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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Speaking to the Dominicans after the Chapter

At 10:00am today, in the Sala Clementina, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who have been participating in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans).

Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis
to the participants taking part in the
General Chapter of the Dominicans

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we could describe this day as A Jesuit among friars: this morning I am with you and this afternoon I will be in Assisi with the Franciscans: among friars.

I welcome you and am grateful for the greetings that Friar Bruno Cadoré, Master General of the Order has offered me in the name of all of you who are present, after having completed your General Chapter in Bologna, where you sought to retrace your roots at the tomb of your holy Founder.

This year has special significance for your religious family, to be meeting eight centuries after Pope Honorius III confirmed the Order of Preachers.  On the occasion of the Jubilee that you are celebrating, I join you in giving thanks for the abundant gifts you have received over the past eight centuries.  I also want to express my gratitude to the Order for your significant contribution to the Church and the collaboration with the Holy See which, in a spirit of filial service, you have continued from your origins to this very day.

And this celebration of eight centuries allows us to recall the memory of men and women of faith and of learning, of contemplation and of mission, martyrs and apostles of charity, who demonstrated the caress and the tenderness of God in every place, enriching the Church and demonstrating new possibilities for incarnating the gospel through preaching, witness and charity: three pillars that secure the future of the Order, while maintaining the freshness of your foundational charism.

God urged Saint Dominic to found an Order of Preachers, to continue the mission of preaching that Jesus had entrusted to the Apostles.  It is the Word of God that burns within us and drives us out to proclaim Jesus Christ to all peoples (cf Mt 28:19-20).  Your Father Founder used to say: First contemplate, then teach.  Evangelized by God, in order to evangelize.  Without a strong personal union with him, preaching can be perfect, very reasonable, even admirable, but it will not touch the heart, which is what must change.  This is so essential for the serious and assiduous study of theological matters, like everything that permits us to draw close to reality and to listen closely to the people of God, who are waiting to be understood (cf Evangelii Gaudium, 154).

More effectively conveying the Word of God requires witness: teachers who are faithful to the truth and courageous witnesses of the gospel.  Your witness includes education, makes it tangible, draws people in and leaves no one indifferent; in addition to the truth and the joy of the gospel, it allows others to know that they are loved by God and the object of his infinite mercy (cf EG, 142).

Saint Dominic used to tell his followers: With bare feet, go out and preach.  This reminds us of the biblical passage of the burning bush, when God said to Moses: Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground (Exodus 3:5).  A good preacher is aware that he is standing on holy ground, because the Word that he speaks is sacred, and those who receive the Word are also sacred.  Not only do the faithful need to receive the Word in all its integrity, they also need to experience the witness of life that is preached (cf EG, 171).  The saints achieved abundant fruit because both their lives and their mission spoke with the language of the heart that does not know any boundaries and is understandable to everyone.

Finally, the preaching and witness should be sealed in charity.  Without this, they would be talked about and become suspect.  Saint Dominic encountered a dilemma at the beginning of his life, one that marked his entire life: How can I study with dead skin, while the flesh of Christ suffers? It is the body of Christ, living and suffering, that cries to the preacher and does not leave him alone.  The cry of the poor and those who are neglected that help us to understand the compassion that Jesus had for people (Mt 15:32).

Looking around us, we see that the men and women of our time are thirsting for God.  They are the living flesh of Christ that cries out: I thirst for a real and liberating word, for a gesture of fraternity and tenderness.  This cry challenges us and should serve as the backbone of our mission to give life to our pastoral structures and programs.  Consider this when you reflect on the need to adjust the organization of the Order, in order to discern the response that is given in reply to the cries addressed to God.  The more you go out to quench the thirst of others, the more you will be preachers of the truth, of the truth proclaimed by love and mercy, the truth that was spoken of by Saint Catherine of Siena (cf Book of Divine Doctrine, 35).  In the encounter with the living flesh of Christ, we are evangelized and we re-discover the passion that makes us preachers and witnesses of his love, and we can even overcome the dangerous temptation, so present in our times, the temptation of Gnosticism.

Dear brothers and sisters, with a heart that is grateful for the blessings that have been received from the Lord for your Order and for the Church, I encourage you to joyfully follow the charism inspired by Saint Dominic which has been lived with many nuances by the many saints of the Dominican family.  His example inspires us to face the future with hope, knowing that God always renews everything and never disappoints.  May Our Mother, the Virgin of the Rosary, intercede for you and protect you, so that you may be preachers and courageous witnesses of God's love.  Thank you!
(Original text in Spanish)
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