Pope in Florence wants a Church that knows how to upset and inspire, one that rejects power but includes the poor, one that reaches out
Some 2,500 people are in Florence for the Fifth National Congress of the Italian Church. Francis spoke to them about Christian humanism, and Jesus’ sentiments: humility, selflessness and the beatitudes. He called on young people to be strong and overcome apathy. “Let no one disparage your youth, but learn to be models in the way you speak and act. [. . .] Do not look down on life from the balcony; get involved instead, and immerse yourselves in broad social and political exchange.”

Florence (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke today in Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral at a meeting of the Fifth National Convention of the Italian Church whose theme is ‘In Jesus Christ the new humanism’. Some 2,500 people have come for the occasion.

In his address, the pontiff (pictured) noted that the essential traits of Christian humanism are humility, selflessness and the Beatitudes. As Jesus’ “sentiments,” they generate a “revolutionary” faith.

In a world there the Church is “bruised, wounded and dirty for going out into the street,” one that knows how to upset and inspire, one that rejects power, even when it looks useful and functional to its social image, such a Church does not think about “structures” but allows itself to be led by the “powerful breath of the Spirit”.

In welcoming the pope, Card Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, said that the Church wants to go out, proclaim, inhabit history, educate and transfigure the faith”. Starting from a renewed reflection on what is human, it seeks to reflect on “the type of person that prevails in the social context of which we are part” so as to see “what ideal goals are offered to today’s men and women, especially the youth.”

In his long address, Francis called on young people to overcome apathy. “Let no one disparage your youth, but learn to be models in the way you speak and act. I call on you to be builders of Italy, to work on a better Italy. Do not look onto life from a balcony; get involved instead, and immerse yourselves in broad social and political exchange. Let the hands of your faith rise heavenward to build a city whose foundation is God’s love. Thus, you shall be free to meet today’s challenges and experience change and transformation.”

For Francis, Jesus’ first sentiment is humility, which is one of the traits that characterise Christian humanism. “The obsession with preserving one's own glory and 'dignity', one's own influence, must not form part of our sentiments. We must seek God's glory, which does not coincide with ours. God's glory that shone in the humility of the stable in Bethlehem or in the dishonour of Christ's cross always surprises us.”

Humility is followed by selflessness. "We must look for the happiness of those around us. A Christian’s humanity is always outward-looking. Ii is not narcissistic, or self-referential. When our heart is full and self-satisfied, it has no room for God. Please, let us avoid “remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe’ "(ibid., Evangelii Gaudium, 49)."

“Another of Jesus Christ's sentiments is beatitude. Christians are blessed, and have him or herself the joy of the Gospel. In the Beatitudes, the Lord shows us the way. By seizing it, we human beings can arrive at the most authentically human and divine happiness. Jesus talks about the happiness we experience only when we are poor in spirit. For the great saints, beatitude is about humiliation and poverty. But even among the humblest of our people there is a lot of this beatitude. It is the one that knows the wealth of solidarity, of sharing what little one possesses. It is the wealth of the daily sacrifice at work, sometimes hard and badly paid, but performed with affection for one’s loved ones. It is that of one’s miseries, which are experienced with confidence in the providence and mercy of God the Father, but which nurtures a certain humble greatness.”

If the Church wants to seize these “sentiments,” it must resist many a temptation. “The first one is that of Pelagianism, which leads the Church not to be humble, selfless and blessed, doing so as if it were doing a good deed. Pelagianism leads to trust structures, organisations, and perfect planning because they are abstract. Often it leads us even to assuming a style of control, hardness, and normativity. Rules give Pelagians the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation. It finds its strength in this, not in the Spirit’s soft breath. In view of the Church’s ills and problems, there is no point in seeking conservative or fundamentalist solutions, or restoring outdated shapes and kinds of behaviour that are no longer culturally significant.

“A second temptation is the gnosticism that leads us to place our trust in logical and clear reasoning that, however, lose the tenderness of our brother's flesh. [. . .] The difference between Christian transcendence and any other form of gnostic spiritualism resides in the mystery of the Incarnation. Not putting into practice, not leading the Word to reality, means building on sand, remaining in the pure idea and degenerating into intimist views that do not bear fruit, rendering its dynamism sterile.

Addressing the bishops, the pope called on them to be “pastors: may it be your joy. Your people, your flock, will support you. [. . .] As pastors, do not be preachers of complex doctrines, but rather be proclaimers of Christ, who died and rose again for us. Focus on the essential, the kerygma. There is nothing stronger, more profound and surer than this proclamation. May all the people of God proclaim the Gospel; ordinary folks and pastors, I mean.”

Finally, the Holy Father called on the Italian Church to “include the poor” and avoid “any kind of surrogacy of power, image and money. Evangelical poverty is creative, welcoming, supportive and full of hope.

"I especially urge you to engage in dialogue and outreach. Dialogue is not negotiation. Negotiating is trying to get one’s own 'slice' out of the shared pie. That is not what I mean. What I mean is, seek out the common good for everyone, discussing and thinking about the best solutions for everyone.

“Many times, reaching out involves conflict. Dialogue can entail conflict; this is something logical, something one might expect. We should not fear it or ignore it; we should accept it. This means showing ‘willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 227).

What is more, “we must always remember that no humanism is true if it does not entail love as a bond between human beings, be it interpersonal, intimate, social, political or intellectual. The need for dialogue and outreach is based this in order to build civil society together with others."

After the meeting, Francis went to a soup kitchen run by Caritas and sat down for lunch with the city's poor.