Speaking to leaders of Catholic charities around the world, Pope Francis on Thursday asked them to avoid the temptation of what he called “efficiency-ism” as well as “worshipping ourselves and our goodness,” and also cautioned against the Church wanting to have everything under control while being capable of defending its good name.
“Let us ask the Lord for him to free us of efficiency-ism, of worldliness, of the subtle temptation to worship ourselves and our abilities,” Francis said. “The right path through the Word of God is humility, communion, renunciation.”
“Jesus does not want the Church to be a perfect model that takes pleasure in being organized and able to defend its good name,” Francis said. “Jesus did not live like this, but always on the road, without fear of the challenges life posed.”
The pope’s comments came during the opening of a General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis, an umbrella group for Catholic charitable organizations around the world.
Francis said Jesus avoided giving clear instructions, and the fact that this was seen as a problem by his followers is a sign of “efficiency-ism,” of the Church thinking that “it is doing well if it has everything under control, if lives are without complications with an agenda in order.”
The Gospels, the pontiff says, have to be the Church’s program, keeping in mind that God doesn’t send “answers” but the Holy Spirit, and that the third person of the Trinity doesn’t “bring an agenda” but instead comes as fire.
Faith, Francis continued, is not a “ready-made” recipe, but a path that has to be traveled together “with a spirit of trust.” Quoting the book of Acts, he then said that there are three essential elements for the Church to follow in this path: “the humility of listening, the charism of the whole and the courage of renunciation.”
The May 23-28 XXI General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis technically kicked off on Thursday morning with the unveiling of a mosaic of migrants, world leaders and Caritas workers to illustrate how humanity makes one family and shares one journey, which was presented during a press conference held in Rome. Among the many images used to create the mosaic, was a picture of the grandmother of Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, who emigrated from China to the Philippines.
The assembly takes place every four years. This time, it’s bringing together 450 delegates from more than 150 national offices from around the globe. The theme for this year is inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 document on the environment, “One Human Family. One Common Home.”
Tagle, who’s presided over Caritas for the past four years, told journalists that the theme chosen isn’t a “slogan” but an affirmation of the Gospel, Catholic social teaching, the teaching of modern popes and an affirmation of the lived experience of the Caritas staff and volunteers around the world.
Speaking about having the courage of renunciation, Francis said that to follow God it’s necessary to “walk quickly, and to walk quickly, one has to be light, even if it is hard. As a Church, we’re not called to do businesses, but to make evangelical leaps.”
In “purifying” the Church, he said, the Church must avoid making a gattopardesca reform, meaning, a “makeup” one without actually changing anything. (The reference is to a celebrated Italian novel called Il Gattopardo, or “The Leopard.”) As an example, he said that God doesn’t want for the Church to “keep up with the times” by putting some “makeup on to look young,” but an actual “conversion of the heart.”
The pontiff also used his homily to remind the Caritas representatives and volunteers that even though they’re called to have professional standards and respond to donor’s expectations, they must also remember that the Church is not a business.
“For one who wants to follow the path of charity, humility and listening, it means turning an ear to the small ones,” Francis said. “In the world, those who have more speak more, but among us it cannot be that way because God loves to reveal himself through those who are small and last.”
“People before programs!” Francis said.
The pontiff also told those present that Jesus tells those who follow him to “remain in my love.” The only way to do that, according to the Argentine pope, is by staying close to Jesus.
“We will be helped by staying before the tabernacle and before the many living tabernacles who are the poor,” he said. “The Eucharist and the poor, the fixed tabernacle and the mobile tabernacles: It is there that we remain in love and absorb the mentality of bread broken [Jesus].”
Participants in the XXI General Assembly of Caritas hail from all over the world, from the United States and Venezuela, to Syria and Sri Lanka. Towards the end of the meeting, they will elect new leadership.
The election of Caritas’s leadership will take place Monday afternoon, Rome time. That morning, the group will meet again with Francis.
Among other things, the official program includes a session on safeguarding in the Church; adopting a financial framework; Caritas being at the heart of the Church and a report by a group on women and youth.