Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to participants in an international symposium on the religious life, encouraging them to live their vows in an authentic manner. “What is not helpful is a theoretical poverty, but the poverty that is learnt by touching the flesh of the poor Christ, in the humble, in the poor, in the sick, in children,” he said. The pontiff gave his remarks to the March 8 gathering entitled “The Management of Church Goods of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and of the Societies of Apostolic Life at the Service of Humanity and the Mission of the Church.” The two-day symposium held at Rome’s Pontifical Antonianum University considered how orders and other religious institutes could use their properties for the greater good. “This poverty is loving solidarity, sharing and charity, and is expressed in sobriety, in the pursuit of justice and joy of the essential, in order to guard yourselves against material idols that obscure the true meaning of life,” the Pope reflected in his comments. Those in religious life “are always a prophetic voice and vivid testimony to the innovation that is Christ, conforming to him, who became poor, enriching us with his poverty,” he said. “Be again today, for the Church and for the world, the outposts of attention to all the poor and to all those in misery, material, moral, and spiritual, as (those) overcoming all selfishness in the logic of the gospel that teaches us to trust in the providence of God.” Pope Francis described modern culture as “characterized by significant changes and progress in many areas” and yet many times still having “an economy of exclusion.” “In the face of uncertainty in which the majority of men women live, as well as in the face of the spiritual and moral frailty of so many people, especially young people, as a Christian community we feel challenged,” he acknowledged. Yet those in religious life should be active witnesses of the “logic of the gift,” having given their lives entirely to Christ and the Church. “It is necessary to be vigilant in ensuring that the goods of Institutes are administered with caution and transparency, that they are protected and preserved, combining the charismatic-spiritual dimension with the economic dimension of efficiency,” he noted. Pope Francis then went on to quote Paul VI, who said, “We note with vigilant attention as in a period like our own, entirely absorbed in the conquest, in possession, in the enjoyment of economic goods, is felt in the public opinion inside and outside of the Church, a desire, almost a need, to see the poverty of the Gospel and there one wants to better recognize where the Gospel is preached, is represented.” The Pope closed his message by expressing his gratitude to those who had established the symposium and his hope “that it will bear fruit.”