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Meeting with Bishops, Priests, and Deacons: Address of His Holiness

Pope Francis

Friday, April 28, 2023

On April 28, 2023, Pope Francis continued his Apostolic Visit to Hungary by meeting with Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Consecrated persons, Seminarians, and Pastoral Workers in St. Stephen's Co-Cathedral, Budapest. He said that "to combat a bleak defeatism and a worldly conformism, the Gospel gives us new eyes to see. It gives us the grace of discernment, to enable us to approach our own time with openness, but also with a prophetic spirit. In a word, with a prophetic receptivity."
Read the full text of his address below:

Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Consecrated persons, Seminarians, and Pastoral Workers
Address of His Holiness

St. Stephen's Co-Cathedral, Budapest
Friday, 28 April 2023

Dear brother bishops, priests and deacons,
consecrated men and women and seminarians,
pastoral workers, brothers and sisters, 
dicsértessék to Jézus Krisztus! [Praised be Jesus Christ!] 
I am happy to be with you once again, after we shared the experience of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress. The Congress was a moment of great grace, and I am sure that you continue to enjoy its spiritual fruits. I thank Bishop Veres for his kind introduction, in which he expressed the desire of Hungary’s Catholics in these words: “In this changing world we want to testify that Christ is our future." This is one of the most important things demanded of us: to interpret the changes and transformations of our time, seeking to meet pastoral challenges as best we can. 
Yet we can only do this by looking to Christ as our future. He is “the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty,” (Revelation 1:8) the beginning and the end, the foundation and the ultimate goal of human history. In this Easter season, as we contemplate the glory of the One who is “the first and the last,” (Revelation 1:17) we can face the storms unleashed upon our world, the rapid pace of social change and the crisis of faith affecting our Western culture without yielding to resignation or losing sight of the centrality of Easter. The risen Christ, the centre of history, is indeed the future. Our lives, for all their frailty, are held firmly in his hands. If ever we forget this, we, clergy and laity alike, will end up seeking human ways and means to defend ourselves from the world, either withdrawing into our comfortable and tranquil religious oases, or else running after the shifting winds of worldliness. In both cases, our Christianity will lose its vigour, and we will cease to be the salt of the earth. 
These are the two approaches – I might say the two temptations – against which, as a Church, we must always be on guard. The first is a bleak reading of the present time, fuelled by the defeatism of those who insist that all is lost, that we have lost the values of bygone days and have no idea where we are headed. Father Sándor nicely expressed his gratitude to God for having “delivered him from defeatism!” Then there is the other risk, that of a naive reading of our time, based on a comfortable conformism that would have us think that everything is basically fine, the world has changed and we must simply adapt. So, to combat a bleak defeatism and a worldly conformism, the Gospel gives us new eyes to see. It gives us the grace of discernment, to enable us to approach our own time with openness, but also with a prophetic spirit. In a word, with a prophetic receptivity
Here I would like to reflect briefly on a parable used by Jesus: that of the fig tree. (cf. Mark 13:28-29) He brings it up in the context of the Temple in Jerusalem. To those who were admiring its magnificence, in a certain spirit of worldly conformism, placing their security in the sacred space and its solemn grandeur, Jesus says that nothing on this earth is absolute; everything is precarious: a day will come when stone will not remain upon stone. At the same time, lest he induce discouragement or fear, he goes on to say that when everything passes away, when human temples collapse, terrible things happen, and violent persecutions erupt, “then they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.” (v. 26) He asks us to consider the fig tree: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that it is near, at the very gates.” (v. 28-29) We are called, then, to be open to the times in which we live, with their changes and challenges, and to see them as a fruitful plant pointing, as the Gospel says, to the time of the Lord’s future coming. In the meantime, however, we are called to cultivate this present season: to interpret it, to sow the seeds of the Gospel, to prune the dead branches of evil and to allow it to bear fruit. We are called to a prophetic receptivity
Prophetic receptivity is about learning how to recognize the signs of God in the world around us, including places and situations that, while not explicitly Christian, challenge us and call for a response. At the same time, it is about seeing all things in the light of the Gospel without yielding to worldliness, as heralds and witnesses of the Christian faith. Even in this country, with its solid tradition of faith, we witness the spread of secularism and its effects, which often threaten the integrity and beauty of the family, expose young people to lifestyles marked by materialism and hedonism, and lead to polarization regarding new issues and challenges. We may be tempted to respond with harshness, rejection and a combative attitude. Yet these challenges can represent opportunities for us as Christians, because they strengthen our faith and invite us to come to a deeper understanding of certain issues. They make us ask how these challenges can enter into dialogue with the Gospel, and to seek out new approaches, methods, and means of communicating. In this regard, Benedict XVI said that different periods of secularization proved helpful to the Church, for they “contributed significantly to her purification and inner reform. Secularizing trends… have always meant a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness.” (Meeting with Catholics Engaged in the Life of the Church and Society, Freiburg im Breisgau, 25 September 2011)
Commitment to entering into dialogue with our current situation demands that the Christian community be present as a witness to the Gospel, capable of responding to questions and challenges without fear or rigidity. This is not easy in today’s world; it demands great effort. Here I think in particular of the excessive workload of our priests. The demands of parish and pastoral life are numerous, yet vocations are declining and fewer priests are available. Many priests are elderly and show signs of fatigue. This situation is common in many parts of Europe, and everyone – pastors and laity alike – should feel responsible for addressing it. First, by prayer, since the solutions will come from the Lord and not from the world, from the tabernacle and not from the computer. Then, by renewed fervour for promoting vocations and finding ways to attract and excite young people about a life of following Jesus, also in special consecration. 
What Sister Krisztina told us about “arguing with Jesus” about why he chose to call her is beautiful, because we need people who can listen and help us to “argue” well with the Lord! More generally, we need an ecclesial reflection – a synodal reflection, involving everyone – on how to update pastoral life without being satisfied with merely repeating formulas from the past and without being afraid to reconfigure local parishes, making evangelization a priority and encouraging active cooperation between priests, catechists, pastoral workers, and teachers. You have already begun this process: keep moving forward. Seek ways to cooperate joyfully with one another in the cause of the Gospel, each contributing his or her own charism, and viewing pastoral work as a kerygmatic proclamation. In this regard, what Dorina told us about the need to reach out to our neighbour through storytelling and talking about daily life, is important. I also thank the deacons and catechists, who play a decisive role in passing on the faith to the younger generation, and all those teachers and formators who are so generously committed to the work of education. Thank you! 
I want to assure you that good pastoral ministry is possible if we are able to live as the Lord has commanded us, in the love that is the gift of his Spirit. If we grow distant from one another, or divided, if we become hardened in our ways of thinking and our different groups, then we will not bear fruit. It is sad when we become divided, because, instead of playing as a team, we start playing the game of the enemy: bishops not communicating with each other, the old versus the young, diocesan priests versus religious, priests versus laity, Latins versus Greeks. Issues about Church life, and political and social problems, polarize us and we become entrenched along ideological lines. No! Always remember that our first pastoral priority is to bear witness to communion, for God is communion and he is present wherever there is fraternal charity. May we overcome our human divisions and work together in the vineyard of the Lord! May we immerse ourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, grounded in prayer, especially in adoration and listening to the word of God, and cultivating ongoing formation, fraternity, closeness, and concern for others. A great treasure has been placed in our hands; let us not squander it by chasing after things that are secondary to the Gospel! 
There is one more thing I would like to say to priests. To show the face of the Father to God’s holy people and to create a family spirit, let us avoid rigidity and instead regard others with mercy and compassion. I was struck by the words of Father József, who reminded us of the dedicated ministry of his brother, Blessed János Brenner, who was barbarously murdered at the young age of 26. How many witnesses and confessors of the faith did your people have during the totalitarian regimes of the last century! Blessed János experienced much suffering in his life, and it would have been easy for him to grow resentful, withdrawn and hardened. Instead, he was a good shepherd. That is what is required of us all, but especially of priests: a merciful gaze and a compassionate heart that forgives always, that helps others to begin again, that accepts and does not judge, encourages and does not criticize, serves and does not gossip. 
This is our training in prophetic receptivity: bringing the Lord’s consolation to situations of pain and poverty in our world, being close to persecuted Christians, to migrants seeking hospitality, to people of other ethnic groups, and to anyone in need. In this regard, you have great examples of holiness, such as Saint Martin. The image of his sharing his cloak with a poor man is more than a mere example of charity: it is an image of the Church for which we strive and of what the Church in Hungary can bring to the heart of Europe: the prophetic witness of mercy and closeness. Yet I would like once more to mention Saint Stephen, whose relics are here by me. Saint Stephen, who first entrusted the nation to the Mother of God, was an intrepid evangelizer and founder of monasteries and abbeys. He also listened and conversed with everyone, and showed especial care for the poor, lowering their taxes and begging for alms in disguise, so as not to be recognized. This is the Church to which we must aspire. A Church capable of mutual listening, dialogue and care for the most vulnerable. A Church welcoming to all and courageous in bringing the prophetic message of the Gospel to everyone.
Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is our future, for he is the one who guides all history. Your confessors of the faith were firmly convinced of this: the many bishops, priests, religious women and men martyred during the Communist persecution. They testify to the unwavering faith of Hungarians. Here I would mention Cardinal Mindszenty, who so believed in the power of prayer that even today, his words are repeated, almost like a popular saying: “If a million Hungarians are praying, I will have no fear of the future.” Be welcoming, bear witness to the prophetic message of the Gospel, but above all be women and men of prayer, because the future depends on this. Thank you for your faith and faithfulness, for all the good that you are and do. I always remember the courageous and patient witness of the Hungarian Sisters of the Society of Jesus, whom I met in Argentina after they left Hungary during the religious persecution. They were very good to me. My prayer for you is that, following the example of your great witnesses of faith, your spirits will never falter, but always press on with great joy. And I ask you, please, to continue to pray for me. Köszönöm! [Thank you!]
Text courtesy of the Holy See Press Office

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