Pope Francis asks Catholics to pray in August for Church reform ‘in the light of the Gospel’

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 2, 2021. Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 2, 2021./ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month that the Church receives the grace “to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”

He made the appeal in his prayer intention for August, released on Tuesday.

“Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel,” reads the prayer intention, issued Aug. 3 by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “The specific vocation of the Church is evangelization, which isn’t proselytism, no. Its vocation is evangelization; even more, the Church’s identity is evangelization.”

“We can only renew the Church by discerning God’s will in our daily life and embarking on a transformation guided by the Holy Spirit.”

“Our own reform as persons is that transformation. Allowing the Holy Spirit, the gift of God in our hearts, to remind us what Jesus taught and help us put it into practice.”

He continued: “Let us begin reforming the Church with a reform of ourselves, without prefabricated ideas, without ideological prejudices, without rigidity, but rather by moving forward based on spiritual experience -- an experience of prayer, an experience of charity, an experience of service.”

“I dream of an even more missionary option: one that goes out to meet others without proselytism and that transforms all its structures for the evangelization of today’s world.”

At the end of 2020, Pope Francis established the global network that promotes his monthly prayer intentions as a Vatican body.

The pope decreed that the network, founded in France in 1844 and focused on the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, would now be a papal institution based at the Vatican. It is now known as the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network” Vatican Foundation.

Commenting on the pope’s August prayer intention, Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “At the end of last year, a few days before Christmas, Francis had already wanted to delve into the difference between conflict and crisis so as to make clear that the latter can always leave us with something positive.”

“It’s a propitious time for the Gospel and for Church reform. As the Holy Father says, ‘we must have the courage to be completely open. We need to stop seeing the reform of the Church as putting a patch on an old garment.’”

“In the face of a crisis, the first thing we can do is accept it, as a propitious time to seek and recognize God’s will. This means not tiring of prayer, as the Pope insists so much; not tiring of following Jesus’ example of service, of charity, of encounter with others, with those who suffer, with the most vulnerable, and with those who most need it.”

Concluding his video address, the pope spoke of the challenges facing the Church. While he did not name any specific events, the Vatican is currently struggling with economic difficulties intensified by the pandemic and is conducting a trial of 10 people related to a financial scandal.

Declining the resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx in June, Francis wrote that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and the only fruitful path was “to assume the crisis, personally and communally.”

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Speaking in the new video, he said: “Let us remember that the Church always has difficulties, always is in crisis, because she’s alive. Living things go through crises. Only the dead don’t have crises.”

“Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”

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