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The joy of the Gospel

· Pope Francis wishes to indicate the future path for the Church with his published Apostolic Exhortation ·

What I have expressed in this document has programmatic significance and important consequences

Pope Francis has “a dream”. That of a Church walking without hesitation along the path of “pastoral and missionary conversion”: an attitude that is personal and communal, “capable of transforming” habits, styles, language, and facilities, directing them towards evangelization rather than “self-preservation” .

That “dream” is the focus of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium , presented Tuesday morning, 26 November, in the Press Office of the Holy See. A document consisting of 224 pages, divided into five chapters, it is a fruit of labours of the last Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith” which took place in the Vatican from 7 to 28 October 2012. It is clear that the Pope's intentions, though spurred by the recommendations of the Synod fathers, go beyond. What is being offered to the entire Christian community is a dense and substantial text, which – it is important to stress – “has programmatic significance and important consequences”.

“I wish to encourage the Christian faithful ”, Pope Francis writes “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come”. What is most dear to the Holy Father's heart is that every baptized person brings to others, with new dynamism, the love of Jesus, living “permanently in a state of mission”.

This invitation “to recover the original freshness of the Gospel” involves every believer, because “the missionary aspiration”, the Holy Father said, is that of “reaching everyone”. “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others”, he pointed out, “I too must think about a conversion of the papacy”, that it might be “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization”. There is no need to be afraid of revising the customs of the Church which are “not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel”, even if found to “have deep historical roots”. The appeal is to always be “bold and creative”, abandoning once and for all “the complacent attitude that says: 'We have always done it this way'”.

Starting with these premises, the document proposes the outline of a plan containing many themes that are dear to Pope Francis' pastoral teaching. Among them, the invitation to rediscover mercy as “the greatest of the virtues”, and to avoid preaching “certain doctrinal or moral points”, which obscure the Gospel's message of love. There is a need to open the doors of the Church for “going out to others” in order to reach the current “fringes of humanity”.

The Pope has keen judgement on current global financial and economic structures that increase inequalities and social exclusion: “such an economy kills”, again pointing the finger at “'disposable' culture” and the “idolatry of money”. It is no coincidence that there is an entire chapter focusing on “the social dimension of evangelization”, with insightful emphasis on the need for the integral development of the neediest – “for the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one”, he recalls, and for the promotion of dialogue and peace.

The core of the document is devoted specifically to those in the Church who work at the service of the Gospel. It highlights potential and initiative, but also warns against the recurring “temptations” of “selfishness and spiritual sloth”, “sterile pessimism”, and “spiritual worldliness”. In this sense, the Pope attributes great importance to “the evangelizing power of popular piety” and to the care which priests give to their preaching.

The text of the Apostolic Exhortation

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