The Vatican. Thursday, September 9, 2021. The sights were set on St. Peter’s at the Vatican, where the audience with Pope Francis awaited the Chapter members. First, they took official group photo of the XXVI General Chapter. From there, they headed for Rome. Arriving in Rome, like so many pilgrims from all over the world, they walked along Via della Conciliazione (Avenue of Conciliation) to St. Peter’s Square. Once there – the first time for some of them – they crossed the famous Bronze Door and the sunny Courtyard of St. Damasus to enter the Apostolic Palace. There were other Claretian confreres: Card. Aquilino Bocos Merino, CMF, and some others from the communities of Rome. When the splendid Clementine Hall was opened, everything in it – the colour of the frescoes, the brightness of the polished marbles, the play of lights, the fraternal conversation – created the atmosphere of grace and great awe.
Then, with striking punctuality, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, entered the hall at exactly midday. After a brief greeting from Card. Aquilino Bocos and Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, the latter thanked the Holy Father for his closeness and encouragement, recalling his great messages to the previous General Chapter (the path of transformation followed by the Congregation during this six-year period, the synodal and appreciative perspective from which we wanted to approach the present Chapter and the challenges that are now open to us in terms of rootedness and audacity). Then, the Pope addressed the Chapter members. He began by congratulating and encouraging the new Superior General, Fr Vattamattam, and the Consultors in the task entrusted to them. He reserved an affectionate mention for our sister Jolanta Kafka, RMI, whom he described as a woman who, in addition to speaking several languages, seeks to master the language of God. He then invited Claretians in various ways to weave a life of deep relationship with the Lord to become daring missionaries of the Gospel, who do not allow themselves to be discouraged either by the aging of the body or the aging of the soul. “You must be rooted in Jesus,” he said, through “a life of prayer and contemplation that leads you to be able to say like Job: ‘I knew you only by hearsay, but now my eyes have seen you’.” For only a life of intimacy and adoration allows us “to speak, as friends, face to face with the Lord, and to contemplate the Mirror, which is Christ, to become yourselves a mirror for others”. Only by being adorers can we become witnesses.
Pope Francis referred heavily to the definition of the Claretian Missionary by St. Anthony Mary Claret quoting some salient parts of our Constitutions. In particular, he called us to let ourselves be set on fire by divine love in order to set on fire, in the desire for God, those who come across us, thus, being men of hope who, without fear of their frailties, make us see in them the strength that comes from above: “How beautiful it is when a consecrated woman or man feels fragile, because she or he feels the need to ask for help. Do not be afraid of it. Be afraid, yes, of falling into spiritual ‘schizophrenia’ and spiritual worldliness,” the Holy Father continued.
Finally, he gave the Claretian Missionaries a triad of advice to carry out the missionary task in the style of Jesus: closeness, compassion, and tenderness. Those that God always had with the people of Israel and those that should guide every consecrated person in his mission. In the same vein, and displaying his wisdom and spontaneity, the Holy Father concluded his message in praise of good humour: “Do not lose your sense of humour, please; laugh in community, make jokes. A sense of humour is a grace of joy and joy is a dimension of holiness.”
The Pope’s animating words were followed by his cordial handshake for each of the Capitulars. Through them, the Papal impulse and warmth spread to the entire Congregation and her members.
Click to read how other online News Agencies reported the epic-making Audience!