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Analysis of encounters in Egypt: Trip highlights one of pope’s key teachings

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Encounter. It’s a word Pope Francis uses often and something he insists is the concrete first step toward faith and toward building a better world.

Talking with others and not just about them is key to an authentic encounter, which was at the heart of what Pope Francis did in Egypt April 28-29. The success of the trip proved that meeting and respectfully listening to one person or group does not mean hiding one’s identity, taking sides against anyone or, least of all, pointing out the other’s flaws while pretending to have none of one’s own. Read more »

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Nuncio: Evangelization, mercy, encounter mark pope’s first four years

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Evangelization, mercy, encounter and accompaniment are the hallmarks of the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said March 15.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis' papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“First and foremost, Pope Francis is committed to the work of evangelization. The main role of the church is to evangelize, to receive the gospel and offer it to the world,” he said in a conversation in New York with Jesuit Father Matthew F. Malone, president and editor-in-chief of America Media.

“The raison d’etre of the church is evangelization. It’s not a business, it’s not an organization or an association for the defense of Jesus, but a group called to announce God’s presence to humanity,” Archbishop Pierre said.

At a meeting of cardinals before the conclave that elected him pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio reflected on the challenges Pope Benedict’s successor should address. Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ handwritten notes from his talk were a blueprint for his papacy.

In them, Pope Francis underscored the importance of evangelizing with apostolic zeal and going to the peripheries of sin, pain, injustice and misery to reach people. He warned that when the church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and sick. He wrote, “The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-reference and a kind of theological narcissism.”

Cardinal Bergoglio said the next pope, “must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

“The church is a continuation of Christ in the world,” Archbishop Pierre said. And the pope continues to insist it is time not to rest, but to go to the many peripheries to be God’s presence to the people who suffer, he said.

He expanded on the pope’s familiar description of the church as a field hospital. “It’s very simple. It’s a tent where you attend people. Be there. Don’t waste time. That’s where you meet wounded people.”

Father Malone said Jesus, the source of joy in the Gospels, is the medication in the field hospital. Pope Francis pictures himself as a patient in the hospital, not the doctor, he said.

People have rediscovered the sacrament of penance during this papacy because Pope Francis identifies himself as a sinner and is seen going to confession, Archbishop Pierre said. “Many had abandoned the sacrament of reconciliation, but have rediscovered the necessity of receiving the forgiveness of God and giving it to others,” he said.

When the pope speaks of mercy, it is not only a human virtue, but a gift from God, and people are the first target of God’s mercy, Archbishop Pierre said. “Our church is a merciful church. We present truth in a respectful way. Mercy means dialogue and walking along the path of the other,” he said.

“I’m impressed to see the capacity Pope Francis has to meet people,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Politicians want to see the pope, not just for the photo, but for the encounter. I have seen politicians transformed.”

He recounted the pope’s visit to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of Lutheranism. “We’ve had the idea that Luther is the enemy,” the nuncio said. But Pope Francis had an encounter with Lutheran leaders there and said Luther is part of the history of the Catholic Church. The pope speaks with his actions, Archbishop Pierre said.

The nuncio said Pope Francis approaches dialogue as an important ingredient of public life. People who dialogue successfully must be rooted in their own convictions and faith. In this way, dialogue is “two rooted persons looking for the truth,” he said.

The pope is hard on bishops and priests because he wants them to be masters of discernment and help people develop the capacity to choose between good and bad, Archbishop Pierre said. It is not enough to identify right from wrong, he said. If the understanding is not applied to personal actions, life will be a dichotomy.

Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) is based on the closing document of the 2007 meeting of the Latin American bishops’ council in Aparecida, Brazil. Then-Archbishop Bergoglio led the editing committee for the document. A document intended for the Latin American bishops “became the patrimony of the whole church,” Archbishop Pierre said.

He said Pope Francis’ experience living in a “peripheral” country helped him elaborate a different kind of option for the poor than the one envisioned three decades earlier at the Medellin, Colombia, meeting of the Latin American bishops. “The reality is the people had been evangelized so deeply that the culture was filled with the Gospel,” he said.

Because the church does not play the same role in people’s lives it once did, the church today is challenged to help people encounter Christ and rediscover the presence of God in their own lives. It must be missionary and not self-referential, the nuncio said.

In his introductory remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, said Archbishop Pierre is an intrepid adventurer who “enfleshes Pope Francis’ desire to go to the peripheries.”

Archbishop Pierre entered the papal diplomatic corps in 1977 and served in New Zealand, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil, Geneva, Haiti, Uganda and Mexico. Pope Francis named him apostolic nuncio to the United States April 12, 2016.

The event was co-sponsored by America Media and the American Bible Society and held at the New York Athletic Club.

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Religious are called to show closeness of God to people, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An encounter with Jesus changes people’s lives, and that should be especially noticeable in those who are consecrated completely to serving God, the church and others, Pope Francis said.

“One who has this encounter becomes a witness and makes the encounter possible for others, too,” he said Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Religious arrive in procession for a Mass with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2. The Mass concluded the Year of Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Overlapping by two months, the Catholic Church’s special Year of Consecrated Life has led to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, emphasizing God’s love and mercy for each individual and the mission to share that experience with the world, the pope told thousands of consecrated men and women who joined him in St. Peter’s Basilica and hundreds of others who watched on screens outside once the basilica was full.

The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide his people toward his son, “the light that has no end.”

The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna were praying in the temple at the time and recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

The event, the pope said, is a “feast of encounter,” not just the meeting of Jesus with Simeon and Anna, but the encounter of people’s hopes and expectations for a savior with the fulfillment of those hopes in Jesus.

Christ’s birth is the ultimate encounter, he said; God’s decision to have his son born into the world, to live and suffer and die for the salvation of humanity, shows that he did not want to “remain outside of our drama, but wanted to share our lives.”

In the same way, whether living in a cloistered convent or traveling the world as a missionary, Pope Francis said, “consecrated men and women are called to be a concrete and prophetic sign of this closeness of God and of sharing with the fragile, sinful and wounded condition of people today.”

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, spoke as one of the consecrated people, telling the congregation that as Christians and as religious “we are guardians of awe.”

The experience of an encounter with Jesus constantly must be renewed, he said. One’s spiritual life must never be simply routine, the mission and charisms of an order must never be “crystallized into abstract doctrine” and the spiritual insights of the order’s founder “are not to be sealed in a bottle. They aren’t museum pieces.”

“Our founders were moved by the Spirit and weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty” as they ministered in Jesus’ name to real people living real lives, the pope said. “They didn’t stop in the face of obstacles or when others misunderstood them because they preserved in their hearts the awe of having encountered Christ.”

“They did not domesticate the grace of the Gospel,” he said, but lived with an “all-consuming desire to share it with others.”

“We, too, are called today to make prophetic and courageous choices,” the pope said. In that way, “others will be attracted to the light and can encounter the father’s mercy.”

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Eucharistic sharing is call to mission, to feeding the poor, Pope Francis says in Bolivia

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Catholic News Service

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — The Eucharist is a missionary sacrament; it calls people to give all they are and have to God, seek his blessing and then take his love to the world, Pope Francis said at the opening Mass for Bolivia’s national eucharistic congress.

Obeying Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of me,” he said, “demands exchange, encounter and a genuine solidarity.” Read more »

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