Archbishop Rino Fisichella

Archbishop Rino Fisichella

December 2, 2013
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on sharing the joy of the Gospel is a call to faith-filled optimism, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, introducing the text to the media.

The archbishop, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, told reporters Nov. 26 that Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), is "an invitation to recover a prophetic and positive vision of reality without ignoring the current challenges."

When the pope writes about the reform of Church structures or the need to improve homilies or the obligation to reach out to the poor, Fisichella said, "the cement which binds all these themes together is concentrated in the merciful love of God."

WRITTEN ON VACATION

At the Vatican news conference to present the papal document, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis wrote it himself in Spanish, mostly during his August vacation.

Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said Pope Francis took the suggestions made by the 2012 Synod of Bishops on new evangelization, "made them his own, re-elaborating them in a personal way."

Having done that, he came up with "a programmatic, exhortative document" on mission in the fullest sense, Baldisseri said.

Evangelii Gaudium is not a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, he said, "because its scope goes well beyond the discussions of the synod."

Fisichella called the document "a map and guide" for the Church's pastoral mission and work in the world.

Pope Francis does not simply prescribe changes for parishes and dioceses, Baldisseri explained, he also recognizes a need to give "special attention to the exercise of primacy" by the pope.

In the document, Pope Francis wrote, "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 Francis noted that in the 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint (That All May be One), Blessed 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," Pope Francis said.

VATICAN II

Both Fisichella and Baldisseri noted that Pope Francis expresses a need for the Church to find concrete ways to implement the Second Vatican Council's teaching that the world's bishops, united with the pope, exercise collegiality or shared responsibility for the mission of the Church.

He also, Fisichella said, sees a need for the Church to move "from a bureaucratic, static and administrative vision of pastoral ministry to a perspective which is not only missionary, but is in a permanent state of evangelization."

Fisichella said Pope Francis wants to avoid "the danger of presenting the faith only in the light of some moral questions as if these could stand apart from the centrality of love."

It is love for every person, particularly the weakest and poorest, that must motivate the action of the Church and all its members, the pope wrote.

Fisichella said that requires the Church and its members to lobby for laws that respect human life and give justice to the poor.