'Backbiting' communities don’t help evangelization – unity does

'Backbiting' communities don’t help evangelization – unity does

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after the Wednesday general audience on May 7, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square after the Wednesday general audience on May 7, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

.- Pope Francis said that divisions among Christians are a stumbling block to evangelization, and encouraged members of the Church to go beyond personal opinions and find value in what others offer.

“For the world to believe that Jesus is Lord, it needs to see communion among Christians. If, on the other hand, the world sees divisions, rivalries and backbiting, regardless of the cause, how can we evangelize?” the Pope said in a Nov. 22 audience.

He quoted his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” reminding everyone that “’unity always prevails over conflict’ because our brothers and sisters are always of greater value than our personal attitudes.”

The Roman Pontiff offered his words in an address given to participants in the Nov. 20-22 World Congress for Ecclesial Movements and New Communities.

Communion is something that should never be forgotten or neglected in the work of movements or communities, he said, explaining that true communion can only exist when they are united to the hierarchal Church.

“The whole is greater than the part, and the part only has meaning in relation to the whole,” he noted, saying that it is the mission of movements and communities to work together in addressing major issues of our time, such as questions surrounding life, family, peace and the fight against poverty.

New Movements and communities “are called to coordinate their efforts in caring for those wounded by a globalized mentality which places consumption at the center, neglecting God and those values which are essential for life,” the Pope observed.

Pope Francis continued, saying that another important point is for communities and movements to always preserve the “freshness” of the specific charisms they have been given.

Defined in a general sense as any good gift that God gives to man, charisms can be renewed by returning to the moment in which they, members of communities and movements, first felt the love of God, the pontiff said.

“As time goes by, there is a greater temptation to become comfortable, to become hardened in set ways of doing things, which, while reassuring, are nonetheless sterile,” he observed.

While the institutionalization of charisms in necessary in order for them to continue, the Roman Pontiff cautioned attendees not to “delude ourselves” by thinking that external structures alone are a guarantee that the Holy Spirit is present and at work.

Maintaining a constant sense of newness in their lives and that of their communities doesn’t come from certain methods or formulas, but rather from one’s “willingness to respond with renewed enthusiasm to the Lord’s call.”

Only with this enthusiasm will movements and communities grow, he said, explaining that once forms and methods become an end in themselves, they become an ideology that is removed from reality and closed to the Holy Spirit.

“Such rigid forms and methods will eventually stifle the very charism which gave them life,” the Pope said, and encouraged participants to always go back to the “driving force” behind the charism, which is needed to meet contemporary challenges.

A final point the Roman Pontiff brought to light was the need for movements and communities to focus on both welcoming and accompanying the people of today, in particular youth.

“We are part of a wounded humanity in which all of the educational institutions, especially the most important one – the family – are experiencing grave difficulties almost everywhere in the world.”

Therefore, in the process of evangelization it is important to direct and accompany people in a process of genuine growth and maturity, without interfering with the individual’s personal freedom, the Pope continued.

“Moral or spiritual progress which manipulates a person’s immaturity is only an apparent success, and one destined to fail,” he said, noting that our faith demands the opposite response, which is a patience accompaniment that waits for the right moment for each person.

Patience, he said, “is the only way to love truly and to lead others into a sincere relationship with the Lord.”

The Pope concluded his address by summarizing his key points, and encouraged each participant to constantly maintain the freshness of their charism, to respect the freedom of each individual, and to always strive for communion.

“Do not forget, however, that to reach this goal conversion must be missionary: the strength to overcome temptations and insufficiencies comes from the profound joy of proclaiming the Gospel, which is the foundation of your charisms.”

Tags: Pope Francis, Rome, Catholic Church