Monday, March 31, 2014

Pope Francis Receives GC27 Members

Pope Francis Receives GC27 Members

from austraLasia #3408

ROME: Monday, March 31, 2014

On Monday, March 31, Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Salesians’ 27th General Chapter. The affectionate encounter took place in the Sala Clementina. Here are the full texts in English of the Pope’s address to the chapter members and of that of the new Salesian Rector Major, Fr. Angel Fernandez, to the Holy Father.

Fr. Angel Fernandez
Dear Pope Francis,
Dear Father,

We are very happy to be here with you. Thank you for this opportunity to meet you. For us it is a very precious gift and a unique occasion, allowing us to express the feelings we bear for you in our hearts. We love you, Father! We greatly value your courage and your testimony. With joy we see your great love for the Lord Jesus, for the Church, and your desire for the profound renewal of the whole Christian community over which you preside in service and love.

We know very well that for Don Bosco, love for the Pope meant love for the Church and love for the mission. Our meeting would have no meaning were it not accompanied at the same time by the desire to express to you, dear Father, our willingness to renew our charismatic and missionary commitment to the Church and the world with particular attention to the young, especially the poorest and most abandoned. So we accept your invitation to open the doors of our houses and our hearts, to be announcers of Gospel joy, believing strongly in a God who loves human beings and desires their salvation. In the words of Gaudium et Spes, we want to share the joys and sorrows of today’s world and of the young people who live in it, fully committing ourselves to building the Kingdom of God.

During this general chapter, with the theme of being “Witnesses to the radical approach of the Gospel”, we have felt that we are deeply in tune with your apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. This text has enlightened and guided our reflection. It has been an occasion to reflect deeply on our Salesian charismatic identity, bearing in mind at the same time the need to interpret what Don Bosco experienced and passed on to us, in a way that is relevant. We have identified a path to renewal in which we commit ourselves to living the mystical dimension of consecrated individuals who intend to give absolute primacy to God, the Lord of our life. Moved by the Spirit of Jesus, therefore, we want to be “seekers and witnesses of God”, joyfully accompanying young people on a journey of human and Christian growth.

We are proposing to renew the prophetic witness of our fraternal life. In a world often torn by conflict at every level, it seems to us that our religious life has as one of its principal tasks witnessing to the joy of a communion of brothers who feel they are all disciples of the Lord. It is a fellowship that involves our daily life, our work, our prayer, and it becomes in itself a proclamation of a life expressed in new relationships inspired by the words of the Gospel and able to attract young people to the precious experience of a life given for others according to Don Bosco’s charism.

In our mission we want to reaffirm our desire to be servants of the young, through an educational proposal inspired by Gospel values and with a generous commitment to transforming the world. We want to reaffirm the criterion of Don Bosco’s choice: preferential availability for the poorest of the young, the most disadvantaged peoples, those on the margins, in traditional missionary settings, and in the more secularized societies.

We welcome, dear Pope Francis, your words and proposals for an ecclesial choice of the major guidelines which will guide us over the next six years.

With the entire Salesian Family, I take this opportunity to thank you for having agreed to come to Turin for the second centennial of Don Bosco’s birth. With the affection of children. we assure you of our prayers, as we entrust your mission to the Virgin Help of Christians, Mother of the Church. and we ask for your paternal blessing.

Angel Fernandez Artime
                                                   Pope Francis

Dear confreres,

You are very welcome! I thank Fr. Angel for his words. My wish for him and the new general council is that you may know how to serve by guiding, accompanying, and sustaining the Salesian Congregation on its journey. May the Holy Spirit help you to recognize the hopes dreams and challenges of our time, especially of the young, and interpret them in the light of the Gospel and your charism.

I imagine that during the chapter—whose theme is “Witnesses to the radical approach of the Gospel”—you always have Don Bosco and the young before you; and Don Bosco with his motto, “Da mihi animas, cetera tolle.” He reinforced this program with two other things: work and temperance. I recall that when I was in school, the siesta was forbidden! Temperance! For the Salesians and for us too! “Work and temperance,” he said, “will make the Congregation flourish.” When we think of working for the good of souls we overcome the temptation to spiritual worldliness; we do not look for other things, but only God and his Kingdom. Temperance, then, is a sense of balance, being satisfied, being simple. May Don Bosco’s and Mama Margaret’s poverty inspire every Salesian and every community of yours to an essential and austere life, one that is close to the poor, transparent, and responsible in managing goods.

1. The evangelization of the young is the mission that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to you within the Church. It is strictly bound up with their education: the journey of faith happens as part of growing up, and the Gospel also enriches this human growth. We need to prepare young people to work in society in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel, as workers for justice and peace, and to live as people who are active in the Church. This is why you make use of the essential—and updated—pedagogical and cultural research, to respond to the current educational emergency. May Don Bosco’s experience and his “preventive system” always sustain you in your commitment to live with the young. May your presence among them be marked by the tenderness that Don Bosco called loving kindness, but also by trying out new “languages,” while well knowing that the language of the heart is the fundamental language for approaching them and becoming their friends.

The dimension of vocation is fundamental here. At times, the vocation to consecrated life is confused with the choice of being a volunteer, and this distorted view does not bode well for institutes. Next year, 2015, is dedicated to consecrated life, and will be a favorable opportunity to present its beauty to young people. We need, always, to avoid partial views so we do not give rise to fragile vocational responses supported by weak motivation. Apostolic vocations ordinarily are the result of good youth ministry. Looking after vocations demands specific attention: prayer above all, then activities which are proper to this task, personalized approaches, the courage to make the proposal, accompaniment, family involvement. The geography of vocation has changed and is changing, and this means new demands on formation, accompaniment, and discernment.

2. Working with the young, you encounter the world of exclusion of the young. This is something really terrible! Today it is terrible to consider that there are more than 75 million young people without work, here, in the West. We think of the vast situation of unemployment with its negative consequences. We think of dependencies, unfortunately many of them, but they all have a common root, the lack of true love. Going out to young people who have been marginalized requires courage, maturity and much prayer. You have to send the best people into this kind of work! The best! There could be the risk of being overwhelmed by enthusiasm, sending people of good will into frontiers like this, but they may not be suitable. Therefore it is necessary to have careful discernment and constant accompaniment. The criterion is this: the best should go there. “I need this one to make him superior here, or to study theology, etc.” But if you have that mission, send him there! The best!

3. Thanks be to God you do not live and work as isolated individuals but as communities. And thank God for this! The community supports all your apostolate. At times religious communities have tensions running through them with the risk of individualism and a scattered approach, while there is a need for profound communication and genuine relationships. The humanizing power of the Gospel is witnessed to by fraternity lived in community, made up of acceptance, respect, mutual assistance, understanding, courtesy, forgiveness, and joy. The family spirit that Don Bosco left you has helped you much in this regard, encouraging perseverance and making consecrated life attractive.

Dear confreres, the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth is already beckoning. It will be a propitious occasion for proposing your founder’s charism once more. Mary Help of Christians has never failed to help in the life of the Congregation, and certainly she will not fail to offer her help in the future either. May her motherly intercession obtain from God the hopes and expectations you desire so much. God bless you, and I pray for you; and, please, pray for me too. Thank you!


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