BY SCO Admin | November 26 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Pope’s map for the Church returns to Second Vatican Council and earlier

Holy Father’s debut Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, released today, calls for faith-filled optimism while recognising challenges

Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on sharing the joy of the Gospel is a call to faith-filled optimism, recognising challenges but knowing that God’s love and lordship will prevail, Archbishop Rino Fisichella (above) said when releasing the text today.

The archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, told reporters that Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), is ‘an invitation to recover a prophetic and positive vision of reality without ignoring the current challenges.’

When the Pope writes about the reform of Church structures to be always missionary or the need to improve homilies or the obligation to reach out to the poor first of all or his insistence that the church always will defend the life of the unborn, Archbishop Fisichella said that ‘the cement which binds all these themes together is concentrated in the merciful love of God.’

At the Vatican news conference to present the Papal document, Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis wrote it himself in Spanish, mostly during his August vacation.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said the exhortation ‘has an almost conversational feel to it which reflects a unique and profound pastoral sensitivity.’

In calling for the reform of Church structures at every level and a change of attitude on the part of all Catholics in order to give priority to sharing the Gospel of God’s love and mercy with all, he said, the Pope uses ‘the simple, familiar and direct language that has been the hallmark’ of his style since becoming pope in March.

Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said Pope Francis took the suggestions made by the 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelisation, ‘made them his own, re-elaborating them in a personal way’ and coming up with ‘a programmatic, exhortative document’ on mission in the fullest sense.

Evangelii Gaudium is not a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, he said, ‘because its scope goes well beyond the discussions of the synod.’

Archbishop Fisichella called the document ‘a map and guide’ for the Church’s pastoral mission and work in the world.

Pope Francis does not simply prescribe changes for parishes and dioceses, Archbishop Baldisseri explained, he also recognises a need to give ‘special attention to the exercise of primacy’ by the Pope.

In the document, Pope Francis wrote: “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelisation.”

Both Archbishops Fisichella and Baldisseri noted how the Pope in the apostolic exhortation expresses a need for the Church to return to the Second Vatican Council and earlier, and to find concrete ways to ensure the world’s bishops, united with the Pope, exercise collegiality or shared responsibility for the mission of the church.

He also, Archbishop Fisichella said, sees a need for the Church to move ‘from a bureaucratic, static and administrative vision of pastoral ministry to a perspective which is not only missionary, but is in a permanent state of evangelisation.’

It is love for every human person, particularly the weakest and poorest, that must motivate the action of the church and all its members, the Pope wrote. Archbishop Fisichella said that applies not only to what individuals do in their homes or the church does in its institutions, but requires the church and its members to claim their voice in public and lobby for laws that respect human life and give justice to the poor.

Archbishop Fisichella said people cannot read the document as if the Pope were saying the church’s pastoral work can go in one direction and its doctrinal teaching can go in another.

“Doctrine is how the Church understands the faith, which must be lived out,” the Archbishop said. “Pastoral work helps Catholics to live it.”


—The full exhortation can be read on the Vatican website at


Pic: Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, after the opening meeting of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelisation last year


—For more on Evangelii Gaudium, see this week’s SCO in parishes on Friday.


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