Pope Francis meeting the member of the Claretianum Institute Pope Francis meeting the member of the Claretianum Institute  (Vatican Media)

Pope to Claretians: always seek new ways to serve the Lord

Addressing some 120 members of the Institute of Theology of Religious Life in Rome as they celebrate its 50th anniversary, Pope Francis praises their precious academic work for consecrated life and encourages the Claretian missionaries not to tire of going to the frontiers and being bold in their mission.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis on Monday received in audience the academic community of the Claretianum Institute of Theology of Religious Life in Rome celebrating the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

The Institute, which has been incorporated into the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, was established in 1971, after the Second Vatican Council, though it traces its origin back to the early 1930s. It is the first institution of its kind in the Catholic Church specialized in the field of Theology of Consecrated Life.

In his address, Pope Francis praised the work carried out over the past five decades by the Claretianum “in the spirit and mission” of St.  Anthony Maria  Claret, the founder of the Missionaries Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as Claretians.

A fruitful service

The Pope remarked that in these decades the six centres the Claretians run in Rome, Madrid (Spain), Manila (Philippines), Bangalore (India), Bogotá (Colombia) and Abuja (Nigeria), and other initiatives promoted in other countries, have offered and continue to offer “a fruitful service” to the understanding and development of the theology of consecrated life, by valuing the contributions of human sciences. This, he said, has helped give “a more human face” to religious life.

In a special way, Pope Francis thanked the Claretians for their engagement in divulging the Magisterium of the Church on consecrated life, thus assuring the communion with the Apostolic See, with the Pastors of the local Churches and with the Federations and Confederations of Major Superiors, while working “to share their service of animation and renewal with other vocations and ecclesial ministries”.

Communion and fraternity

The Pope encouraged the Congregation to continue to serve consecrated life with the missionary Claretian spirit. Noting that consecrated life “cannot be lacking in the Church and in the world”, he emphasized that the first service of their theological institutes must be that of being "houses of welcome, praise and thanksgiving” in which “communion is manifested" and solidarity with the poor,  fraternity without border,  and an out-going mission are encouraged.

“Your help to consecrated men and women, before being intellectual, is a testimony, a confession that Jesus is the Lord.”

Pessimism is not Christian

Pope Francis went on to warn against discouragement and the “spirit of defeat” in the face of the ongoing decline of vocations and aging of religious men and women.  He invited them, instead, to confide in the Lord and the Holy Spirit. “Those who let themselves be carried away by pessimism put their faith aside”, he said "The spirit of defeat and pessimism are not Christian”. 

Intergenerational dialogue

While acknowledging the many challenges consecrated life is facing today, the Pope called on the Claretian missionaries to faithfully follow Jesus in the spirit of their founders, to prioritize their community life, as opposed to individualism, and to live interculturality as a journey of fraternity and of mission. He particularly emphasized the importance of promoting the encounter between different generations in consecrated life, as well as in the Church and in society as a whole.

“Young people need to frequent the old, they have to talk, and the old need to frequent the young. Look ahead, look at the prophecy of Joel, it’s so beautiful! With this dialogue, the old will dream and the young will make prophecies: they will be able to go forward, but with the dream of the old. Please don't let the elderly die without dreaming! The old must die dreaming and those who make the old dream are the young”

Do not tire of going to the frontiers

Pope Francis further urged the Claretians to “always seek new ways to serve the Lord” and the people of God, and “to cultivate more and more God's style”: that of closeness, compassion and tenderness

“Do not tire of going to the frontiers, even to the frontiers of thought; to open roads, to accompany, to be bold in the mission rooted in the Lord.”

Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis insisted on the importance of theology and research for the mission of the Church, and once again thanked the Claretianum for its work in this field. At the same he urged the Claretians not to forget,  in their life and in their academic work, those who live in different forms of poverty: "To truly encounter Christ - he said - one must touch His body in the wounded body of the poor, confirming the sacramental communion received in the Eucharist".

Concluding, Pope Francis invited those present to pray the Lord with him to be freed from the presumption of self-sufficiency, the spirit of worldly criticism,  self-referentiality, and “from the diabolical deception of polarizations".

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07 November 2022, 13:54