Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pope Francis' Sets the Agenda for the his Papacy

Pope Francis preparing for Mass with the Vatican gardeners

Having written a couple of posts on Evangelisation I was interested to hear today that Cardinal Jaime Ortega spoke at his Chrism Mass in Cuba about the intervention of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio during the General Congregation of the Cardinals before the Papal Conclave. The General Congregations were the opportunity for all the Cardinals, electors and non-electors, to speak for five minutes on what they perceived to be the most pressing issues for the Church. Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, later gave his handwritten intervention to the Archbishop of Havanna. In it he speaks of the importance of Evangelisation, recalling the teaching of Pope Paul that it is the reason for the Church's existence; speaking of the "sweet and comforting joy of evangelising" and recalling the fact that it is the Lord himself who impels us to go out into the world in order to pass on the faith. This is my translation of the four points made by Cardinal Bergoglio in his intervention. They effectively give us his agenda for the Church:

I. To evangelise requires apostolic zeal. To evangelise requires from the Church the confidence (1) to go out beyond her confines. The Church is called to go out of herself towards the peripheries which are to be understood not only in a geographical sense but in an existential way as well: the peripheries of the mystery of sin; those of pain and of injustice; those of religious ignorance and indifference; those of the intellectual world as well as those of all suffering.

II. When the Church does not reach beyond herself to evangelise she becomes "self-referential" (autorreferencial) and thereby grows sick (like the woman bent over herself in the Gospel). The evils which take place in ecclesial institutions in the course of time have their root in "self-referentiality", a sort of theological narcissism. In the Apocalypse Jesus says that he is at the door and knocks. Clearly the text is referring to the fact that he is outside knocking in order to be let in... but I am thinking about the times Jesus is knocking from inside in order for us to let him out. A self-referential Church wants to keep Jesus inside and won't allow him to go out.

III. The Church when it is self-referential, without being aware, begins to think she has her own light; she stops being the mysterium lunae (2) and gives way to the grave phenomenon of spiritual worldliness which according to De Lubac is the worst evil that can happen to the Church. It is a living in order to glorify each other. Put simply there are two images of the Church: the evangelising Church which goes out of itself, the Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidenter proclamans (3),  or the worldly Church which lives in itself, of itself and for itself. This should shed light on the potential changes and reforms that need to take place for the salvation of souls.

IV.  Thinking about the qualities of the next Pope: we need a man who from his contemplation of Jesus Christ and from his adoration of Jesus Christ will help the Church to go out of herself towards these existential peripheries, who will help her to be the fertile mother who draws life from the "sweet and comforting joy of evangelising".


  1. The word Pope Francis uses is a Greek one - parresia - used in the early Church to mean courage or boldness.
  2. The Fathers often referred to the Church as the mysterium lunae - the mystery of the moon - because her light is simply a reflection of Christ, the true Light from Light.
  3. "Devoutly listening to the Word of God and faithfully proclaiming it" - a quotation from Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.


In these four paragraphs we see set out eloquently the Holy Father's agenda for his papacy. It is a time to leave behind internal squabbles, to rediscover the face of Christ and to present him anew to our world.

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