By Linda Bordoni
In a message of closeness and encouragement to a conference in Spain dedicated to the role of the laity in the life of the Church, Pope Francis reminds Christians never to be afraid to walk the streets and touch the wounds of the people while bearing witness to the Gospel of life.
The conference, entitled “Pueblo de Dios En Salida” (The People of God Going Forth) highlights the involvement of the laity in all sections of society while celebrating the 10th anniversary of the approval of the Statutes of Catholic Action in Spain.
Organized by the Episcopal Commission for the Lay Apostolate of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the event is taking place in Madrid from 14 to 16 February. In preparation for the conference, a questionnaire was distributed to groups of young people, families, movements, catechists, teachers, etc. gathering together reflections and suggestions.
In his message addressed to Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Pérez, President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, the Pope expresses his appreciation for “the long road of preparation” that has led to this event and in which participants have been able to share ideas and experiences from different realities.
Saints Cyril and Methodius
He said the fact the Congress begins on the day the Church remembers Saints Cyril and Methodius, patrons of Europe, is significant, noting that they brought the message of the Gospel to those who did not know it, “making it understandable and close to the people of their time.”
The Pope referred to the motto (and the title of the Congress) that tells us that we, the people of God, are invited to live the faith, not individually or in isolation, but in community, as a people going forth into the world as willed by the Father.
He said that as Christians we are called to always be aware that we are part of a community, that is not “just another group, or NGO, but the family of God gathered around the same Lord.”
“Remembering this leads us to deepen our faith every day,” he said, and he reminded the faithful that “the people of God are called to walk together under the impulse of the Spirit, who renews them and takes them back to Him, again and again.”
The people of God are called to shape their history
The Pope went on to explain that the people of God are called to shape their history “which is given to them, like a blank page on which to write”.
They are asked to do this, he said, “leaving behind their comforts, taking steps towards the other, always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for their hope (1 Pt 3:15), not with prefabricated answers, but with incarnated and contextualized ones, in order to make known the Truth that moves Christians and makes them happy” in an understandable and accessible way.
He elaborated further on this concept by pointing out that to do this, “we need that inner freedom which is capable of letting itself be touched by the reality of our time and having the courage to go out to meet it.”
The missionary mandate, he continued, is always current and calls us to forcefully make the voice of the Gospel resound in the world, “particularly in this old Europe, where the Good News is suffocated by so many voices of death and despair.”
Preach with passion and joy
Pope Francis encouraged Christians to preach the living Word of God with passion and joy, in order to be able to “break down even the highest walls that isolate and exclude.”
He said it is time for all those who work in the world of culture, politics and industry to bear witness with their way of life, bringing the novelty and joy of the Gospel wherever they are.
“I encourage you to live your own vocation immersed in the world, listening, with God and with the Church, to the heartbeat of your contemporaries,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded his message inviting those present “never to be afraid to walk the streets, to enter every corner of society, to reach the limits of the city, to touch the wounds of the people: this is the Church of God, which rolls up her sleeves to go out to meet the other, without judging, without condemning, but reaching out to support, encourage or simply accompany.”
“May the Lord's command always resound in you: Go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19).