Pope Francis with Cistercians of the Common Observance taking part in their General Chapter Pope Francis with Cistercians of the Common Observance taking part in their General Chapter  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope encourages Cistercians in their witness to community and poverty

Meeting with Cistercians of the Common Observance who have gathered for their General Chapter, Pope Francis speaks of the importance of following Jesus in community and through their missionary outreach.

By Vatican News staff writer

Addressing the Cistercians of the Common Observance in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace on the occasion of their General Chapter, Pope Francis encouraged them in their faith journey and to walk together following Jesus "to be with Him, to listen to Him, to observe Him." He said it is a journey that each one makes at their own pace, their own unique and unrepeatable history, but together in community, just as the twelve apostles who were always with Jesus and walked with Him. They had not chosen themselves but were chosen by the Lord, said the Pope, and it was not always easy to get along given their differences, weaknesses, and pride. 

We too are like that, the Pope pointed out, and it can also be challenging for us to move together in fellowship. At the same time, we can never cease to be amazed by the joy of this gift of community, even as we are not perfect, not all the same, but con-voked, involved, called to walk together in following the Lord.

Openness to others and walking together in the Church

Describing a "common observance of Christ," the Pope explained that this involves a constant commitment to conversion by opening up and going out to meet others. This also applies to the community, which must not be self-referential but "outgoing, welcoming, and missionary," said the Pope. This way also reflects the Holy Spirit who "gives rise to a great variety of charisms and forms of life, a great 'symphony,'" the Pope said. This requires our walking together, all tuned in to the one heart of the Church which is love.

There is no communion without conversion, the Pope went on to say, and therefore this is necessarily the fruit of the Cross of Christ and the action of the Spirit, both in individuals and in the community.

Mission outreach that values diversity

The Pope also expressed his appreciation to the Cistercians who, in opening themselves to missionary work, see the importance of complementarity between male and female, as well as the cultural diversity among Asian, African, Latin American, North American, and European members.

Today the experience of encountering diversity is a sign of the times, he said, saying their witness offers a rich contribution given that in their contemplative vocation they also experience diversity in a profound way at the levels of interiority, prayer, and spiritual dialogue. And this enriches the "symphony" with deeper and more creative resonances.

In conclusion, Pope Francis encouraged the Cistercians to embrace greater poverty, both spiritual and material, in order to be more available to the Lord. He invited them to continue in their wide-ranging ministries and to always keep hope alive. 

17 October 2022, 12:09