Lilongwe (Agenzia Fides) - The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis, "this precious document should be a point of reference for the Church in Malawi, which is called to remain on the path of conversion and to embrace the obligation of evangelization". This is what Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said to the clergy, religious men and women who he met yesterday afternoon, November 3, after the Mass celebration in the Cathedral in Lilongwe (see Fides 03/11/2016).
After having thanked the priests and religious "for the dedication to the work of evangelization" the Cardinal pointed out that "the call to evangelize comes to us from the Gospel and is continually renewed in our personal encounter with Jesus... To evangelize is to encounter Christ, to announce him, and be renewed by Him". Then he pointed out that "to keep the fire of charity alive in our hearts we must be attentive to three things: our spiritual life, our moral life and our ministerial life".
Therefore he focused on these three dimensions. Priests and religious have "a particular call to holiness" that comes by way of their very consecration to the Lord. "Priests are called to live the Gospel radically in following Jesus: chaste, poor and obedient. The priesthood is, above all, a call to be configured to Christ, the Eternal High Priest. In other words, we must love as Jesus loved, think as Jesus thought, act as Jesus acted, and serve as Jesus served, every moment of our lives". He then underlined, the priesthood is not a profession or bureaucratic office.
To the Religious brothers and sisters, he said: "your sanctification also consists in an intimate bond with Jesus, in the particular way you have been called and set apart to follow Him closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels... He has sought you out and invited you into a deeply personal relationship".
As for the moral life, Cardinal Filoni focused in particular on the issue of celibacy: "This choice in life must be considered in the context of the bond that is forged at either Ordination or religious profession", he stressed, recalling that "the Church, as the Spouse of Jesus Christ, needs to be loved by the priest in the total and exclusive way that Jesus Christ, Head and Spouse, loved her". The Religious men and women, he then recalled, "are united to Christ in a spousal bond brought about through your consecration. The vow of chastity brings with it the invitation and obligation to live exclusively for Him in a life of freely embraced celibacy".
The last point touched by the Prefect of the Congregation was the ministerial commitment in parishes, hospitals, schools and different fields of evangelization, with particular emphasis for the marginalized, migrants and slaves of our times. The Cardinal recalled the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (81) in this regard, and noted: "In order to dedicate all of our time and energy in service to the Church, we need the pastoral and ministerial charity of Jesus who gave his life for his sheep. We must imitate Jesus in his gift of self and in his service to others".
Finally Cardinal Filoni once again thanked the priests and religious, "your zeal and untiring efforts are a great gift to the Church", exhorting them to remain always united and strengthened in common love of the Lord and the Church. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 04/11/2016)