Vatican News’ Editorial Director reflects on the fundamental message of Pope Francis’ pontificate – mercy – as the Pope marks the tenth anniversary of his papacy.
A Church that goes forth and “takes the initiative”, because she has first experienced the Lord’s initiative and was “preceded in love”.
Ten years after the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 13 March 2013, it’s worth going back to the essentials. It is worth remembering what Pope Francis himself continues to propose and bear witness to: the face of a Church which, as we read in Evangelii Gaudium, “knows how to take the first step, to boldly take the initiative, to go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, to stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast”, and “has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.”
Pope Francis offers the face of Christian communities which are free from the scourge of self-reference, which are aware that they can be truly missionary only when they reflect the light of their Lord without ever considering themselves a source of light.
These communities never resort to marketing and proselytizing techniques, and are free from the nostalgic pessimism of those who long for a “Christianity” that no longer exists. They are communities of “forgiven sinners” – as the Bishop of Rome says of himself – which, while continuing to experience God’s infinite mercy, shares it with others like a reverberation.
“Mercy” is indeed the word that best summarizes the magisterium of the Argentine Pope as he enters the second decade of his pontificate. It is the key message of Jesus in the Gospel. It is the awareness of being continually loved and picked up after every fall. It is the key to mission in our changing age.
As we read again in Evangelii Gaudium, the “evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.”
This community is willing to welcome, listen, accompany, that is, to “get involved”, as Jesus did with His disciples when kneeling down to wash their feet. It is a patient community, which does not need enemies to find its consistency, but “cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds.”
Pope Francis has testified to this message in his first ten years of service, embodying the words he himself pronounced when he still was a Cardinal, in his brief speech to the General Congregations before the Conclave.
“Thinking of the next Pope, there is a need for a man who, through the contemplation of Jesus Christ and the adoration of Jesus Christ, may help the Church to go out from herself toward the existential peripheries, so as to be a fruitful mother of the sweet and comforting joy of evangelising.”
With thanks to Vatican News and Andrea Tornielli, where this article originally appeared.