Thursday, June 13, 2019

Greetings for the Nuncios

At 10:00am this morning (4:00am EDT), in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Meeting of Pontifical Representatives, which is taking place at the Vatican from 12 to 15 June 2019.

The Holy Father provided each of the Nuncios with a copy of his prepared speech.

Prepared remarks of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the Pontifical Representatives

Dear confreres,

I am pleased to meet you again to see with you and to examine the life of the Church with the eyes of a pastor, and to reflect on your delicate and important mission. I thank each one of you for his presence and for his service. This is our third meeting of this kind, in which I also treasure the reflections aroused by the meetings with all of you, here in the Vatican, as well as in some Nunciatures, on the occasion of the recent Travels. I think that in the future we will try to invite the collaborators with a certain regularity, because these moments will also have a formative character.

I thought of sharing some simple and elementary precepts with you today, which you certainly know well, but remembering them will be good for everyone and will help you to live your mission better with the same enthusiasm of your first assignment and with the same fervent availability with which you began your service.

It is a kind of decalogue which, in reality, is addressed through you also to your co-workers and, indeed, to all the bishops, priests and consecrated persons you meet in every part of the world.

1.  The Nuncio is a man of God

To be a man of God means to follow God in everything and for everything; obey his commandments with joy; to live for the things of God and not for those of the world; to freely devote all your resources to him by accepting with a generous spirit the sufferings that come as a result of your faith in him. The man of God does not deceive his neighbour; he does not let himself fall into gossip and slander; he preserves a pure mind and heart, keeps his eyes and ears from the filth of the world. He does not let himself be deceived by worldly values, but looks to the Word of God to judge what is wise and good. The man of God seriously tries to be holy and blameless before him (cf Ephesians 1: 4). The man of God knows how to walk humbly with his Lord, knowing that he must rely only on Him to be able to live fully and endure to the end, keeping his heart open to the disadvantaged and to those who have been rejected by society and listening to people's problems without judging them. The man of God is he who practices justice, love, clemency, piety and mercy.

The Nuncio who forgets that he is a man of God ruins himself and others; he goes off the track and also damages the Church, to which he has dedicated his life.

2.  The Nuncio is a man of the Church

Being a Nuncio, a Papal Representative, he does not represent himself but the Church and in particular the Successor of Peter. Christ warns us of the temptation of the wicked servant: "If this wicked servant says in his heart: My master is slow in coming, and he begins to beat his companions and to drink and eat with the drunkards, the master will come when the servant does not know; he waits and at the hour he does not know, he will punish him with rigor and inflict on him the fate that hypocrites deserve (Mt 24.48-51).

The Nuncio ceases to be a man of the Church when he begins to treat his collaborators, staff, nuns and the nunciature community badly as a bad master and not as a father and pastor. It is sad to see some Nuncios afflicting their collaborators with the same sorrows that they themselves received from other Nuncios when they were collaborators. Instead the Secretaries and Councillors have been entrusted to the experience of the Nuncio so that they can be formed and flourish as diplomats and, God willing, in the future as Nuncios.

It is bad to see a Nuncio looking for luxury, monogramed clothes and objects while living among people who are deprived of the necessities of life.  It is a counter-witness. The greatest honour for a man of the Church is to be a servant of all.

Being a man of the Church also requires the humility of representing the face, teachings and positions of the Church, that is, putting aside personal convictions.

To be a man of the Church means to courageously defend the Church before the forces of evil that are always trying to discredit it, to defame it or to slander it.

Being a man of the Church requires being friends with bishops, priests, religious and the faithful, with confidence and human warmth, carrying out your mission alongside them and always having an ecclesial outlook, that is, of a man who feels responsible for the salvation of others. We always remember that the salus animarum is the supreme law of the Church and this is the basis of all ecclesial action (Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum).  This identity of the Nuncio also leads him to distinguish himself from the other Ambassadors in the great feasts, Christmas and Easter: when those are absent to reach the families, the Nuncio remains in place to celebrate the feast with the people of God in the country because, being a man of the Church, this is his Family.

3.  The Nuncio is a man of apostolic zeal

The Nuncio is the proclaimer of the Good News and being an apostle of the Gospel has the task of illuminating the world with the light of the Risen One, of bringing Christ to the ends of the earth. He is a man on a journey who sows the good seed of faith in the hearts of those he meets. And those who meet the Nuncio should feel questioned in some way.

We recall the great figure of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe who, consumed by ardent zeal for the glory of God, wrote in one of his letters: "In our times we see, not without sadness, the spread of 'indifferentism'. An almost epidemic disease that is spreading in various forms not only in the generality of the faithful, but also among the members of religious institutes. God is worthy of infinite glory. Our first and foremost concern must be to give him praise to the extent of our weak strengths, aware that we cannot glorify him as he deserves. The glory of God shines above all in the salvation of the souls that Christ has redeemed with his blood. It follows that the primary commitment of our apostolic mission will be to procure the salvation and sanctification of the greatest number of souls (cf Writings of Maximillian M. Kolbe, volume I, Florence, 1975; 44-46; 113-114).

We also remember the words of Saint Paul: For me it is not a source of pride to preach the gospel; it is a duty for me: woe to me if I do not preach the gospel (1 Cor 9:16). It is dangerous to fall into the timidity or tepidity of political or diplomatic calculations, or even into that which is politically correct, giving up the proclamation.

Apostolic zeal is that force that keeps us upright and protects us from the cancer of disillusionment.

4.  The Nuncio is a man of reconciliation

It is an important part of the work of every Nuncio to be a man of mediation, communion, dialogue and reconciliation. The Nuncio must always try to remain impartial and objective, so that all parties find in him the right arbitrator who sincerely seeks to defend and protect only justice and peace, without ever allowing himself to be negatively involved (Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum).

Being a man of communication, the activity of the Pontifical Representative brings first of all a precious service to the Bishops, to the Priests, to the Religious and to all the local Catholics, who find in him support and protection, as he represents a Higher Authority, which is for everyone's benefit. Its mission does not overlap with the exercise of the powers of the Bishops, nor does it replace or obstruct it, but respects it and, indeed, favours it and supports it with fraternal and discreet advice (Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum).

If a Nuncio closes himself in the Nunciature and avoids meeting people, he would betray his mission and instead of being a factor of communion and reconciliation he would become an obstacle and an impediment. You must never forget that you represent the face of catholicity and the universality of the Church in the local Churches scattered throughout the world and in the Governments.

5.  The Nuncio is a man of the Pope

If a Nuncio closes himself in the Nunciature and avoids meeting people, he would betray his mission and instead of being a factor of communion and reconciliation it would become an obstacle and impediment. You must never forget that you represent the face of catholicity and the universality of the Church in the local Churches scattered throughout the world and in the Governments.

As a Pontifical Representative, the Nuncio does not represent himself but the Successor of Peter and acts on his behalf with the Church and the Governments, that is, he concretizes, implements and symbolizes the presence of the Pope among the faithful and the people. It is nice that in several countries the Nunciature is called Casa del Papa.

Certainly every person could have reservations, likes and dislikes, but a good Nuncio cannot be hypocritical because the Representative is a link, or better, a bridge of connection between the Vicar of Christ and the people to whom he was sent, in a certain area, for which he was appointed and sent by the Roman Pontiff himself.

Your mission, therefore, is very demanding because it requires availability and flexibility, humility, impeccable professionalism, communication and negotiation skills; it requires frequent car journeys and long journeys, that is, living with the suitcase always ready (in our first meeting I told you: yours is a nomadic life).

Being sent by the Pope and the Church, the Nuncio must be prepared for human relationships, have a natural inclination for interpersonal relationships, that is, be close to the faithful, priests, local bishops, and even other diplomats and rulers.

The service of the Papal Representative is also to visit the communities where the Pope is unable to go, assuring them of the closeness of Christ and of the Church. Thus Saint Paul VI wrote: It is, in fact, evident that the movement towards the centre and the heart of the Church must be matched by another movement, which from the centre spreads to the periphery and leads in a certain way to all the individual local Churches, to all and individual pastors and the faithful the presence and witness of that treasure of truth and grace, of which Christ the Lord and Redeemer has made us sharers, depositories and dispensers. Through Our Representatives, who reside in the various Nations, we make ourselves participants in the very life of Our children and almost inserting ourselves into it we come to know, in a more expedited and sure way, their needs and aspirations together (Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum).

Being a Representative, the Nuncio must continually keep up to date and study, in order to know well the thoughts and instructions of those who he represents. He also has the duty to continually update and inform the Pope about the different situations and ecclesiastical and socio-political changes in the country to which he is sent. For this reason it is essential to have a good knowledge of its customs and possibly of the language, keeping the door of the Nunciature and that of his heart always open to everyone.

It is therefore irreconcilable to be a Pontifical Representative while criticizing the Pope from behind his back, having blogs or even joining groups that are hostile to him, the Curia and the Church of Rome.

6.  The Nuncio is a man of initiative

It is necessary to have and develop the ability and the agility to promote or adopt a conduct appropriate to the needs of the moment without ever falling into mental, spiritual and human rigidity, or into hypocritical and chameleon-like flexibility. It is not a question of being opportunistic, but of knowing how to move from ideas to implementation with the common good in mind and all the while remaining loyal to the mandate. Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini says that "without spiritual motivation and without an evangelical foundation, all initiatives gradually collapse, even on the cooperative, economic and organizational level (Non possiamo tacere. Le parole e la bellezza per vincere la mafia, Piemme 2011, 136).

The man of initiative is a positively curious person, full of dynamism and initiative; a creative and courageous person who does not let himself be overcome by panic in unpredictable situations, but one who knows, with serenity, intuition and imagination, to try to turn them over and manage them positively.

The man of initiative is a master who knows how to teach others how to approach reality to try not to be overwhelmed by the small and big surprises that God has in store for us. He is a person who reassures those who go through the storms of life with positivity.

Being first and foremost a bishop, a pastor who, while living among the vicissitudes of the world, is called daily to show power and to want to be in the world but not of the world (cf Jn 17:14), the Nuncio, in an intuitive manner, must know how to reorganize the overall information and find the right words to help the people who come to him to find advice, with the simplicity of doves and the cunning of snakes (cf Mt 16.16).

It should be pointed out that these abilities are acquired by following Jesus, following the model of the Apostles and the first disciples, who received the call with particular attention and adherence to the conduct of Jesus Christ.

7.  The Nuncio is a man of obedience

The virtue of obedience is inseparable from freedom, because only in freedom can we truly obey, and only by obeying the Gospel can we enter the fullness of freedom (cf Enzo Bianchi, Le parole della spiritualit├á, Rizzoli 1999, 149-152).  The call of the Christian and, in this context, of the Nuncio to obedience remains the call to follow the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth. The life of Jesus, marked by openness and obedience to God, whom he calls Father (cf F.J. Moloney, Discepoli e profeti, 186). Here we can understand and live the great commandment of liberating obedience: We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Obedience to God is not separated from obedience to the Church and to superiors.

Here again Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe helps us. In that same letter he wrote: Obedience, and it alone, is that which manifests the divine will with certainty. It is true that the superior can err, but the one who obeys does not make mistakes ... Through the way of obedience we overcome the limits of our littleness and we conform to the divine will that guides us to act righteously with his infinite wisdom and prudence. By adhering to this divine will, which no creature can resist, we become stronger than all. This is the path of wisdom and prudence, the only way in which we can make the greatest glory to God ... Let us therefore love, brothers, with all our strength the heavenly Father full of love for us; and the proof of our perfect charity is obedience, to be exercised especially when it asks us to sacrifice our will. In fact we know of no other book more sublime than Jesus Christ crucified, to progress in the love of God (Scriti di Massimiliano M. Kolbe, vol. I, Firenze 1975, 44-46; 113-114).

Saint Augustine attributes so much importance to obedience, not less than that of love, humility and wisdom, which are fundamental, to the point that there can be no true love, sincere humility, authentic wisdom except in the sphere of obedience (cf Patrologia, III, Marietti 2000, 432-434; B. Borghini, L’obbedienza secondo S. Agostino, in Vita cristiana, 23, 1954, 460-478).

A Nuncio who does not live the virtue of obedience - even when it is difficult and contrary to his personal vision - is like a traveler who loses his compass, thus risking to fail the objective. We should always remember the saying Medice, cura te ipsum (Physician, heal thyself). It is counter-witness to call others to obedience and to disobey.

8.  The Nuncio is a man of prayer

Here it seems important to me to remind you once again of the unforgettable words with which Saint Giovanni Battista Montini, as Deputy of the Secretariat of State, described the figure of the Pontifical Representative: It is that of one who truly has the conscience to bring Christ with him (25 April 1951), as the precious asset to communicate, to announce, to represent. The goods, the prospects of this world end up disappointing, pushing them to never be satisfied; the Lord is the good that does not disappoint, the only one that does not disappoint. And this requires a detachment from oneself that can only be achieved with a constant relationship with the Lord and the unification of life around Christ. And this is called familiarity with Jesus. Familiarity with Jesus Christ must be the daily food of the Pontifical Representative, because it is the food that comes from the memory of the first encounter with Him and because it also constitutes the daily expression of fidelity to his call. Familiarity with Jesus Christ in prayer, in the Eucharistic celebration - never to be overlooked - in the service of charity (Speech to Pontifical Representatives, 21 June 2013).

Let us remember the Apostles and Peter who said: It is not right that we neglect the word of God for the service of the tables. Look for, brothers among you, seven men of good reputation, full of Spirit and wisdom, to whom we will entrust this task. Instead, we will dedicate ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6: 1-6). The first task of each Bishop is therefore to dedicate himself to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

The Nuncio - and all of us - without a life of prayer, risks failing to meet all the aforementioned requirements. Without prayer we become mere officials, always unhappy and frustrated. The life of prayer is that light that illuminates everything else and all the work of the Nuncio and his mission.

9.  The Nuncio is a man of active charity

It should be stressed here that "prayer, the journey of discipleship and conversion find in charity that sharing is made the verification of their evangelical authenticity. And from this way of life derives joy and serenity of mind, because one touches the flesh of Christ. If we really want to meet Christ, we need to touch his body in the wounded flesh of the poor, as a confirmation of that sacramental communion received in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, lets itself be rediscovered by the charity shared in the faces and persons of the weaker brothers and sisters (Message for the first World Day of the Poor, 19 November 2017) so that faith becomes active through love (Gal 5: 6).

The Nuncio, having the task of interpreting the solicitude of the Roman Pontiff for the good of the country in which he exercises his mission; in particular, must zealously take an interest in the problems of peace, progress and collaboration of peoples, in view of the spiritual, moral and material good of the entire human family (Sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum).  The work of the Nuncio must never be limited to the performance of practices, which, although important, can never make his mission fruitful; for this reason the Nuncio must spend himself in charitable works, especially towards the poor and the marginalized: only in this way will he be able to fully realize his mission and his being a father and pastor.

Charity is also gratuitousness, and this is why I would like to speak here of a permanent danger, that is the danger of the gifts. The Bible defines as iniquitous the man who accepts gifts from under his cloak, to divert the course of justice (Pr 17,23-24) and also the Psalms ask: Lord, who will dwell in your tent? And replies: who does not accept gifts against the innocent (Ps 15,1.5). Active charity must lead us to be cautious in accepting the gifts that are offered to obfuscate our objectivity and in some cases unfortunately to buy our freedom.

No gift of any value should ever enslave us! Refuse gifts that are too expensive and often useless or send them to charity, and remember that receiving an expensive gift never justifies its use.

10.  The Nuncio is a man of humility

I would like to conclude this decalogue with the virtue of humility, citing the Litany of humility of the Servant of God Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State and collaborator of Saint Pius X, one of your former colleagues:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me!

From the desire to be esteemed - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be loved - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be praised - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be honoured - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be preferred over others - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be consulted - Free me, Jesus.

From the desire to be affirmed - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being humiliated - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being despised - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being repulsed - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being slandered - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being forgotten - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being ridiculed - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being abused - Free me, Jesus.

From fear of being suspected - Free me, Jesus.

May others be loved more than I - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others be esteemed more than I - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others grow in the opinion of the world and may I diminish - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others be employed and I be put aside - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others be praised and I not cared for - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others be preferred to me in everything - Jesus, give me the grace to desire this!

May others be more holy than I,

May others be holier than I, as long as I become a saint as much as I can - Jesus give me the grace to desire this!
Original text in Italian

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