The Church in Outreach


Church on-the-move

The final year is underway, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), that moment of extraordinary intervention of the Holy Spirit in the history of humanity.
It is proving to be much more than a simple commemoration; rather, another milestone along the way towards realizing the full potential of that extraordinary event, as it continues to bear fruit both now and in the future.
It is widely accepted that the main purpose of the Second Vatican Council was to allow the Church a period of self-reflection. Already in the decades leading up to Vatican II, the Church had begun to return to her patristic, biblical and liturgical roots, after centuries of being viewed predominantly as a juridical institution, entering a period of ecclesiological renewal which culminated in the Second Vatican Council when a complete review of the Church was undertaken.

The result was that, with great clarity and decisiveness, Vatican II re-defined the Church's understanding of herself as being a journey, starting out from mystery of the Trinity (Ecclesia de Trinitate) with God's People at the centre. Often contrary to historical trends, she has continued to evolve, offering herself as leaven for the masses, not only to divinize but to humanize and bring together as one.

The Church is not interested in ecclesio-centricity, focusing only on herself: 'Any discussion about the Church is a discussion about God; it is only correct if it is like this"  strongly affirmed the then Cardinal Ratzinger, whilst speaking about the Church's Constitution outlined in Lumen Gentium during a Symposium in 2000 to review the progress since Vatican II.
In similar vein, John Paul II continually affirmed, from the moment of his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis, that 'Man is the way of the Church' (L'uomo é la via della Chiesa) (cf nn.14 e 18)
In our own times, Pope Francis invites the People of God to a 'missionary and pastoral conversion'  which leads them  to 'go out' (cf Evangelii gaudium 20,24,25)
And so we learn from Vatican II and from the way the Holy Spirit is 'shaping' our present times, that the most authentic way to be 'Church' is to be 'on the move', reaching out, no longer centred on itself so as to put God who is Trinity at the centre and at the same time every man and woman on the earth.  Pope Francis continually urges us to be an 'itinerant' Church, on the road, always moving, alongside every person, a 'field hospital', taking care of life's wounded; in other words a vision that is anything but static, which requires us to  consolidate our positions; a dynamic vision aimed at re-forming the entire People of God, with an open invitation to everyone to offer the gift of themselves for this is the distinctive mark of the Church, that which makes her " a communion that is missionary". 
And how could it be otherwise when following in the footsteps of a Godhead of Three Persons who are constantly going outside of themselves, offering themselves as a gift to the other, holding on to nothing so that ' the other' might exist; and in the footsteps of the Word made flesh who revealed his divinity by hiding it, preferring the title Son of Man, and taking his humanity to its extreme by emptying himself on the cross (kinosi), thus perfectly revealing the essence of God as Love.
It is precisely here that the paradox of ecclesial life lies: the more that the Christian community goes deeper into becoming its true self, that is, immersed in God, the more it can then reach out; and the more is reaches out evangelically, the more it discovers that intimacy within itself which comes from reliving the pro-existence of Christ.
The contributions received for this issue of 'gen's' are the fruit of a meeting held at Castel Gandolfo by a group of experts, just after the first few months of Pope Francis' papacy.  The purpose of their content is to shed light on the paths along which the Church is travelling, in the various geographical areas of the world.  As Pope Francis affirmed, in a well-known interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, "The younger Churches are developing an understanding of faith, culture and life that is a work in progress, and is therefore different to that already developed by the older Churches.  For me, the relationship between the longer-established Churches and those more which are more recent, can be compared to the relationship between the generations; they build the future together, the younger generation with their energy and the older generation with their wisdom.  Naturally, there are risks involved; the younger Churches may become too self-sufficient, whilst the older Churches may impose their model and their 'culture' too strongly upon the younger ones. But the future will be built together".
So we shall bring you the recent address of Pope Francis to the participants of the 3rd World Congress for Ecclesial Movements and new Communities within the Church'  who invite us in a very lively way to build a Church that is not introvert  but extrovert.

H.B - E.R