A girl hugs Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 15. CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

Church should be less serious, more loving, says Pope

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • May 16, 2013

VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church needs to revive its loving and tender side, which gets lost when the Church becomes too serious, Pope Francis said.

The Church has ended up with "deviations, sects and heresies when it got too serious, that is, when it took things here too seriously and it forgot about embracing and tenderness," he told representatives of Caritas Internationalis -- the umbrella organization of national Catholic charities around the world.

The maternal, tender side of the Church is a value "that the mother church cannot lose," he said.

The Pope made his comments during a 45-minute informal meeting with Caritas Internationalis' executive committee, its secretary-general, Michel Roy; and its president, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

Regional presidents of the Vatican-based umbrella group presented summaries of the situation in their regions. Roy also presented the Pope with a small basket of bread to symbolize the more than 1 billion people who go hungry in the world and to highlight a new campaign Caritas will launch this year to fight world hunger.

The Pope talked about 15 minutes off-the-cuff in Spanish, responding broadly to questions representatives had posed earlier. He touched on four points in his remarks: the crises plaguing the world, love, development and spirituality.

"A Church without charity doesn't exist," the Pope said, thanking Caritas for its "dual dimensions" of social action and mystical, spiritual dimension.

"Caritas is the Church's caress to her people," showing tenderness and understanding toward their needs, he said, according to partial translations supplied by Vatican Radio and the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"The search for truth and the study of the Catholic truth are other important dimensions of the church which are carried out by theologians" and transmitted through catechesis and exegesis.

"Caritas is the love inside the Mother Church that approaches, embraces and loves" people, he said.

The Pope said the crises in the world are "very serious." They include not just economic and cultural crises and a crisis of faith "but a crisis in which man is suffering the consequences of this instability."

"Humanity is in danger, the human person, the flesh of Christ," he said, and "Caritas' job above all is to realize this."

He cited a medieval Jewish text that reflected on how, during the building of the tower of Babel, every time a brick fell or broke, "it was a tragedy" to lose such a costly, treasured brick. But every time a worker fell to his death, nobody batted an eyelash.

The same thing is happening today, the Pope said, where the world pays more attention to material things than the plight of people.

"There is the imbalance of financial investments," and yet as "big international gatherings" convene, people are still dying of hunger.

The world today is confused about what it's supposed to do with creation, he said.

Instead of safeguarding and promoting creation in a way that improves and brings happiness to humanity, the world has established "a culture of disposal" where whatever isn't useful "gets tossed out in the trash."

Those designated as useless include the most marginalized, children and the elderly, who are tossed aside "with this hidden euthanasia."

In talking about the importance of the loving caress of the Church, the Pope said some emergency situations are so serious that what's needed is "simply to neutralize the bad. There's hunger, we give them to eat and then later we'll see how to promote" people.

But also underway is "a cultural war that leaves many wounded along the wayside. And here the caress of the Mother Church is the cure," he said.

That is why "Caritas is not just necessary as a first aid agency" for emergency situations, he said.

"In war time or during a crisis, there is a need to look after the wounded, to help the ill," he said, but there is also a need to support people, to care for their development after the emergency has been addressed.

Pope Francis mentioned the reality of needing "lots of money" to support aid efforts and said, if it was necessary, churches or the wealth of the Church can be sold to feed the poor just as the early church father, St. John Chrysostom, suggested.

The Pope said the saint "said it clearly: What use is it to adorn the Church if you don't adorn the body of Christ when he's dying of hunger."

The Pope emphasized the importance of the spirituality of charity, which involves "giving oneself, going outside oneself and being at the continuous service of people living in extreme situations."

On the one hand, the church has to help and heal these people as well as "bring into the Church this feeling of tenderness, which is more than a feeling, it's a value the Mother Church can't lose."

"The spirituality of Caritas is the spirituality of tenderness, and we have excluded the idea of tenderness from the Church," he said.

"At times our 'seriousness' over the pastoral causes us to lose this idea, which is the maternity of the Church."

"The Church is fundamentally mother and, for me, recovering this tenderness for the church is the core to which the spirituality of Caritas must refer itself," he said.

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