Conducted mostly in the form of a question and answer session, a style preferred by Pope Francis, the meeting in the Basilica of St John Lateran began with a litany of the ills suffered by the Church in the Pope’s own Diocese.
Where does it hurt?
It was left to a Professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, Don Paolo Asolan, to present the Pope with the results of a Diocesan Commission which outlined the challenges facing the Church in Rome. The list includes concern over increasingly self-referential attitudes, a deceasing sense of communion among Christians, and the rush to engage in too many pastoral initiatives, leaving no time to reflect. The role of the poor, according to the Commission, is also underestimated and under-addressed.
Jesus the Healer
Pope Francis responded to these challenges by indicating Our Lord as the Great Healer. We should not think we can heal ourselves, he said. We need someone to help us and, first and foremost, “this is the Lord”. We should then seek comfort, he continued, in those who have the charism of “spiritual accompaniment”: this could be a priest or a layperson, an elderly person or a young person. Finally, the Pope suggested we find something to read that helps us and encourages us to look ahead. “Talking with Jesus, talking with another person, talking with the Church…this is the first step”, he said. “Pray, talk to another person, read something...but, remember, the only one who can heal is the Lord”.
Beware of navel-gazing
Addressing the danger of becoming too self-referential, Pope Francis warned against “navel-gazing”, and being so “fascinated by novelties” that we become distracted from what really matters. Sometimes we need a slap, he said, to bring us back to reality. And in response to the issue of becoming too involved in too many pastoral activities, the Pope emphasized the need to seek harmony in all things, suggesting we look to the Holy Spirit for inspiration. The Holy Spirit is responsible for harmony, he said, “not as something static”, but as something dynamic, something that is part of the journey.