Pope Francis on Friday encouraged clergy and others discouraged by a shortage of priests and ebbing faith in the West to pray for God’s help, saying the solutions will “come from the tabernacle and not the computer.”
“I want to assure you that good pastoral ministry is possible if we are able to live as the Lord has commanded us, in the love that is the gift of his Spirit,” the pope said, speaking to an audience of approximately 1,000 Hungarian priests, seminarians, and pastoral workers gathered in St. Stephen’s Co-Cathedral in Budapest.
“If we grow distant from one another, or divided, if we become hardened in our ways of thinking and our different groups, then we will not bear fruit,” he warned. “It is sad when we become divided, because, instead of playing as a team, we start playing the game of the enemy: bishops not communicating with each other, the old versus the young, diocesan priests versus religious, priests versus laity, Latins versus Greeks.”
Such divisions lead to polarization along entrenched ideological lines, the Holy Father said. “No! Always remember that our first pastoral priority is to bear witness to communion, for God is communion and he is present wherever there is fraternal charity,” he said.
Speaking on Friday afternoon on the first day of his three-day visit to Hungary’s historic capital, Pope Francis acknowledged the many reasons for Christians to feel disheartened today, including the rise of secularism and a corresponding decline of faith in the West.
But the pope stressed that Christians “must always be on guard” not to yield to the temptation to become defeatists “who insist that all is lost, that we have lost the values of bygone days and have no idea where we are headed.”
There is another, equally dangerous temptation, he said: “a comfortable conformism that would have us think that everything is basically fine, the world has changed and we must simply adapt.”
To combat “bleak defeatism and a worldly conformism,” Pope Francis said, “the Gospel gives us new eyes to see” as well as discernment that enables us to “approach our own time with openness, but also with a prophetic spirit.” He added that we are called to “prophetic receptivity.”
“Prophetic receptivity is about learning how to recognize the signs of God in the world around us, including places and situations that, while not explicitly Christian, challenge us and call for a response,” the Holy Father said. “At the same time, it is about seeing all things in the light of the Gospel without yielding to worldliness, as heralds and witnesses of the Christian faith.”
Pope Francis said people can accomplish this by “bringing the Lord’s consolation to situations of pain and poverty in our world, being close to persecuted Christians, to migrants seeking hospitality, to people of other ethnic groups and to anyone in need.”
The Church must aspire to be “capable of mutual listening, dialogue, and care for the most vulnerable” and “welcoming to all and courageous in bringing the prophetic message of the Gospel to everyone,” the Holy Father said.
“Christ is our future, for he is the one who guides all history. Your confessors of the faith were firmly convinced of this: the many bishops, priests, religious women and men martyred during the communist persecution. They testify to the unwavering faith of Hungarians,” Pope Francis said.
“Our lives, for all their frailty, are held firmly in his hands. If ever we forget this, we, clergy and laity alike, will end up seeking human ways and means to defend ourselves from the world, either withdrawing into our comfortable and tranquil religious oases, or else running after the shifting winds of worldliness. In both cases, our Christianity will lose its vigor, and we will cease to be the salt of the earth.”