The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s prepared speech to participants in the 11th General Chapter of the Society of Saint Paul. The discourse was consigned to those present at the audience with the Pope on Saturday, 18 June.
I welcome you and thank the Superior General for his greetings and his presentation. You have come on the occasion of your XI General Chapter, which has this theme: “‘Let yourselves be transformed by renewing your way of thinking’ (Rm 12:2). Called to be artisans of communion to prophetically announce the joy of the Gospel in the culture of communication”.
The Apostle Paul, in the verse from the Letter to the Romans which has guided your days of work, invites all of us not to conform to the world’s mentality, but to allow ourselves to be transformed, changing our way of thinking. Paul does not say “transform” the world but “transform yourselves”; rather, “let yourselves be transformed”, that is, make space for the only Subject capable of transforming you: the Holy Spirit, God’s grace. Allowing ourselves to be transformed first, so as to then transform the world around us.
The expression “renew your way of thinking” — as you teach me — is at the centre of the proposal of spiritual and apostolic life that your Founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed and codified for all of you, beginning precisely with Saint Paul’s experience. The Blessed wrote: “Everything comes from the mind. If someone does a good work it is because he thought it and then wanted to do it and then did it. So, the first point to always look at is the mind” (To the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, VIII, Rome, 1986, 365).
And so, before anything else, the mentality must be changed, converted, assimilated to that of Jesus the Master, so as to contribute to spreading in society a way of thinking and of living founded on the Gospel. This is a huge challenge for the Church and for you Paulines, characterised by the institutional charism of communication. In effect, it is not enough to use the means of communication to propagate the Christian message and the Church’s magisterium. The message itself needs to be integrated within the new culture created by modern communication. A culture that originates — even prior to content — from the very fact that there are new ways of communicating with new languages, new technologies and new psychological attitudes (cf. Enc. Redemptoris Missio, 37c).
In this regard, a key theme is that of interpersonal relationships in the globalised and hyper-connected world. This is a key theme both on the human and social levels as well as on the ecclesial level, because all Christian life starts from and develops through person-to-person relationships. And by now, after the initial moments of euphoria over the new technologies, we are aware that it is not enough to live “online” or “connected”. We need to see up to what point our communication, enriched by the digital sphere, effectively creates bridges and contributes to the construction of the culture of encounter.
For your specific mission of evangelization in the world of communication, Father Alberione wanted you to be consecrated men, called to bear witness to the Gospel through unreserved dedication to the apostolate. For this, look at the apostle Paul as the model of a man conquered by Christ and driven by his charity onto the streets of the world. From Paul, learn ever again the passion for the Gospel and the missionary spirit that, springing from his “pastoral heart”, drove him to make himself all things to all people. And speaking of Paul, one aspect that risks being neglected, but which in reality clearly appears in his letters, is that he did not act alone, as an isolated hero, but always in collaboration with his companions on mission. Therefore, learn also from him to work in teams with others, to work as “networks”, to be artisans of communion, using the most efficacious and up-to-date means of communication to reach people where and how they live with the Good News.
Try to cultivate this style of communion above all among yourselves, in your communities and in your Congregation, practising that synodality that we have set out to deepen and above all exercise at every level in the entire Church. Speaking to you, I ask all of you to put your charism at the service of this process, that is, to help the Church to journey together, making the most of the means of communication. This is a service you have always been attentive to, but which in this phase calls for thematic thought and study. In two words, the theme is: synodality and communication.
But I would not want you to think you are being considered only from this, let’s say, “professional” perspective, from your specific competence. No, you are called to live communion ordinarily in fraternity, in your relationships with the diocesan community in which you live, and naturally, with the larger and diverse Pauline Family. May your horizon be always the one that Paul had, that is, all of humanity of our time, to which the Gospel of Christ is destined, especially those who appear to be “distant”, those who are indifferent or even hostile. Often, on closer inspection, these people hide within themselves a longing for God, a thirst for love and truth.
Dear brothers, thank you for your visit and above all for your commitment to the service of the Church and evangelization. May Mary, Queen of the Apostles, with her maternal protection, always accompany you on your way. I bless with all my heart all of you and your confrères. And I ask you please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!