Friday 14 April 2023

Pope Francis: The passion for evangelisation; the apostolic zeal of the believer

 Week by week, the Successor of St Peter meets with the faithful, either in St Peter's Square (summer time) or the Paul VI Audience Hall (winter time), for the General Audience. Whilst the immediate listeners of the Holy Father's catecheses on these occasions are the pilgrims gathered in person with the Pope, the catecheses are also more often than not also intended for a wider audience in the universal Church. 

Two special examples of this are the series of catecheses from St John Paul II that are now known under the title "The Theology of the Body"; and a series of catecheses begun by St John Paul II and concluded by Pope Benedict XVI on the psalms and canticles of Morning and Evening Prayer (I have them in a collection published by the Catholic Truth Society). These exemplify how the General Audience catechesis can have both its specific audience on a particular day in a particular place, and a permanent value for the wider life of the Church.

Pope Francis is currently part way through a series of catecheses on "The passion for evangelisation - the apostolic zeal of the believer". The texts are being posted each week at the website of the Holy See, in the section devoted to Audiences: Audiences 2023. At the time of posting, Pope Francis has reached the ninth catechesis in the series. I have dipped into each of them, and found in each of them something of worth: from the careful distinguishing of evangelisation from proselytism and the account of three steps (seeing, followed by movement and then towards a destination) in the calling of St Matthew in the catechesis of 11th January; through the insistence on 15th February that in evangelising there is "no staying without going and no going without staying"; to the account of witness as essential to evangelisation, drawn from St Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi, in the audience of 22nd March.

Every one of us is called to respond to three fundamental questions, posed in this way by Paul VI: “Do you believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you preach what you live?” 

Like the catecheses of St John Paul II and of Pope Benedict XVI, I think these too will have a permanent value for the life of the Church. 

Saturday 8 April 2023

The Way of the Cross at the Colosseum 2023: Voices of Peace in a World at War

 Pope Francis has, on more than one occasion, referred to a Third World War that is currently taking place in a fragmentary way. In the introductory prayer to this year's Good Friday Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, the Holy Father returned to this theme:

Tonight, the way of the cross winds its path behind you, directly from the Holy Land.  We will walk it, listening to your suffering reflected in that of our brothers and sisters who have suffered and still suffer from the lack of peace in the world, allowing ourselves to be pierced by the testimonies and reflections that reached the ears and heart also of the Pope during his visits.  They are echoes of peace that resurface in this “third world war being fought piecemeal”, cries that come from countries and areas torn apart today by violence, injustice and poverty.  All the places where conflict, hatred and persecution are endured are present in the prayer of this Good Friday.

The meditations for each of the Stations describe the experiences of suffering and migration in different parts of the world that are characterised by conflict. We might readily think of migrants seeking to cross the English Channel or the Mediterranean or of the conflict in Ukraine. But it is interesting to read these meditations and recognise that there are other places where violence occurs and has its effect on ordinary people.

Lord Jesus, at your birth the angels in heaven announced: “On earth, peace among those whom he favours” (Lk 2:14).  Now our prayers rise up to heaven to appeal for “Peace on earth,which humanity throughout the ages has so longed for” (Pacem in Terris, 1).  Let us pray, beseeching the peace that you have left us and that we are unable to keep.  Jesus, you embrace the whole world from the cross: forgive our failings, heal our hearts, grant us your peace.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Freedom of Movement: "Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay"

The website of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development of the Holy See has published an indication of the theme for the 2023 World Day of Migrants and Refugees:
The 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be celebrated on Sunday, 24 September 2023. The Holy Father has chosen as the title for his traditional Message, “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay”, with the intention of fostering renewed reflection on a right that has not yet been codified at the international level: the right not to have to migrate or, in other words, the right to be able to remain in one’s own land.

The fact that many persons are forced to migrate demands a careful consideration of the causes of contemporary migration. The right to remain is older, more deeply rooted and broader than the right to migrate. It includes the possibility of sharing in the common good, the right to live in dignity and to have access to sustainable development. All of these rights should be effectively guaranteed in the nations of origin through a real exercise of shared responsibility on the part of the international community.

 The theme is more fully developed in a paper of the Dicastery from December 2022 entitled The "right" not to have to emigrate. In encouraging local Churches to work with the authorities of their countries and regions in order to alleviate the inequalities that might drive peoples to migrate, this paper notes that the decision to emigrate is not always one that is made with freedom:

While violence, conflict, and climate change contribute most significantly to involuntary migration, economic development is also a major factor. Some regions of the world are more privileged than others, and within each society, access to the common good – work, health, education, welfare – is not always guaranteed. In the absence of opportunities for personal and family fulfillment, migration sometimes emerges as the only truly possible choice.

 There are two points here that I find of interest. The first is that the inability to take a proper part in the economic and social life of a country provides a driver in favour of migration that is just as legitimate as is persecution, a driver that represents a constrained choice rather than a free choice. The right to freedom of movement within one's own country, and the right to leave from and return to that country, enshrined in Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration, has in part an intention of enabling such migration.

The second point is that, though the intention of the theme chosen for the 2023 World Day of Migrants and Refugees is to focus on creating awareness of what needs to be done so that people have a genuinely free choice with regard to staying in their own country, it also recognises a right to choose to migrate, and a desire that the exercise of such a choice may be made with freedom rather than constraint.

The implication of this for Governments is that they should be willing to commit resources to the integral development of people in less developed nations; and where they are not able to do this, to make provision for the consequent migration.