Pope Francis addresses the Union of Superiors General at the end of their Assembly with a reflection on what it means to be a peacemaker and on the importance of fostering synodality.
By Linda Bordoni
Being peacemakers is a particularly urgent calling in a world fragmented by war and division. “It is the responsibility of everyone and everyone,” Pope Francis told the religious gathered at the Vatican on Sunday morning, noting that it is especially consecrated persons.
Noting that the theme of the Assembly of the Union of Superiors Generals (USG) that just ended was “Called to be artisans of peace” and that the reflection was based on the encyclical Fratelli tutti, the Pope spoke about the peace that Jesus gives and how it differs from the peace that the world gives.
In these times, when we hear the word “peace”, we mainly think of a situation of no war or end of war, a state of tranquility and well-being.
This, he said, “does not fully correspond to the meaning of the Hebrew word shalom, which, in the biblical context, has a richer meaning.”
the peace of jesus
The Pope explained that the peace of Jesus is “above all his gift, the fruit of charity, it is never a conquest of man.”
It is part of the “harmonious whole of relationships with God, with oneself, with others and with creation.
For this reason, he continued, the peace of God as a gift is inseparable from being builders and witnesses of peace. “It is founded on the recognition of the dignity of the human person and demands an order to which justice, mercy and truth inseparably contribute.”
A process that lasts over time
Encouraging religious to become masters of the trade of peacemaker – “a trade that is practiced with passion, patience, experience, tenacity, because it is a process that lasts over time,” the Pope said it is not an industrial product that is achieved mechanically, but requires the skillful intervention of man.
He urged those present to commit themselves to sowing peace with daily actions, with attitudes and gestures of service, fraternity, dialogue and mercy, and reminded them to incessantly invoke the gift of peace in their prayers.
He told them to start in their own communities, “building bridges and not walls within the community and outside of it.”
The Holy Father went on to say that this reflection on peace leads to consideration of another characteristic aspect of consecrated life: “synodality, this process in which we are all called to enter as members of the holy people of God.”
Consecrated persons, he added, are especially called to participate in it, “since consecrated life is synodal by its very nature”, recalling that their own structures (chapters, fraternal and canonical visits, assemblies, commissions and others proper to each one) institutes) can favor synodality.
The service of authority
Thanking those who are offering their contribution on this path, the Pope suggested that it might be necessary to review the way in which the “service of authority” is exercised, and warned against authoritarian and sometimes despotic forms “with abuses of conscience or spiritual abuses that They are also fertile ground for sexual abuse, because people and their rights are no longer respected.”
He spoke of the risk that authority is exercised as a privilege, “for those who hold it or for those who support it,” and said that this can lead to a kind of anarchy, “that does so much damage to the community.”
The service of authority, he said, must be exercised in a synodal style, “respecting one’s own law and the mediations that it provides, to avoid authoritarianism and privileges”, “favoring a climate of listening, respect for others, dialogue, participation and sharing. ”
Consecrated persons, with their testimony, can contribute a lot to the Church in this process of synodality that we are experiencing. As long as you are the first to experience it: walking together, listening to each other, valuing the variety of gifts, being welcoming communities.
Finally, Pope Francis defended the processes that allow formation and generational replacement in the direction of the institutes and said that “the reorganization or reconfiguration of the institute must always be done with a view to safeguarding communion.”