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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nuncios Encountering Peter in Rome

At 11:00am local time this morning, in the Sala Clementina at the Vatican, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the Apostolic Nuncios who are in Rome for the Meeting of Pontifical Representatives which is taking place at the Vatican from September 15 to 17 as part of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to the Apostolic Nuncios

Dear confreres,

I am happy to have this moment of jubilee prayer, which, in addition to calling us as Pastors to rediscover the roots of mercy, is an occasion to renew, through you, the link between the Successor of Peter and the various local Churches to which you are bearers and artisans of the communion that is at the core of the life of the Church and to proclaim his message to them.  I thank Cardinal Parolin for his words and the Secretary of State for the generosity with which he has prepared these days of encounter.

Welcome to Rome!  I embrace you all in this time of jubilee which has a special significance for you.  Here in this place are found many of your sources and your memories.  Here you were still young men when you arrived with the intent to serve Peter, here you return from time to time to encounter him, and from here, you continue to depart as his envoys, bringing his message, his closeness and his witness.  In fact, here in this place, Peter has been here since the early days of the Church.  Peter is here today in the Pope who providence has chosen; Peter will be here tomorrow, he will always be here!  This is what the Lord desired: that helpless humanity, which in and of itself will only be a stumbling block, may become through divine intervention, an unbreakable rock.

I thank each one of you for the service that you offer for the sake of my ministry.  Thank you for the attention with which you gather from the lips of the Pope the confession on which the Church of Christ rests.  Thank you for the faithfulness with which you interpret with an undivided heart, with an integrated mind and with unambiguous words what the Holy Spirit asks Peter to say to the Church at this moment.  Thank you for the delicacy with which you harken to my pastoral heart and try to ensure that the breath of this heart reaches the Churches where you are called to preside in charity.

I thank you for the dedication and for the swift and generous availability of your lives, filled with commitments and marked by rhythms that are at times difficult.  You touch with your hands the flesh of the Church, the splendour of love that makes her glorious, but also the sores and the wounds that are begging for forgiveness.  With a genuine sense of the Church and humbly seeking knowledge about various problems and issues, you make the Church and the world present to the heart of the Pope.  Every day, mostly in the mornings and in the evenings, I read your communications with news about the realities of the local Churches, concerning the events in the countries to which you are accredited and the discussions that threaten the life of the international community.  I am grateful for all of this!  Know that I accompany you every day - often with your names and faces before me - with the memory of our friendships and with my confident prayer.  I remember you during the Eucharist.  Since you are not Diocesan Bishops and your names are not pronounced in any particular Churches, know that the Pope remembers you constantly as an extension of his own person, as those he has sent to serve with sacrifice and competence, accompanying the Bride of Christ and the People who live in those places.

I want to tell you a few things.

Serve with sacrifice as those who are humbly sent
Blessed Paul VI, reforming the Holy See's diplomatic service, wrote the following: The activity of te Pontifical Representatives first provides a valuable service to the local Bishops, Priests, Religious and to all Catholics, who find in him both support and protection, since he represents a Higher Authority, which is advantageous to all.  His mission is not added to the exercise of the powers of the Bishops, nor does it replace or hinder them, but they respect him, and indeed, he promotes and sustains them with fraternity and discrete counsel (Apostolic Letter, Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum, AAS 61, 1969, 476).

In your work, therefore, you are called to everyone the loving care of the one you represent, becoming in this way the one who supports and protects, who is ready to support and not only to correct, who is available to listen before deciding, to take the first steps toward eliminating tensions and promoting understanding and reconciliation.

Without humility, no service is either possible or fruitful.  The humility of a Nuncio is filled with love for the Church and for the country in which he is called to serve.  It enhances the attitude of serenity at knowing that he stays where the Pope wants him to be and not with a heart that is distracted as it anticipates a future destination.  He is fully present, with an undivided mind and heart: having unpacked your own baggage in order to share the riches that you bring with you, but also to receive that you do not yet possess.

Yes, you need to evaluate, compare, determine what may be the limits of an ecclesial path, a culture, a religiosity, the social and political life ... in order to form and to report an exact idea of the situation.  Look, analyze and report are essential verbs but they are not sufficient in the life of a Nuncio.  It is useful also to meet, to listen, to enter into dialogue, to share, to propose and to work together, so that sincere, sympathetic and empathetic love might transpire with the people of God and with the local Church.  What Catholics - not just civil society in general - desire and need to perceive is that, in their country, the Nuncio feels good, at home; that he feels free and is happy to establish constructive relationships, sharing their daily lives (their food, their language, their customs), to express his own opinions and impressions with great respect and with a sense of closeness, accompanying them with a gaze that helps them to grow.

It is not good enough to merely point fingers or to attack those who do not think like we do.  This is a miserable tactic of modern-day political and cultural wars, but this cannot be the way of the Church.  Our gaze should be extended and profound.  The formation of conscience is our primary duty in charity and this requires delicacy and perseverance in its implementation.

To be sure, there is still a threat that the wolf will attack from outside and snatch the flock, confuse it, create disruptions, disperse and even destroy it.  The wolf still has the same appearance: misunderstanding, hostility, malice, persecution, denial of the truth, resistance to goodness, closed to the possibility of love, inexplicable cultural hostility, suspicion and so on.  You are well aware that there are dangers from wolves of every kind.  I think of Christians in the East, toward whom violent sieges seem to be aimed; of the silent complicity of many; of their eradication.

We do not need the ingenuity of lambs, but the magnanimity of doves and the astuteness and prudence of wise and faithful servants.  It is good that we should keep our eyes open in order o recognize where the hostility is coming from and in order to discern the possible paths to combat their causes and to deal with their pitfalls.  However, I encourage you not to linger in an atmosphere of siege, to not yield to the temptation to continually cry or to make victims of those who criticize, prod and sometimes denigrate us.  Spend your best energies in order to resonate in the souls of the Churches you serve, the joy and the power of the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus (cf Mt 5:11).

Remain ready and happy to spend time (even at times to lose time) with bishops, priests, religious men and women, parishes, cultural and social institutions: this is the work of a Nuncio.  On such occasions, we create the conditions for learning, listening, passing on messages, knowing the personal problems and situations or those of ecclesial leadership that need to be addressed and resolved.  And there is nothing that facilitates the discernment and eventual correction more than closeness, availability and fraternity.  For for me, this is very important: closeness, availability and fraternity with the local Churches.  This is not a covert strategy to gather information and to manipulate realities or people, but rather an attitude that befits one who is not only a career diplomat, nor merely an instrument of Peter's concern, but a pastor gifted with the interior ability to bear witness to Jesus Christ.  You must look beyond the logic of bureaucracy that sometimes can impede your work - this is understandable, it's natural - but it makes us closed, indifferent and impermeable.

The Apostolic Nunciature is truly the Pope's house, not only for his traditional annual feast, but as a permanent place where the entire ecclesiastical company can find support and counsel; it is for public authorities a point of reference, not only for diplomatic functions, but for the activities that are proper and unique to pontifical diplomacy.  Be careful that your Nunciatures never become refuges for friends and for friends of friends.  Flee from the company of gossips and careerists.

Your relationship with the civic community must be inspired by the gospel image of the Good Shepherd, capable of knowing and of representing the requirements, the needs and the conditions of the flock, especially when the only criteria that determine them are contempt, insecurity and waste.  Do not be afraid to push them, even to complex and to difficult frontiers, so that you may be shepherds who really care about doing what is best for the people.

In the enormous task of ensuring the freedom of the Church in the face of all forms of power that seek to silence the Truth, make no mistake that this freedom is only the fruit of intents, agreements and diplomatic negotiations which seek perfection and results.  The Church will be free only if her institutions can work to proclaim the gospel to all people, in all places, on all occasions, without delay, without repulsion and without fear (Evangelii Gaudium, 23), even though she may appear to be a true sign of contradiction toward the current trends, the denial of gospel Truth and the easy accommodation that often plagues pastors and their flocks.

Remember that you are representing Peter, the rock that survives a flood of ideologies, the reduction of the Word to mere conveniences, and to the subservience of the powers of this passing world.  Therefore, be not espoused to political or ideological battle lines, for the permanence o the Church is not based on the consent of salons or squares, but on the faithfulness of her Lord who, unlike the foxes and birds, has no den or nest in which to lay his head (Mt 8:18-22).

The Church, the Spouse cannot lay his head anywhere except on the pierced chest of her Bridegroom.  From there flows the source of her true power, the power of mercy.  We do not have the right to deprive the world, even in fora of bilateral or multilateral diplomatic actions and in large areas of international debate, of this wealth that no one else can give.  This awareness urges us to dialogue with everyone, and in many cases to give prophetic voice to those who are marginalized because of their faith or their ethnicity, economic, social or cultural realities: May their cry become ours and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that at times reign supreme, hiding hypocrisy and selfishness (Misericordiae Vultus, 15).

Accompany the Churches with a Pastor's heart
The multiplicity and complexity of the problems that must be faced every day must not distract you from the heart of your apostolic mission, which consists in accompanying the Church with the gaze of a daddy, which is nothing other than that of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

In order to accompany, you have to move.  The cold paper of letters and reports is not enough.  It is not enough to learn merely by hearsay.  We have to see for ourselves how the good seed of the gospel is spreading.  Do not wait for people to come to you with their problems or wanting you to answer their questions.  Visit in dioceses, in religious institutions, in parishes, in seminaries, in order to understand what the People of God are living, thinking and asking.  Be the true expression of a Church that is going out, a Church that is a field hospital, able to live the dimensions of the local Church, of the country and the Institutions to which you are sent.  I am aware of the large volume of work that awaits you, but do not allow your souls, your generous and neighbourly pastoral hearts, to be suffocated.  This closeness - closeness! - is today the essential condition for the fruitfulness of the Church.  People need to be accompanied.  Serve them with one hand on their shoulder and do not loose sight of the path, do not be distracted!

Accompany the Bishops, supporting their best efforts and initiatives.  Help them to face the challenges and to find solutions that are not printed in manuals, but the fruit of patient discernment.  Encourage every effort toward the qualification of the clergy.  Depth is a crucial challenge for the Church: depth of faith, adherence to Christ, the Christian life, following and discipleship.  It is not enough to have vague priorities and theories about pastoral programs.  We need to focus on the reality of the present, of the collective, of being close to them, of accompanying them.

One of my true preoccupations is the selection of future Bishops.  I spoke with you about this in the year 2013.  Speaking to the Congregation of Bishops some time ago, I outlined the profile of Pastors which I consider necessary for the Church today: witnesses to the Risen One and not bearers of a curriculum; prayerful Bishops; familiar with higher things and not weighed down by the concerns from below; Bishops who are able to enter patiently into the presence of God, so that they can acquire the freedom of not betraying the Kerygma that is entrusted to them; Bishops who are pastors and not princes and functionaries.  Please!

In the complex task of finding in the midst of the Church those that God has already singled out in His heart to guide His people, an essential part is up to you. You must be the first to scrutinize the fields to ascertain where the little David’s are holed up (cf. 1 Samuel 16:11-13): they exist, God does not make them lack! But if we always go to fish in the aquarium, we will not find them!
Nel complesso compito di rintracciare in mezzo alla Chiesa coloro che Dio ha giĆ  individuato nel proprio cuore per guidare il suo Popolo, una parte sostanziale tocca a voi. Siete voi i primi a dover scrutare i campi per accertarvi su dove sono rintanati i piccoli David (cfr 1 Sam 16,11-13): ci sono, Dio non li fa mancare! Ma se andiamo sempre a pescare nell’acquario, non li troveremo!

We must move, go out to seek them. We must go around the fields with the heart of God and not with some prefixed profile of headhunters. The look with which one searches, the criteria to assess, the features of the sought physiognomy cannot be dictated by the vain attempts with which we think we can program in our offices the Church we dream of. Therefore, it is necessary to let down the nets in the deep. One cannot be content to fish in the aquaria, in the reserve or in the breeding of friends of friends. At stake is trust in the Lord of history and of the Church, who never neglects their good; therefore, we must not beat about the bush. The practical question that comes to me now is to ask: but is there not another? The question in the Book of Samuel, asked of David’s father: But is there not another? (cf 1 Samuel 16:11). And go to find them, and they exist! They exist!

Accompany the people in whom the Church of Christ is present
Your diplomatic service is the vigilant and lucid eye of the Successor of Peter on the Church and on the world! I beg you to be at the height of such a noble mission, for which you must prepare yourselves continually. It is not only about acquiring contents about subjects, in fact these subjects can be changed, but of a discipline of work and of a style of life that enables one to also appreciate routine situations, to pick up changes and act, to assess novelties, to be able to interpret them in a measured way and to suggest concrete actions.

It is the speed of the times that calls for ongoing formation, avoiding taking everything for granted. Sometimes the repetition of work, numerous commitments and the lack of new stimulations fuel an intellectual sloth that does not delay in producing its negative fruits. Serious and continuous deeper reflection would succeed in overcoming that fragmentation for which individually one seeks to carry out one’s work to the best of one’s ability, but without any, or with very little, coordination and integration with others. Do not think that the Pope is not aware of the solitude (not always blessed as for the hermits and Saints) in which not a few Papal Representatives live. I always think of your state as one of exiles, and I ask continually in my prayer that sources of support may never fail, the support which makes interior unity and the sense of profound peace and fruitfulness possible.

The exigency we must increasingly make our own is to work in a unitary and coordinated network, which is necessary to avoid a personal vision, which often does not hold up in face of the reality of the local Church, of the country or of the International Community. One risks proposing an individual vision that can certainly be the fruit of a charism, of a profound ecclesial sense and intellectual capacity, but which is not immune from a certain personalization, from emotiveness, from different sensibilities and not least, from personal situations that inevitably condition your work and your collaboration.

Great in our days are the challenges that await you, and I do not feel like making a list. You know them. Perhaps it is wiser to intervene at their roots. As it is being progressively designed, papal diplomacy cannot be foreign to the urgency of rendering mercy palpable in this wounded and crushed world. Mercy must be the cipher of the diplomatic mission of the Apostolic Nuncio, who, in addition to his personal ethical effort, must have the firm conviction that God’s mercy is inserted in this world’s affairs, in society’s affairs, in human groups of families, of peoples, of nations. In the international sphere also, it implies never considering anything or anyone as lost. The human being is never unrecoverable. No situation is impermeable to the subtle and irresistible power of the goodness of God, who never desists in what concerns man and his destiny.

This radical novelty of perception of the diplomatic mission frees the Papal Representative from immediate geopolitical, economic or military interests, calling him to discern in his first government, political and social interlocutors and in public institutions the longing to serve the common good and to leverage this trait, even if sometimes it presents itself obfuscated or mortified by personal and corporate interests or by ideological, populist or nationalistic tendencies.

The Church, although without undervaluing the present, is called to work long-term, without the obsession for immediate results. She must endure difficult and adverse situations with patience, or changes of plans that the dynamism of the reality imposes. There will always be the tension between fullness and limits, but it is not for the Church to occupy places of power or self-affirmation, rather she must make the good seed be born and grow; she must accompany its development patiently, rejoice over the provisional harvest that can be obtained, without being discouraged when an unexpected or cold storm ruins what seemed golden and ready to be harvested (cf John 4:35). She must begin new processes confidently; start again from steps already taken, without going back, fostering all that makes the best of people and institutions emerge, without anxiety, with clear and tenacious convictions (Evangelii Gaudium, 223).

Do not be afraid to converse confidently with public individuals and institutions. We face a world in which it is not always easy to identify centres of power and many are discouraged, thinking that they are anonymous and unreachable. Instead be convinced that persons are still approachable. An interior space subsists in man where God’s voice can resound. Dialogue with clarity and do not be afraid that mercy might confound or diminish the beauty and strength of the truth. Truth is attained in its fullness only in mercy. And be sure that the last word of history and of life is not conflict but unity, for which the heart of every man yearns. Unity conquers, transforming the dramatic conflict of the Cross into the source of our peace, because there the wall of separation was pulled down (cf Ephesians 2:14).

Dear fellow brothers, in sending you again to your mission, after these days of fraternal and happy meetings, my concluding word is to entrust you to the joy of the Gospel. We are not salesmen of fear and of the night, but custodians of the dawn and of the light of the Risen One.

The world has so much fear — so much fear! — and it spreads it. It often makes it the key to the reading of history and not rarely adopts it as a strategy to build a world resting on walls and ditches. We can even understand the reasons for fear, but we cannot embrace it, because God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of strength, of charity and of prudence (2 Tim 1:7).

Draw from this spirit and go: open doors; build bridges; knit bonds; engage in friendships; promote unity. Be men of prayer: never neglect it, especially silent Adoration: the true source of all your work.

Fear always dwells in the darkness of the past, but it has a weakness: it is provisional. The future belongs to the light! The future is ours, because it belongs to Christ! Thank you!

I invite you to pray the Angelus together with me now. It is midday.

Angelus Domini ...

(Original text in Italian)
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