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Building Communities for Social and Personal Change
Pope Francis meets a group of immigrants at the pier in Lampedusa, Italy. Since his election, Pope Francis has called attention to an unprecedented global crisis. Never before have people and planet been so threatened by human sinfulness. Consider, for example, the massive global humanitarian crisis marked by refugee flows in nearly every region of the world. Or the ecological and human destruction resulting from our excessive consumption patterns. At the national level in many countries, including the United States, we are seeing a crisis in democracy and a rise in xenophobia, isolationism and nationalism.
The Catholic Church in Ireland is “very lacking” in people of intellect who, educated in their faith, can address the pressing issues of the day, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
He was “haunted” by a quote from Pope Benedict at the beatification of Cardinal Newman in 2010. “He said: ‘The service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing ‘subjects of the day’,” the Archbishop recalled.
“If the place of the Church in the current social and political discussion in Ireland risks becoming increasingly marginal, this is not just due to some sort of external exclusion; it is also because the Church in Ireland is very lacking in ‘keen intellects and prolific pens addressing the pressing subjects of the day’,” said the Archbishop.
Since taking office, Pope Francis has profoundly reminded the church about the Christian vocation to work for a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. This task, he insists, becomes all the more urgent in the face of contemporary global challenges such as climate change, inequalities, the refugees crisis, and the passive attitude that he describes as “the globalization of indifference.” In Evangelii Gaudium, Francis makes this task clear:
“the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of “charity à la carte”, or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society. (180)”
But what is the best way for us to have a positive “impact on society?” How can any of us ever have an impact on destructive attitudes and social arrangements, what the Catholic tradition describes as “structures of sin”?
In 1916, Pope Pius XI created Catholic Action (CA) based on various, especially Italian apostolic realities of laypersons (the 1874 “Opera dei Congressi Cattolici”, the 1895 FUCI, the 1908 “Unione Donne”, etc.). The first statute defined C.A. as “the participation of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate”. The JOCI, as a specialized experience of C.A., begun by J. Cardijn in Brussels, was officially recognized in 1925. Subsequently, other specialized youth movements appeared such as MIJARC, JICI, MIDADE, JECI (inspired by the 1921 MIEC Pax Romana), as well as the corresponding movements for adults (MMTC, MIAMSI, FIMARC, MIIC).
“The missionary dimension should characterise all Church structures, even the Roman Curia”. The Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, today met the Secretariat of the Catholic Action International Forum and expressed his appreciation for the objectives for international ecclesial cooperation which characterise the IFCA ’Ac ensalida’ (Outgoing CA) programme.
The IFCA Secreteriat held its meeting in Rome during these last few days to fine tune the agenda of the commitments which will be undertaken during the coming two years. The meeting was attended by 30 national leaders and priest assistants from the 5 Countries which make up the IFCA coordinating organism – Argentina, Italy, Romania, Spain and Burundi and Rwanda. There were unitary working sessions as well as working sessions focused on different age-groups.
I welcome all of you, who represent this beautiful ecclesial reality! (...). The theme of your Assembly “New people in Jesus Christ, co-responsible for the joy of living” fits well within the Easter Season, which is a season of joy. It is the joy of the disciples in encountering the Risen Christ and it needs to be interiorized within an evangelizing style capable of influencing life. In the current social and ecclesial context, you, the laity of Catholic Action, are called to renew the missionary option, open to the horizons that the Spirit points out to the Church and the expression of a rejuvenated lay apostolate. This missionary option: everything must be missionary, everything. It is the paradigm of Catholic Action: the missionary paradigm. This is the choice that Catholic Action makes today.