A strong speech with extensive additions was addressed by Pope Francis to those who collaborate with the Italian National Catechetical Office on the 60th anniversary of his birth. Francis emphasized the need for action, remembering that the Council is the Church’s magisterium and must be followed. Then, the invitation to the Italian Church to launch a national synod.
Adriana Masotti, Silvonei José – Vatican News
The occasion of the hearing of Pope Francis, this Saturday morning (30), to the members of the Catechetical Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of its activity, aimed at supporting the Italian Church in the field, precisely, of catechesis after the Vatican Council II. A birthday not only serves as a reminder, but it is also an opportunity to “renew the spirit of proclamation”, said the Pope in his speech, and for this reason he said he wanted to “share three points that I hope will help them in the work of next years”.
At the heart of catechesis, the person of Jesus
The first point is: catechesis and kerygma. “Catechesis is an echo of the Word of God,” said the Pope, and through the proclaimed Sacred Scripture, each person becomes part of “the same history of salvation” and with his own uniqueness “finds its own rhythm”. Francis emphasized that the heart of the mystery of salvation is kerygma, and that kerygma is a person: Jesus Christ. Catechesis must “favor a personal encounter with Him” and, therefore, cannot be done without personal relationships.
There is no real catechesis without the testimony of men and women in the flesh. Who among us does not remember at least one of his catechists? I remember. I remember the sister who prepared me for my first communion and did me very well. The first protagonists of catechesis are they, messengers of the Gospel, often lay people, who play generously to share the beauty of having met Jesus. “Who is the catechist? He is the one who keeps and nurtures the memory of God; he keeps it in himself – he keeps the memory of the history of salvation – and he knows how to awaken that memory in others. He is a Christian who puts this memory at the service of the announcement; not to be seen, not to speak of oneself, but to speak of God, of his love, of his fidelity “.
The announcement is the love of God in the language of the heart
The Pope then indicated some characteristics that the announcement must have today, that is, that it knows how to reveal the love of God in the face of every moral and religious obligation; that it does not impose itself, but takes freedom into account; that testifies to joy and vitality. For this, those who evangelize must express “closeness, openness to dialogue, patience, cordial welcome that does not condemn”. And speaking of the catechist, Francisco added, improvising, that “the faith must be transmitted in dialect”, explaining that he referred to the “dialect of proximity”, to the dialect that is understood by the people to whom he addresses:
I am very touched by that passage by Maccabees, of the Seven Brothers. Two or three times they said that their mother supported them, speaking to them in dialect. It is important: true faith must be transmitted in dialect. Catechists must learn to transmit it in dialect, that is, that language that comes from the heart, that is born, that is the most familiar, the closest of all. If there is no dialect, the faith is not transmitted fully and well.
Catechesis is always listening to the heart of man
The second point indicated by Pope Francis is: catechesis and the future. Recalling the 50th anniversary of the document ” The Renewal of Catechesis”, with which the Italian Episcopal Conference received the nominations of the Council, celebrated last year, Francis quoted some words from Pope Paul VI in which he invited the Italian Church to look with gratitude at the Council, which said “it will be the great catechism of the new times” and observed how the constant task of catechesis is “to understand these problems that arise from the heart of man, to take them back to their hidden source: the gift of love that create and save “. Francis, therefore, reiterated that catechesis inspired by the Council is “always with an attentive ear, always attentive to renew itself”. And regarding the Council, he added an extensive reflection:
The Council is the Church’s magisterium. You are either with the Church and therefore follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or interpret it in your own way, at your own will, you are not with the Church. We have to be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated to have more of these … No, the Council is like that. And this problem that we are facing, of the Council’s selectivity, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils. For me, it makes me think so much about a group of bishops that after Vatican I left, a group of lay people, groups there, to continue the “true doctrine” that was not that of Vatican I. “We are the true Catholics” … today they order women. The most severe attitude to safeguard the faith without the Church’s teaching, leads us to ruin. Please, no concession for those who try to present a catechesis that is not in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church.
Catechesis, the Pope said, resuming reading the speech, must be renewed to affect all areas of pastoral care. And recommended:
We should not be afraid to speak the language of women and men today. Yes, to speak the language outside the Church: of that, we must be afraid. We should not be afraid to speak the language of the people. We must not be afraid to hear their questions, whatever they may be, their unresolved issues, to hear their weaknesses and uncertainties: we are not afraid of this. We must not be afraid to develop new instruments.
Rediscovering the sense of community
Catechesis and the community represent the third point, a point of particular relevance at a time that, because of the pandemic, has seen isolated growth and a feeling of loneliness. The virus, “said the Pope,” dug into the living tissue of our territories, especially the existential ones, fueling fears, suspicions, suspicions and uncertainties “. It has undermined established practices and habits and thus provokes us to rethink our community being”. It also made us understand that only together can we move forward, taking care of each other. The sense of community must be rediscovered.
Catechesis and advertising cannot fail to place this community dimension at the center. This is not the time for elitist strategies. And the big community: what is the big community? God’s holy and faithful people. (…) This is the time to be artisans from open communities who know how to value each other’s talents. It is the time of missionary communities, free and disinterested, who do not seek importance and advantage, but who walk the paths of the people of our time, bending over those who are on the margins. It is the time for communities that look into disappointed young people, who welcome strangers and give hope to discouraged people. It is the time for communities that fearlessly dialogue with those with different ideas. It is the time for communities that, like the Good Samaritan, know how to be close to those wounded by life, to bandage their wounds with compassion.
A catechesis that accompanies and caresses
Repeating what he said at the Ecclesial Meeting in Florence, Francis reiterated his desire for a Church “ever closer to the abandoned, the forgotten, the imperfect”, a joyful Church that “understands, accompanies, caresses”. This, he continued, also applies to catechesis. And he made an invitation to creativity for a proclamation centered on kerygma, “which looks to the future of our communities, so that they are increasingly rooted in the Gospel, fraternal and inclusive”.
The Italian Church starts a national synod
Finally, five years after the Florence Encounter, Francis invited the Italian Church to begin a synodal process at the national level, community by community, diocese by diocese. “This process, too, will be catechesis. At the Florence Encounter there is precisely the intuition of the path to be taken at this Synod. Now it has resumed: it is the moment. And to start walking”.