JOY OF THE GOSPEL – AN IMPORTANT VOICE OF POPE FRANCIS
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
On the feast of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe on 24 November 2013, pope Francis gave an apostolic exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ –Joy of Gospel. The document is addressed to bishops, presbyters and deacons, to consecrated people and lay believers, and it concerns proclaiming the Gospel in the modern world. The richness of the Holy Father’s look at the life of the Church flows from this long document – it contains 288 points – comprising many issues, and some directives, among the others, concerning the reform of the Church and the Roman Curia. At this moment it is difficult to take an attitude towards the whole content of the exhortation as these are only the beginnings of the pontificate of pope Francis.
The Holy Father is looking at the Church structures, the course of work of Vatican offices and sees some deficiencies as it regards a possibility of as full experiencing faith as possible, its spontaneity and joy. Where there is a kind of restriction – he says – there will not be an expected growth of faith or life with the Gospel. He recalls events which took place in Jesus’ life, in His meetings with Apostles of ordinary people and accentuates some details when disciples are coming to Jesus and are asking about something, and Jesus is explaining them patiently, is giving examples and is at their disposal. The Gospel – the Pope notices –is full of joy and dynamism, people accept the grace of faith which Christ gives them and start living with the Gospel.
The Holy Father really wants to remind us that the Church is very missionary. He quotes Christ’s command: ‘Going all over the world, teach all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them everything what I told you’ (see Mt 28,19-20). Lord Jesus gives us strong and significant indications which concern just the dynamics of the Church. So, the Holy Father encourages mainly priests to be more active in this respect. He says that if people do not come to us, then we have to come to them, we cannot omit anybody, especially a poor man, with problems or a lost man.
Over 2000 years ago since Christ’s arrival to the world, we could have spoken about a kind of stability of the Church, about its established position in the human society. It is also a kind of restriction in its missionary work – everything is proceeding within functioning structures, which are sometimes too rigid. For example, Vatican offices seem to be such structures for pope Francis, which are somehow flanked and closed, and whose ‘guards’ are cardinals and bishops. The Holy Father gives new propositions. In Vatican – he says – in offices more laymen should work, including women, whereas those who are called for priesthood, should go to a diocese, to people. The pope thinks that this number of cardinals is needed in Rome, they – as undoubtedly very clever and professional people – are needed in the Church in the world. Speaking about it, the Pope also wants to prevent priests from a phenomenon of a kind of careerism: somebody wants to become an archbishop or a cardinal, in order to be a dignified Vatican officer, but in fact, it is not needed for anything, as a cardinal and a bishop are needed to people.
The Pope presents in a picturesque way the situation of the Church in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’.The document distinguishes with an unusual freshness of a look and reminds about earlier speeches of pope Francis. Surely, he introduces something new, as regards the mission of the Church, convinces and is a kind of a fundament of reforms, which will come in the nearest years. So, it is astonishing when some people say that we are witnesses of spring in the Church: after the Second Vatican Council, which fruited with many excellent and wise documents, and also the New Catechism of the Catholic Church, edited during the pontificate of John Paul II in 1983, the Holy Father Francis is going even further.
We think that the apostolic exhortation is started with a new whiff of the Holy Spirit, a new scene in the Universal Church. Indeed, it is all about the fact that it would be the most faithful and fervent in fulfill Christ’s, message which is a sense of our vocation .