Vatican News
Pope Francis addressing members of the Italian Catholic Action association on April 30, 2021. Pope Francis addressing members of the Italian Catholic Action association on April 30, 2021.  

Pope urges Catholic Action to “listen” to the suffering of people

Pope Francis on Friday received some 80 members of the Azione Cattolica Italiana (ACI), or Italian Catholic Action, a popular lay Catholic association that functions under the Italian bishops’ conference.

By Robin Gomes

Receiving the Catholic Action group on the occasion of their 17th national assembly, April 25 to May 2, the Pope reflected on their very name.  The great human and social suffering generated by the pandemic, he said, risks becoming an educational catastrophe and an economic emergency, unless lay Catholics allow their actions to be permeated by a “high and demanding form of listening” to the suffering people. 


Commenting on the word “action”, the Holy Father reminded the association members that their action “belongs to the Lord” and that they must “never lose sight of the fact that it is the Spirit who is the source of the mission”.   Hence, as co-protagonists of the love of the Lord in the context of the pandemic, Catholics are called to be docile to the Holy Spirit and serve the men and women of our time.

In this regard, the Pope warned against functionalism, to which many organizations have become a slave and prey.  Programmes, organizational charts and money are useful but docility to the Spirit is the starting point.  Just as docility to the Spirit is revolutionary as also Christ and his incarnation and resurrection, so too must the work of Catholic Action be.  

For this, one needs to listen to the Gospel and incarnate it in actions which are carried out gratuitously in fraternal relationship in the service of people.  He encouraged them on the path of holiness, pointing out the history of Catholic Action has many “next-door saints”.  Such actions, he said, should also be marked by humility and meekness.


Speaking about the “Catholic” label of the association, Pope Francis said that like the “mission of the Church has no boundaries”, Catholic Action is also called to be “with all and for fall”.  However, this does not mean "diluting" the mission and "watering it down", but keeping it closely linked to concrete life, to the people with whom its members live.

Translated as “making oneself a neighbour”, the word "catholic" has made the value of fraternal closeness even more evident, especially during the pandemic, despite the need for social distancing.  In this regard, he commended Catholic Action saying, “you testify that distance can never become indifference, can never become estrangement”.   He warned against a “bad distance”, which looks the other way, that of indifference and coldness.

Warning against the risk of ending up being clericalized, the Pope said that Catholic Action members should not become anything else other than what they are called to be through Baptism.  “Your secularity is richness for the catholicity of the Church, which wants to be a leaven, the "salt of the earth and light of the world".

This also calls on the association's members “to make an original contribution to the creation of a new "integral ecology" with their skills, passion and responsibility.

Warning that the great human and social suffering generated by the pandemic risks becoming an educational catastrophe and an economic emergency, the Pope urged Catholic Action to “a high and demanding form of listening, capable of permeating action”, in the footsteps of Christ.  Listening to the current time is "an exercise in fidelity that we cannot shirk,” the Pope stressed, entrusting to it the young, the elderly and all those who experience fragility or loneliness.

Part of Italian history

Lastly, Pope Francis stressed that Catholic Action has been part of Italian history and it helps the country’s Church generate hope by being “a leaven of dialogue in society” and by listening to the Spirit and the voice of God in the cry of the poor, the sinners and the earth. He thus encouraged those present on a synodal journey without self-referentiality or abstractedness, maintaining their secular character while transforming the world according to the plan of the Kingdom of God.

30 April 2021, 16:25