Pope Francis meets with Assumptionists in the Vatican and highlights key aspects of their apostolate, from pilgrimages to their commitment to the media and their work in the Middle East.
By Francesca Merlo
Addressing Assumptionists, in Rome for their 34th General Chapter, Pope Francis chose to share some reflections on the theme that guides the work of their Chapter: “This Kingdom of God is at hand”. He noted that one of the principal missions of apostolic religious life is to manifest, “very concretely”, closeness to the Kingdom “and therefore, this hope for every person and for the whole world”.
The Pope stressed to the Assumptionists that “wherever you are, you are signs of the Kingdom by your closeness to the people to whom you are sent”.
Closeness not only through action
He went on to explain that this closeness naturally passes through actions, both linked to the Congregation and linked to the apostolic initiatives of the Church to which the Assumptionists contribute. But, the Pope continued, “beyond the actions, it is the very fact of making yourselves close to the people, starting with those who are most in need of a supportive and fraternal presence, that shows them that the Kingdom of God draws near to each one, through you and through your evangelical witness”.
Pilgrimages and commitment to media
In this regard, Pope Francis went on to mention two particular achievements of the Congregation of the Assumptionists. The first is the apostolate of pilgrimages, beginning with the National Pilgrimage to Lourdes, “the fervour of which you have spread to distant countries, as far as Latin America”. In this regard, the Holy Father, speaking off the cuff, recalls In this regard, he recalls when he was a child the Assumptionist Sisters in Buenos Aires who organised pilgrimages to Lourdes. “As a child…It was like a star that we had to follow…I remember that well…”, said the Pope.
The second achievement, the Pope continued, is their commitment to the media, “which you develop today in all continents, for a varied public, even those far from the Church”.
An apostolate during conflict
Pope Francis expressed that he considers this apostolate to be one of the “historically most incisive” ones of these religious. “This is a real challenge”, he said “all the more so in this era of acute criticality due to ongoing conflicts”.
I encourage you, the Pope said, “to pursue this mission, in the Middle East where the plight of Christians is under threat, and in Eastern Europe, where the war in Ukraine endangers the civil and religious balance of the region”. The Holy Father also expressed to the congregation the Holy See’s gratitude for their “faithful commitment to the small Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite in Bulgaria, which is counting on you. Your long experience of dialogue with Orthodoxy, as well as with Islam and Judaism, is precious for the Church; may it make you, today more than ever, craftsmen of unity and communion in the service of peace”, he said.
Pope Francis then described the objective of the Assumptionist’s General Chapter, which was to “define the broad lines of your action for the six years to come”. With this mission in mind, the Holy Father assured those present of his prayers and of his confidence that “you will be able to invest the best forces” and in particular those from the countries of the south of the world “which, in your Institute as in many others, are taking over the resources now declining in the north”.
Cultivate the “triple love”
“Do not be afraid to cultivate in you and around you the ‘triple love’ that Father [Emmanuel] d’Alzon”, the founding father of the Congregation, taught: love Christ, love the Virgin Mary, and love the Church. In this way, the Pope said, bringing his discourse to a close, “you will be faithful to your charism and find ways that are both faithful and innovative to bring it to life”.
In all these ways, the Pope concluded, “old and new, dear brothers, you can count on my prayers and my confidence”. Finally, Pope Francis wished all those present “a happy conclusion and good mission to you all, wherever the Lord sends you”.
Pope welcomes rising vocations among Assumptionists
CWN Editor’s Note: In a June 22 audience with participants in the general chapter of the Augustinians of the Assumption (Assumptionists), Pope Francis welcomed a rise in vocations to the institute—even if the “newness” associated with “renewed vitality” can “sometimes be frightening.”
Noting that vocations are coming from the Global South—the institute just elected a superior-general from the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Pope Francis said that “I have been told that one out of three members of your Institute is in formation: this considerable proportion offers you prospects for the future, but at the same time constitutes a great challenge for the transmission of your charism.”
“I give thanks with you for this renewed vitality that the Lord grants you,” the Pope continued. “And I invite you to welcome this newness without fear, as a sign of the times, even if it can sometimes be frightening: we are all a little afraid of newness.”
During his address, Pope Francis reflected on the general chapter’s theme (“The Kingdom of God is at hand,” Mark 1:15) and encouraged the Assumptionists to maintain their missions “in the Middle East, where the situation of Christians is threatened, and in Eastern Europe, where the war in Ukraine is jeopardizing the civil and religious balance of the region.”
Source: Catholic World News