Francis the teacher and evangelist

By Robert Mickens, 31 May 2023
A screenshot of Pope Francis speaking during the General Audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall on 15 February 2023. Image: Vatican News/YouTube


Those “staunch” Catholics who say the Jesuit pope soft-pedals the Gospel and speaks too little of Jesus could not be further from the truth

It is amazing to hear people who describe themselves as “faithful” or “staunch” Catholics accuse Pope Francis of being “too political” and not speaking enough about Jesus Christ. They certainly have not been paying close attention these past ten years that he’s been Bishop of Rome.

The motivation for everything the 86-year-old pope does and every initiative he takes, indeed for the very way he looks at the world, is based on the Good News; that is, the Gospel. When the pope makes appeals for a more just distribution of the wealth, or throws his support behind environmental activists, or speaks out forcefully against abortion, or badgers nations about the dignity and rights of migrants and refugees, or actively seeks dialogue even with those whom some might see as despicable human beings, he does so out of love for Christ.

Following Jesus and even The Second Christ

In fact, he is merely trying to live and be a witness to the demands of the Gospel. Period. And that is what it means to preach Jesus, even without specifically invoking the Lord’s name. It’s been said many times in this column that Francis is probably one of the most radically evangelical popes of all time. And he strives to follow in the footsteps of his papal namesake, the 13th century saint from Assisi whom the medievals called The Second Christ.

Papa Bergoglio is not perfect, obviously. No one is; not even a Jesuit! Indeed, Christianity does not demand perfection, but rather fidelity to and deep trust in the God that Jesus has revealed and modeled for humanity. And Jesus made it clear that the only way to love and serve God is by loving and serving our brothers and sisters — the God-present-in-others.

But Francis also speaks very specifically about God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He does so quite a lot, in fact, and not just in the homilies he delivers during his frequent celebrations of the Eucharist. He does it all the time. But there are two fixed weekly appointments in particular during which the Latin American pope “teaches” and “preaches” — and in a very focused way — the Gospel of Jesus Christ: each Sunday at the noontime Angelus (or Regina Caeli) address and blessing, and each Wednesday at the 9am general audience.

See for yourself!

If you want to get a sense of the pope’s zeal for evangelization, for sharing the Good News that has obviously been the anchor and inspiration of his own life, you should watch him speak at these two events because merely reading his reflections or catecheses, as good as they may be on paper, does not give you the sense of his fervor. Most of the time he strays from the prepared text and speaks passionately from the heart.

The Vatican provides live and easy-to-access online coverage of the Sunday reflection/blessing and Wednesday audience. It’s surprising to learn at times that many people are not aware of his or how to get access to the pope’s speeches and the videos of his events. So here’s the “how to”:

You can find the official Holy See website in several languages right here.

This is virtually a one-stop shop for accessing just about everything Pope Francis says or does. The site also includes links to the various departments of the Roman Curia and other agencies and offices related to the Vatican. And if you want to locate a speech or document from a previous pope, there are links that open up sites for Francis’ predecessors (or at least provide texts from their pontificates) going back to Benedict XIV who was Bishop of Rome from 1740-1758.

Keeping an eye on the Vatican

On the main page of the Holy See website there is also a calendar with select papal events each day, which provides links to the pope’s addresses, the daily bulletin of the H.S. Press Office, newly issued papal documents, and — in the case of papal liturgies — a pdf of the service booklet. If you click “General Audience” you can access the text of the pope’s catechesis in the original Italian, plus full translations in numerous other languages. There is also a photo gallery and a video recording with an English voice-over (with the option of including sign language). If you want to watch and listen to Francis speak without the voice-over, simply go back to the homepage of the website and, in the upper right-hand corner, select “ITALIANO”. Then go back to the calendar and click on “Udienza Generale”.

There’s another easy way to access videos of papal events, even as they are happening — it’s through the various YouTube channels operated by Vatican News. The one that provides “universal sound” that is unfiltered and without comment or voice-over is here.

The first window is Vatican Media Live, which provides a running video feed that can be scrolled back up to 12 hours. The live camera is actually fixed on St. Peter’s Square when it is not broadcasting papal events — such as the general audience and Angelus — in real time. There are also recorded videos of past events. The English version of the Vatican News YouTube channel is here.

Enjoy the view… especially the words and gestures of Francis, the teaching and evangelizing pope!

Robert Mickens is a Rome-based journalist who has been reporting and commenting on the Vatican and the Catholic Church in the past three decades. He is currently editor of La Croix International, an online English version of the eminent French Catholic Daily La Croix.

Reproduced with permission from La Croix International.


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