A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
Part 13: New Pope’s Resolutions
“Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. Pope John Paul II asked for help in finding “a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation”.* We have made little progress in this regard. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion…” * Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint (25 May 1995)
We’ve now finished digging deeply into paragraph 28 of The Joy of the Gospel, and the pope’s hopeful exhortations about the “pastoral conversion” needed in parishes. In paragraphs 29-31 he speaks about this conversion in church movements, in dioceses and for bishops.
Then, in paragraph 32, he applies the need for pastoral conversion to the pope and the papacy! That’s where the excerpt above picks up. I love that Pope Francis does this. After having reflected for a few weeks here on how we as a parish (and how I as a pastor) need to have our hearts and minds open to changes to better accomplish our mission, it’s nice to hear Pope Francis say to us, “I’m right here with you on this!” So it’s clear that he means everything he has said and will go on to say in The Joy of the Gospel, both praises and especially challenges, to apply to every level of the Church – from those of us “in the pews” to those of us “in the pulpit” to the one of us in the papacy.
Interestingly, Francis quotes JPII once again, from that saint’s document on Christian unity. (Ut Unum Sint means, “that they may all be one,” part of Jesus prayer to the Father in John’s gospel. See Jn.17:21). If we at St. Raphael are reading Pope Francis’ words and reflecting on how we are called to put them into action… Francis is showing us that he’s reading Pope John Paul II’s words and doing the same.
So onward we go, seeking, begging the Lord for the grace of pastoral conversion – you and me and the pope, all together on the journey. Lord, show us what you would have us do – and give us the strength to do it!
Come, Holy Spirit…
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J.