Pope's teachings

Catechesis, fraternity and Lent

Francis entered February with a speech to those responsible for catechesis in Italy, in line with his constant interest in the education of the faith. He then reflected with the Diplomatic Corps on aspects of the world crisis. And, in the middle of the month, he introduced the Church to Lent, on Ash Wednesday.

Ramiro Pellitero-March 11, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes

The Pope's interest in education, which he has maintained during the pandemic, has been extended in recent weeks in an address to those responsible for catechesis at the Italian Bishops' Conference (30-I-2021). 

For a renewed catechesis

He pointed out three focuses or priorities: the proclamation, the future and the Christian community. 

a) First, the proclamation of the faith (kerygma), because catechesis is the echo ("the long wave") of the Word of God, which allows the person to participate in the history of salvation. At the same time, it is a mystagogical itinerary, which leads to the "mysteries" of Christ celebrated in the liturgy and favors a personal encounter with Him. 

And that is why the catechist "guardianship and nourishes the memory of God". (cf. homily at the meeting with catechists during the Year of Faith, September 29, 2013). Their task must have these characteristics: "closeness -family language-, openness to dialogue, patience, a cordial welcome that does not condemn". (Evangelii gaudium, 165).

b) Second, the future of catechesis, which should be inspired by the horizon outlined by the Second Vatican Council. "We must look to the Council." -St. Paul VI pointed out. "with gratitude to God and with confidence in the future of the Church; it will be the great catechism of the new times." (speech in Florence on the occasion of the First International Catechetical Congress, June 23, 1966).

This has now been echoed by Francis, and he has left no room for doubt: "The Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church." There is no room for "selectivity" in the education of the faith at the whim of the contents of the Council. Today, he proposes, a renewed catechesis is needed that continues to be a "extraordinary adventure" like "vanguard of the Church"to speak the language of the people but inside, not outside the Church; to listen to the questions and unresolved issues, the fragilities and uncertainties; to be able to "to elaborate updated instruments, which transmit to the people of today the richness and joy of the kerygma, and the richness and joy of belonging to the Church.".

c) And with this sense of belonging, he introduces the third point: catechesis and community. We are a family, already at the human level, and the pandemic has highlighted that "only by rediscovering the meaning of community can each person find his or her own dignity in fullness". 

Catechesis also has an essential communitarian, ecclesial dimension. It must foster Christian communities that are open, missionary and inclusive, free and disinterested, that dialogue without fear with those who have other ideas, that approach the wounded with compassion. 

It must be creatively placed within the framework of Christian humanism (as was made clear in the Address to the Italian ecclesial assembly on 10-XI-2015). 

Fraternity and hope, medicines for the world

During his address to the Diplomatic Corps (8 Feb. 2021), the Pope reviewed the various dimensions of the crisis we are experiencing. Once again, he pointed out that the pandemic has shattered some of the comforts and certainties that have been consolidated, putting us in crisis. 

After reviewing the health, environmental, economic-social and political aspects of the crisis, he finally focused on the aspect that he considers the most serious: "the crisis of human relations, expression of a general anthropological crisis, which concerns the very conception of the human person and his transcendent dignity". 

A very concrete and worrying manifestation: the enormous effort of the computerized educational platforms has not been enough to stop a kind of "digitalization" of education. "educational catastrophe"The only reason for this is the great disparity in educational and technological opportunities that exists in the world.

"Today it is necessary". -Francis takes up his appeal for the global education pact- "a new period of educational commitment, involving all components of society".because education is "the natural antidote to the individualistic culture, which sometimes degenerates into a true cult of the self and the primacy of indifference. Our future cannot be one of division, of impoverishment of the faculties of thought and imagination, of listening, of dialogue and mutual understanding." (Videomessage on the occasion of the Meeting Global compact on education. Together to look beyond, 15-X-2020). 

As John Paul II pointed out, all of this must be strengthened from within the family at the beginning of a new Year dedicated to the family, "offering their children a model of life founded on the values of truth, freedom, justice and love". (Familiaris consortio, 48).

A third and final emphasis that the Pope places in relation to the pandemic is that of limiting worship and other activities related to the faith. While conceding the need to follow in general the orientations of governments in health matters, he warns that "we must not overlook the fact that the religious dimension constitutes a fundamental aspect of the human personality and of society, which cannot be cancelled; and that, even when we are seeking to protect human lives from the spread of the virus, the spiritual and moral dimension of the person cannot be considered as secondary to physical health."

In addition, "Freedom of worship is not a corollary of freedom of assembly, but derives essentially from the right to religious freedom, which is the first and fundamental human right. For this reason it must be respected, protected and defended by the civil authorities, just like health and physical integrity. Moreover, good care of the body can never do without care of the soul.". "Fraternity and hope are like medicines that the world needs today, along with vaccines.".

Lent, a time of freedom

Lent began in mid-February with Ash Wednesday. Already in his message for Lent (signed on 11-XI-2020), the Pope had pointed out that it is a question of "a time to renew faith, hope and charity."

On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis outlined this liturgical season as a time of "time to return to God", to free the heart from the bondage that grips it. This return can be costly, as it happened to the Israelites who left Egypt. 

From time to time, they would paradoxically yearn for that slavery: the onions, their memories, their attachments, their false securities, their paralyzing laments. Y "to walk it is necessary to unmask these illusions". (homily, 17-II-2021).

Lent is a time to return to the Father, like the prodigal son, imploring forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession. Time to return to Jesus, like that leper (we all have spiritual illnesses, vices, fears) after feeling healed. Time to return to the Holy Spirit. "Let us return to the Spirit, Giver of life, let us return to the Fire that makes our ashes rise again, to that Fire that teaches us to love." (ibid.).

Returning is possible only because God has taken the initiative in accompanying Jesus on our journey, touching our sin and our death. It is up to us to let ourselves be taken by the hand; not based on our own strength, but welcoming his graces and looking at the wounds of the Crucified One. "Let us kiss them and we will understand that right there, in the most painful voids of life, God waits for us with his infinite mercy. Because there, where we are most vulnerable, where we are most ashamed, He comes to meet us." (ibid.).

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