By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis opened his discourse to moderators of associations of the faithful, ecclesial movements and new communities, gathered for a meeting organised by the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, by thanking all those present for being there.
"And thank you for your presence as lay men and women, young and old, committed to living and witnessing to the Gospel in the ordinary realities of life, in your work, in so many different contexts - educational, social, and so on -: this is the vast field of your apostolate, it is your evangelization", added the Pope.
The Pope noted that in the recent months of the pandemic, "you have seen with your own eyes and touched with your own hands the suffering and anguish of so many men and women... especially in the poorest countries, where many of you are present". The Pope further expressed his gratitude to them, because, he said, "you did not stop".
"You have a true ecclesial mission", continued the Pope.. one that reaches out into the existential peripheries of our societies. "It will do us all good to remember every day not only the poverty of others, but also, and above all, our own", he added.
The new Decree
Pope Francis then noted that The Decree on International Associations of the Faithful, promulgated on 11 June this year, "urges us to accept some changes and to prepare the future from the present". At the origin of this Decree, he explained, "is the reality of recent decades that has shown us the need for the changes that the Decree asks of us". He noted that the theme of their meeting, "The responsibility of governance in lay associations. An ecclesial service", is important not only for each of you, but for the whole Church. The Pope added that the Holy See has had to intervene in recent years, "initiating difficult processes of rehabilitation" on numerous occasions which did not only include those "noisy" and "ugly" situations, but also those of "the diseases that come from the weakening of the founding charism, which becomes lukewarm and loses its capacity for attraction".
A call to serve
The Pope stressed the importance of the tasks of governance entrusted to the members in the lay groups, describing them as being nothing other than "a call to serve". "But what does it mean for a Christian to serve?" asked the Pope. On a number of occasions, he said, he has pointed out two obstacles that a Christian may encounter on his or her journey and which may prevent him or her from becoming a true servant of God and of others.
The desire for power
The first is the "desire for power", began the Pope. How many times have we made others feel our "lust for power"? he asked.
"Our desire for power is expressed in many ways in the life of the Church; for example, when we believe, by virtue of the role we have, that we have to take decisions on all aspects of the life of our association... and we delegate tasks and responsibilities for certain areas to others, but only in theory!" In practice, however, the Pope explained that the delegation to others is emptied by the eagerness to be everywhere. This attitude is ugly and ends up emptying the ecclesial body of its strength. It is a bad way of "disciplining", said the Pope.
The Pope went on to highlight another obstacle to true Christian service. "Disloyalty", he said. "We encounter it when someone wants to serve the Lord but also serves other things that are not the Lord. It is a bit like playing a double game!", warned the Pope.
He explained that we fall into the trap of disloyalty when we present ourselves to others as the sole interpreters of the charism, the sole heirs of our association or movement; or again when we claim to decide a priori who our successor should be. "No one is master of the gifts received for the good of the Church, no one should stifle them", said the Pope.
Concluding his speech, the Pope stressed that "we are living members of the Church and for this, we need to trust in the Holy Spirit, who acts in the life of every association, of every member, acts in each one of us". It is for this reason that the trust in the discernment of charisms is entrusted to the authority of the Church. "Be aware of the apostolic power and prophetic gift that are handed over to you today in a renewed way", he said.