Pope Francis releases his prayer intention for the month of February, in which he asks parishes to be generous and open communities close to all.
In his prayer intention video for February, Pope Francis asks parishes to truly be communities: places of listening and welcome whose doors are always open to all, no one excluded.
Parishes are not an exclusive clubs
In the video, which begins with an image of the outside of a beautiful but empty parish church, followed by that of the same church full of people, thus becoming even more beautiful, Pope Francis notes that every parish should to put a sign on their door saying, “Free Admission”.
In a press release accompanying the second prayer intention of 2023, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer network explains that with these words Pope Francis wants to remind all of us that there are no special requirements for entering, because, as he says, “parishes are not a club for the few, which give a certain kind of social belonging.”
Indeed, in Pope Francis’ vision, parishes are “close-knit communities, without bureaucracy, people-centered — a place where the gift of the Sacraments can be found.”
This idea is conveyed by the images of the video coming from parishes around the world, which show get-togethers, talks, the distribution of aid to those most in need, visits to the elderly and the sick, pageants, and internal or external events.
In his video, Pope Francis insists on this idea of parishes continuing along the path of being a center of welcome and listening: “They have to become once again schools of service and generosity, with their doors always open to those who are excluded. And to those included. To all.”
We can succeed, the Pope says, by being “daring”: rethinking “the style of our parochial communities” and “placing communion – communion of people, ecclesial communion – at the center.”
Pope Francis had already highlighted the centrality of the parish in making the Church closer to the people, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, published at the beginning of his pontificate, in which he noted that they have the peculiarity of being “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters”, and therefore should not become “a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few”.
Below is a translation of the Pope’s video message
Sometimes I think that we should put a sign on the door of parishes that says, “Free admission.”
Parishes should be close-knit communities, without bureaucracy, people-centered —a place where the gift of the sacraments can be found.
They have to become once again schools of service and generosity, with their doors always open to those who are excluded. And to those included. To all.
Parishes are not a club for the few, which give a certain kind of social belonging.
Please, let us be daring.
Let us all rethink the style of our parochial communities.
Let us pray that parishes, placing communion –communion of people, ecclesial communion– at the center, may increasingly become communities of faith, of fraternity and of welcoming the most in need.
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.