EUROPE/HUNGARY - Pope Francis to Hungarian Catholics: in the age of secularism, look to the faces of your Saints

Friday, 28 April 2023 pope francis   catholic church   local churches   saints   secularization  


Budapest (Agenzia Fides) - "Answers come from the Lord and not from the world, from the tabernacle and not from the computer". In Budapest, in St. Stephen's Cathedral, Pope Francis shows the Church of Hungary the compass to follow on the path of history, now that even that people blessed with the gift of a "granite faith" (the Pontiff's words) faces the unknowns of secularism and the loss of Christian memory. At the end of his speech, he kisses the shrine containing the right hand of St. Stephen, the most venerated relic in Hungary. First, the Bishop of Rome urges Hungarian Catholics to live the present time "by setting evangelization as a priority" and shunning the temptations of "catastrophic defeatism and "worldly conformism". He addressed bishops and priests, and men and women religious and seminarians gathered in the Cathedral, while his words also resonated in the square, packed with an attentive and composed crowd.
In the second public speech of his apostolic journey to Hungary, Pope Francis without hesitation outlined the emergencies faced by the apostolic work in Hungary as in other countries of ancient Christianity. He recalled the crisis of vocations that results in an "overload of work for priests". He evoked "models of life marked by materialism and hedonism" that shape the lives of the younger generations. Even in this condition - the Pope insisted, echoing the motto of the trip - it is possible to recognize and experience that "the risen Christ, the center of history, is the future", and "our lives, however marked by fragility, is firmly placed in his hands. If we forget this" the Pontiff continued "we too, pastors and laity, will look for human means and instruments to defend ourselves from the world, enclosing ourselves in our comfortable and tranquil religious oases; or, on the contrary, we will adapt ourselves to the changing winds of worldliness and, then, our Christianity will lose vigor and we will cease to be salt of the earth".
On her journey through time, and above all in this historical phase, the Church - the Pope reiterated - must guard against these two temptations: "a catastrophic reading of present history, which feeds on the defeatism of those who repeat that all is lost, that the values of the past no longer exist, that we do not know where we will end up". And the narcotic flattery of worldly conformism, which "makes us believe that basically everything is all right after all, that the world has now changed and we must adapt". The Christian response to the uncertainties of the present time cannot be "to respond with harshness, rejection and a combative attitude". Much less can the path to take be that of "becoming worldly". During his speech, the Pope remarked several times that worldliness and spiritual worldliness are "the worst" that can happen in the Church. Rather, it is better to meet the times that are coming "with its changes and its challenges" - the Pope suggested, referring to the Gospel - because it is precisely through all this that "the Lord draws near. And in the meantime we are called to cultivate this present season: to interpret it, to sow the seeds of the Gospel, to prune the dead branches of evil and to allow it to bear fruit. We are called to welcome with prophecy". Citing a speech by his predecessor, the Pontiff suggested that even the present time can represent a propitious season to be grateful for the gift of faith; "Benedict XVI," the Bishop of Rome recalled, "said that the different eras of secularization come to the aid of the Church because they 'have contributed in an essential way to its purification and interior reform. Secularizations in fact meant each time a profound liberation of the Church from forms of worldliness.'" Thus emergencies and the same difficulties related to declining vocations can push us to "update pastoral life," to the point of reconfiguring with freedom "the parish in the territory, but placing evangelization as a priority and initiating active collaboration between priests, catechists, pastoral workers, teachers." On the "beautiful work" and the "antiquum ministerium" of catechists, the Pope also wanted to add words to the written text. "There are places in the world – think of Africa, for example – (the Pope added) where evangelization is carried out by catechists. Catechists are pillars of the Church."
The opposite of the ecclesial passion witnessed by so many catechists was identified by the Pope with divisive impulses that infiltrate ecclesial communities when "instead of playing a team game, one plays the game of the enemy: the devil is the one who divides, and he is an artist in doing this, it is his specialty. And we see bishops disconnected from each other, priests in tension with the bishop, older priests in conflict with younger ones, diocesans with religious, presbyters with laity, Latins with Greeks; we become polarized on issues that concern the life of the Church, but also on political and social aspects, entrenching ourselves in ideological positions." The Pope called priests in particular to avoid rigidities, to have "a merciful gaze, a compassionate heart," to "transmit the Lord's consolation in the world's situations of pain and poverty, being close to persecuted Christians, to migrants seeking hospitality, to people of other ethnic groups". And to escape the diabolical traps of division, he invited everyone to look to the many saints, martyrs and confessors of the faith who marked the history of the Hungarian nation, from Saint Stephen (who "went begging by disguising himself so as not to be recognized" to Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty the Primate of Hungary arrested and persecuted during the communist regime. Pope Francis also recalled the courageous and patient testimony "of the Hungarian Sisters of the Society of Jesus, whom I met in Argentina after they had left Hungary during religious persecution. Those were women of testimony, they were good! By witnessing, they did so much good for me". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 28/4/2023)