Pope Francis greets members of the Confederation of Italian Confraternities Pope Francis greets members of the Confederation of Italian Confraternities  (Vatican Media)

Pope: Confraternities should be missionaries of God's love & tenderness

Pope Francis invites members of the Confederation of Italian Confraternities to be missionaries of God's love and tenderness, always walking together in Christ's footsteps and proclaiming the Gospel.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Be missionaries of God's love and tenderness.

This was the exhortation Pope Francis gave to members of the Confederation of the Confraternities of the Dioceses of Italy when meeting with them in the Vatican on Monday.

Founded in 2000, in the context of the Jubilee Year, the Confederation has been working for more than 20 years to welcome, support and coordinate the rich and varied presence of the Confraternities throughout Italian dioceses.

In two years, the Confederation will celebrate their 25th anniversary in the context of the 2025 Jubilee Year, which has as its motto "Pilgrims of Hope."

Important role of laity

Saying the Church is preparing for this important moment in her life, Pope Francis told the group that they constitute an important reality for this preparation and the Jubilee celebration.

Their great participation and impressive activity, the Holy Father said, brings to mind what the Second Vatican Council says in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium about the nature and mission of the laity in the Church, namely that they are called by God to contribute from within to the sanctification of the world.

Popular piety

"In the context of the new evangelization," the Pope said, "popular piety constitutes a powerful force of proclamation, which has much to give to the men and women of our time."

For this reason, he added, "I encourage you to cultivate your associative life and your charitable presence with creative and dynamic commitment."

“Let yourselves be inspired by the Holy Spirit and walk: as you do in processions, walk in all your community life.”

Three fundamental lines

The Pope invited them to organize their journey along three fundamental lines of "evangelization, ecclesiality and missionary spirit," which he summarized as "walking in the footsteps of Christ, walking together, and walking announcing the Gospel."

“This is evangelization, following in the footsteps of Christ; ecclesiality, that is, walking together; and missionary spirit, walking proclaiming the Gospel: Confraternities must be a place of proclamation.”

First of all, he said, "walk in the footsteps of Christ."

"Cultivate the centrality of Christ in your daily lives," the Pope said, and especially "by listening daily to the Word of God, by regularly organizing and participating in formation moments, in assiduous attendance at the sacraments, in an intense life of personal and liturgical prayer."

Once again, he urged them to carry a 'pocket' Gospel with them and read it every day.

Centuries-old experience of synodality

Turning next to "walking together," the Pope recalled that the Confraternities' history offers the Church a centuries-old experience of synodality, "expressed through community tools of formation, discernment and deliberation," and "through a living contact with the local Church, with the Bishops and with the Dioceses."

“May your councils and assemblies – as the beloved Pope Benedict XVI asked you – never be reduced to purely administrative or particularistic meetings, but be places for listening to God and for the Church, and for fraternal dialogue, characterized by an atmosphere of prayer and sincere charity.”

Only in this way, the Pope said, can Confraternities remain full of life and find new ways to serve and evangelize.

Lastly, turning to "walking proclaiming the Gospel," the Pope encouraged them to bear witness to their faith, and take care of their brothers and sisters, "especially the new poverties of our time," many seen like never before during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Service and mission

Urging the Confederation of Italian Confraternities to keep alive the charism of service and mission, the Pope invited its members to respond to the needs of our time with creativity and courage.

Pope Francis concluded by renewing his invitation to be "missionaries of God's love and tenderness, missionaries of the mercy of God, who always forgives us, always awaits us, and loves us so much!"

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16 January 2023, 11:36