VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Bishops and other members of the Catholic Church often lament the decline in the number of Christians, but they rarely examine their own behavior and inability to show others how much God loves them, said the Pope Francis to the presidents of European episcopal conferences.
“Consider how many people are no longer hungry and thirsty for God! Not because they are bad, but because there is no one to awaken in them a hunger for faith and to satisfy this thirst of the human heart ”, declared the Pope on September 23, concelebrating the Mass of opening of the plenary assembly of the Council. European Bishops’ Conferences.
“So many people are made to feel only material needs, and not a need of God,” the Pope told his brother bishops during the early evening mass at the pulpit altar in St. Peter’s Basilica .
“Sure, we’re ‘concerned’ about it, but are we really ‘busy’ answering it? Asked Pope Francis.
“It is easy, but ultimately unnecessary, to judge those who disbelieve or to list the reasons for secularization,” the Pope said. Instead, “the word of God challenges us to turn to ourselves. Do we feel concern and compassion for those who have not had the joy of meeting Jesus or who have lost that joy? Are we comfortable because deep down our lives go on as usual, or are we troubled to see so many of our brothers and sisters far from the joy of Jesus?
The plenary session of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences brought together the presidents of 33 national episcopal conferences and a dozen other Eastern and Latin rite bishops from across the continent. The September 23-26 meeting was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the council and review its service to the continent in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on fraternity and social friendship”.
After Mass, the bishops were to renew their profession of faith at the tomb of Saint Peter and pray at the tombs of Saint Paul VI, Pope John Paul I and Saint John Paul II – the popes who accompanied the early years the existence of the council.
Using the images of the rebuilding of the houses and the temple in the day’s first reading of the Book of Haggai, Pope Francis said in his homily that just as the ancient Israelites were to “stop being satisfied with a peaceful present. and start working for the future ”. the same goes for the peoples of Europe.
The founders of the European Union “did not seek a fleeting consensus, but dreamed of a future for all,” said the Pope, and only this kind of far-sighted vision can ensure a consolidation of peace, freedom and solidarity on the continent.
“The same goes for the church, the house of God,” he said. “To make it beautiful and welcoming, we must, together, look to the future, not restore the past.”
Of course, said Pope Francis, any idea of “rebuilding” the Church must begin with the founding of the Church, “the living tradition of the Church, which is based on the essential, the Good News, the proximity and testimony ”.
“We must rebuild from its foundations the church of all times and places, from the worship of God and love of neighbor, and not from our own tastes, not from of covenants or agreements that we make to “defend the church” or “defend Christianity,” he said.
In Haggai’s reading, he noted, the verbal form of “reconstruct” is plural – a call to all the people.
“All reconstruction takes place together, in unity, with others,” Pope Francis said. “Visions may differ, but unity must always be preserved. Because if we keep the grace of all, the Lord continues to build, even when we are not up to the task. “
“It is our vocation as pastors: to gather the flock, not to disperse it or to keep it locked up by beautiful fences,” he said. “To rebuild is to become artisans of communion, weavers of unity at all levels: not through stratagems but through the Gospel.
The challenge is enormous, said the Pope, because so many Europeans regard religious faith as “a relic of the past”.
The reason, he says, is that “they have not seen Jesus at work in their own lives”, and “often it is because we, through our lives, have not shown them enough” .
“If Christians, instead of radiating the contagious joy of the Gospel, continue to speak in an outmoded intellectualistic and moralistic religious language, people will not be able to see the Good Shepherd,” the Pope said. “They will not recognize the one who loves each of his sheep, calls them by name and carries them on his shoulders. “
“Jesus is not asking us to make arguments for God, but to show it, the same way the saints did, not with words but with our lives,” Pope Francis said.