Pope Francis' Homily at Mass in Caserta, southern Italy (July 2014)
"Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good."

ROME, July 26, 2014  - On Saturday evening, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the square in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta, southern Italy.

The Mass, which took place after the Pope met priests from the region, began at 6pm. Today is the feast of Saint Anna, the mother of Mary and patron of the city.

Here below is the homily delivered by the Holy Father:

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Jesus addressed his listeners with simple words that everyone could understand. Also this evening, he we have heard that he speaks to us through short parables that refer to the daily life of the people of that time. The parallels of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price have, as protagonists, a poor peasant and a wealthy merchant. The merchant searched for a thing of value all his life, something that would satisfy his thirst for beauty, travelling the world, without giving up, in the hope of finding what he is looking for. The other, the peasant, has never moved away from his field and is working all time, with the usual daily routine. Yet for both the final outcome is the same: the discovery of something valuable, a treasure for one, and a pearl of great price for the other. Both are also united by a common sentiment: the surprise and joy of having found the fulfillment of every desire. In the end, both of them don't hesitate to sell everything to buy the treasure they found. Through these two parables, Jesus teaches what the kingdom of heaven is, how to find it, what to do to possess it.

What is the kingdom of heaven? Jesus doesn’t bother to explain it. He states from the beginning of his Gospel: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand". And also today He is near and among us ... He is near. However, he never makes one see it straight away, but always as a consequence, narrating the actions of a master, of a king, of ten virgins ... He prefers to let us understand, in parables and similes, and above all by revealing their effects: the kingdom of heaven is capable of changing the world, like yeast hidden in the dough. It is small and humble, like a mustard seed, but becomes as large as a tree. The two parables on which we want to reflect make us understand that the kingdom of God makes itself present in the very person of Jesus. He is the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. It encompasses the joy of the peasant and the merchant: they found it! It is the joy of all of us when we discover the closeness and the presence of Jesus in our lives – a presence that transforms our lives and makes us sensitive to the needs of our brothers; a presence that invites us to accept each other’s presence, including those who are foreigners and immigrants. He is a welcoming presence, a joyful presence, a fruitful presence, and so it becomes in us. 

And then one might ask: How is the kingdom of God found?Each of us has a particular path. For some, the encounter with Jesus is awaited, desired, long sought after, as is shown in the parable of the merchant. For others it happens suddenly, almost by accident, as in the parable of the peasant. This reminds us that God lets Himself be found, because it is He who first wants to meet us, and first tries to meet us. He came to be "God with us." And Jesus is with us, He is here today. "When you come together in my name, I am with you." The Lord is here, with us, among us. It is He who seeks us and makes Himself discoverable, even for those who do not seek him. Sometimes he lets Himself be found in unusual places and unexpected times. When Jesus is discovered, one is fascinated, conquered, and it is a joy to leave our usual way of life, sometimes dry and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, to be guided by the new logic of love and of humble and disinterested service. The Word of Jesus, the Gospel. Let me give you a question, but I do not want you to raise your hands [laughs': How many of you each day read a passage from the Gospel? But how many of you, perhaps, hasten to finish work to not miss a soap opera ... Having the Gospel in your hands, have the Gospel on the table, have the Gospel in your bag, have the gospel in your pocket and open it to read the Word of Jesus, so the Kingdom of God comes. The contact with the Word of Jesus brings us closer to the kingdom of God Think about: a small Gospel always at hand, open it to a random point and read what Jesus says, and Jesus is there.

How is the kingdom of God possessed? On this point, Jesus is very clear: enthusiasm, the joy of discovery, is not enough. The precious pearl of the kingdom should precede every other earthly good; we must put God first in our lives, prefer Him to everything. Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, living a life of service to others and in favor of the law and the common good. When a person finds God, the true treasure, they leave a selfish lifestyle and look to share with others the love that comes from God. Whoever becomes a friend of God loves his brothers, is committed to safeguarding their lives and their health, also respecting the environment and nature. I know that you suffer for these things. Today, when I arrived, one of you has approached me and said: Father, give us hope. But I cannot give you hope, I can tell you that where there is Jesus there is hope; where there Jesus each loves the other like brothers, we are committed to safeguarding their lives and their health and also respecting the environment and nature. This is the hope which never disappoints, the one that Jesus gives! This is particularly important in your beautiful land that needs to be protected and preserved. It requires you to have the courage to say no to any form of corruption and lawlessness, it requires everyone to be servants of the truth and to assume every situation in the style of the living Gospel, which is manifested in the gift of self and attention to the poor and the excluded.

On the feast of St. Anne,  I like to call her the grandmother of Jesus, and today is a good day to celebrate grandmothers. When I was doing the incense, I saw a beautiful thing: the statue of St. Anne is crowned, her daughter, Mary, is crowned. And this is nice. St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become the queen of the heavens and the earth. She did a nice job this woman!the patron saint of Caserta, gathered here are the various components of the diocesan community, with the bishop and the presence of civil authorities and the representatives of various social entities. I would encourage everyone to live the feast of the patron free of every preconception, expressing only the faith of a people that recognizes God's family and which strengthens the bonds of brotherhood and solidarity. St. Anne may have heard her daughter Mary proclaim the words of the Magnificat: "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things (Lk 1, 51-53)”. She will help you to search for the unique treasure, Jesus, and teach you to discover the way of God; He turned the judgments of the world upside down, comes to the rescue of the poor and the little, and fills the humble with good things, those who entrust their existence with Him. Have hope, the hope that never disappoints. And I would like to repeat: Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope!

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At the end of Mass, the Pope was taken to a nearby helipad of the Italian air force. After saying goodbye to the authorities who welcomed him on arrival, he was taken by helicopter back to Rome.

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Pope's Dialogue With Priests in Caserta
"A Bishop that doesn't pray, a priest that doesn't pray, has closed the door, has closed the way of creativity."

VATICAN CITY, July 29, 2014  - During Pope Francis' Saturday visit to Caserta, he met with diocesan priests in the Palatine Chapel of the Palace of Caserta around 4 p.m.

Below is a translation of the text of the Holy Father’s dialogue with the priests.

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Monsignor D’Alise, Bishop of Caserta: Your Holiness, I haven’t prepared anything in writing because I understood immediately that you want an intimate and profound relation with the priests. Therefore, I say to you: welcome. This is our Church, the priests, and then we will go to see the rest of the Church, while we celebrate the Eucharist. This is an important moment for me, because I have been here for two months, and to begin this episcopate with your presence and your blessing is for me a grace upon grace. And now we await your word. Knowing that you desire a dialogue, the priests have also prepared questions for you.

Holy Father: I have prepared an address, but I will give it to the Bishop. Thank you so much for your welcome. Thank you. I am happy and I feel somewhat culpable for having combined so many problems on the day of your patronal feast, but I was unaware of it. And when I called the Bishop to tell him that I wanted to come to make a private pastoral visit, here, to a friend, thepastor, he said to me: “Ah, in fact on the day of the patronal feast!” And I immediately thought: “The following day, the newspapers will report: on the patronal feast of Caserta, the Pope went to see the Protestants.”  -- a nice headline, no? And so we systematized the event, somewhat in a hurry, but the Bishop helped me so much, and also the people of the State Secretariat. I said to the Substitute, when I called him: “But, please, take off the cord from my neck.” And he did it well. Thank you for the questions you will pose; we can begin; the questions are posed and I will see if I can consolidate two or three, otherwise I will answer each one.

--Q: Holiness, thank you. I am the Vicar General of Caserta, Father Pasquariello. An immense thank you for your visit here, to Caserta. I would like to ask a question: the good that you are bringing to the Catholic Church with your daily homilies, official documents, especially Evangelii Gaudium, are marked above all by a spiritual, profound and personal conversion. It is a reform that, in my modest opinion, involves  only the sphere of Theology, Biblical Exegesis and Philosophy. Besides this personal conversion, what is essential for eternal salvation, I would consider some intervention, by Your Holiness, which can involve the People of God more, precisely as people. And I will explain myself.

For 900 years our diocese has had absurd boundaries: some communal territories are divided half with the diocese of Capua  and with that of Acerra. In fact, the station of the city of Caserta, less than one kilometer from the municipality, belongs to Capua. For this reason, Most Blessed Father, I ask you for a resolute intervention so that our communities no longer have to suffer from useless shifts and the pastoral unity of our faithful is not mortified further. It is clear, Holiness that in No. 10 of Evangelii Gaudium, you say that these things belong to the Episcopate; however, I remember that as a young priest – 47 years ago – we went with Monsignor Roberti – he had come out of the Secretariat of State --  and we brought some problems;  there also they said, after having explained things: “You agree with the Bishops and we will sign.” And this is something very beautiful. However, when are Bishops in agreement?

--The Holy Father: Some historians of the Church say that in some of the first Bishops’ Councils they even resorted to blows, but then they agreed. And this is a bad sign. It is bad when Bishops speak ill of one another, or are tied together. I don’t say we must have unity of thought or unity of spirituality, because this is good, I say tied in the negative sense of the word. This is bad because, in fact, the unity of the Church is broken. This isn’t of God. And we Bishops should give the example of unity that Jesus asked the Father for the Church. But we can’t go speaking ill of one another: “And this one does it this way and that one does it the other way.” But go, say it openly! In the first Councils, our forbearers did so with blows, and I prefer that four strong things be shouted and that then they embrace and not that they speak hiddenly of one another. This, as a general principle, namely: important in the unity of the Church is the unity among Bishops. You underscored a way that the Lord willed for his Church. And this unity among the Bishops is the one that fosters agreement on this or that. In a country – not in Italy – there is, on one hand, a diocese whose boundaries were remade, but because of the location of the treasure of the Cathedral, they have been in conflict in the courts for more than 40 years. For money: this can’t be understood. It is here where the devil celebrates” He is the one who wins.

It’s lovely, then, that you say that the Bishops must always be in agreement: but agreement in unity, not in uniformity. Each one has his charism; each one has his way of thinking, of seeing things. Sometimes this variety is the fruit of mistakes, but many times it is the fruit of the Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit willed that there be this variety of charisms in the Church. The same Spirit that makes diversity then succeeded in making unity; unity in the diversity of each one, without anyone losing his own personality. However, I hope that what you said will go forward. And then we are all good, because we all have the water of Baptism, we have the Holy Spirit within us who helps us to go forward.

--Q: I am Father Angelo Piscopo, parish priest of Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Peter in the Chair. My question is this: Holiness, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, you invited us to encourage and reinforce popular piety, that precious treasure of the Catholic Church. However, at the same time, you showed the risk – unfortunately ever more real – of the spread of an individual and sentimental Christianity, more attentive to traditional forms and to revelation, deprived of the fundamental aspects of the faith and deprived of influence in social life. What suggestion can you give us for a pastoral that, without mortifying popular piety, can re-launch the primacy of the Gospel? Thank you, Holiness.

--The Holy Father: One hears it said that this is a time where religiosity has gone down, but I don’t believe this so much. Because there are these currents, these schools of private religiosity, like the Gnostics, that engage in a pastoral that is similar to a pre-Christian prayer, a pre-biblical prayer, a Gnostic prayer, and Gnosticism has entered the Church in these groups of private piety: I call this. does no good; it is something for me, I am calm, I feel full of God. It is a bit – it isn’t the same – but somewhat the way of the New Age. There is religiosity, but a pagan religiosity, or actually heretical. We mustn’t be afraid to say this word, because Gnosticism is a heresy, it was the first heresy of the Church. When I speak of religiosity, I speak of that treasure of piety, with so many values, which the great Paul VI described in Evangelii Nuntiandi. Think of this: in the Aparecida Document, which was the Document of the 5th Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, there is a synthesis at the end of the Document itself, in the penultimate paragraph  -- because the other two were of thanksgiving and prayer  -- which had to wait 40 years to take a piece of Evangelii Nuntiandi, which is the post-Conciliar Document that is yet to be surpassed.

It is of enormous present importance. In that Document, Paul VI describes popular piety, affirming that sometimes it must also be evangelized. Yes, because as with every piety there is the risk of going a bit on one side and a bit on the other or of not having a strong expression of faith. However, the piety that people have, the piety that enters in the heart with Baptism is an enormous strength, to the point that the People of God that has this piety as a whole, cannot err, it is infallible in credendo: so says Lumen Gentium  in no. 12. True popular piety is born of that sensus fidei of which this conciliar Document speaks and guides in devotion to Saints, to Our Lady, and also with folkloric expressions in the good sense of the word. Therefore, popular piety is fundamentally inculturated; it cannot be a popular piety of the laboratory, ascetic, but it is always born of our life. Little mistakes can be made – so one must  be vigilant – however, popular religiosity is an instrument of evangelization. We think of today’s young people. Young people – at least the experience that I had in my other diocese – the young people, the youth movements in Buenos Aires didn’t work. Why? They were told: let’s have a meeting to talk … and in the end the young people were bored. However, when parish priests found the way to involve young people in the small missions, to engage in the mission during vacations, the catechesis of people in need of it, in small countries that don’t have a priest, then they adhered.

Young people really want this missionary activity and they learn from it to live a form of piety which can also be called popular piety: the missionary apostolate of young people has something of popular piety in it. Popular piety is active, it is a profound sense of faith – says Paul VI – which only the simple and the humble are able to have. And this is great! In Shrines, for instance, one sees miracles! Every July 27 I went to the Shrine of San Pantaleo in Buenos Aires, and I heard Confessions in the morning. However, I returned renewed from that experience, I returned ashamed of the holiness that I found in simple people, sinful but holy, because they told their own sins and then described how they lived, the problem of their son or daughter, or of this or that person, and how they went to visit the sick -- an evangelical sense showed through. I found these things in the Shrines. The Shrines’ Confessionals are a place of renewal for us priests and Bishops. They are a course in spiritual updating, because of contact with popular piety. And when the faithful come to Confession, they tell you their miseries, but one sees behind those miseries the grace of God that leads them to this moment. This contact with the People of God that prays, that is pilgrim, that manifests its faith in this form of piety, helps us so much in our priestly life.

--Q: You allow me to call you Father Francis, also because paternity implies inevitably holiness, when it is authentic. As a pupil of the Jesuit Fathers to whom I owe my cultural and priestly formation, I will mention an impression of mine, and then a question that I address to you particularly. The identity kit of the priest of the third millennium: human and spiritual balance; missionary conscience; dialogical openness with other faiths, religious or not. Why this? You certainly have wrought a Copernican revolution by your language, lifestyle, behavior and Catholic-Christian witness. The question I ask is: how is it possible in this society, with a Church that hopes for growth and development, in this society in a dynamic and conflictual evolution and very often far from the values of the Gospel of Christ, we are a Church that very often is slow. Your linguistic, semantic and cultural revolution of evangelical witness is certainly arousing in consciences an existential crisis for us priests. Can you suggest imaginative and creative ways to us, to surmount or at least to deaden this crisis which we perceive? Thank you.

--The Holy Father: Look, how is it possible to go forward with a growing and developing Church? You said several things: balance, dialogical openness … But, how can we go forward? You said a word that pleases me very much: it is a divine word, if it is human it is because it is a gift of God: creativity. It is the commandment that God gave to Adam: “Go and make the earth grow. Be creative.” It is also the commandment that Jesus gave his own, through the Holy Spirit, for instance, the creativity of the early Church in relations with Judaism: Paul was creative; Peter, on the day when he went to Cornelius’ house, was afraid of them, because he was doing something new, something creative. But he went there. The word is creativity. And how can this creativity be found? First of all – and this is the condition if we wish to be creative in the Spirit, namely, in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus – there is no other way than prayer. A Bishop that doesn’t pray, a priest that doesn’t pray has closed the door, has closed the way of creativity. It is in fact in prayer when the Spirit make you feel something, then the devil comes and makes you feel something else; but prayer is the condition to go forward., even if prayer so often can seem boring.

Prayer is so important – not only the prayer of the Divine Office, but the liturgy of the Mass, calm, well done with devotion, personal prayer with the Lord. If we don’t pray, we might be good pastoral and spiritual entrepreneurs, but without prayer the Church becomes an NGO, she does not have the unctio Spiritu Sancti. Prayer is the first step, because it is opening oneself to the Lord to be able to open oneself to others. It is the Lord who says: ”Go here, go there, do this …” he arouses in you that creativity which cost so much to so many Saints. Think of Blessed Anthony Rosmini, he who wrote The Five Wounds of the Church, was in fact a creative critic, because he prayed. He wrote what the Spirit made him hear, therefore he went to a spiritual prison, namely, to his house: he couldn’t speak, he couldn’t teach, he couldn’t write, his books were on the Index. Today he is Blessed! So many times creativity leads to the cross. However, when it comes from prayer, it bears fruit. Not a creativity that is somewhat sans facon and revolutionary, because today it is fashionable to be a revolutionary; this is not of the Spirit. But when creativity comes from the Spirit and is born in prayer, one can bear problems. Creativity that comes from prayer has an anthropological dimension of transcendence, because through prayer one is open to transcendence, to God. However, there is also another transcendence: to open oneself to others, to one’s neighbor. There is no need to be a Church shut in on herself, which looks at her navel, a self-referential Church , which looks at herself and is incapable of transcendence. The twofold transcendence is important: to God and to one’s neighbor. To come out of oneself isn’t an adventure; it is a way, it is the way that God has indicated to men,  to people since the first moment when He said to Abraham: “Go from your land.” To go out of oneself. And when I come out of myself, I encounter God and others.

How do I encounter others? -- from afar or up close? One must meet them up close, closeness. Creativity, transcendence and closeness. Closeness is a key word: to be close. Not to be afraid of anything. To be close. The man of God is not frightened. Paul himself, when he saw so many idols in Athens, was not frightened but he said to those people: “You are religious, you have so many gods … but I will speak to you of another.” He was not frightened and he came close to them, he even quoted their poets: “As your poets say …” It is about closeness to a culture, closeness to persons, to their way of thinking, to their sorrows, to their resentments. So often this closeness is in fact a penance, because we must hear annoying, offensive things. Two years ago, a priest who went as a missionary to Argentina – he was of the diocese of Buenos Aires and he went to a dioceses of the South, in an area where there had been no priest for years, and the Evangelicals had arrived – told me that he went to the house of a woman who had been a teacher of the people, and then the directress of the school of the area. This lady made him sit down and she began to insult him, not with bad words, but to insult him with force. “You have abandoned us, you have left us alone, and I who am in need of the Word of God had to go to the Protestant worship and I became a Protestant.” This young priest, who is meek and one who prays, when the woman finished her tirade, said: “Lady, only one word: forgiveness. Forgive us, forgive us. We abandoned the flock.” And the tone of that woman changed. However, she remained a Protestant and the priests did not enter the argument about which was the true religion: this couldn’t be done at that moment. Finally, the lady began to smile and said: “Father, would you like a coffee?” – “Yes, let’s have coffee.” And when the priest was about to leave, she said: Stop, Father, come,” and she led him to the bedroom, opened the closet in which was the image of Our Lady: “You must know that I never abandoned her. I’ve hidden her because of the pastor, but she is in my home!” It’s an anecdote that shows how closeness, meekness, made this woman reconcile with the Church, because she had felt abandoned by the Church. And I asked a question which should never be asked: “And then, how did it end? How did the thing end? “ However, the priest corrected me: Ah, no, I haven’t asked for anything: you continue to go to the Protestant worship, but if you see that it is a woman who prays:  the Lord Jesus. And he didn’t go beyond, he did not invite her to return to the Catholic Church. It is that prudent closeness, which knows where it must reach. However, closeness means pure dialogue; one must read in Ecclesiam Suam, the doctrine on dialogue, later repeated by other Popes.

Dialogue is so important, but two things are necessary to dialogue: one’s own identity as the point of departure and empathy with others. If I’m not sure of my identity and I go to dialogue, I end up by exchanging my faith. One cannot dialogue if one doesn’t begin from one’s own identity, and empathy, that is, not to condemn a priori. Every man, every woman has something of their own to give; every man, every woman has his/her own story, his/her own situation and we must listen to it. Then the prudence of the Holy Spirit will tell us how to respond to them. Begin from one’s own identity to dialogue, but dialogue isn’t to engage in Apologetics, even if sometimes it should be done, when questions are posed  that require an explanation. Dialogue is a human thing, it is hearts, spirits that dialogue, and this is so important! Don’t be afraid to dialogue with anyone. A Saint said somewhat jokingly – I don’t remember , I believe it was Saint Philip Neri, but I’m not sure – who was able to dialogue even with the devil. Why? Because he had that freedom to listen to all persons, but beginning from his own identity. He was so sure, but to be sure of one’s identity does not mean to engage in proselytism. Proselytism is a trap, which Jesus also condemns somewhat, en passant, when he speaks to the Pharisees and the Sadducees: “You who go around the world to find a proselite and then you remember that … But it is a trap. And Pope Benedict has a very beautiful expression, which he expressed at Aparecida, but I think he repeated it somewhere else: “The Church grows not by proselytism but by attraction.” And what is attraction? It is this human empathy which is then led by the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, what will be the profile of the priest of this very secularized century? A man of creativity, who follows God’s commandment  to  -- “create things”; a man of transcendence, be it with God in prayer or with others, always; a man of closeness who approaches people. To distance oneself from people is not priestly and sometimes people are sick and tired of this attitude, and yet the same thing comes from us. However, one who welcomes people and is close to them, dialogues with them because he is sure of his own identity, which drives him to have a heart open to empathy. This is what comes to me to tell you, to answer your question.

--Q: Dearest Father, my question concerns the place where we live: the diocese, with our Bishops, relations with our brothers. And I ask you: this historic moment which we are living has expectations in our dealings as presbyters, namely of a clear, open and joyful witness – as you are inviting us to do – precisely with the novelty of the Holy Spirit. I ask you: in your opinion, what could be in fact the specific, the foundation of the spirituality of a diocesan priest? It seems to me that I read somewhere that you say: “The priest isn’t a contemplative.” However, before it wasn’t so. Therefore, can you give us an icon to keep present for the rebirth, the communal growth of our diocese.  And above all, I am interested in how we can be faithful, today, to man, not so much to God.

--The Holy Father: Look, you said “the novelty of the Holy Spirit.” It’s true, but God is the God of surprises, He always surprises us, always, always. We read in the Gospel and find one surprise after another. Jesus surprises us because he arrives before us: He waits for us first, loves us first, when we seek him he is already seeking us. As the prophet Isaiah or Jeremiah says, I don’t remember well: God is like the flower of the almond tree, it is the first to flower in spring. He is the first, always the first, he always awaits us. And this is the surprise. So many times we seek God however he awaits us there And then we come to the spirituality of the diocesan clergy. Contemplative priest, but not like one who is in the Certosa, I don’t mean this kind of contemplation. The priest should haveof contemplation, a capacity to contemplate God or men. He is a man who looks, who fills his eyes and heary with this contemplation: with the Gospel before God, and with human problems before men. However, where is the center of the spirituality of the diocesan priest? I would say that it is in the diocese. It is the capacity to open oneself to the diocese. The spirituality of a religious, for instance, is the capacity to open himself to God and to others in the community: be it the smallest or the largest of the Congregation.

Instead, the spirituality of the diocesan priest is to open himself to the diocese. And you, religious, who work in parishes must do both things, that is why the dicastery of Bishops and the dicastery of Consecrated Life are working on a new version of the Mutuae relations, because the religious has both memberships. But let us turn to what is of the diocese: what does it mean? It means to have a relation with the Bishop and a relation with the other priests. The relation with the Bishop is important, it is necessary. A diocesan priest can’t be detached from the Bishop. “But the Bishop doesn’t love me, the Bishop here, the Bishop there …” The Bishop could be perhaps a man with a bad character, but he is your Bishop. And you must find, also in that negative attitude, a way to maintain your relation with him. This, in any case, is the exception. I am a diocesan priest because I have a relation with the Bishop, a necessary relation. Very significant is the moment in the rite of Ordination when the vow of obedience is made to the Bishop. “I promise obedience to you and to your successors.” The diocese means a relation with the Bishop that must be acted  and made to grow continually. In the majority of cases it is not a catastrophic problem, but a normal reality. In the second place the diocese entails a relation with other priests, with the whole presbytery. There is no spirituality of the diocesan priest without these two relations: with the Bishop and with the presbytery. And they are necessary. “Yes, I am well with the Bishop, but I don’t go to the meetings of the clergy because stupid things are said.” However, with this attitude you are lacking something: you don’t have the true spirituality of the diocesan priest.

It’s all here: it’s simple, but at the same time it isn’t easy. It isn’t easy because to be in agreement with the Bishop is not always easy, because on thinks one way and the other another way, but one can discuss … and yes, discuss!” And can it be done in a loud voice? Yes, frankly. How many times a son discusses with his father and in the end they remain always father and son. However, when diplomacy enters in these two relations, be it with the Bishop or with the presbytery, the Spirit of the Lord isn’t there, because the spirit of freedom is lacking. One must have the courage to say ”I don’t think of it this way, I think differently,” and also the humility to accept a correction. It’s very important. And what is the greatest enemy of these two relations? Gossip. I often think – why do I also have this temptation to gossip, we have it within, the devil knows that the seed gives fruits when well sowed – and I wonder if it isn’t a consequence of a celibate life lived as sterility, not as fecundity. A man alone ends up embittered, he isn’t fecund and gossips about others. This is an area that doesn’t do good, it is in fact what impedes that evangelical and spiritual and fecund relation with the Bishop and the presbytery. Gossip is the strongest enemy of the diocese, namely, of spirituality. But, you are a man, then, if you have something against the Bishop, go and tell him so. But then there will be consequences that aren’t good. You will carry the cross, but be a man!  If you are a mature man and you see something in your brother priest of which he doesn’t tolerate to be corrected, go and tell the Bishop and the closest friend of that priest, so that he can help him to correct himself. But do not speak of it to others, because that is to soil one another. And the devil is happy with that “banquet,” because in this way he attacks in fact the center of the spirituality of the diocesan clergy. For me, gossip does much harm. And it’s not a post-conciliar novelty.  Saint Paul already had to face it.

Recall the phrase: “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos …” Gossip was a reality that was present at the beginning of the Church, because the devil doesn’t want the Church to be a fecund, united, joyful  Mother. Instead, what is the sign of these two relations, between the Bishop and between the priest and the other priests, are they going well? It’s joy. Just as bitterness is the sign that there isn’t true diocesan spirituality, because a good relation is lacking with the Bishop or with the presbytery, joy is the sign that things are working. One can discuss and get angry, but there is joy above all, ndt it is important that it remain always in these two relations which are essential for the spirituality of the diocesan priest.

I would like to turn to another sign, the sign of bitterness. A priest, here in Rome,  once said to me: “But I see that so many times we are a Church of angry men, always angry with one another; we always have something to be angry about.” This leads to sadness and bitterness: there is no joy. When we find in a diocese a priest who lives so angered and with this tension, we think but in the morning this man has vinegar for breakfast. Then, at lunch, the vegetables have vinegar, and then at night he has a nice lemon juice. So his life isn’t going well, because he is the image of a Church of angry men. Instead, joy is the sign that all is well. One can get angry; it’s also healthy to get angry once. However, the state of anger is not of the Lord and leads to sadness and lack of union. And at the end, you said ”fidelity to God and to man.” It’s the same thing we said earlier. It is the twofold fidelity and the twofold transcendence: to be faithful to God is to seek him, to open oneself to him in prayer, remembering the he is the faithful one, he cannot deny himself, he is always faithful. And then to open to man and to have that empathy, that respect, that feeling, and to say the right word with patience.

We must stop out of love for the faithful who are waiting … But I truly thank you, and ask you to pray for me, because I also have the difficulties of every Bishop and I must also take up again every day the path of conversion. Prayer for one another will do us good to go forward. Thank you for your patience.

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Pope's Address to Pentecostal Community in Caserta
"The Holy Spirit creates 'diversity' in the Church"

CASERTA, July 29, 2014 - Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address Monday to the Pentecostal community known as the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in Caserta, Italy. After visiting Caserta on Saturday, he returned Monday for a private visit.

*** 

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters,

My brother, Pastor John, began by speaking of the center of our life: to be in the presence of Jesus. And then he said “to walk” in the presence of Jesus. And this was the First Commandment God gave to His people, to our Father Abraham: “Go, walk in my presence and be irreproachable.” And then the people walked: sometimes in the presence of the Lord, many times not in the Lord’s presence. They chose idols, gods … But the Lord has patience; He has patience with the people that walk. I don’t understand a Christian who is still! A Christian who doesn’t walk, I cannot understand! A Christian must walk! There are Christians that walk, but not in the presence of Jesus. It is necessary to pray for these brothers. Also for us, when at certain moments we don’t walk in Jesus’ presence, because we are all also sinners, all of us! If one of you isn’t a sinner, raise your hand … To walk in the presence of Jesus.

Christians who are still – this is harmful, because what is still, which doesn’t walk, is corrupted. Like still water, which is the first water to be corrupted, water that doesn’t run … There are Christians who confuse walking with “turning.” They are not “walkers,” they are errant and turn here and there in life. They are in a labyrinth, and wander, wander there … They are lacking the parrhesia, the audacity to go forward; they are lacking hope. Christians without hope turn in life; they are not capable of going forward. We are secure only when we walk in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He illumines us; He gives us his Spirit to walk well.

I think of Abraham’s grandson Jacob. He was tranquil, there, with his children. However, at a certain point famine arrived, and he said to his children, to his eleven children, ten of whom were guilty of betrayal, for having sold their brother: Go to Egypt , go there and buy food, because we have money but we don’t have food. Take the money and buy there, where it is said there is food.” And they began their journey, but instead of finding food, they found their brother! And this is very beautiful!

When one walks in God’s presence, there is this fraternity. When, instead, we are still, when we look too much to one another, there is another way … which is bad, bad!  -- the way of gossip. And we begin to say, “but you, don’t you know?” “No, no, I’m not for you. I’m for this and that …” “I am for Paul,” “I am for Appollos,” “I am for Peter.” And so we begin, and so from the first moment division began in the Church. And it isn’t the Holy Spirit who creates division! He does something that is quite similar to it, but not division. It’s not the Lord Jesus who creates division! He who creates division is in fact the Envious One, the king of envy, the father of envy: the sower of darnel, Satan. He interferes in communities and creates divisions, always! From the first moment, from the first moment of Christianity, this temptation was in the Christian community. “I belong to this one,” I belong to that one.” “No! I am the Church, you are a sect.” And so the one who wins over us is him, the father of division – not the Lord Jesus who prayed for unity (John 17(), he prayed!

What does the Holy Spirit do? I said he does something else, which perhaps one might think is division, but it isn’t. The Holy Spirit creates “diversity” in the Church. The First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12. He creates diversity! And this diversity is truly very rich, very beautiful. But then, the Holy Spirit himself creates unity, and so the Church is one in diversity. And, to use the word of an Evangelical whom I love very much, a “reconciled diversity” by the Holy Spirit. He creates both things: He creates the diversity of charisms and then He creates the harmony of charisms. Therefore, the early theologians of the Church, the early Fathers – I am speaking of the 3rdor 4thcentury – said: “The Holy Spirit is harmony,” because He creates this harmonious unity in diversity.

We are in the age of globalization, and we wonder what globalization is and what the unity of the Church would be: perhaps a sphere, where all points are equidistant from the center, all are equal? No! This is uniformity. And the Holy Spirit does not create uniformity! What figure can we find? We think of the polyhedron: the polyhedron is a unity, but with all different parts; each one has its peculiarity, its charism. This is unity in diversity. It is on this path that we, Christians, do what we call with the theological name of ecumenism. We try to have this diversity become more harmonized by the Holy Spirit and become unity. We seek to walk in the presence of God to be irreproachable. We seek to find the nourishment of which we are in need to find our brother. This is our way, this is our Christian beauty! I refer to what my beloved brother said at the beginning.

Then he spoke of something else, of the Lord’s Incarnation. The Apostle John is clear: “He who says that the Word did not become flesh, is not of God! He is of the devil.” He is not ours, he is an enemy! Because there was the first heresy – let’s say the word between us – and it was this, which the Apostle condemns: that the Word did not come in the flesh. No! The Incarnation of the Word is at the base: it is Jesus Christ! God and man, Son of God and Son of man, true God and true man. And this is how the first Christians understood him, and they had to struggle so much, so much to keep this truth: the Lord is God and man. The Lord Jesus is God made flesh. It is the mystery of the flesh of Christ: one does not understand love for one’s neighbor; one does not understand love for one’s brother, if one does not understand this mystery of the Incarnation. I love my brother because he too is Christ; he is the flesh of Christ. I love the poor, the widow, the slave, one who is in prison … Let us think of the “protocol” on which we will be judged: Matthew 25. I love all of them, because these persons who suffer are Christ’s flesh, and for us who are on this path of unity, it will do us good to touch the flesh of Christ. To go to the fringes where, in fact, there are so many needy, or – let us say it better – there are so many needy, so many needy … also needy of God, who are hungry – but not for bread, they have so much bread – but for God! And to go there, to express this truth: Jesus Christ is the Lord and He saves you. But go always to touch the flesh of Christ! A purely intellectual Gospel cannot be preached: the Gospel is truth but also love and it is also beauty! And this is the joy of the Gospel! This is in fact the joy of the Gospel.

On this path we have very often done the same thing as Joseph’s brothers, when jealousy and envy have divided us. Those who arrived first wanted to kill their brother – Ruben succeeded in saving him – and then sold him. Our brother John also spoke of this sad story. That sad story in which the Gospel was lived by some as a truth who did not realize that behind this attitude there were ugly things, things that were not of the Lord, a terrible temptation of division. That sad story, in which the same thing was done that Joseph’s brothers did: denunciation, the laws of these people: “it goes against the purity of the race …” And these laws were sanctioned by the baptized! Some of those who made these laws and some of those who persecuted, denounced their Pentecostal brothers because they were “enthusiasts,” almost “madmen “ who ruined the race, some were Catholics … I am the Pastor of Catholics: I ask forgiveness for this! I ask forgiveness or those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and who were tempted by the devil and did the same thing that Joseph’s brothers did. I ask the Lord to He give us the grace to admit and forgive … Thank you!

Then brother John said something which I share totally: truth is an encounter, an encounter between persons. Truth is not made in a laboratory; it is made in life, seeking Jesus to find Him. However, the most beautiful greatest mystery is that, when we find Jesus we realize that He was seeking us first, that He found us first, because He arrives before us! In Spanish I like to say that the Lord firsts us {primerea]. It’s a Spanish word: He precedes us, and He always waits for us. He is first of us. And I believe that Isaiah or Jeremiah -- I have a doubt – says that the Lord is like the flower of the almond tree, which is the first to flower in spring. And the Lord waits for us! Is it Jeremiah? Yes! It is the first one that flowers in spring, it is always the first.

This encounter is beautiful. This encounter fills us with joy, with enthusiasm. We think of the encounter of the first disciples, Andrew and John. When the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And they followed Jesus, stayed with Him the whole afternoon. Then, when they left, when they went home, did they say: “We heard a Rabbi” … No! “We found the Messiah!” That encounter which transforms; everything comes from that encounter. This is the path of Christian holiness: to seek Jesus every day to find Him and every day to allow oneself to be sought by Jesus and to allow oneself to be encountered by Jesus.

We are on this path of unity between brothers. Some might be astonished: “But the Pope went to the Evangelicals.” He went to find brothers! Yes! Because – and what I will say is truth – because they were the ones who came first, in Buenos Aires, to find me. And there is a witness here: Jorge Himitian can tell the story about when they came, they approached us … And so this friendship began, this closeness between Pastors of Buenos Aires, and today here. Thank you so much. I ask you to pray for me, I am in need of it so that at least I won’t be so bad. Thank you!

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Evangelical Pastor Giovanni Traettino's Words to Pope Francis in Caserta
"You, with your visit here, which has demonstrated that you take reconciliation seriously, show that you are a man of reconciliation, I would say a prophet of reconciliation"

CASERTA, July 29, 2014- Before Pope Francis addressed Monday the Pentecostal community known as the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in Caserta, Italy, his friend from his days in Buenos Aires, Evangelical Pastor Giovanni Traettino, addressed the Pope.

Below is a translation of the pastor's words.

***

It’s lovely to be before the Lord, no? (People answer: yes!). There is no better place in the world than to be in the presence of God., there is still a better place, to live in the presence of God! It is there that we experience the most profound joys, the truest joys; it is there that our life is transformed and that we become ever more similar to Him.

I wish to share some considerations and, in particular, dearest Pope Francis, my beloved brother, our joy is great because of your visit, my personal joy, that of my family, that of the whole of our community and of our spiritual family, of our guests and of our friends. A great and unexpected gift, unthinkable a short time ago. You will be able to read it in the eyes of the children and the elderly, of young people and of families. We love you very much! And there is something you must know: there is for your person, also among us Evangelicals, so much affection, and so many of us pray for you every day: also every day they pray for you. After all, it is so easy to love you very much. Several of us even believe that your election as Bishop of Rome was wrought by the Holy Spirit. A blessing above all for the whole of Christianity in dealing with the world: this is what I personally think. With this gesture of yours, wholly unexpected and surprising, you have given visibility and concreteness to what appears ever more to be the leading reason for your existence and, hence, of your ministry, because life always precedes ministry. Overcoming with one blow the complications of protocol, you know how to go directly to the heart of life and of human relations and, in particular, in the relation with whom you recognize as brother: to encounter one’s brother, to encounter him where he is, to encounter him as he is. In our case then, to visit us, you actually had to endure two days of exertion. We are particularly grateful to you!

It wasn’t enough for you to entrust your heart to a document or a message … Evidently, you have reflected much on the Incarnation of Jesus Christ: you wanted to touch us, you wanted to come in person, to embrace us in person. You have shown great courage – liberty and courage! And you have given yourself, in simplicity and weakness, to our diversity, but also to our embrace. With men like you, dear Pope Francis, there is hope for us Christians. For all! With just one gesture, you have widened the door, you have accelerated the realization of God’s dream. You have become part of Jesus’ prayer: that they may all be one.” And you did so with that glory of which John speaks in chapter 17: with that glory without which it is impossible to build unity. I speak of the glory of humility. As someone said, humility is at the heart of glory. And he adds: a bit of power is enough to exhibit oneself, much is needed to withdraw. God is unlimited power of withdrawal of self, of hiding. Also from this, perhaps above all from this, Christ’s disciples are recognized.

“Truth is an encounter”: it is the title of one of the last collections of your lovely morning meditations at Saint Martha’s. Truth is an encounter, but it is also a central truth for every Christian, for everyone who has converted to Christ and had a personal encounter with Him. How many times in your teachings you return to the invitation to conversion and to the personal encounter with Christ. It is obvious that this truth is at the center of your life, living matter of your spiritual experience, inspirational motive of your existence. For me, who observe you, it cannot be otherwise. It fills me with joy, because Christ is also the precious pearl, excuse me, He is the precious pearl of all Christians, also of us Evangelicals. I saw that day before yesterday you spoke of Him at Caserta. He is the center and the heart of our life, the very reason of our existence. We would be lost without Jesus! Our sole reason to live and exist is Jesus! However, it is in fact the passion that we bear for the centrality of Christ that makes us Evangelicals, with solid and serene conviction. Therefore, we also live and experience in a new way our being Evangelicals, which is no longer nourished by anti-Catholicism – as it was for some time – but which, recognizes our own origins and roots  in the historical tree of Christianity, Catholicism and the Reformation included.  You have learned to relate in a constructive and redemptive way with those whom you recognize as your fathers and brothers  and to take out from your treasure – as the Gospel writes – things new and things old. You have learned – we are always learning more – that the whole field must be bought, as Jesus says in another part of the Gospel, to take possession of the whole treasure. One must have the whole field to discover the treasure, without giving up the work of discernment made with the Word of God, but examining everything and keeping the good. In this way we are less exposed to the risk of disdaining the contribution of brothers, of extinguishing the Spirit or even of attributing to other sources what instead is of the Lord, as Paul exhorts us in the Letter to the Thessalonians: “Do not extinguish the Spirit, do not scorn the prophecies, but examine everything and keep the good. And again, each one must abstain from every sort of evil.”

Hence truth is an encounter and the encounter with Christ is the encounter of life: it is what gives truth and foundation to every other encounter. This is my experience. My encounters and my relations with my neighbor are profoundly marked by my encounter with Jesus. This is the central message, the nucleus, the DNA of the Gospel. This is the heart of evangelical preaching; this is the terrain on which to build every possible dialogue between us and the path of unity between the Churches. As it is written: “No one can lay another foundation other than that already laid, namely Christ Jesus.” And again:

Speaking of Evangelicals, some time ago, Father Raniero Cantalamessa described them as “Christians with the charism of the essential.” It is a description that I like very much. I share it. And some years ago, Cardinal Piovanelli of Florence, proclaimed to anyone who asked him a forecast for the third millennium: “It will be an age in which there will be a return to the fundamental principles of Christianity.” I also believe this. It is necessary, it is indispensable  that we return to the fundamental principles. Cardinal Kasper, instead, who I know is your friend, has spoken of “a fundamental ecumenism and a spiritual ecumenism”: here too we are in line. He says:Christians are not united among themselves, they are, first of all, one in Christ. And only that union and communion with Christ makes true communion possible between men and Him. The Lord is the center of the unity. And the force that works and orders this unity is the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps it is in fact from this understanding that Christianity must start again. This is the fundamental perimeter of our communion and it is here that I believe I can say the greatest contribution lies – also historical and theological – of the prophecy of the first Reformation and then of the evangelical world after. I believe this is the fundamental prophecy for the benefit of the whole Body of Christ and of the Church, if the history of Christianity has some meaning …

The Apostle Paul says: “Because no one can lay another foundation other than that already laid – namely Christ Jesus.” Therefore Christ -- to put Christ at the foundation; to build on Christ; to be pressed tightly around Christ; to grow towards Christ. He is the foundation of the life of the believer: conversion to Christ, a personal relation with Christ, the imitation of Christ, which is not possible without the presence of the life of Christ. From Christ’s life we receive the strength for the imitation of Christ, to become saints. The formation of Christ is rendered possible by Christ’s life in us. He is the foundation on which we grow: we are born again, but then we grow. And this is the foundation on which the existence of the Church is built, again Christ: the Incarnation of Christ, as proper method, as style of life; identification with the poor, with the needy, with those in difficulty -- the life of Christ, the style with which He lived. And so often the Christianity of our time is in need of reformation and revision of life, because models are proposed which are very far from the Gospel. The life of Christ, the death of Christ: to be able to live of Christ, we too must die to ourselves, so that the life of the Spirit can exist in us and, therefore, the Resurrection, the Ascension, with the crowning of the descent of the Holy Spirit, which is indispensable for us to be able to live the Christian life.

I also believe that, in the development of spaces of communion between the different communities, we speak again of Christ, of the return to the essential of the Gospel and there we discover that this space is again Christ, the proclamation of Christ – the “kerigma,” the teaching of Christ – the “didake” – the formation of Christ in us. Like you, I quote a most beautiful and ancient prayer, which I imagine you recite every day: “In Christ, with Christ, by Christ, to you God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory for ever and ever.” I think this makes a good synthesis of what the thought is, which I wish to stress.

One last word. We are, we live between the “now” and the “not yet” – as someone has said – and our experience is an experience of suffering, of pain, of toil in advancing in the dialogue between Christians, in experiencing communion. It is the plane of faith: “you are only one body,” of which dear Jorge Himitian spoke yesterday, “may they be one,” we are on the plane of faith, “the Tabernacle of God among men,” of which Revelation 21 speaks. This is the plane of faith, but then there is the plane of history. The plane of history is that of our experience, where we experience the shame of division, of wars between Christians, of hostilities, of persecutions, also in Italy: unfortunately for many years we experienced persecutions, the Pentecostals particularly, in the years from ’35 to ’55 the notorious… In the middle was the time of reconciliation, the time of ethics, if you wish, the time of love, the time of responsibility, which must be filled by men and women of reconciliation. You, with your visit here, which has demonstrated that you take reconciliation seriously, show that you are a man of reconciliation, I would say a prophet of reconciliation.

Through Christ God has reconciled us with Himself – says the Apostle Paul (Second Letter to the Corinthians) , and He has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. Our spiritual family has chosen this theme for its existence: Church of reconciliation. However, He has entrusted to all Christians the ministry of reconciliation, from the experience they have within this ministry. He has sown, implanted within us – says the Apostle Paul – the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is from this word of reconciliation, which is Jesus himself; He is the word of reconciliation within us, nourishing us to Him, to his spirit, to his sensibility, to his death, to himself, that we can be habilitated to be men and women of reconciliation. What does it mean, at times, to go on the road of Calvary. It means, at times, to pass through the Cross; it means misunderstanding, misinterpretation; it means incomprehension, because there are so many Christians that are so self-defining that they don’t succeed in making space for love, they don’t succeed in living love. And we want to come out of this prison; we want to be men and women of reconciliation.

I am happy to conclude these reflections with a thought of Francis of Assisi, whom I’m sure you love very much, evidently, because you chose the name Francis. But I want to tell you that Evangelicals also love Francis very much, even from the historical point of view. If I think of the Waldensians, for instance: who have a sensibility which is – let’s say – profoundly Franciscan. They have the same type of cut, of sensibility, of spirituality and we are connected to that history; we are connected to that sensibility … Some modern sensibilities don’t please us in the living of a Christian. Francis says: “Begin to do the necessary, then do what is possible and suddenly you will discover you are able to do the impossible.” This seemed an impossible thing! God bless you!

Now we introduce Pope Francis, who would like to share some thoughts with us, what he has in his heart …. There is nothing organized. It is a “Pentecostal” meeting, so we appeal to the Holy Spirit to guide Pope Francis. Please.

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