Pope to Catholic Action: Listen attentively with an open heart
By Sebastián Sanson Ferrari and Tiziana Campisi
Pope Francis addressed a message to the International Forum of Catholic Action (FIAC) that took place in Rome in recent days, offering first his greetings to the new leadership. He also greeted all members at the conclusion of Sunday's Angelus in St. Peter's Square, recalling their assembly meeting that brings together Catholic Action coordinators from around the world.
The Pope recalled that their journey started more than 30 years ago when Cardinal Eduardo Pironio saw the need to create the Forum so that Catholic Action could contribute to the challenges of the new evangelization, bringing together the richness of each place and culture. He writes, "many of you have decisively followed this intuition and contributed your own abilities and desire to proclaim the Gospel despite the difficulties of the times, since in previous years there were no means of communication and rapprochement between countries."
Difficult times and hopes
Looking at today's world, the Pope notes that in some places individualism has been revived and led to the scourge of violence between countries and peoples, undermining the hope for universal fraternity. "Nevertheless, difficult times can be challenging and transformed into times of hope," the Pope writes quoting Cardinal Pironio who spoke about the importance of being a sign in this life. But not a sign of emptiness or death, but a sign of light that communicates hope. "Hope is capable of overcoming the difficulties, the disagreements, the crosses that arise in daily life," affirms the Pope.
Walking together and dialogue
Pointing out that the Church is going through times when the synodal spirit needs to take root precisely in the way of being Church, the Pope writes "this means that we walk together in the same direction...what God expects from the Church of the third millennium." This means regaining the awareness of being a people on a journey and embarking on it together. With this spirit he invites Catholic Action to encourage the regional associations in the various local churches.
"With a synodal spirit it is necessary to learn to listen to each other, to relearn the art of dialoguing with others without barriers or prejudices, in a special way even with those who are outside, on the margins, so we seek to be near them, which is God's style," writes the Pope.
Listening to everyone
The Pope urges the new FIAC leadership "to be men and women of listening," not "'leaders' of the desk, papers and Zoom," not to fall into the temptation of institutional structuralism that designs and organizes from statutes, regulations and inherited projects, in the past good and useful but perhaps not meaningful today.
He asks that they listen to the men, women, elderly, young and children, in their own places, and hear their silent cries they express. And he invites them to have "an attentive ear so as not to give answers to questions that no one asks or say words that no one is interested in hearing." In summary, he suggests they listen with "ears open to newness and with a Samaritan heart" while also "listening to the beats of the signs of the times."
The voice of the Spirit
"The Church cannot stand on the margins of history, entangled in its affairs," the Pope underscores, as "it is called to listen to and see the signs of the times, to make of history with its complexities and contradictions a story of salvation." For the Pope, it is necessary to be "a vitally prophetic Church that with its signs and gestures shows there are alternatives for harmonious coexistence, human relations, work, love, power and service," and therfore "it is necessary to listen to the voice of the Spirit."
"In every age," he concludes, "the Spirit opens us to his newness," teaching the Church of "the vital need to go out, the physiological need to proclaim, not to close in on itself." And while the worldly spirit pushes one to focus only on one's own problems and interests, tenaciously defending one's own affiliations and groups, the Spirit frees us and "invites us to walk ancient and ever new paths: those of witness, poverty and mission, to free us from ourselves and send us out into the world."
Follow Mary's example
In conclusion, the Pope urges an active listening, which gives rhythm to one's work and is necessary to "be a Church that breathes missionary life." That's what the Virgin Mary did as "she listened, got up and walked to go and serve" others. The Pope then assured the International Forum of Catholic Action members of his prayers so they can "make this time a time of grace, with the audacity to listen, the serenity to discern, and the courage to proclaim" the Gospel through their daily witness.
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