I am sure you’ve hear about perhaps have even read the Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis that was released in late November. It is long and dense being over 47,000 words long and with 217 end notes you can get lost just reading it. I have made my way through it finally and this is my distilled version of what the Pope said.
This exhortation is like a mission statement for the Church, many have called it “the manifesto of Francis” others have called it a jab of a shepherd crook. Right as we begin Pope Francis boils it all down to the essence of it all “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interest and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” From this Francis points out that the Bible is a joy filled book and as much as we tend to focus on the suffering, it is “like Lent without Easter” and he asks a question where is the joy in the world today.
As we continue on we get into a bit about the new Evangelization, specifically speaking about the latest Synod of Bishops in October 2012, and the groups of people who need to be evangelized to. The faithful, the fallen away and those who have yet to hear of Jesus or rejected him. Francis quotes Benedict XVI saying that “it is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”, and then notes the things that the Church needs to to do. Among them are decentralization of the Church, reform the Church in her missionary outreach, temptations faced by pastoral workers, Church as all the people which evangelizes, homilies length and purpose, inclusion of the poor in society, peace and dialogue within society and Spiritual motivations for mission.
in the first Chapter Francis talks about how “The joy of the Gospel is for all people” and that the parish churches need to engage in their communities and not be buildings that just sit there. We also see that there is a need to focus on all people and that bishops should work on local problems and let the Pope work on global ones. Francis ends this first chapter by stating that we must never forget the poor as there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. Basically put we need to preach the gospel to all people in our communities including the poor.
Chapter two has given some people headaches as it is divided into two sections challenges in the world today and temptations faced by Pastoral workers. In the first section the Holy Father talks about economic matters, poverty, and modern culture with a focus on new religious movements and moral relativism. From the comments made in this section some news sources identified Pope Francis as a Marxist. The second section focuses on things like Gnosticism and Pelagianism both considered heresies. These are problems that we will run into as we try to bring the message to our communities or problems we need to face.
In the third chapter we finally get to proclaiming the Gospel. this is something that the whole community does. As “all the baptized are agents of evangelization” this calls for personal involvement of us all. Pope Francis also expresses his feelings on homilies in this chapter saying that they should be brief and not like a speech or a lecture and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Chapter fours looks at the social side of evangelization. It starts off with saying that the message is for all and at the core the Church is missionary. Francis points out that there needs to be dialogue between the various faith groups, particularly the Anglicans and Orthodox. We must also remember that we share a lot with the Jewish people including the Hebrew Scriptures and we share many ethical convictions and concerns for justice and the development of peoples. This message even go to the non-Christian faiths may have a divine origin and is a pathway for the Holy Spirit.
The final Chapter talks about our personal relationship with Jesus and gives us Mary as an example of how we should be living our lives. I hope that this works to give some understanding to the exhortation, but there are also a bunch of others who have gone and done a thoughtful analysis of this Exhortation. I would suggest looking over a couple to get a full picture of the meaning of Evangelii Gaudium. The next Synod will focus on the family and is scheduled to take place in October 2014.
- Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel (mceblog.wordpress.com)
- The Joy of the Gospel (flofsp.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis’ Exhortation Praised As Guide To Christian Outreach (eurasiareview.com)
- Evangelii gaudium: the first apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis (theglobaloyster.wordpress.com)
- The Exhortation: Getting Started (billditewig.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis is Changing the Church, and the World, For Good (thatcatholicjazz.com)
- All Catholics must become evangelisers, says Francis in major new document (catholicherald.co.uk)