ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Pope Francis to Catholics: there is a hidden grace in being a "little flock"

Thursday, 15 September 2022 pope francis   mission   evangelization   local churches   saints  

Vatican Media

Nur-Sultan (Agenzia Fides) - In the Church "no one is a stranger", because the mystery of God has been revealed for "all peoples", and "not merely to the chosen people, or to a religious elite". Faith, and the salvation promised by Christ, are not passed down from generation to generation "as a set of ideas to be understood and followed, as a fixed and timeless code". They are the gift that the Risen Christ can work today in the life of those who follow him. And those who can most easily notice and enjoy it are the little ones, the poor in spirit, because "litteleness humbly hands us over to the power of God, who teaches us not to base our ecclesial activity on our own abilities". Thus Pope Francis spoke to the small Catholic community of Kazakhstan, also reminding them that "there is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock". He did so on the third and last day of his Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan, meeting in the Catholic Cathedral of Nur-Sultan Bishops, priests, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers, mostly from distant countries.
Once again, Pope Francis took advantage of the opportunity to highlight one’s own and mysterious dynamics with which the salvation of Christ spreads throughout the world, always starting from a "small remnant".
The Church of Christ, and every authentic Christian adventure - the Pope remarked, taking inspiration from some key words of the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians - move in the world between memory and expectation, between "heirs" and "promise".
Every authentic apostolic work does not self-produce itself. Every Church - the Bishop of Rome recalled - "is heir to a prior history, is always born of an initial proclamation of the Gospel, of a prior event, of the apostles and evangelizers who established it upon the living word of Jesus". Even in Kazakhstan, a multicultural and multireligious country, the lively present of Christian communities is linked to the rich history that preceded it, and which draws on the spread of the proclamation of the Gospel in Central Asia which began in the first centuries of Christianity. Many evangelizers and missionaries recalled the Pope - spent their lives spreading the light of the Gospel, founding communities, shrines, monasteries and places of worship. A legacy that must be honored and preserved. "On the spiritual and ecclesial journey", the Pontiff insisted, "we should always remember those who first proclaimed the faith to us". In the Christian experience, "this act of remembrance inspires us to contemplate the wonders that God has worked in history, even amid life’s hardships and our own personal and communal limitations". Christian memory - Pope Francis insisted - is not "looking back with nostalgia". The memory of the past "does not make us close in on ourselves; it opens us up to the promise of the Gospel. Jesus assured us that he would remain with us always, so his is not merely a promise about the future. We are called today to embrace the renewal that the risen Jesus is bringing about in our lives". For this reason, faith is not "a lovely exhibition of artefacts from a distant past, but an ever-present event, an encounter with Christ that takes place in the here and now of our lives". It is this "living and awe-inspiring memory of Jesus, that we draw upon above all in the Eucharist, i the power of a love that impels us. It is our treasure". For this reason, "without memory, we lack wonder. When we lose that living memory, our faith, our devotions and our pastoral activities risk dying slowly, disappearing like a flash in the pan". Thus the gratitude to God and to the brothers also fails. And we fall "into the temptation of thinking that everything depends on us". While Christians and all those involved in the apostolic work of the Church are called to confess and bear witness to the actual work of Christ himself, "to bear witness to the very heart of salvation, to the newness of Jesus, to the newness that is Jesus".
In this work of witness - continued the Pontiff, referring to the numerical scarcity of the Catholic community in Kazakhstan and the vastness of that immense country - one could feel "little" and inadequate. But the Gospel itself - Pope Francis recalled - "says being “little”, poor in spirit, is a blessing, a beatitude". Far from all the complaints about the "minority" condition experienced by Christians in large parts of the world, the successor of Peter recalled that "there is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a little flock, for instead of showing off our strengths, our numbers, our structures and other things that are humanly important, we can let ourselves be guided by the Lord and humbly draw close to others. Rich in nothing and poor in everything, let us walk with simplicity alongside our sisters and brothers", to start with those who belong to other Christian communities.
Concluding his speech, the Bishop of Rome asked the small Kazakh Catholic community not to "be a group bogged down in the same old way of doing things, or withdrawn into its shell since it feels small, but a community open to God’s future, afire with his Spirit. A community that is alive, filled with hope, open to the newness of the Spirit and to the signs of the times, inspired by the Gospel’s example of the little seed that grows and bears fruit in humble and creative love". The Pope also asked to make room for the laity, so that "our communities do not become rigid or clerical". The Pontiff also exhorted Bishops and priests "not to be administrators of the sacred or enforcers of religious rules, but pastors close to our people", inviting everyone to find comfort in the great witnesses that have marked the recent history of Catholicism on Kazakh land, like Blessed Wladislaw Bukowiński (1904-1974), a priest who spent his life to care for the sick, the needy and the marginalized, and lived the experience of prison and forced labor. "Even before his beatification", the Pope recalled, "there were always fresh flowers and a lighted candle on his tomb. This is a confirmation that the People of God can recognize holiness, and a pastor in love with the Gospel". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 15/9/2022)