Hope in the Future, our diocesan response to Pope Francis’ call to become an evangelising church is based on the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Evangelii Gaudium is a truly inspirational document but it’s difficult in some places and it’s long. As we enter stage 3 of Hope in the Future I was pleased to find these words of Giuliano Vigini Giuliano Vigini, a Professor at The Catholic University of Milan, who wrote the preface to Pope Francis, the Church of Mercy published shortly after Evangelii Gaudium. They remind of us of what lies a the very centre of 21st century evangelisation and Hope in the Future.
“Those who are materially, spiritually, and humanly poor are not the focus of special attention because they are an economic, social, or pastoral problem, but because the loving God, poor among the poor, reserved for them a privileged place in Christ’s life and ministry. The “poor Church for the poor” the Church of Mercy of Pope Francis is a principle that defines in an evangelistic sense the choice of poverty and service to the poor, thus continuing the wonderful story of a loving Church that throughout the centuries has been a way to liberation, inclusion, and promotion for the poor, following Christ’s idea of liberty and love. Christ indeed offers not only generous, practical, and constant solidarity, but he also actively affirms human dignity, pursues justice, and builds a civilization that is effectively “human.”
“In this context of pastoral vision for the Church, Pope Francis’s idea of human beings in relation to society is embedded. His distinctive emphasis runs parallel to and interacts with the rest. His strong and direct speech shakes consciences to strike the “hardened” heart of a society whose culture is not open to the idea of coming together for the common good. These are the premises for a neighbourly and peaceful existence. It is not possible to move forward toward a better world until such idols as power, money, corruption, careerism, selfishness, indifference, or, to sum up, “the spirit of the world,” are demolished.“
“These concepts are clearly explained in Evangelii gaudium, which reveals to us both the bad habits that need to be abandoned and the pastoral priorities in the public life of the Church. In this effort the Pope leads the way by word and sets the pace, which quickens day by day. His aim is to let people understand that an authentic Christianity, faithful to the spirit of the Gospel, is not achievable if the people in Christian communities have a weary and half-asleep faith, without any thrill of excitement, a faith shut up within the walls of their hearts or church buildings. This is the danger that might materialize if the Church grows old and accustomed to caring only about itself rather than flinging open its doors and facing the challenges of the world. It doesn’t matter if the Church sometimes fails on the way. This is why Pope Francis keeps sending out warnings that heavy-handedness, intransigence, hypocrisy, and other shortcomings need to be abolished because they undermine Christian credibility. He is determined to reform and renew the Church so that it becomes better equipped to pursue its goals, with all that that involves.”
“In short, the life of the Church needs to be cleansed, renewed, and revitalized. This requires an ecclesial and pastoral discernment that enables the Church to rediscover the essence of its missionary mandate, in the light of the Holy Spirit and with the intercession of Mary, mother of the task of proclaiming the Gospel.“
As we start Stage 3 of Hope in the Future let us hope that we are now well on that journey of discernment.