Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The missionary passion to proclaim the Gospel is not born as a "result of human endeavor" but flows "from the love of Christ"; it is the opposite of the "plague of clericalism" and springs from charity, emphasized Pope Francis today, during the new catechesis of the cycle dedicated to the passion for procaliming the Gospel and apostolic zeal, proposing the evocative witness of Saint Daniel Comboni, one of the greatest missionaries of modern times, beatified in 1996 and proclaimed Saint by John Paul II on October 5, 2003. Addressing the multitude gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope began his catechesis by recalling that Comboni's missionary passion made him an "apostle full of zeal for Africa" and its peoples. A zeal lived in a historical context also marked "by the horror of slavery, of which he was a witness". Unfortunately, added the Bishop of Rome, repeating words that he had already used during his trip to the African continent, "slavery, like colonialism, is not something from the past, unfortunately. In the Africa that Comboni loved so much, which is today torn by so many conflicts, political exploitation gave way to an ‘economic colonialism’ that was equally enslaving. This is a tragedy to which the economically more advanced world often closes its eyes, ears and mouth". And the Pope wanted to repeat the appeal already launched on January 31st in Kinshasa, during a meeting with the authorities: "Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered". Pope Francis recalled the unique missionary intuition that Saint Comboni himself summed up with the words "Save Africa with Africa". A "powerful insight", that helped renew his missionary outreach: the people who had been evangelized were not only “objects”, but “subjects” of mission". "Saint Daniel", continued the Pope "wanted every Christian to participte in the evangelizing enterprise. With this spirit, he integrated his thoughts and actions, involving the local clergy and promoting the lay service of catechist. Catechists are a treasure in the Church. Catechists are those who bring evangelization forward. He also conceived of human development in this way, cultivating the arts and professions, fostering the role of the family and of women in the transformation of culture and society. And how important it is, even today, to make the faith and human development progress within the context of mission, rather than transplant external models or limit them to sterile welfarism!
Comboni's missionary zeal - continued the Bishop of Rome, pointing to the sources of his apostolic activity, "was not primarily the fruit of human endeavor. He was not driven by his own courage or motivated solely by important values such as freedom, justice and peace; his zeal came from the joy of the Gospel, drawn from Christ’s love which then led to love of Christ": The Saint himself recognized in one of his writings that "an arduous and laborious mission as ours cannot be glossed over, lived by crooked-necked people filled with egoism and with themselves, who do not care for their health and the conversion of souls as they should". "This", the Pope emphasized, adding to the written text, "is the tragedy of clericalism which leads Christians, laity included, to clericalize themselves and to transform themselves – as it says here – into people with crooked necks filled with egoism. This is the plague of clericalism". " when one truly loves Christ", said the Pope, quoting another of Comboni’s words "then privations, sufferings and martyrdom become sweet". "For Comboni", said Pope Francis, "even missionary ability" had as its only source "charity, in particular, the zeal by which he made the sufferings of others his own, to feel it on one's own skin and to know how they are to be alleviated". Furthermore, his passion for evangelization "never led him to act as a soloist, but always in communion, in the Church". Comboni's dream - the Pontiff remarked in the final part of his catechesis - "is that of a Church who makes common cause with those who are crucified in history, so as to experience the resurrection with them. (...) His witness seems to want to repeat to all of us, men and women of the Church: “Do not forget the poor – love them – for Jesus crucified is present in them, waiting to rise again". At the end of his address, the Pope addressed the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square directly with a few sentences that he added to the written text: "To all of you, I say: do not forget the poor, because they will be the ones who will open the door of Heaven for you". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 20/9/2023)