By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
On the first day of the US Bishops’ two-day Spring General Assembly, Archbishop Cristophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States assured them of “the Holy Father’s closeness, prayers, and gratitude” for their ministry to the flock in the United States.
The art of listening
The Nuncio presented the Bishops the priority of listening. With the Synod on Youth on the horizon, he urged them to listen to young people, as well as to the growing Hispanic/Latino population which will gather for its fifth national Encuentro in September.
In particular, he asked that they listen to young people who desire “a personal, living encounter with Christ rather than a faith reduced to teaching and moralism”. Archbishop Pierre summarized what he heard from a pre-Synod American delegate as a desire for “holistic formation”, “for a stronger sense of belonging”, “for communion with others … ‘companions on the journey’.”
“The pre-synodal document may not tell us what we want to hear”, Archbishop Pierre continued. In fact, he notes that critics of the document say it focuses too much on young people’s “weak faith” or their “wish list” rather than on “what they need”. Instead, the Nuncio told the bishops their point of departure should not be “an argument about what they should believe but rather an awareness that the young person must follow a path just as we had to”. Accompanying young people is first achieved by listening, then offering experience and wisdom, “attracting them by our fidelity and the witness of our lives”, he said.
Mediators of the Presence of Christ
Ultimately, Archbishop Pierre told the US Bishops, “we must use our authority wisely to mediate the Presence of the One from whom we have our authority”. Spiritual fatherhood consists in helping others discern. That is a process that “demands time, effort and patience, but the investment is worth it”, he said.
40% of young people in the Church in the United States are Hispanic/Latino. Archbishop Pierre said that at Encuentros meetings he has heard a cry “for a Church [that is] more welcoming, more grateful their their many gifts, and even more supportive of them in their situations of fear and hopelessness”.
Attractiveness of Christianity
The Nuncio concluded reflecting on Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate. He reminded the US Bishops that Christianity has survived because it is attractive and promises freedom. It is through authenticity of life that others are provoked to a change of life, to new horizons, to seek joy, discover what is beautiful, true and good, and ultimately to “find their meaning in the Triune God, who is forever to be adored".