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Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the bishops, clergy, consecrated persons and the lay faithful on the proclamation of the gospel in today’s world

January 29, 2017

egThis document touches on many of the themes of Francis’ papacy, including obligations Christians have to the poor, and the duty to establish and maintain just economic, political, and legal orders. Francis says that the world “can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market” and calls for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” that “attack[s] the structural causes of inequality.” Refocusing society’s priorities, he asks how “it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Calling for an “ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred,” Francis is critical of the over-centralization of church bureaucracy, poor preaching, and excessive emphasis on doctrine. Additionally, it calls for more pastoral creativity and openness, and a “pastoral conversion” in papal ministry.

In contrast to the writing style of previous popes, Evangelii gaudium is not written in an academic style but “in language that is both easily understood and captivating.” In the 47,560 word document, Francis uses the word “love” 154 times, “joy” 109 times, “the poor” 91 times, “peace” 58 times, “justice” 37 times, and “common good” 15 times.

 Introduction

In the first chapters the Pope cites several Bible passages that show the relationship between the joy of receiving the Christian faith and the joy of missionary activity. Francis then offers several themes for the exhortation of the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach; the temptations faced by pastoral workers; the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes; the homily and its preparation; the inclusion of the poor in society; peace and dialogue within society; the spiritual motivations for mission.[8]

Chapter I: The Church’s Missionary Transformation

In this chapter Francis underlines the importance of the parish “because it possesses great flexibility”, and asks oratories, ecclesiastical movements, and other communities in the church, to join the activities of the local parish. He also shows the responsibility that bishops have for the missionary activities in their own diocese. In this context, the Pope says he’s ready to reform the Papacy and that he’s “open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it”.

Chapter II: Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment

The chapter is divided in two sections: the first one, Some challenges of today’s world, deals with economic matters, poverty, and modern culture. It also mentions the new religious movements and moral relativism. The second section, Temptations faced by pastoral workers, describes two errors commonly faced by Christians: first the “attraction of Gnosticism” that offers “a faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information”; the second is “the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism” of those who “feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past” with “a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism”. He also noted that “In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy”.

Chapter III: The Proclamation of the Gospel

Francis describes thoroughly the importance of the homily, which “should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture”, and be prepared with care: “Preparation for preaching is so important a task that a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection and pastoral creativity should be devoted to it […] a preacher who does not prepare is not “spiritual”; he is dishonest and irresponsible”

Chapter IV: The Social Dimension of Evangelization

The fourth chapter deals with many topics: care for the weakest persons (“the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned, and many others”), long term politics, and social dialogue: the dialogue between faith and reason, ecumenical dialog, and inter-religious dialog.

In paragraph 246, Francis teaches that Roman nCatholics have a lot to learn from non-Catholics, particularly from Anglicans and the Orthodox, and that it would be very good to make a compromise list of truths that everyone agrees upon, and use those doctrines to help evangelize Africa and Asia. In paragraph 247 he affirms that “As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word. However, while “it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah”, “there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples”.

In paragraph 254 he teaches that non-Christian rituals of any religion can have a divine origin, that they are “a communitarian experience of journeying towards God” and can be “channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism“.

Chapter V: Spirit-filled Evangelizers

The last part of the exhortation deals with the personal relationship with Christ and the imitation of the Virgin Mary as an icon of joy and missionary activity.

Qutations, mainly about Spiritual Accompaniment

`In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone — priests, religious and laity — into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.’ (169)

`spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom.’ Ibid 170

`Today more than ever we need men and women who, on the basis of their experience of accompanying others, are familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit.’ (171)

‘We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal.’ (171)

`One who accompanies others has to realise that each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without.’ (172)

`Our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow.’ (172)

`Genuine spiritual accompaniment always begins and flourishes in the context of service to the mission of evangelisation. Paul’s relationship with Timothy and Titus provides an example of this accompaniment and formation which takes place in the midst of apostolic activity. Entrusting them with the mission of remaining in each city to “put in order what remains to be done” (Tit 1:5; cf. 1 Tim 1:3-5), Paul also gives them rules for their personal lives and their pastoral activity. This is clearly distinct from every kind of intrusive accompaniment or isolated self-realisation. Missionary disciples accompany missionary disciples.’ (173)

‘I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.’ (273)

The document is available here

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