Open door Church

Pope Francis

25.05.13 Holy Mass Santa Marta

Mark 10: 13-16

Jesus' reprimanded his disciples who wanted to prevent people from bringing children to him. The disciples were not acting out of unkindness, they only wanted to help Jesus. They had done the same thing in Jericho when they tried to silence the blind man. It was as if they had said ‘protocol does not permit it”, he is the second Person of the Trinity.... This reminds me of many Christians.

An engaged couple who went to a parish office and instead of receiving support and congratulations were fobbed off with a list of the prices for the wedding and asked to show their documents. So they found the door closed. Those who could have opened the door, thanking God for this new marriage, failed to do. On the contrary, they shut it. So often “we control faith rather than facilitating it”, and this is something “which began in Jesus’ time with the Apostles”. We are tempted to “take over the Lord”.

A girl-mother goes to the parish to ask for Baptism for her child and hears “a Christian” say: “no, you can't have it, you’re not married”. “Look at this girl who had had the courage to carry her pregnancy to term” and not to have an abortion. “What does she find? A closed door”, as do so many. “This is not good pastoral zeal, it distances people from the Lord and does not open doors. So when we take this path... we are not doing good to people, the People of God”. Jesus “instituted seven sacraments, and with this approach we institute the eighth, the sacrament of the pastoral customs office”.

Jesus wants everyone to be close to him. “Let us think of all Christians of good will who err and shut the door instead of opening it”. Let us ask the Lord to grant that “all who approach the Church find doors open to encounter Jesus' love.


Pope Francis

23.10.19 General Audience, St Peter's Square

Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles

Acts 11: 19-26, Acts 14: 27 to 15:31

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that St. Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, is taken into the Church of Jerusalem through the mediation of Barnabas and begins to announce Christ. However, due to the hostility of some, he is forced to move to Tarsus, his hometown, where Barnabas joins him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which we are commenting on in these catechesis's can be said to be the book of the long voyage of the Word of God: the Word of God must be announced, and announced everywhere. This journey begins after a strong persecution (cf. Acts 11:19); but this, instead of causing a setback for evangelization, becomes an opportunity to enlarge the field where the good seed of the Word is spread. Christians are not afraid. They must flee, but they flee with the Word, and they spread the Word everywhere.

Paul and Barnabas first arrive in Antioch of Syria, where they stop for a whole year to teach and help the community to put down roots (cf. Acts 11:26). They were telling the Jewish community, about the Jews. Antioch thus becomes the centre of missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers – Paul and Barnabas – influence the hearts of the believers, who here, in Antioch, are called for the first time "Christians" (cf. Acts 11:26).

The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of Acts, it is not a fortress, but a tent capable of enlarging its space (cf. Is 54:2) so that all can enter. The Church is "outgoing" or it is not Church, it is either on the path, enlarging itself always, or is not Church. "It is a Church with its doors open" (Exorc. Evangelii gaudium,46),always with the doors open. When I see some little church here, in this city, or when I see it in another diocese where I go, with the its doors closed, that's a bad sign. Churches must always have their doors open because this is a symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is called to always be the open house of the Father. So that, if someone wants to follow a movement of the Spirit and approaches looking for God, they will not find themselves coming face to face with the coldness of a closed door(ibid., 47).

But now here come the problems, this newness of the open doors open to the pagans? To the pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the pagans also came to knock on the door of the Church; and this novelty of the doors open to pagans unchains a very animated controversy. Some Jews affirm the necessity of circumcision for being saved, and then to receive baptism. They say, "If you do not let yourself be circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved"(Acts 15:1), that is, you cannot receive baptism later. First the Jewish rite and then the baptism: this was their position. And to resolve the issue, Paul and Barnabas consult the council of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and what is considered to be the first council in the history of the Church, the council or assembly of Jerusalem, referred to by Paul in the Letter to Galatians (2:1-10).

A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary question is addressed: that is, the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive in the course of the assembly were the speeches of Peter and James, "pillars" of the Mother Church (cf. Acts 15.7-21; Gal 2.9). They invite them not to impose circumcision on the pagans, but to ask them only to reject idolatry in all of its expressions. From this comes a common path, and this decision is ratified by the apostolic letter sent to Antioch.

The Jerusalem Assembly offers us an important light on how to deal with differences and how to seek "truth in charity"(Ef 4.15). It reminds us that the Church's method for conflict resolution is based on dialogue of attentive and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome closures and tensions and works in our hearts so that we may reach, in truth and good, unity. This text helps us to understand the synodality. It is interesting as the Letter writes: they begin, the Apostles, saying: "The Holy Spirit and we think that ...". It is precisely synodality, the presence of the Holy Spirit, otherwise it is not synodality, it is talk, it is a parliament, an other thing ...

Let us ask the Lord to strengthen in all Christians, especially in bishops and priests, the desire and responsibility of communion. May He help us to live the dialogue, the listening and the encounter with our brothers and sisters in faith and with those far from it, in order to taste and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be in every time the "joyful mother" of many children (cf. Psalm 113.9).


Pope Francis

11.10.20 Angelus, St Peter's Square

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 22: 1-10

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good afternoon!

With the narrative of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, in today's Gospel passage (cf. Mt 22:1-14), Jesus outlines the plan that God envisaged for humanity. The king who “who gave a marriage feast for his son” (v. 2) is the image of the Father who prepared for the entire human family a wonderful celebration of love and communion around his only begotten Son. Two times the king sends his servants to call the invited guests, but they refuse; they do not want to go to the feast because they have other things to think about: fields and business. So often we too put our interests and material things ahead of the Lord who calls us – and he calls us to a feast. But the king in the parable does not want the hall to remain empty, because he wants to offer the treasures of his kingdom. So he tells his servants: “Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find” (v. 9). This is how God reacts: when he is rejected, rather than giving up, he starts over and asks that all those found at the thoroughfares be called, excluding no one. No one is excluded from the house of God.

The original term that Matthew the Evangelist uses refers to the limits of the roads, or those points at which the city streets end and the paths begin that lead to the area of the countryside, outside the residential area, where life is precarious. It is to this humanity of the thoroughfares that the king in the parable sends his servants, in the certainty of finding people willing to sit at the table. Thus the banquet hall is filled with theexcluded”, those who are “outside” those who never seemed worthy to partake in a feast, in a wedding banquet. In fact, the master, the king, tells the messengers: “Call everyone, both good and bad. Everyone!”. God even calls those who are bad. “No, I am bad; I have done many [bad things]...”. He calls you: “Come, come, come!”. And Jesus went to lunch with the tax collectors, who were public sinners; they were the bad guys. God is not afraid of our spirits wounded by many cruelties, because he loves us; he invites us. And the Church is called to reach the daily thoroughfares, that is, the geographic and existential peripheries of humanity, those places at the margins, those situations in which those who have set up camp are found where and hopeless remnants of humanity live. It is a matter of not settling for comforts and the customary ways of evangelization and witnessing to charity, but of opening the doors of our hearts and our communities to everyone, because the Gospel is not reserved to a select few. Even those on the margins, even those who are rejected and scorned by society, are considered by God to be worthy of his love. He prepares his banquet for everyone: the just and sinners, good and bad, intelligent and uneducated.

Yesterday evening, I was able to make a phone call to an elderly Italian priest, a missionary in Brazil since youth, but always working with the excluded, with the poor. And he lives his old age in peace: he burned his life up with the poor. This is our Mother Church; this is God's messenger who goes to the crossroads.

However, the Lord places one condition: to wear a wedding garment. Let us return to the parable. When the hall is full, the king arrives and greets the latest guests, but he sees one of them without a wedding garment, that kind of little cape that each guest would receive as a gift at the entrance. The people went as they were dressed, as they were able to be dressed; they were not wearing gala attire. But at the entrance they were give a type of capelet, a gift. That man, having rejected the free gift, excluded himself: the king could do nothing but throw him out. This man accepted the invitation but then decided that it meant nothing to him: he was a self-sufficient person; he had no desire to change or to allow the Lord to change him. The wedding garment – this capelet - symbolizes the mercy that God freely gives us, namely, grace. Without grace we cannot take a step forward in Christian life. Everything is grace. It is not enough to accept the invitation to follow the Lord; one must be open to a journey of conversion, which changes the heart. The garment of mercy, which God offers us unceasingly, is the free gift of his love; it is precisely grace. And it demands to be welcomed with astonishment and joy: “Thank you, Lord, for having given me this gift”.


Pope Francis

29.06.22 Holy Mass and blessing of the Sacred Pallia for the new metropolitan archbishops, Papal Chapel, St Peter's Basilica

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

Acts 12: 1-11,

2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18

The testimony given by the two great Apostles Peter and Paul today comes to life once more in the Church’s liturgy. Peter, imprisoned by King Herod, is told by an angel of the Lord: “Get up quickly” (Acts 12:7), while Paul, looking back on his entire life and apostolate says: “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7). Let us reflect on these two phrases – “get up quickly” and “fight the good fight” – and ask what they have to say to today’s Christian community, engaged in the synodal process.

First, the Acts of the Apostles tell us of the night that Peter was freed from the chains of prison. An angel of the Lord tapped him on the side as he was sleeping, “and woke him, saying, ‘get up quickly’” (Acts 12:7). The angel awakens Peter and tells him to get up. The scene reminds us of Easter, because it contains two verbs present in the accounts of the resurrection: awaken and get up. In effect, the angel awakens Peter from the sleep of death and urges him to get up, to rise and set out towards the light, letting himself be guided by the Lord in passing through all the closed doors along the way (cf. v. 10). This image has great meaning for the Church. We too, as disciples of the Lord and the Christian community, are called to get up quickly, to enter into the mystery of the resurrection, and to let the Lord guide us along the paths that he wishes to point out to us.

Still, we experience many inward forms of resistance that prevent us from setting out. At times, as Church, we are overcome by laziness; we prefer to sit and contemplate the few sure things that we possess, rather than getting up and looking to new horizons, towards the open sea. Often we are like Peter in chains, imprisoned by our habits, fearful of change and bound to the chains of our routine. This leads quietly to spiritual mediocrity: we run the risk of “taking it easy” and “getting by”, also in our pastoral work. Our enthusiasm for mission wanes, and instead of being a sign of vitality and creativity, ends up appearing tepid and listless. Then, the great current of newness and life that is the Gospel becomes in our hands – to use the words of Father de Lubac – a faith that “falls into formalism and habit…, a religion of ceremonies and devotions, of ornaments and vulgar consolations… a Christianity that is clerical, formalistic, anemic and callous” (The Drama of Atheist Humanism).

The Synod that we are now celebrating calls us to become a Church that gets up, one that is not turned in on itself, but capable of pressing forward, leaving behind its own prisons and setting out to meet the world, with the courage to open doors. That same night, there was another temptation (cf. Act 12:12-17): that young girl so taken aback that, instead of opening the door, went back to tell what seemed like a dream. Let us open the door. The Lord calls. May we not be like Rhoda who turned back.

A Church without chains and walls, in which everyone can feel welcomed and accompanied, one where listening, dialogue and participation are cultivated under the sole authority of the Holy Spirit. The Church that is free and humble, that “gets up quickly” and does not temporize or dilly-dally before the challenges of the present time. A Church that does not linger in its sacred precincts, but is driven by enthusiasm for the preaching of the Gospel and the desire to encounter and accept everyone. Let us not forget that word: everyone. Everyone! Go to crossroads and bring everyone, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the sick, the righteous and the sinner: everyone! This word of the Lord should continue to echo in our hearts and minds: in the Church there is a place for everyone. Many times, we become a Church with doors open, but only for sending people away, for condemning people. Yesterday one of you said to me “This is no time for the Church to be sending away, it is the time to welcome”. “They did not come to the banquet…” – so go to the crossroads. Bring everyone, everyone! “But they are sinners…” – Everyone!

In the second reading, we hear the words of Paul who, looking back on his whole life, says: “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7). The Apostle is referring to the countless situations, some marked by persecution and suffering, in which he did not spare himself in preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Now at the end of his life, he sees that a great “fight” is still taking place in history, since many are not disposed to accept Jesus, preferring to pursue their own interests and follow other teachers, more accommodating, easier, more to our liking. Paul has fought his own battles and, now that he has run his race, he asks Timothy and the brethren of the community to carry on his work with watchful care, preaching and teaching. Each, in a word, is to accomplish the mission he or she has received; each must do his or her part.

Paul’s exhortation is also a word of life for us; it makes us realize that, in the Church, all of us are called to be missionary disciples and to make our own contribution. Here two questions come to my mind. The first is: What can I do for the Church? Not complaining about the Church, but committing myself to the Church. Participating with passion and humility: with passion, because we must not remain passive spectators; with humility, because being committed within the community must never mean taking centre stage, considering ourselves better and keeping others from drawing near. That is what a synodal Church means: everyone has a part to play, no individual in the place of others or above others. There are no first or second class Christians; everyone has been called.

Participating also means carrying on “the good fight” of which Paul speaks. For it is a “fight”, since the preaching of the Gospel is never neutral – may the Lord free us from watering down the Gospel to make it neutral – it is never neutral, it does not leave things the way they are; it accepts no compromise with the thinking of this world, but instead lights the fire of the kingdom of God amid the reign of human power plays, evil, violence, corruption, injustice and marginalization. Ever since Jesus rose from the dead, and became the watershed of history, “there began a great fight between life and death, between hope and despair, between being resigned to the worst and struggling for the best. A fight that will know no truce until the definitive defeat of all the powers of hatred and destruction (C.M. MARTINI, Easter Homily, 4 April 1999).

So the second question is: What can we do together, as Church, to make the world in which we live more humane, just and solidary, more open to God and to fraternity among men? Surely we must not retreat into our ecclesial circles and remain pinned to some of our fruitless debates. Let us take care not to fall into clericalism, for clericalism is a perversion. A minister who is clerical, who has a clerical attitude, has taken the wrong road; even worse are clericalized lay people. Let us be on our guard against this perversion which is clericalism. Let us help one another to be leaven in the dough of this world. Together we can and must continue to care for human life, the protection of creation, the dignity of work, the problems of families, the treatment of the elderly and all those who are abandoned, rejected or treated with contempt. In a word, we are called to be a Church that promotes the culture of care, tenderness and compassion towards the vulnerable. A Church that fights all forms of corruption and decay, including those of our cities and the places we frequent, so that in the life of every people the joy of the Gospel may shine forth. This is our “fight”, and this is our challenge. The temptation to stand still is great; the temptation of that nostalgia which makes us look to look at other times as better. May we not fall into the temptation of “looking back”, which is becoming fashionable today in the Church.

Brothers and sisters today, according to a fine tradition, I have blessed the Pallia for the recently named Metropolitan Archbishops, many of whom are present at our celebration. In communion with Peter, they are called to “get up quickly”, not to sleep, and to serve as vigilant sentinels over the flock. To get up and “fight the good fight”, never alone, but together with all the holy and faithful people of God. And as good shepherds, to stand before the people, among the people, and behind the people, but always with the God’s holy and faithful people, since they themselves are also part of the holy and faithful People of God.

I cordially greet the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate sent by my dear brother Bartholomew. Thank you for your presence and for the message you have brought from Bartholomew! Thank you for walking together because only together can we be the seed of the Gospel and witnesses of fraternity.

May Peter and Paul intercede for us, for the city of Rome, for the Church and for our entire world. Amen.

29.06.22 m