Milan (AsiaNews) - Gaudium Evangelii (The Joy of the Gospel), released by Pope Francis on 24 November 2013, is an Apostolic Exhortation because it is not dedicated to a single theme (as is generally the case for encyclicals), but covers a large swathe of Church activities. However, it has been rightly called a 'papal manifesto' because it is a declaration of intent that comes at the start of a pontificate that hopefully will be long enough in relation to what Pope Francis wants to achieve.
In order to understand fully the Italian-Argentinian pope, who came from "the end of the world," we must always keep in mind the main goal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wants to achieve in his years as Bishop of Rome. Not all commentators have realised this; many have in fact focused on details and do not understand why they are not on his wavelength.
Svegliate il mondo con la gioia del Vangelo (Wake up the world with the Joy of the Gospel) by Fr Giuseppe Buono, published by LER (Libreria Editrice Redenzione), Marigliano (Naples, p. 150, € 10) is a book that can help us understand why. Released in mid-March, it sold out in a few days and is now in its second updated edition with a foreword by Mgr Anthony Stagliano, bishop of Noto (Syracuse, Sicily).
Fr Buono has been a priest and a PIME missionary since 1959. He has taught missiology as well as bioethics and religions, travelling to many missions on four continents. As the founder of the Youth Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies and secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union, he has gained knowledge and a passion for the mission to the nations that makes him a credible reader and witness of Evangelii Gaudium.
In his introduction, he explains that he wrote the book as an aid to ecclesiology students at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy (St Thomas section, Naples), to help them "read organically the themes of the mission, the way Pope Francis presents them, and which need further theological and historical foundations and insights to mark deeply the life of Christians."
The tome is useful to all those who wish to deepen further the missionary nature of the Church and the consequent missionary duty of every baptised to reread the Apostolic Exhortation from an singular perspective that is all too often forgotten and underestimated today.
Indeed, given the crisis of faith and Christian life in Western Europe, our local churches feel a strong temptation to close up in order to defend Christ's fold and flock, threatened by many enemies.
It is not easy to understand Pope Francis if we do not start from the point of view of Wake up the world with the joy of the Gospel, which is not only the title of the book but also the priority set by Evangelii Gaudium for all baptised believers in Christ, namely "I want a fully missionary Church."
Fr Buono's book shows that the evangelical revolution, of which Pope Francis is both prophet and witness, results in practice in this movement, that of leaving the fold to go to the edges of humanity, to those who are smaller and poorer, to the ends of the earth.
Wake up the world with the joy of the Gospel helps us read and thoroughly understand Evangelii Gaudium, i.e. Pope Francis' pontificate. The journey to conversion in Christ, to which the Apostolic Exhortation calls the Church and all the baptised, is the way of the missionary who goes among non-Christians to proclaim Christ and proclaims him especially with charity, not becoming "like them", but "one of them", always everyone's friend, with great humility and acts of sacrifice, until people finally say, "You are one of us."
This way, the Church can be born among peoples who do not know Christ and be reborn among a people like ours, which has been Christian for two thousand years, among whom many now no longer know Jesus Christ. In light of this, Pope Francis' changes become meaningful, needing support and prayers to the Holy Spirit, which is the central character of the mission.