A Pope who wants to talk with us

Pope Francis.Some people think that The Joy of the Gospel (Apostolic Exhortation, 'Evangelii Gaudium') is less important because it is an Exhortation rather than an Encyclical. I think the choice was deliberate and revealing. An Exhortation allows Pope Francis to speak in a more personal and conversational style, that 'speaks volumes' in itself. It embodies the style of Church he wants, a friendly, compassionate, conversational and persuasive one. He prefers to share rather than lecture, to invite rather than order, to persuade rather than command. His style is deeply pastoral and encouraging. He is comfortable with being fallible and is not at all defensive.

Conversation, communication and dialogue are vital to Francis. He is famous for throwing away his prepared text and speaking directly to his audience. He enjoys talking with editors of faith and no faith. When he met with the male Superior Generals last year he sat down and conversed for a couple of hours rather than give them a formal instruction. In the section of homilies in The Joy of the Gospel he advises preachers that they must know not only the Scriptures but their people because preaching is “heart speaking to heart”.

Conversation is fundamental to his person and his theology of mission. This is clear if you read his Message for World Communications Day. He tells us the “effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others ‘by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and meaning of human existence’.” "To (have a) dialogue means to believe that the 'other' has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective,"We have to be able to 'understand their expectations, doubts and hopes' if we want to bring the Gospel to them." And "We need to be patient if we want to understand people who are different from us," because "People only express themselves when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted."

After World Youth Day in Brazil Francis spoke to the Bishops of Latin America and using the Gospel story of Emmaus, he talked to them about people who have left the church because they "now think that the church - their Jerusalem - can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important."
Columban Fr Noel Connolly.
He did not blame the culture or criticise relativism, secularism, rather, he asked the Bishops to examine themselves. He told them that, we need a church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a church capable of meeting people on their way. We need a church capable of entering into their conversation. [We are good at preaching but that is our conversation and the Pope is challenging us to enter “their” conversation].

He challenges them, “Unless we train ministers capable of warming people's hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?"

Central to Vatican II was a mission that respects others freedom and acknowledges the truth in other religions. We have to relearn the art of conversation and learn to approach others with a sense of respect and a listening heart.

Fr Noel Connolly SSC is a Columban missionary priest. He is a member of the Columban Mission Institute in Sydney and a lecturer in Missiology at both the Broken Bay Institute and the Catholic Institute of Sydney. He has worked in many Australian Dioceses in programmes to welcome, enable and help integrate overseas priests and religious.

Watch/Listen to a series of Reflection videos by Columban Fr Noel Connolly

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Comments (6)

  1. Betty O 'Brien:
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    It is wonderful to hear our Pope's encouraging and inclusive words. Let's hope they are heeded by his Bishops.

    Last Edit: 23 Oct, 2014, 09:56:11 by Columban Missionaries

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  2. Lynne:
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Perhaps Pope Francis wants to hear from us but who ever designed the questionnaire, which we had the opportunity to answer some months prior to the Synod. I am not a genius but nor am I stupid. The questionnaire may have been aimed at those with a degree in Theology but it was certainly not for the average Catholic. To add insult to injury it was timed!! So I just wonder about whether the Church really wants to hear from her flock.

    Last Edit: 23 Oct, 2014, 09:57:52 by Columban Missionaries

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  3. Yuri:
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Spot on, Noel. Francis lets us remember that the church is not only a "teaching church" but should be a "listening and learning church" too. One cannot give what one does not have (Nemo dat quod not habet) and the Pontiff is an example not only to the laity, but also to the magisterium, that we all have to be open to the Spirit within. The recent Synod on the Family was an exemplar of "an involved and evolving" church for the modern world, dealing with issues that are relevant to living life in it. Yes, there may not have been full agreement on all matters, but the dialogue that ensued allowed for positive interaction that will hopefully become a hallmark of future Synodal discussions. Pope Francis is a wonderful exemplar of a leader who lives what he believes, is open to new perspectives, enrichments, and insights, and who realises that giftedness of the Holy Spirit resides in the totality of the People of God.

    Last Edit: 23 Oct, 2014, 10:00:03 by Columban Missionaries

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  4. John Gwynne:
    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Thanks for this message which appears to come directly from the Pope to me. I hope the language of Church leaders is also simplified and less "magisterial". I would like to hear more about and from the Pope from time to time. Thanks

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  5. Joseph Cincotta:
    Oct 22, 2014 at 02:16 PM

    I, as a non-practising Catholic (if one can call himself one ), find that the nice language, as you are using, no help to what little faith I hold. I do not remember reading so many nice sayings in the new testament as you have used in this short note, and I do not remember Jesus having spoken in such a way either, but do remember reading something like Jesus loosing his temper with the money exchangers and chasing them out of the temple, also on some occasions telling the person to go and sin no more, and to give Cesar what belonged to Cesar and to God what belonged to God. No, He did not damn any one. He did point out right from wrong and that salvation came from following Him and not following ones own ideas and this is not more pointly indicated in Jesus parable of the rich man and the camel passing through the eye of a needle? No, I think the Pope has more of a job than just be likable but to also be a leader in turbulent seas. The world has gone through two world wars, and many genocides even to the present time, so more than ever more beautiful words are needed but people willing to live and proclaim the faith, even on to death, as Jesus did with his short life.

    Last Edit: 23 Oct, 2014, 10:09:20 by Columban Missionaries

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  6. Patricia THORPE:
    Oct 31, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    So excellent, thank you. It really is up to us all to "live the faith". Acknowledge the Sin but LOVE the sinner.

    Last Edit: 24 Nov, 2014, 09:31:25 by Columban Missionaries

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