Pope: Propose the ever-youthful face of Christ to a Europe ill with fatigue

Francis celebrated Mass with participants at the plenary assembly of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences. The 'dictatorship of consumerism, whimsical but suffocating, attempts to quench' the thirst for Christ. "Leaving behind the conveniences of the immediate in order to return to the farsighted vision of the founding fathers, a prophetic and comprehensive vision, because they did not seek the consensus of the moment, rather they dreamt a future for all".



Vatican City (AsiaNews) - To help Europe "sick with fatigue" rediscover "the ever-youthful face" of Jesus and the Church, Pope Francis says the continent's bishops the need to "reflect, rebuild, see".

Francis' reflection came during the Eucharistic celebration with the participants in the plenary assembly of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its establishment, this afternoon in St Peter's Basilica.

First of all, the Pope pointed out, it is necessary to reflect on how to behave in the Europe of today. "We Christians are tempted to stay comfortable in our structures, in our homes and in our churches, in the security provided by tradition, in the satisfaction of a certain consensus, while all around us the temples are emptying and Jesus is increasingly forgotten. Let us reflect: how many people no longer hunger and thirst for God! Not because they are bad, no, but because there is no one who can give them the appetite for faith and rekindle that thirst that exists in the human heart: that "concrete and perpetual thirst" of which Dante Alighieri speaks (Paradise, II, 19) and which the dictatorship of consumerism, light but suffocating, tries to extinguish. Many are led to feel only material needs, not the lack of God".

Yet material possession does not give happiness. The Pope questioned "are we content because in the end we lack nothing to live on, or are we restless at seeing so many brothers and sisters far from the joy of Jesus?" "The lack of charity causes unhappiness, because only love satisfies the heart". The problem can be "concentrating on the various positions in the Church, on debates, agendas and strategies, and losing sight of the real programme, that of the Gospel: the impetus of charity, the ardour of gratuitousness. The way out of problems and closures is always that of free gift. There is no other".

The "second step: rebuilding. "Rebuild my house", God asks through the prophet (Hag 1:8). And the people rebuild the temple. They stop being content with a quiet present and work for the future. This is what the construction of the common European house needs: to leave behind the conveniences of the present and return to the farsighted vision of the founding fathers, a prophetic and comprehensive vision, because they did not seek the consensus of the moment, but dreamt of the future for all. This is how the walls of the European house were built, and only in this way can they be strengthened. This also applies to the Church, the house of God. To make it beautiful and hospitable, we must look to the future together, not restore the past. Of course, we must start from the foundations, because that is where we can rebuild: from the living tradition of the Church, which is based on the essentials, on the good news, on closeness and on witness. From here we rebuild, from the foundations of the Church of the origins and of all time, from adoration of God and love of neighbour, not from our own particular tastes".

The great saints of Europe "did not worry about dark times, adversity and some divisions, which have always existed. They did not waste time criticising and blaming. They lived the Gospel, regardless of relevance and politics. Thus, with the mild strength of God's love, they incarnated his style of closeness, compassion and tenderness, and built monasteries, reclaimed lands, gave back souls to people and countries: no social programme, only the Gospel". "Let us encourage one another, without ever giving in to discouragement and resignation: we are called by the Lord to a splendid work, to work so that his house may be ever more welcoming, so that everyone may enter and live in it, so that the Church may have its doors open to all and no one may be tempted to concentrate only on looking and changing the locks".

It is therefore necessary to rebuild, but "all reconstruction takes place together, in the sign of unity. With others. There may be different visions, but unity must always be preserved. Because if we preserve the grace of unity, the Lord builds even where we fail. It is our call: to be Church, one Body among us. It is our vocation as shepherds: to gather the flock, not to disperse it, nor to preserve it in beautiful closed enclosures. Rebuilding means becoming craftsmen of communion, weavers of unity at every level: not by strategy, but by the Gospel. If we rebuild in this way, we will give our brothers and sisters a chance to see".

This is the third point. "Many people in Europe think that faith is something already seen, that it belongs to the past. Why? Because they have not seen Jesus at work in their lives. And often they have not seen him because we have not shown him enough in our lives. Because God is seen in the faces and gestures of men and women transformed by his presence. And if Christians, instead of radiating the contagious joy of the Gospel, repropose worn-out, intellectualistic and moralistic religious schemes, people do not see the Good Shepherd. They do not recognise the One who, in love with each of his sheep, calls them by name and seeks them out to put them on his shoulder. They do not see the One whose incredible Passion we preach, precisely because He has only one passion: man. This divine love, merciful and overwhelming, is the perennial novelty of the Gospel. And it asks of us, dear Brothers, wise and bold choices, made in the name of the mad tenderness with which Christ saved us. It does not ask us to demonstrate, but to show God, as the saints did: not with words, but with life. It asks for prayer and poverty, it asks for creativity and gratuitousness. Let us help today's tired Europe to rediscover the ever-youthful face of Jesus and his bride. We can only give our all so that this timeless beauty may be seen".