who, for many reasons, including sociological reasons, were not baptized. Within the same horizon, as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis in the first years of his Pontificate wanted to celebrate morning mass almost every day in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae, Marthae first for the employees of the Holy See and then for groups from the parishes of Rome. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the Masses at Santa Marta, also broadcast through television and social networks, comforted from Rome to Beijing, from Toronto to Nairobi multitudes of people grappling with the bewilderment and helplessness experienced by all before the pandemic contagion. On that occasion, Pope Francis, in order to "facilitate" the experience of Christ's consolation, did what is the simplest and most important thing a priest in the care of souls can do: he celebrated Holy Mass in a bare manner, without a choir, simply reading and explaining the scriptures of the day's liturgy. Thus, with such a simple gesture, without inventing anything, the Successor of Peter also showed that the proper horizon of the Christian experience is not exceptional "events" or great ecclesial Assemblies, but the everyday ordinariness of life, with its problems, expectations, joys and failures. On a journey in which among the suggestions offered by the Pope there are those, easy and elementary, of carrying a pocket Gospel to read a page every day, or of remembering the date of one's baptism.
In his "missionary magisterium", the current Successor of Peter has also reminded everyone that the formulas so dear to him on the "Church that goes out of herself" to proclaim the Gospel of Christ cannot be reduced to the dissatisfied and presumptuous activism of "competent" elites and handfuls of bold people, and that the testimony of Jesus given to the world flourishes in the "infallible" faith of the people of God. A missionary people in everyday gestures, even when they are frail and distracted, poor and battered.

The current Bishop of Rome has also repeated in countless ways that the mission of proclaiming and bearing witness to the liberation of Jesus takes place in humanity and in the world as they are, in life as it is encountered, in "body to body" with the given conditions, without "taming" and narcotizing reality in the laboratories of moralism and abstraction. This is why the mission of salvation entrusted to the Church does not and cannot ignore the environmental catastrophe or the migrants who die in shipwrecks, the trafficking of arms and drugs or the new forms of slavery and brain manipulation. Because if the Church were not in the world, and self-conceived as a "world apart", it would no longer encounter the men and women of the present time as they are, where they are. And on that path, structures and dynamics of "ecclesial introversion" would end up becoming allies of the devil.
Instead, Christ's salvation - the Bishop of Rome suggested with his magisterium - descends and resounds in the underworld of the world's pain. The one that digs hearts in wars, that crashes them in earthquakes and pandemics, that makes parents who have lost their jobs weep, but only when it is night and the children are asleep.
For this reason - Pope Francis recalled - the evangelizing community immerses itself "in the daily lives of others, shortens distances, lowers itself to the point of humiliation if necessary". It "accompanies humanity in all its processes, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds". (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). (Agenzia Fides, 11/3/2023)